Flights between Joburg and Atlanta to restart in August – with new business-class suites

Business Insider SA

Flights from South Africa to America US
Image: Delta Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines is set to resume flights between Atlanta in the USA and Johannesburg in South Africa on 1 August.
  • Delta last flew to South Africa in March 2020, with travel restrictions suspending the route for more than a year.
  • The airline’s Airbus A350-900, featuring Delta One Suites, will make its inaugural journey to South Africa.
  • The resumption of flights follows United Airline’s return to South Africa earlier in June.
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UPDATE | SA govt blocks Delta from flying to Cape Town – and the US in turn restricts SAA

The United States’ Delta Air Lines will return to South Africa on 1 August, offering flights between Atlanta and Johannesburg in its new Airbus A350-900 – with an all-suites business-class cabin.

As the global vaccine rollout gathers momentum, airlines are tentatively reintroducing flights on routes dormant since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Delta Air Lines, which operated regular weekly flights between the US and South Africa prior to the pandemic, scrapped its flight to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport back in March 2020.

The suspension of flights, which were due to be reintroduced as early as October, has been extended on at least four separate occasions, with the latest postponements owing to the US’ ongoing travel ban on South African visitors. The pandemic also delayed Delta’s plans to launch a route between Atlanta and Cape Town.

Following in the footsteps of fellow American operation United Airlines, which conducted its inaugural direct flight from Newark to Johannesburg earlier in the month, Delta confirmed it now plans to resume its South African route on 1 August.

“Delta has proudly served South Africa for more than 15 years, and we’re thrilled to return to a market so highly sought after by tourists,” said Joe Esposito, Delta’s senior vice president of network planning in a statement.

“Two-thirds of Americans report making summer travel plans, and with demand growing rapidly alongside US vaccination rates, we’re bringing back more flights and destinations to deliver on their anticipation to get back out in the world and reclaim the joy of travel.”

And while the local tourism industry is anticipating another boost in US visitors entering through Johannesburg’s OR Tambo, Delta has decided to drop its plans to introduce a Cape Town stop. This is due to the introduction of Delta’s enhanced Airbus A350-900 which can make the direct jump to Johannesburg – the airline’s longest direct flight – without needing to first stop over in Cape Town.

The Cape Town stopover was previously touted as a workaround to the retiring of Delta’s Boeing 777-200LR. The standard Airbus A350-900 would struggle to match the 777s range, especially when facing a hot Johannesburg’s higher elevation.

Flights to Cape Town will still, however, be serviced through Delta’s local interline agreements, which allows Kulula, for example, to transfer passengers from OR Tambo.

The return of the Atlanta-Johannesburg route also signals the inaugural flight of Delta’s A350-900 into South Africa.

Image: Delta Airlines
Flights from South Africa to America US
Image: Delta Airlines

The aircraft feature business class cabins comprised of Delta One Suites, which feature partitioned seats with a retractable bed. Suites also feature doors for added privacy, working tables with power outlets, additional storage compartments, and enlarged seat-back entertainment screens.

Delta will offer three flights a week between Atlanta and Johannesburg starting in August. Atlanta departures are scheduled for Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, while departures from Johannesburg are set for Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.

If the US’ travel restrictions remain unchanged by the time Delta reintroduces its route to Johannesburg, South African travellers will still be unable to make full use of the airline’s return. Travellers from South Africa have been prohibited from entering the US since January and exemptions only apply to a select few who have been identified as National Interest Exceptions.

UPDATE | SA govt blocks Delta from flying to Cape Town – and the US in turn restricts SAA

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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