Bobby Bryan is the Commercial Director for West, East, Central and Lusophone Africa at Delta Air Lines. He speaks with Demola Ojo on the resilience of the Nigerian market, the top US destinations Nigerians travel to, the new innovations Delta has put in place to improve customers’ inflight experience and more…
In a couple of months, Delta will mark a decade of flying to Africa, Nigeria to be precise. Looking back at the past 10 years, what will you say are some of the biggest achievements in connecting Africa to the US and beyond?
For starters, 10 years is an achievement in itself. To maintain a market, to develop a market, to bring our world class service to a market and keep it going for 10 years is incredible. One of the incredible things is the way we evolve the same time the market evolves.
We started with morning flights here, now we have evening flights, because that’s what the market wanted. Now we have flat beds here, which the market wanted. The fact that we are continually transporting people back and forth; the students, the businessmen, the investors, the oil people, the NGOs… everybody is able to come because of that. I think that really is the achievement. And it’s also interesting the kind of mix we get.
When you take any of our flights, every kind of passenger is on it. You have families, you have immigrants, you have people trying to get an education, you have people trying to develop the economy, you have people going to New York to the UN. It’s just amazing.
As the first US airline to launch flights to Africa, are you looking at flying to more cities within the continent?
We are always looking and evaluating. We don’t have any current plans to add to this but things change rapidly in Africa and we’re continually evaluating new cities, new routes and new opportunities. We certainly see the future opportunities in Africa.
United Airlines exited the Nigerian market in June, leaving Delta as the only American carrier in Nigeria. How does Delta plan to take advantage of this vacuum?
You know, we always say competition is a good thing. Carriers come and go, that’s a market-based decision. We’re here, we’re not going anywhere. We see growth here, whether there are other carriers or not. So it doesn’t change our plans particularly.
On the other hand, it reinforces that we made the right decision to stay in this market. And I think that is what our message is, that we’ve been here for almost 10 years and we’ve never wavered, we always keep flying. It doesn’t matter if there’s Ebola, or a change in the political climate. We keep flying. And I think that’s the message for people to hear. We’re not going anywhere, we’re committed to this market.