Delta applies for flights to Cape Town, again – after SA govt blocked the last bid

(Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

  • Delta Air Lines wants to operate nonstop flights from its hub in Atlanta to Cape Town.
  • That’s according to a formal request lodged with the United States’ department of transport on Thursday.
  • The carrier has struggled to include Cape Town as one of its destinations, last serviced in 2009, due to delays and an ultimate refusal by South Africa’s department of transport.
  • This refusal, which has bound the airline to Johannesburg only, has been criticized by the US government and the Western Cape.
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The United States’ Delta Air Lines has reapplied for flights from Atlanta to Cape Town after South Africa’s department of transport previously rejected the route.

Delta Air Lines currently operates direct flights between Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport. This route was reinstated in the second half of 2021, following the easing of pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Part of Delta’s planned return to South Africa included flights to Cape Town. These flights would form part of a triangular route with Johannesburg and Atlanta, but the application was ultimately rejected by South Africa’s department of transport.

This controversial rejection – ostensibly related to concerns around competition with domestic carriers – triggered a tit-for-tat response from the US government. The US department of transport, citing the Delta debacle, rescinded coterminalisation rights previously afforded to South African Airways (SAA) in June 2021.

The decision to deny Delta Air Lines flights to Cape Town was fiercely criticized by the Western Cape government, which argued that the department of transport’s decision had a negative impact on the province’s tourism sector at a time when, embattled by the pandemic, it needed all the support it could get.

Delta Air Lines has applied for nonstop flights to Cape Town – running parallel to its application for the triangular route – with the US department of transport. The application documents, seen by Business Insider South Africa, were filed on Thursday 17 February.

The airline has applied for three flights a week between Atlanta and Cape Town, to be operated by 306-seat Airbus A350-900 aircraft. It plans to commence this route on 18 November 2022, if no further travel restrictions are imposed before then.

The last time Delta Air Lines operated scheduled flights to Cape Town was in 2009, with a stopover in Dakar, Senegal.

“In parallel, Delta is still seeking approval of a triangular, Atlanta-Johannesburg-Cape Town-Atlanta, routing from the South African department of transport to offer flexibility to the currently operating Atlanta-Johannesburg-Atlanta flights,” the airline noted in its request.

“The proposed service will increase travel and trade opportunities, boost Atlanta and regional jobs, create jobs, and provide benefits to travellers across the US”

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