Delta Axes Plans For Cape Town Flights

Delta Axes Plans For Cape Town Flights

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A few days ago we learned that Delta no longer has plans to fly to Cape Town. We now know the real reason for this, and it’s not what we initially expected.

Delta’s planned South Africa triangle route

Pre-pandemic, Delta operated an Atlanta to Johannesburg flight for many years, using a Boeing 777-200LR. At 8,440 miles, this was Delta’s longest flight, and one of the longest flights in the world.

During the pandemic, Delta made the difficult decision to retire its entire Boeing 777 fleet. While most 777 routes could be replaced by Delta’s Airbus A350-900s, there was one exception — the Johannesburg to Atlanta flight.

Delta now has to fly the A350 to South Africa

Not only does the Johannesburg to Atlanta flight cover a long distance with headwinds, but Johannesburg is also at a high altitude, which impacts takeoff performance. Long story short, if Delta wanted to operate the Johannesburg to Atlanta sector nonstop, it would have to take a significant payload penalty, meaning it wouldn’t be able to carry a full load of passengers and/or cargo. It’s hard to make money on ultra long haul flights under ideal conditions, and something like this would have almost certainly made the route unsustainable.

So Delta came up with a creative plan — the airline would fly from Atlanta to Johannesburg to Cape Town to Atlanta. This would not only allow Delta to serve the most popular South African city for tourists, but it would also solve Delta’s issues with the Johannesburg to Atlanta flight, since Cape Town to Atlanta is a shorter flight, and Cape Town is also at a lower altitude.

Unfortunately that’s not the plan anymore, though…

Delta drops plans for Cape Town service

Last Friday, Delta filed with the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to amend its current frequency allocation for South Africa. According to this updated filing, Delta plans to fly nonstop between Atlanta and Johannesburg in both directions, with no plans for Cape Town flights.

As it’s described:

As a result of commercial, operational, and market developments making it feasible for Delta to operate a direct return routing of Atlanta-Johannesburg-Atlanta using 306-seat Airbus A350-900 aircraft, Delta no longer plans to operate the the triangle routing of Atlanta-Johannesburg-Cape Town-Atlanta.

The airline now hopes to resume this service as of August 1, 2021, “assuming no material changes occur in travel restrictions imposed by either country.” The new flight is expected to operate with the following schedule:

Atlanta to Johannesburg departing 7:00PM arriving 4:30PM (+1 day)
Johannesburg to Atlanta departing 10:55PM arriving 9:15AM (+1 day)

As you can see, Delta says in a filing that it can operate the service nonstop between Johannesburg and Atlanta due to “commercial, operational, and market developments.” That left many of us wondering what had changed:

  • Has the airline decided that the economics of Johannesburg service work better, even if the airline has to restrict passengers and cargo?
  • Was Delta able to get A350-900 performance improvements that allow the airline to operate this route without a payload restriction? United did something similar with its 787-9s for the Johannesburg to Newark route, and the latest A350-900s do have a higher maximum takeoff weight (MTOW)
Delta no longer plans to fly to Cape Town

The real reason Delta won’t fly to Cape Town

As it turns out, neither of the above are the reason Delta won’t fly to Cape Town. A new regulatory filing reveals that the South Africa Department of Transportation rejected Delta’s application to operate a flight to both Johannesburg and Cape Town:

In April 2021, Delta Air Lines, Inc. informed the Department of its unsuccessful attempts to secure approval from the South Africa Department of Transportation to amend its Foreign Operator’s Permit to allow a stop in Cape Town on the return segment of its Atlanta-Johannesburg service. Delta first applied to the SADOT for the Johannesburg-Cape Town coterminalization authority in May 2020. There followed months of repeated requests by the carrier to secure its authority and further outreach by the US Government in support of Delta’s application, which is consistent with the rights under the Agreement, which in fact allows for coterminalized services by carriers of both countries. However, on May 14, 2021, the SADOT informed the Department of its view that the Agreement “does not confer domestic coterminalization rights for designated airlines of both countries,” and that it intended to deny Delta’s application.

Given that there doesn’t seem to be a great basis for South Africa denying this Delta service, the United States Department of Transportation is taking reciprocal action against South African Airways, taking away the carrier’s authority to operate similar multi-stop routes in the United States. As it’s explained:

While our preference would be to grant SAA renewal of all of the bilaterally-authorized exemption authority it seeks, the SADOT has taken the position that the coterminalization authority sought by Delta is not provided for in the Agreement. We strongly disagree with that position, but our attempts to engage with the SADOT in order to reconcile this matter and vindicate the important US bilateral right at issue have not succeeded. Therefore, in the circumstances presented, we have tentatively decided that the public interest calls for denial of the portions of SAA’s exemption renewal request. this, we are proposing to do no more than limit SAA’s authority per its own government’s unilateral reinterpretation of the Agreement.

Now, in fairness, this has limited practical implications, since South African Airways is hardly a real airline at this point, and for that matter the airline didn’t operate any routes pre-pandemic that would be impacted by this new ban.

I don’t really see how it’s in South Africa’s interest to deny Delta’s flight like this, but kudos to the United States Department of Transportation for standing up for Delta in this case.

South Africa blocked Delta from operating this flight

Bottom line

Delta Air Lines plans to resume service to South Africa as of August 2021. While the airline had planned to operate a triangle route from Atlanta to Johannesburg and Cape Town, that’s no longer happening, as the airline now intends to fly nonstop between Atlanta and Johannesburg in both directions.

The reason for this Cape Town stop to begin with was that Delta was retiring its 777s, and A350-900s couldn’t operate the Johannesburg to Atlanta flight nonstop without significant restrictions. Now Delta claims that “commercial, operational, and market developments,” make this route possible with an A350.

That being said, there’s more to it than that. As it turns out, the real reason Delta won’t be operating Cape Town service is because South Africa’s aviation authority blocked the route. I’m not sure how that’s in anyone’s best interest, but that’s the decision.

Now we at least know why Delta backtracked on Cape Town service. I’m curious how much of a payload restriction Delta will have to take on the Johannesburg to Atlanta flight.

What do you make of Delta’s change of plans for South Africa service?

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  1. Jim

    On the whole, I'm a loyal Delta flier - I've had medallion status for over a decade - but there are some places that they make it hard to get to. In that regard, this is disappointing; I'd like to see more connectivity, not less. To wit, if I'm going to Cape Town, I'd rather it not require transit via Europe, adding many hours to travel time (and as such, taking many hours away from...

    On the whole, I'm a loyal Delta flier - I've had medallion status for over a decade - but there are some places that they make it hard to get to. In that regard, this is disappointing; I'd like to see more connectivity, not less. To wit, if I'm going to Cape Town, I'd rather it not require transit via Europe, adding many hours to travel time (and as such, taking many hours away from my trip!)

    That said, I have long since learned - with all carriers - not to trust announcements of future service until such time as a bookable flight has physically flown the route. That was true in the "before times" and it's especially true now.

    1. Mike C

      Jim, in general I agree, but if you're a Delta flyer, why not use the connections they have from Joburg? If you're going to Cape Town, whether you've flown via somewhere in Europe or Johannesburg isn't a big deal.

    2. Nathan

      I disagree- connecting in Joburg (customs, the transfer itself, security) absolutely sucks when compared to going direct via LHR, FRA etc

    3. Jim

      DL has no partners/connections out of JNB - it'd be a full-fledged arrival and turn around to check-in on a separate itinerary. I've done that in a few places over the years; it's a PITA but yes, the option is there.

      DL's partnership roster is... quite dichotomous. They're very strong in some places (western Europe, east Asia, possibly now South America with LATAM) but weak-to-nonexistent elsewhere (for example, eastern Europe, west Africa, India [post-9W])

    4. ConcordeBoy

      Adding many hours? ...not really.

      Unless you're in the Southeast USA (which is why this flight exists), then getting to S. Africa via Europe is not only competitive, but it's also often a SHORTER distance.

      For example, if you're departing from the Bay:
      SFO-LHR-CPT is geometrically shorter than SFO-ATL-JNB-CPT, and the connections are competitive in timing.

  2. Declan

    As far as I remember, the previous schedule left JNB at 1955, perhaps the slightly cooler temperatures at 2255 make up some of the difference too

  3. Jeff

    I imagine delta realizes flights to SA will be relatively empty at this point and therefore they can make the trip.

  4. Tim Dunn

    For the 777LR to operate nonstop from JNB to ATL, Delta worked w/ Boeing to develop special tires and GE gave Delta permission to use the full thrust of the engines on takeoff from JNB which is usually used only on the 777-300ER (which Delta didn't operate).
    It is very possible that Airbus did the same on top of the enhanced performance of the latest A350-900s.
    The ATL-JNB-ATL route is an opportunity for...

    For the 777LR to operate nonstop from JNB to ATL, Delta worked w/ Boeing to develop special tires and GE gave Delta permission to use the full thrust of the engines on takeoff from JNB which is usually used only on the 777-300ER (which Delta didn't operate).
    It is very possible that Airbus did the same on top of the enhanced performance of the latest A350-900s.
    The ATL-JNB-ATL route is an opportunity for Airbus and Boeing to showcase what their planes can do; Delta's ATL-JNB route has existed for years so it is worth investing in the route and showcasing the performance of whatever plane operates the route.

    1. ConcordeBoy

      They didn't have to. The 772LR, for all its power and range, had extremely high wing loading, second only to the 77W. This is because, despite their massive weight increase, they were still on the original 772A wing, just with internal reinforcement + raked wingtips. The A359 doesn't have anywhere near that amount of loading, so tire rating overrun at altitude isn't the same concern for it.

  5. FlyerDon

    How about this. Could they have gotten approval to operate further from their enroute alternates? This would allow them to take a more direct routing and burn less fuel enroute. Most overwater flying operate under a three hour, on one engine, rule. Some have permission for up to 207 minutes from enroute alternates and I’ve heard some are using/applying for a 240 minute rule. That would really allow for some very direct routings.

    1. Nick

      I really don’t fancy flying Atlanta to South Africa or vice versa on a two-engine plane with waivers that allow them to fly further from diversion points.

    2. ConcordeBoy

      Which is laughable, because under no circumstances would you be doing so, on any carrier.

  6. Tom

    This was NEVER about actually wanting to serve CPT. It is almost 100% leisure and low yield as such. DL simply could not operate JNBATL nonstop for all the reasons described. The CPT stop was one of necessity, not desire. JNB has the business demand which is where DL makes $. No doubt UAs nonstop to/from JNB routing would dramatically cut into the yield for similar markets by offering a 1 stop vs 2 stop...

    This was NEVER about actually wanting to serve CPT. It is almost 100% leisure and low yield as such. DL simply could not operate JNBATL nonstop for all the reasons described. The CPT stop was one of necessity, not desire. JNB has the business demand which is where DL makes $. No doubt UAs nonstop to/from JNB routing would dramatically cut into the yield for similar markets by offering a 1 stop vs 2 stop trip from JNB to XXX. I expect DL either found a way to get more performance out of the aircraft or opted to fly weight restricted (or both) in order to garner more premium traffic possible via a one stop connection which shows up considerably higher in GDS displays which is where the corporate $ are booked.

  7. Azamaraal

    For a number of years we traveled to Cape Town for 3 months in the winter to golf, drink wine and enjoy great food and company. To fly SAA to CPT via JNB was always a hassle. The odd time we flew QR avoiding JNB was great but the long connect in Doha was a real downer.

    The direct flight CPT ATL would have been lovely and the stop in JNB for an hour wouldn't...

    For a number of years we traveled to Cape Town for 3 months in the winter to golf, drink wine and enjoy great food and company. To fly SAA to CPT via JNB was always a hassle. The odd time we flew QR avoiding JNB was great but the long connect in Doha was a real downer.

    The direct flight CPT ATL would have been lovely and the stop in JNB for an hour wouldn't have been a problem unless one had to deplane for Customs and Immigration.

    Sad. Ending in JNB on SAA at least had a great flight and a good lounge with a no-hassle connect to CPT. Having a separate PNR would mean an extended transfer time to ensure connection. Bummer.

  8. shoeguy

    This isn't surprising. CPT is a leisure market and triangle routes or stopovers are costly. JNB can likely hold its own, and has in the past, even with the UA service at EWR. Delta flew to CPT via DKR in 2006-2007 seasonally on 767's and the routes performed poorly.

  9. Carl Jay Gutierrez

    I will continue to go to CPT from the USA via AMS or CDG. MUCH preferred layover there, cup of coffee and your on the way. Or, if it's a long layover, get a day room at CitizenM - that alone will make your holiday! MUCH preferred to hours and hours on a plane to Johannesburg, feeling unkempt, only to deplane and replane... So close, yet so far. Bad move Delta!

    1. Jay

      You did read where the South African government denied the route right?

  10. ConcordeBoy

    Ben, the answer to this one is fairly straightforward:

    When DL first took delivery of their A359s, those aircraft were rated at 268 tonne MTOW. They later retroactively increased that rating to 275 tonnes, for 11 of the 15 ships on property.

    The most recent four deliveries however (N512DN - N515DN) have the same wing-twist, lengthened singlets, empennage improvements, and 280 tonne MTOWs that Singapore's A350-900ULRs do (though NOT the same fuel system modification) and...

    Ben, the answer to this one is fairly straightforward:

    When DL first took delivery of their A359s, those aircraft were rated at 268 tonne MTOW. They later retroactively increased that rating to 275 tonnes, for 11 of the 15 ships on property.

    The most recent four deliveries however (N512DN - N515DN) have the same wing-twist, lengthened singlets, empennage improvements, and 280 tonne MTOWs that Singapore's A350-900ULRs do (though NOT the same fuel system modification) and thus have significantly enhanced performance capability.

    These will be the aircraft that will be dedicated to the JNB nonstop.

    And it's really not anything else that's changed much about the A350 nor JNB that caused this, but rather a *default*:
    DL had four routes that required/utilized the 772LRs' unique capabilities (ATL-JNB, ATL-PVG, JFK-BOM, LAX-SYD) and were operated by those aircraft exclusively.

    With India, China, and Australia all essentially still no-goes for USAmericans, for the foreseeable future.... it was a rather simple call to dedicate the 280 tonne A359s to JNB, which can fly the westbound without a debilitating amount of restrictions.

    1. Tim Dunn

      The answer is actually a bit more nuanced.
      When Delta took delivery of its first A350s, the 777-200LR was their longest range, highest performance longhaul aircraft and it was a follow-on to the 777-200ER fleet. The LR was needed as a supplement to the ERs for a number of ultra long routes.
      Airbus did not offer the 280 ton A350 at the time Delta took delivery of its first copies but the A350...

      The answer is actually a bit more nuanced.
      When Delta took delivery of its first A350s, the 777-200LR was their longest range, highest performance longhaul aircraft and it was a follow-on to the 777-200ER fleet. The LR was needed as a supplement to the ERs for a number of ultra long routes.
      Airbus did not offer the 280 ton A350 at the time Delta took delivery of its first copies but the A350 was not intended to be Delta's sole ultra long haul aircraft.
      Many of Delta's international flights from ATL need the range and performance because ATL is further from Asia and Africa than other US gateways. ATL is also the highest altitude major airport east of the Rockies although not in the league of JNB or DEN.
      The issue with JNB is altitude and not range. Even with the higher takeoff weights of the newest A350s, the issue is getting the plane going fast enough and the wing lifting the aircraft off the runway before it comes to an end. The 777-200LR was the only other aircraft that could do JNB-ATL but was a niche aircraft that didn't sell well.
      JNB right now has low temps in the low 40s; by summer down there in a couple months, the lows will be in the upper 50s to low 60s. Delta should be able to make the A350 work now but it might be more challenging in the next few months. I still will bet that Airbus has or is going to make some specific modifications or changes to performance requirements either specific for Delta and this route or to the A350 as a whole as a result of seeing what the plane can do for other operators.
      If Delta and Airbus can consistently make the A350 operate consistently from JNB to ATL, the most operationally challenging ultra long haul route in the world, Airbus will have achieved something with the A350 that no other airplane has done without a specific configuration or a low-selling high performance version of another model.

      As for the comment about Delta not using the 777 and not being a global carrier, I would fly and have flown Delta's international aircraft in coach above American and United's (and other carriers) specifically because Delta's coach seats are wider and more spacious than other airlines including AA and UA's 9 abreast 787s and 10 abreast 777s.

    2. FlyerDon

      Hey ConcordeBoy, here in the USA with use pounds to designate weights. Pounds of fuel, pounds of cargo, pounds for passenger weights and pounds to list aircraft weights and restrictions. No offense but you seem a little light on aircraft performance and extended range operations. Simply raising max structural takeoff weight does not necessarily solve the operating issues with long overwater flights. In some cases it can actually make things worse. (see the A300-600.)

      Hey ConcordeBoy, here in the USA with use pounds to designate weights. Pounds of fuel, pounds of cargo, pounds for passenger weights and pounds to list aircraft weights and restrictions. No offense but you seem a little light on aircraft performance and extended range operations. Simply raising max structural takeoff weight does not necessarily solve the operating issues with long overwater flights. In some cases it can actually make things worse. (see the A300-600.)

  11. Frederik

    Dumping the 777, shows that Delta no longer considers itself an international Flagship level airline.

    1. Synn

      Huh? What does its use for a small fleet of aircraft, some of which are 22yrs-old, have to do with being an international "Flagship level" (whatever imaginary designation that is) airline....?

  12. Kayla

    My understanding from local sources here in Jozi, is that Delta did not receive government approval from the SA CAA to fly JNB-CPT, and therefore has had to partner with our local airline, 4Z (Airlink).

  13. STEFFL

    DL flew the 777-200ER between JNB-ATL and man did i hate that plane, just because exactly that route was NEVER fully sold with the max. payload as it would have never made it!
    I was trying to change my flight in JNB - ATL several times and everytime, i was turned down at the airport, DUE TO: weight&balance problems of the 777!
    So i my taking, this flight was NEVER sold out in...

    DL flew the 777-200ER between JNB-ATL and man did i hate that plane, just because exactly that route was NEVER fully sold with the max. payload as it would have never made it!
    I was trying to change my flight in JNB - ATL several times and everytime, i was turned down at the airport, DUE TO: weight&balance problems of the 777!
    So i my taking, this flight was NEVER sold out in any way either, so what's the big differentce to a more sufficient and economic plane with the A350 now and it might also NEVER be sold out, but at least it's a modern plane.
    To all those stand-by people . . . those might luck out too in the future, if they try to get on a DL flights out of JNB!

  14. KEVIN

    I wonder if it has to do with other existing airlines don’t want delta to fly between joburg and Cape Town? At the end of the day, less competition usually means more profit.

  15. Tim Dunn

    The S. African government clearly has no reason to work w/ any other country re: civil aviation now that they have no longhaul international carrier. Not the first time it has happened.
    Since the A350 burns about 17% less fuel than the 777-200, they can still make as much money by not selling as many seats if they are forced to block seats which so far we don't know if they are doing.
    ...

    The S. African government clearly has no reason to work w/ any other country re: civil aviation now that they have no longhaul international carrier. Not the first time it has happened.
    Since the A350 burns about 17% less fuel than the 777-200, they can still make as much money by not selling as many seats if they are forced to block seats which so far we don't know if they are doing.
    I have never heard of a paying passenger complaining about a flight that isn't full. Given that a strongly performing route provides the opportunity to sell only the best fares, airlines shouldn't need to rely on completely full flights given that it is statistically impossible to do it on a consistent basis.
    Given that most of the capacity in the US-S. Africa market is not operating anymore because of SA's shutdown, the chances are high that Delta can make it work.
    This flight will be very interesting to watch, including if Delta doesn't sell all of the seats but it still remains that JNB-ATL is the most operationally challenging ultra long haul flight in the world.
    And if they really can't make it work to ATL, I am sure the option exists to move the flight to JFK which is about an hour shorter.

  16. NIck

    Wow the SA government seems like a piece of work...

  17. Alan

    I give up. I can’t read this blog anymore. The constant reposting of articles without any indication of what’s new in it. I get that it’s a slow time for travel, but would it kill you to just put ‘update’ at the top of a post with the new info. Been reading for 6 years now and I’m done, sorry Lucky.

  18. Steven

    "I don’t really see how it’s in South Africa’s interest to deny Delta’s flight like this"

    SA wants to preserve inter-country routes for it's own carriers. Even though SAA is hardly a real airline, if it does survive the first routes back will be SA domestic. The triangle flight makes a small dent in the available seats on that route. Not that I agree with this approach, but that'd be one way it'd be in SA's interest.

    1. Michael

      Even if Delta were allowed to operate the triangle, they wouldn't be permitted to sell seats on only the JNB-CPT leg; all JNB-CPT passengers would have to be flying either ATL-JNB-CPT or JNB-CPT-ATL, so the route wouldn't really affect the domestic capacity on JNB/CPT.

  19. Musawenkosi Mavuso

    The SADOT denied Delta the triangle flight operation to protect the South African domestic market and the local carriers since JNB-CPT-JNB route is the most busy and profitable domestic route in SA. Again the US department of Transport is not taking this matter fairly because SAA never operated a triangle flight in the US. It operated direct JNB-JFK and JNB-IAD via Accra(ACC) and Dakar(DSS)

    1. Tim Dunn

      Delta would have never been able to carry local passengers between JNB and CPT and they never proposed it. They simply wanted to be able to let off and then reboard passengers at both JNB and CPT that only originated or were destined to the US.
      There are people elsewhere on the internet that claim they have the models that can calculate how many passengers Delta can carry nonstop from JNB to ATL under...

      Delta would have never been able to carry local passengers between JNB and CPT and they never proposed it. They simply wanted to be able to let off and then reboard passengers at both JNB and CPT that only originated or were destined to the US.
      There are people elsewhere on the internet that claim they have the models that can calculate how many passengers Delta can carry nonstop from JNB to ATL under the weather conditions they will encounter; at worst they say Delta will have to block less than 10% of seats during the peak summer leaving JNB but none in the opposite direction. If true, Delta will still be able to carry more passengers than United which so far is the only other airline with proposed service between the US and S. Africa.
      An interesting topic to watch but it probably won't make much a difference in real life to most passengers except for the standby passengers that won't be able to board at the last minute just because there is an empty seat.

    2. NIck

      Yeah but they would still carry passengers between JNB and CPT. You have to understand how they think.

  20. RC

    Wow, the American govt actually sticking the middle finger to another country with Biden in office. kudos...

  21. Tim Dunn

    Delta has reportedly reserved a block of registration numbers for 13 used (maybe one new) A350s which appear to have been in Latam's fleet.
    https://ibb.co/bN4Vrc8

  22. Mike Hampton

    Cant wait to go to South Africa

Featured Comments Load all 37 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Alan

I give up. I can’t read this blog anymore. The constant reposting of articles without any indication of what’s new in it. I get that it’s a slow time for travel, but would it kill you to just put ‘update’ at the top of a post with the new info. Been reading for 6 years now and I’m done, sorry Lucky.

Tim Dunn

The answer is actually a bit more nuanced. When Delta took delivery of its first A350s, the 777-200LR was their longest range, highest performance longhaul aircraft and it was a follow-on to the 777-200ER fleet. The LR was needed as a supplement to the ERs for a number of ultra long routes. Airbus did not offer the 280 ton A350 at the time Delta took delivery of its first copies but the A350 was not intended to be Delta's sole ultra long haul aircraft. Many of Delta's international flights from ATL need the range and performance because ATL is further from Asia and Africa than other US gateways. ATL is also the highest altitude major airport east of the Rockies although not in the league of JNB or DEN. The issue with JNB is altitude and not range. Even with the higher takeoff weights of the newest A350s, the issue is getting the plane going fast enough and the wing lifting the aircraft off the runway before it comes to an end. The 777-200LR was the only other aircraft that could do JNB-ATL but was a niche aircraft that didn't sell well. JNB right now has low temps in the low 40s; by summer down there in a couple months, the lows will be in the upper 50s to low 60s. Delta should be able to make the A350 work now but it might be more challenging in the next few months. I still will bet that Airbus has or is going to make some specific modifications or changes to performance requirements either specific for Delta and this route or to the A350 as a whole as a result of seeing what the plane can do for other operators. If Delta and Airbus can consistently make the A350 operate consistently from JNB to ATL, the most operationally challenging ultra long haul route in the world, Airbus will have achieved something with the A350 that no other airplane has done without a specific configuration or a low-selling high performance version of another model. As for the comment about Delta not using the 777 and not being a global carrier, I would fly and have flown Delta's international aircraft in coach above American and United's (and other carriers) specifically because Delta's coach seats are wider and more spacious than other airlines including AA and UA's 9 abreast 787s and 10 abreast 777s.

ConcordeBoy

Ben, the answer to this one is fairly straightforward: When DL first took delivery of their A359s, those aircraft were rated at 268 tonne MTOW. They later retroactively increased that rating to 275 tonnes, for 11 of the 15 ships on property. The most recent four deliveries however (N512DN - N515DN) have the same wing-twist, lengthened singlets, empennage improvements, and 280 tonne MTOWs that Singapore's A350-900ULRs do (though NOT the same fuel system modification) and thus have significantly enhanced performance capability. These will be the aircraft that will be dedicated to the JNB nonstop. And it's really not anything else that's changed much about the A350 nor JNB that caused this, but rather a *default*: DL had four routes that required/utilized the 772LRs' unique capabilities (ATL-JNB, ATL-PVG, JFK-BOM, LAX-SYD) and were operated by those aircraft exclusively. With India, China, and Australia all essentially still no-goes for USAmericans, for the foreseeable future.... it was a rather simple call to dedicate the 280 tonne A359s to JNB, which can fly the westbound without a debilitating amount of restrictions.

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