Delta & United To Add Cape Town Flights

Delta & United To Add Cape Town Flights

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We can expect significantly more nonstop service between the United States and Cape Town as of later this year, thanks to some negotiating on the part of the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Delta & United have been fighting over Cape Town

Earlier this year, both Delta and United announced that they wanted to add flights to Cape Town as of November 2022:

  • Delta wanted to launch 3x weekly Airbus A350 flights between Atlanta and Cape Town, complementing the carrier’s Atlanta to Johannesburg route
  • United wanted to launch 3x weekly Boeing 787 flights between Washington and Cape Town, complementing the carrier’s Newark to Johannesburg and Newark to Cape Town routes

There was only one small issue — the bilateral agreement between the United States and South Africa limits the number of flights that can operate between the two countries, and there was only room for up to four additional weekly frequencies.

So both Delta and United had to plead their case with the Department of Transportation, as to why they should be granted permission to operate these flights. As is often the case, it got pretty nasty between the two airlines.

The DOT had to decide whether one airline should get all the slots, or whether the slots should be split between the airlines (though two weekly frequencies are probably hard for airlines to get excited about).

Delta wants to launch Atlanta to Cape Town flights

DOT comes through, gets enough slots for both airlines

The Department of Transportation has made its decision about Cape Town service, and the winner is… well, both Delta and United.

Over the course of this proceeding, the Department of Transportation has been in communication with counterparts in South Africa, seeking to negotiate an exchange of extrabilateral opportunities.

Two additional frequencies were requested, given the increase in demand for passenger service to South Africa. The Department of Transport of South Africa has granted two extra frequencies, upon certain conditions being met. It’s expected that this will happen.

With this, the Department of Transportation has a total of six South Africa slots to award, and those will be split between Delta and United. This means that Delta can operate 3x weekly flights between Atlanta and Cape Town, and United can operate 3x weekly flights between Washington and Cape Town.

South African authorities have until August 15, 2022, to officially authorize this. So only time will tell whether US airlines tentatively put these flights on sale before then, or if they wait until the official permission is granted before selling flights.

United wants to launch Washington to Cape Town flights

Bottom line

Delta and United have been fighting for the right to add Cape Town flights, as they were competing for a finite number of slots. The great news is that the DOT was able to negotiate additional slots, meaning that both airlines can get what they want.

Expect that as of November 2022, Delta will launch an Atlanta to Cape Town route, while United will launch a Washington to Cape Town flight. It’s exciting to see additional service direct to Cape Town, especially given the struggles the South African aviation industry is having (complicating connectivity within the country).

What do you make of Delta and United both being granted Cape Town flights?

Conversations (24)
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  1. D3kingg Guest

    I wish American would tap into the African market. I’m flying Q Suites to JNB. Most over hyped business class product my high expectations are high.

  2. TravelinWilly Diamond

    It would still be nice if someone would offer a first class option out of IAD to SA.

    United for 15 hours to CPT?

    No, thank you.

    1. Jason Guest

      There are First Class options from IAD to SA. British Airways via London, Air France via Paris, Lufthansa via Frankfurt, or Emirates via Dubai. I think that's it. There are no nonstop - potential airlines in the U.S. or South Africa that even have a first class product. So if the extra travel time is worth it to you, by all means, avail yourself of that opportunity.

    2. TravelinWilly Diamond

      I know about flights via Europe; I’ve taken those for 20+ years. I’ve flown EK and LH already this year, next trip is AF.

      So yes, I’m availing myself of those quite nicely.

      I was referring to nonstop.

  3. Sam Guest

    Does this mean that UA will reduce EWR frequencies? Or these will be in addition to the existing EWR frequencies?

    1. Hammer New Member

      United will have 3x weekly IAD-CPT flights and 3x weekly EWR-CPT flights for a total of 6 weekly CPT flights

  4. Sharon Guest

    This is excellent news.

    United adds yet another international route. Will they need to order more 787-9’s?

  5. SamB Member

    Wow, the government overdelivered for once.

  6. Tim Dunn Diamond

    Given that US carriers, I believe, are now offering 100% of the nonstop capacity between the US and S. Africa, the willingness of S. Africa to add a couple more flight authorizations for US carriers says they probably expect it to stay that way.
    Delta's larger A350s give it more total seats and there is some speculation elsewhere that Delta's current daily JNB-ATL flights will stop in CPT to avoid the payload penalty; Delta's...

    Given that US carriers, I believe, are now offering 100% of the nonstop capacity between the US and S. Africa, the willingness of S. Africa to add a couple more flight authorizations for US carriers says they probably expect it to stay that way.
    Delta's larger A350s give it more total seats and there is some speculation elsewhere that Delta's current daily JNB-ATL flights will stop in CPT to avoid the payload penalty; Delta's JNB-ATL flights have long been the longest flights from JNB and are complicated by the 6000 ft altitude at the airport. It is certain that the fuel burn on the A350 is so much lower that Delta is still saving alot of money compared to the 777LRs which operated the route before. Delta's A350 configuration has more seats anyway. Delta has previously said its newest A350s will have better performance out of JNB.
    For their part, United has done a great job of pushing into the S. Africa market and is certain to have had data from S. African Airways passengers.
    Boeing managed to do add some umph to their 787-9s to give them the ability to operate from JNB.
    The loser is AA which is likely now permanently shut out of S. Africa.

    1. dfw88 Guest

      "The loser is AA which is likely not permanently shut out of S. Africa."
      No, almost certainly not. Especially in an article about the US negotiating two extra frequencies it's pretty obvious that nothing about the bilateral is permanent. Is AA, assuming they even want to start flights to S. Africa (and I wish they would!), shut out for a while? Yes, probably. Permanently? Absolutely not. That's just useless AA bashing.

    2. dfw88 Guest

      Sorry. I misquoted you: "The loser is AA which is likely NOW permanently shut out of S. Africa."

    3. Tim Dunn Diamond

      You may see it as bashing but it highlights that Delta and United have become the 2 primary US international carriers with extensive global networks while AA's strength primarily comes from Latin America and its oneworld partner hubs in other parts of the world.
      AA did start service to North Africa briefly and many have highlighted that there is a large S. African community in Miami which is actually the closest continental US city...

      You may see it as bashing but it highlights that Delta and United have become the 2 primary US international carriers with extensive global networks while AA's strength primarily comes from Latin America and its oneworld partner hubs in other parts of the world.
      AA did start service to North Africa briefly and many have highlighted that there is a large S. African community in Miami which is actually the closest continental US city to S. Africa - and SAA flew there at one time.
      of course, bilaterals can change but it is a lot different to gain 2 more flights/week than to gain 7 which is what it would take for AA to enter the market with daily service.

    4. Jason Guest

      American never started service to North Africa. They were supposed to start service to Casablanca, Morocco, in summer of 2020 from Philadelphia on a 757 but that didnt happen. Unless there was something else?

    5. Tim Dunn Diamond

      you are right. thanks for that reminder of what didn't happen in 2020.

    6. stogieguy7 Diamond

      Have to agree with Tim on this one; SA is not going to be in AA's portfolio for a long time. They'll have to rely on BA from LHR for most service to SA which is less than ideal. But AA does have a lot of strength in Latin America and that's a bright spot for them.

    7. Leigh Guest

      And also Qatar via DOH...

    8. Leigh Guest

      SAA flew into FLL not MIA. I have no issue connecting with a oneworld partner airline hub, as I find the alliance has quality and reliable member airlines...flew to CPT 3 times in the last 8 months, always via DOH...was fine with me!! I think the alliance has a very good strategy. Other points agreed.

    9. WHS Guest

      Tim, EWR is nearly 100 miles shorter than MIA from JNB.

    10. Sean M. Diamond

      @Tim Dunn - Actually you might be surprised where the bottleneck for renegotiating the BASA came from. SA has always been keen to expand the BASA, specifically to provide authorisation for wider third country codeshares, but the US side has been refusing to negotiate anything short of a full open skies agreement - which the SA side is not able to accept due to various (unfathomable) internal policies there. So things have stagnated for a...

      @Tim Dunn - Actually you might be surprised where the bottleneck for renegotiating the BASA came from. SA has always been keen to expand the BASA, specifically to provide authorisation for wider third country codeshares, but the US side has been refusing to negotiate anything short of a full open skies agreement - which the SA side is not able to accept due to various (unfathomable) internal policies there. So things have stagnated for a number of years, until this opportunity to get past that hurdle arose and thankfully both sides were enlightened enough to seize it.

    11. mrl New Member

      Do you know any more details on the SA side (i.e. why they are uncomfortable with full open skies — I can get why open skies with other regional countries could hurt SAA, but given SAA's dim prospects of resuming long-haul service in the foreseeable future, I wouldn't think a US open skies agreement would hurt SA carriers)? Or do you know of any links with further reading?

    12. Tim Dunn Diamond

      There just isn't any incentive for a country to give full and complete air service rights to another country if the first country isn't offering any service at all.
      When SAA was still alive, it was to prevent them from being completely overwhelmed by US carriers; now it is just not necessary to offer so much more service.

      There are more than 3 flights/day between the US and S. Africa with the majority still...

      There just isn't any incentive for a country to give full and complete air service rights to another country if the first country isn't offering any service at all.
      When SAA was still alive, it was to prevent them from being completely overwhelmed by US carriers; now it is just not necessary to offer so much more service.

      There are more than 3 flights/day between the US and S. Africa with the majority still out of JNB. The DOT might have argued that the level of air service is actually a bit lower since SAA used 747s and A340s for some of their most recent US service while UA's B787s only seat about 250 passengers and DL's seat about 310.

    13. Sean M. Diamond

      @mrl - it was nothing to do with SAA. The airline actually was advocating for open skies because they were losing business to the transatlantic JVs (including their own Star Alliance partners) due to the lack of open skies. This is just one of those things that Transport have a bee in their bonnet over and simply refuse to entertain any discussion of open skies with any country.

    14. Brianair Guest

      If anything, I think SAA is the one who’s permanently shut out of S. Africa.

    15. D3kingg Guest

      You’re going to have to connect somewhere whether domestic or in Europe/Middle East to get to Africa.

      American has plenty of connectivity with BA and QR to Africa. Houston has a large African population and that is United territory. Also the drilling and energy companies are in Houston and send workers to Africa.

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Sean M. Diamond

@mrl - it was nothing to do with SAA. The airline actually was advocating for open skies because they were losing business to the transatlantic JVs (including their own Star Alliance partners) due to the lack of open skies. This is just one of those things that Transport have a bee in their bonnet over and simply refuse to entertain any discussion of open skies with any country.

3
Sean M. Diamond

@Tim Dunn - Actually you might be surprised where the bottleneck for renegotiating the BASA came from. SA has always been keen to expand the BASA, specifically to provide authorisation for wider third country codeshares, but the US side has been refusing to negotiate anything short of a full open skies agreement - which the SA side is not able to accept due to various (unfathomable) internal policies there. So things have stagnated for a number of years, until this opportunity to get past that hurdle arose and thankfully both sides were enlightened enough to seize it.

2
TravelinWilly Diamond

It would still be nice if someone would offer a first class option out of IAD to SA. United for 15 hours to CPT? No, thank you.

1
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