Delta, United, Virgin Atlantic: demand lifts off for direct flights to Cape Town
- Direct flights to Cape Town are in demand with US airlines United and Delta competing for the last-remaining round-trips
- Over the weekend, UK airline Virgin Atlantic announced the return of a daily seasonal route between London-Heathrow and Cape Town International Airport later this year
- Cape Town is proving to be a competitive and attractive destination according to Wesgro's air access project manager, Paul van den Brink
The tourism economy and aviation sector are showing great signs of recovery after two devastating years of the Covid-19 restrictions.
In particular, Cape Town appears to be back on the map with several new direct flights planned for the Mother City.
British airline Virgin Atlantic will relaunch its direct flight service between London Heathrow and Cape Town International Airport in November, operating daily flights between the Mother City and the UK.
The route will only run until the end of the peak tourist season, for now. However, tourism, trade, and investment promotion agency Wesgro believes that the route could move from being seasonal to all year round.
"We see that many airlines often start to Cape Town with the seasonal service and if the service is doing well, they grow to a year-round service," says Wesgro's air access project manager, Paul van den Brink.
Meanwhile, US carriers Delta Air Lines and United Airlines both want to increase their slice of the pie in Cape Town.
In December 2019, United launched a seasonal nonstop service between Newark and Cape Town. Due to the success of the route, the airline is now adding year-round flights from 5 June.
Delta will debut a new triangle routing later this year that travels from between Atlanta, Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Both US carriers want to expand their routes to Cape Town but there are only a few flights left due to a bilateral air service agreement with the United States.
The agreement states that the United States is only allowed o fly 21 flights per week to South Africa - 17 of them have already been taken up and only four open slots remain.
United has applied for a route from Washington to Cape Town while Delta wants a direct route from Atlanta.
"So basically United and Delta for the last three to four frequencies that are available and fortunately it will be a route to CapeTown," van den Brink explains.
The final decision on who will secure the last flights will be made by the US Department of Transport.
Either way, it's an indication that Cape Town is proving to be a competitive and attractive destination.
What we see with airlines flying to Cape Town is that they will often start with the seasonal service. So for example, United Airlines started in 2019 with a seasonal service. Fortunately, the growth was very good on the route, and they will start the year-round service from the 5th of June from Newark to Cape Town.Paul van den Brink, Air access project manager - Wesgro
The U.S. is very important for us, it's an important market for air cargo and also tourism. What we've seen in the past few months is that the US market is recovering really quickly and we see traffic from the US returning to Cap Town.Paul van den Brink, Air access project manager - Wesgro
There's so much interest that both Delta and United want to have a route to Cape Town. United applied for a route from Washington and Delta applied for a direct route from Atlanta. They both want it to start three times per week but the problem is our bilateral agreement.Paul van den Brink, Air access project manager - Wesgro