Monday, July 14, 2014

Air Service to Liberia, forty years ago

A smartphone photo from an African year book from about 1973, which I discovered when suddenly finding myself in the Library of the Nigerian Embassy earlier this year (which maybe could make the subject of a separate post). Monrovia was served by six African airlines, six European airlines (SAS from Scandinavia, and flew from Zürich to Monrovia on the way to Brazil. UTA is French), MEA (Middle East Airlines) from Lebanon, as well as its own domestic airline, and of course Pan American. Today it is served by nine, one of which, Delta, is leaving.

A better comparison than number of carriers would be to tally the number of weekly seats on planes departing the country; many of these 1970s flights were not on jets, and even the single isle DC-8s and B707s from New York and Europe are comparable in size to the 150-seat B737s that Kenya uses to Accra today, rather than the two-aisle wide body A330s and B767s that British Airways, Delta, Air France and Brussels use on their routes to RIA, which typically have capacity of up over 250 passengers. So the total passengers numbers may have grown, even if the number of airlines and destinations is smaller (and continues to shrink).

Note in the short section under tourism the paltry number of tourists in previous years: only 250 in 1971, rising four-fold the next year, although the fact that the address is provided as “Government Wharf, Freetown” means they mixed up this entry with Sierra Leone, so who knows.

Lastly, I didn’t know Hughes Air West was involved in Air Liberia. At times it really seems as though all of corporate America was lending a hand to Liberia in those days. I'd love to dig into the Hughes company archives and see how that partnership transpired.

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