Virgin Atlantic Adds Seasonal Cape Town Flights (Now Bookable With Miles)

Filed Under: Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic has historically been pretty conservative with their growth. For example, within the past year the airline has announced flights to Tel Aviv and Sao Paulo, and by their standards that’s some pretty strong growth.

Last week the airline announced a new route that I’d consider to be pretty awesome, and as of today that flight is bookable (below I’ll talk about the opportunities to redeem miles for it).

Virgin Atlantic launching London to Cape Town flights

Virgin Atlantic is launching a new seasonal Boeing 787-9 service between London Heathrow and Cape Town as of October 25, 2020. The new flight will be operated daily with the following schedule:

VS478 London to Cape Town departing 4:20PM arriving 5:55AM (+1 day)
VS479 Cape Town to London departing 8:00AM arriving 6:00PM

The flight will cover a distance of ~6,000 miles in each direction, and is blocked at 11hr35min southbound and 12hr northbound.

It’s interesting to see that Virgin Atlantic will operate a daytime flight from Cape Town to London. Most European airlines offering South Africa flights operate a redeye back, meaning that the plane sits on the ground all day. Their flight times are much better in terms of aircraft utilization, but worse in terms of connectivity back to the US.

We don’t yet know when the season for this flight will end, though as of now it shows as being bookable daily through the end of the schedule (which extends as far as mid-January 2021 as of now).

This complements Virgin Atlantic’s existing daily service to Johannesburg.

Cape Town, South Africa

As Juha Jarvinen, Virgin Atlantic’s Chief Commercial Officer, describes the route:

“2020 is an extremely exciting year of continued growth for Virgin Atlantic. Not only are we launching a new service to Sao Paulo in March but we’re delighted to announce a new seasonal service to Cape Town offering more choice for our customers than ever before.

We’re delighted to be flying to Cape Town again – we’re expecting a high proportion of leisure travellers on this route taking advantage of the winter sun, the safaris and of course, the world-famous wine region.”

Virgin Atlantic’s 787-9

Virgin Atlantic will use a Boeing 787-9 for this new route, featuring a total of 248 seats. That includes:

  • 31 business class seats
  • 35 premium economy seats
  • 192 economy seats

The Upper Class seats are herringbone seats. The cabin looks pretty, but I don’t find these seats to be particularly comfortable. You can find my recent review of Virgin Atlantic’s 787-9 business class here.

Virgin Atlantic’s 787-9 business class

This route won’t feature Virgin Atlantic’s new Upper Class, as that’s available exclusively on the A350.

Virgin Atlantic’s A350 business class

Redeem miles for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

Since this flight just became bookable, Virgin Atlantic has really good award availability on most dates, including for multiple seats in business class.

These award seats can be useful whether you’re looking to just travel direct between the UK and South Africa, or whether you’re looking to fly from the US to Cape Town via London.

If booking the London to Cape Town flight in Upper Class through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, you can expect to pay:

  • 42,500 Flying Club miles one-way during “standard” season
  • 67,500 Flying Club miles one-way during “peak” season

Over the period where this flight operates, peak dates include December 12, 2020, through January 5, 2021. The above mileage amounts don’t include taxes, fees, and carrier imposed surcharges.

Alternatively you could also redeem miles to travel between the US and South Africa. For example, while Delta SkyMiles doesn’t publish award charts, you can redeem 115,000 miles for a one-way Upper Class ticket from Boston to London to Cape Town with no carrier imposed surcharges.

That’s a much better value than booking the same itinerary through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, as they’d charge 105,000 miles plus over $1,000 in surcharges.

Bottom line

It’s cool to see another airline offering direct long haul flights to Cape Town, given that it’s the destination in South Africa that many people want to travel to, even though a majority of flights go to Johannesburg.

If you’re interested in redeeming miles for this flight, it’s now bookable and there are plenty of award seats.

What do you make of Virgin Atlantic’s new flight to Cape Town?

  1. This is a resumption of a route dropped in 2015. Thomas Cook was the only airline other than BA flying nonstop until their collapse last year

  2. As Alex mentioned, this route used to be operated by Thomas Cook so it seems that VS is going for mostly O&D on this route, because of the flight times you mentioned, Ben. There is that one late JFK flight departing shortly past 8pm and I think a late red-eye on Aeromexico to MEX which is a VS codeshare. Other than that you’re out of luck for North America connections and will have to do an overnight in Heathrow.

  3. Resumes rather than adds. For many years they seasonally flew an A346, I think until the Delta partnership. I live in Cape Town, used to be my first choice for London when possible. So glad they’re back.

  4. Ditto to what everyone else said. Yes, this is a resumption. I flew it in early 2015 just before it was cut.

  5. Weird schedule. KLM is the exception to the typical redeye-both-ways practice of European airlines and operates a daytime flight southbound and a redeye northbound, but at least that schedule works very well for North American connectivity. This schedule is not much use for connecting anywhere, except JFK.

  6. Lucky this flight is purely for O&D. Have a look at what BA can charge for the Thursday and Friday night direct down from LHR and a Sat/Sunday return.

    Flight works perfectly to do a half day in the office in London, get out to Heathrow comfortably for the 4:20 departure and you wake up in Cape Town.

    The schedule on the way back will boost yields in Y as you will be home at a sensible time to get a good nights sleep before work.

  7. I LOVE the daytime flights!

    I’m booked in June on KLM’s morning departure from Amsterdam to Johannesburg, with a return to Paris on Air France’s morning Jo’Burg departure. 777’s each way.

    Both the southbound and northbound flights arrive in time to relax before dinner and turn-in at one’s normal time. No jetlag. Perrrrrfect.

  8. Love to see more routes to CPT instead of having to connect through JNB. Real excited to take the nonstop from US (EWR) to CPT at some point this year. Hope they turn that into a year around service instead of seasonal. I am also looking to move to Cape Town full time!

  9. Why are people complaining about lak of NA connections?

    There is probbaly enough UK and European traffic to make this worth VSs while without that.

    The day flight return would easly allow connections on the last VS flights of the day to both JFK and BOS. Connections also possible to AMS and CDG on KL and AF

    On the out bound flights departing the previous night ex e.g. JFK, IAD, BOS and even SFO would also be possible though with a longish layover

  10. I agree that connectivity works much better the way KL does it, i.e. to operate the southbound during daytime and the northbound overnight. But I guess VS had no such slots available at LHR.

    Other than that, I never quite understood why most airlines operate both directions over night and have their planes standing around during the day. E.g. LX claims that red eye flights are more popular, which I find hard to believe, especially in Y …

  11. This flight doesn’t need much connectivity. Historical connections between Cape Town (former Cape Colony) and England remain very strong; and South Africa has the huge tourism advantage of being in +/- the same time zone as U.K./Western Europe — so a long-haul flight for winter sun, to a country where English is widely spoken (whether as first or second language), but with no jet lag.

    Just as most Americans seemed to consistently underestimate cultural connections between England and Perth (how many commenters on here insisted that route would be a failure? — whereas it is now apparently Qantas’ most profitable route), there’s a danger many will do the same again with LHR-CPT.

    As for a daytime flight: there are already overnight flights. Daytime running offers us another option, which I’d have thought we’d like: the more choices the better, right?

  12. CPT looks a hot spot these days. TAP will announce direct flights from Lisbon to CPT soon. They will also launch Orlando, Beirut, Agadir, Cancun and Lima.

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