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Delta and United Awarded Rights To Fly to Cape Town, South Africa

James Larounis's image
James Larounis
James Larounis's image

James Larounis

Senior Content Contributor

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James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in...

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Recently, both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines applied to operate services from the U.S. to Cape Town, South Africa. Due to flight restrictions between Africa and the U.S., both airlines needed to apply for the routes they wished to operate, with only 1 being anticipated to win. Now, we have learned that both airlines have won the ability to service Cape Town from the U.S.

Getting Approval

In order to get approval for the new routes, the U.S. Department of Transportation needed to work with South African authorities to pitch the concepts of both airlines and work out an arrangement for who would be able to fly. Usually, in contests like these, only 1 airline is victorious, but the Department of Transportation was able to negotiate for both airlines to fly to Cape Town. The new routes will begin within 90 days of November 17, 2022.

There are 4 more slots left for a U.S.-based carrier to serve South Africa. While American Airlines is currently awaiting the delivery of further aircraft, the airline would be the next likely source for a new route sometime in the future.

United Airlines Dreamliner
United Airlines anticipates serving Cape Town with a Boeing 787 aircraft. Image Credit: United Airlines

Delta’s Services From Atlanta

Delta is going to operate the more interesting of the services, flying from its hub in Atlanta (ATL) to Johannesburg (JNB), and then onward to Cape Town (CPT) and then Atlanta, creating a “triangle route.” Here’s how this would work practically:

  • Customers flying to both Cape Town and Johannesburg would board in Atlanta and fly to Johannesburg.
  • In Johannesburg, only Johannesburg-bound passengers would disembark. Cape Town passengers would remain on board. The plane would be refueled (and perhaps catered). Passengers from Johannesburg bound for Atlanta would board in Johannesburg and the flight would then take off for Cape Town.
  • In Cape Town, Cape Town passengers would disembark and Atlanta-bound passengers who boarded in Johannesburg would remain on board. Passengers bound for Atlanta boarding in Cape Town would board, and the flight would then depart for Atlanta.
  • In Atlanta, all passengers would disembark and head to customs.

Assuming the non-stop route gets approved by the South African government, Delta also plans to fly 3 times a week directly nonstop between Atlanta and Cape Town.

The flights would be operated by an Airbus A350-900.

United’s Services From Washington, D.C. and Newark

United’s plan is a bit simpler; it intends to fly 3 times a week from Washington, D.C. (IAD) to Cape Town (CPT) nonstop on a Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

This would be United’s second option to Cape Town as it already operates a 3 times a week nonstop flight from Newark (EWR), also on a Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

Hot Tip: Learn more about the best ways to fly to South Africa with points and miles!

Final Thoughts

With both airlines getting approved to fly to South Africa, there are now more options to get from the U.S. to Cape Town. Both Star Alliance and SkyTeam now have non-stop routes between the 2 countries, leaving Oneworld as the only alliance to require a connection either in Europe or Africa to get to Cape Town.

James Larounis's image

About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.


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