Delta Airlines accused of racism over 'giraffes in Ghana' tweet

The match that sparked a PR nightmare: the US beat Ghana 2-1 at their group G clash.
The match that sparked a PR nightmare: the US beat Ghana 2-1 at their group G clash. Photo: AP

"If you're lucky," Delta Airlines entices travellers on its Ghana destination page, "you might even find yourself in the company of monkeys and rare birds".

But not, in all likelihood, giraffes. Delta learnt that lesson the hard way when it posted a tweet celebrating the US's 2-1 win over Ghana at the World Cup on Monday.

Visually representing the US with the Statue of Liberty is standard fare. But choosing a giraffe to symbolise the west African republic of Ghana raised the eyebrows above more discerning eyes.

Nice try: Delta Airlines' patriotic tweet backfired when it was pointed out giraffes don't live in Ghana.
Nice try: Delta Airlines' patriotic tweet backfired when it was pointed out giraffes don't live in Ghana. Photo: Twitter

The photo selection was problematic because giraffes don't actually live in Ghana. They are typically found further east, between Chad and South Africa, although some species were known to live in parts of Nigeria. While there is no guarantee that no giraffe has ever entered Ghana, even a travel website promoting the country admits: they don't live there. 

The post set off a flurry of condemnation from people who saw the Delta tweet as an insidious form of racism.

While some Twitter commenters promised to never fly with the airline again, others felt critics were being too sensitive. 

"I hope you realise saying things are racist when they are not is not helpful to those who are actually victims of racism," one user posted.

I'm guessing that when you book a flight to any of Nigeria or Kenya or the Ivory Coast or Ghana, @Delta tickets just say 'Africa, whatever'

Can't say I'm too surprised Delta doesn't know where giraffes live. They think Atlanta is on the way to everywhere.

Delta made a racist tweet about Africa; realized Ghana doesn't have giraffes; then deleted it http://t.co/npLYgrGQA5 pic.twitter.com/SHBvjrAqkI

But for Adelaide-based football writer Andy Cussen, the 'giraffe-gate' demonstrated classic ignorance.

"It's racial stereotyping which is a form of racism. Sorry if people are offended by people being offended," he wrote.

Delta Airlines later deleted and apologised for its "precious tweet", before deleting that apologising instead for its "previous tweet". All things considered: a day its social media manager will try to forget.

We're sorry for our choice of photo in our previous tweet. Best of luck to all teams.

The incident comes only two months after rival airline US Airways caused a storm when it accidentally tweeted a graphic photo of a woman inserting a model plane into her vagina. 

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