United Airlines wants to fly from Washington DC to Cape Town, starting in November

Business Insider SA

United Airlines Washington DC Cape Town
(Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
  • Cape Town is attracting the interest of American carriers, namely Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. 
  • Delta recently applied for direct flights between Atlanta and Cape Town after a previous call for a triangular route with Johannesburg was controversially denied by South Africa’s department of transport.
  • Now, United Airlines, which already operates flights from New York to Cape Town, has applied to start flying direct from Washington DC.
  • United wants three weekly flights between Washington DC and Cape Town to start in November, according to an application filed with the US department of transportation on Friday. 
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United Airlines has applied for direct flights between Washington DC and Cape Town to start in November. The application follows United’s recent decision to increase its flights from New York.

Cape Town is seeing a surge in interest from American airlines following the relaxation of coronavirus-related travel restrictions. The United States (US) became South Africa’s biggest source market for tourists in 2021, amid harsh and protracted European travel bans which kept visitors from Germany and the United Kingdom (UK) away.

Looking to capitalise on this steady growth, American airlines – United and Delta – have been quick to return to South Africa, with their eyes on expanding offerings in the coming months.

Delta Air Lines reinstated direct flights between Atlanta and Johannesburg in the second half of 2021. The airline recently applied for nonstop flights to Cape Town, after a previous call to include the destination as part of a triangular route with Johannesburg and Atlanta was controversially dismissed by South Africa’s department of transport.

United Airlines returned to South Africa, with five weekly nonstop flights between New York’s Newark Liberty International Airport and Johannesburg’s OR Tambo, back in June 2021. Its flight path to Cape Town, first launched in 2019 and then halted due to the global pandemic, is set to be expanded from June, with three nonstop flights per week, year-round.

These flights connecting Cape Town and the US have been cited as a major boost for the city’s embattled tourism sector. Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Growth, James Vos, said that United’s return was of “significant benefit to our economy” and has questioned Delta’s exclusion, adding that it would “hold back our post-Covid recovery.”

And while Delta Air Lines awaits approval for its direct flights to Cape Town, United Airlines has lodged an application with the US department of transportation.

The application, submitted on Friday, details United’s plans for three-times-weekly, year-round “scheduled foreign air transportation of persons, property, and mail between the US and Cape Town, South Africa via Washington DC.”

In its application, United states that it plans to begin the service “on or near” 17 November 2022 using a “257-seat Boeing 787-9 aircraft from its existing fleet.”

“Allocation of these additional frequencies to United to expand service from the US East Coast to Cape Town is clearly in the public interest,” notes the airline’s application.

“In addition to seamlessly connecting key business and government hubs between the US and South Africa and enhancing consumer options and convenience, the allocation of these frequencies to United will enhance competition against Delta, which has been the incumbent US carrier to continental Africa for almost two decades.”

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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