BETHESDA, Maryland – Robert L. Johnson, founder and chairman of The RLJ Companies (RLJ), embarked on the highly-anticipated Delta Air Lines new flight service from the United States to Monrovia, Liberia, making the airline the leading US carrier operating flights to Africa. The inaugural flight commenced on September 4 and is the only direct flight service that will be offered from the US to the African country.
Johnson has significant business and development projects in Liberia including the nation’s first four-star oceanfront hotel. In 2009, Johnson opened the RLJ Kendeja Resort and Villas, which he constructed, owns, and operates. In an initiative with the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), Johnson and OPIC created the Liberia Enterprise Development Finance Company (LEDFC), a US$30 million initiative, which makes loans between US$25,000 and US$1 million to small- and medium-sized businesses.
“A few years ago, while attending the Clinton Global Initiative and after hearing President Sirleaf appeal to the American private sector for support, I made a commitment to make a difference for the people of Liberia,” said Johnson. “Over the last year, we have been working collaboratively with Delta Air Lines, the Liberian Government, Congressman Bennie Thompson, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and the TSA in an effort to attain the approvals needed to offer direct flight service. The inaugural flight is an example of a successful public private partnership,” he concluded.
In a previous release citing the announcement of Delta Air Lines’ new route service, Perry Cantarutti, Delta’s senior vice president of Europe, Middle East, and Africa stated: “As the no. 1 US carrier serving Africa, Delta remains committed to expanding our presence into fast-growing African markets. Our new service between our Atlanta hub and Monrovia will provide convenient connections between Liberia and cities across the United States.”
Added Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security: “I have been pleased to work with Delta and the Office of Global Strategies at the TSA to ensure security continues to be a priority. Offering direct service flights from the United States to Liberia strengthens our partnership with Africa.”
“The government is enthusiastic about the prospect of Delta providing a direct flight between Monrovia and the United States, which would be the first such service in many years,” said Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.