Q: Is it true no US airline flies to Africa?
For now, no US passenger carrier flies to any destination in Africa, nonstop or otherwise. The last to do so was Delta, who operated a short-lived route from JFK to Cairo, which was suspended in 2001. TWA also flew this route for many years. In earlier days, Pan Am offered service to places like Nairobi, Monrovia, Lagos, and Johannesburg. Today, the US carriers fly passengers to Africa via their European partner airlines. By contrast, several African carriers currently fly to the US, mostly to New York.
While the US airlines carry half a billion or so passengers annually — far more so than any other nation — the international networks of its airlines can seem skimpy compared to many airlines from Europe or Asia. To an extent, airlines have come to specialize in particular geographic regions. Northwest and United are big across the Pacific, for example, while Delta concentrates on Western Europe. American is the biggest player in Latin America. This is frequently the result of previous mergers and hand-me-down routes. For the most part, both United’s Pacific network and Delta’s European services came from Pan Am. In South America, Eastern and Braniff were the pioneers.
This Q&A is part of a collection that originally appeared on Salon.com. Patrick Smith, 38, is an erstwhile airline pilot, retired punk rocker and air travel columnist. His book, Ask the Pilot (Riverhead) was voted “Best Travel Book of 2004” by Amazon.com. Patrick has traveled to more than 55 countries and always asks for a window seat. He lives near Boston.