Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pan Am's Monrovia Schedule, April 1980

I've probably done enough posting about Pan Am, but I had to include this last schedule, showing the airline's operations at Robertsfield at close to its "late-terminal" phase of its presence in Liberia. The main changes from 1973 are firstly that the flights have shifted to an all B747 schedule, the jumbo clippers had more than twice the number of seats of a B707. However, this increase in equipment capacity had come at a reduction in service: there are no longer any flights to Kinshasa, Johannesburg, Libreville, Cotonou or Douala. Only Abidjan, Accra, Lagos, and Nairobi remain beyond RIA, with Dakar being a link between JFK and Liberia on two of three weekly flights. 

The Intercontinental Hotels tie-in remains, with blue "I" symbols next to Nairobi and Abidjan, and the Ducor name at the top. 

However, what might be most remarkable about this particular schedule is that it went into effect in late April, 1980. I have heard from people who were here during that fateful month that RIA did shut down, for at least several days (many foreigners didn't even leave their houses for a week or more, and some left immediately), as the situation in the entire country was very tense and the borders were closed for some time. Its possible that this schedule never fully went into effect-- I wonder if Pan Am pilots bypassed Liberia for some time, continuing on to Accra from Dakar. 

While global economic forces were already pulling away at Pan Am's presence in Africa, surely the historic, horrible events of April 1980 made route planners on Park Avenue think twice about their African hub. Pan Am still administered RIA on behalf of the Ministry of Transport, however, and wouldn't abandon Liberia entirely until it completely canceled its last African route from New York to Nairobi via Monrovia in 1986, five years before the airline's bankruptcy. 

1 comment:

Mark Buckshon said...

I flew out of Monrovia late May 1980 on the nonstop to NYC. The flight seemed regular, though the circumstances in the city were certainly not. (I had concluded a 18 month stint as then young journalist in Africa, mostly in Rhodesia turning to Zimbabwe, but decided to use my ticket home for a stopover in Liberia, about a week after the military coup.

This was my one and only Pan Am flight. My story, filed by telex/wire, made it home before I got to Canada.

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