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Delta postpones flights to Kenya, Liberia

Delta Air Lines Inc had to scrap its much-anticipated inaugural flight on Tuesday from the US to Kenya because the US government says it won't allow the world's largest airline operator to serve that route until security concerns in and around Nairobi are resolved.

world Updated: Jun 04, 2009 15:43 IST

Delta Air Lines Inc had to scrap its much-anticipated inaugural flight on Tuesday from the US to Kenya because the US government says it won't allow the world's largest airline operator to serve that route until security concerns in and around Nairobi are resolved.

The Atlanta-based airline also said that for the same reason it would have to postpone its inaugural flight from Atlanta to Monrovia, Liberia, that had been scheduled for June 8.

The Kenyan government responded that it has complied with all additional security measures requested by Delta.

It also declared that the Nairobi airport's security is "excellent." In May, the UN Security Council said it would re-evaluate the need for a 10,000-strong peacekeeping force in Liberia, which has been emerging from a disastrous civil war.

The US ambassador to the 15-nation council said the UN body found Liberia to be "calm" and called the situation on the ground "encouraging." Delta said in a statement that it just learned Monday of the Transportation Security Administration's decision, and it suggested that the agency simply needs more time to approve its requests and that the government is focused on finalizing approvals as quickly as possible.

But the TSA said in its own statement that it is currently denying air service by Delta to Nairobi and Monrovia until security standards are met or security threat assessments change. It gave no indication when its concerns might be resolved. It also said that while it provided Delta verbal notification Monday, it has had "active dialogue" with the airline throughout the process. Delta announced the proposed routes in November 2008.

According to US Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Mosley, Delta has had DOT authority to serve Kenya and Liberia since April 2007. The TSA is under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Boeing 767-300ER that was expected to fly on Tuesday from Atlanta to Dakar, Senegal, refuel, and then head to Nairobi has 217 seats. Delta said the plane would have been mostly full for the 18-hour trip.

The majority of the passengers were rebooked on a KLM flight that will arrive in Nairobi Wednesday evening, about 90 minutes after their initial flight had been scheduled to land. Others were rebooked on Air France and Kenya Airways flights. A handful of passengers, however, will have to stay overnight in Johannesburg, South Africa, before arriving in Kenya on Thursday, Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott said.