Delta has launched a bid to operate a direct flight to Cape Town from the United States. If successful, North America’s second-largest airline will become only the second to currently offer a direct route between the US and South Africa’s legislative capital, after rival United Airlines.

The airline’s application to the US Department of Transportation outlines plans to introduce a thrice-weekly, year-round service originating at the airline’s hub in Atlanta. They hope to introduce the route in November 2022. The application comes soon after United’s announcement that it is resuming its own direct flights to Cape Town, originating in Newark.

The route would be Delta’s second to South Africa, as they currently operate direct flights to the country’s judicial capital, Johannesburg. The airline did previously serve Cape Town with a connecting flight via Senegal, but this was scrapped in 2009.

Delta Boeing 767-332(ER)
© Diogo Da Conceicao / Travel Radar

US “key tourist market” for Cape Town

James Vos, a member of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee for Economic Growth, confirmed that Delta launched their bid following an increase in demand by customers.

“The US is a key tourist market for Cape Town. The majority of US travellers to South Africa include the Mother City in their itineraries.”

The announcement included some technical details, including the airline’s intention to use its flagship Airbus A350-900 aircraft on the route.

Delta has long been keen to serve South Africa and, in recent years, laid out plans to introduce a triangle route between its US hub, Cape Town and Johannesburg. The idea was seen as a solution to issues regarding Johannesburg’s altitude and specifically the fact that the A350 couldn’t reach Atlanta at maximum payload – a stop at Cape Town would conveniently allow for refuelling before the 13,067km journey. Unfortunately for the airline, the South African government rejected the proposals in 2020 and again later in 2021.

Potential “severe” knock-on effects

Americans and South Africans alike will be hoping to benefit from the route, with the latter particularly illustrating their hope that the route is approved, for the sake of the country’s economic health in the wake of the pandemic.

“Should this application be denied like the previous one, it will severely impact Cape Town’s – and thus South Africa’s – tourism industry,” Voss added.

Let us know what you think about the proposed service in the comments below.

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