New direct flight between US and Cape Town confirmed

2019-04-16 05:30 - Selene Brophy
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  • This new flight will provide passengers with the only nonstop service between the United States and Cape Town from December 2019, shaving four hours off the usual transatlantic journey.
  •  It is expected to add an estimated R283 million in direct tourism spending to the Cape economy in the first year, according to a Grant Thornton study. 
  • It is being seen as a "game-changer"route as North America was one of the largest unserved markets for Cape Town and the Western Cape - yet the USA was ranked as the 3rd largest market for inbound passengers to Cape Town International Airport in 2017. 

A much-needed boost to foreign direct investment and tourism has been given the green light with a new direct flight between Cape Town and New York.  

On Monday evening, Cape Town Air Access (CTAA) released a statement saying it welcomes the announcement by United Airlines that they intend launching a new non-stop route between the US and Cape Town, from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, New York.

If approved by the US Department of Transportation, United’s service between New York/Newark and Cape Town will be operated with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft featuring 48 seats in United Polaris business class, 88 seats in United Economy Plus and 116 seats in United Economy.

This new flight will provide customers with the only nonstop service between the United States and Cape Town from December 2019, shaving four hours off the usual transatlantic journey - linking the city to the important North American market. It is expected to add an estimated R283 million in direct tourism spending to the Cape economy in the first year, according to a Grant Thornton study.

READ: Iberia cancels SA flight route

Estimates indicate this will increase by R425 million by 2021. It would also see 890 jobs in the province in the first year of operation. 

“We are always looking at ways to expand our industry-leading international route network to offer our customers more convenient options. We’re thrilled to announce the addition of Africa to our global route offering,” said Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of International Network.

“This is a game-changer for our region. North America was one of the largest unserved markets for Cape Town and the Western Cape, with the USA ranked as the 3rd largest market for inbound passengers to Cape Town International Airport in 2017”, says Tim Harris, Wesgro CEO.

Deon Cloete, the Airport Manager of Cape Town International Airport says,  "The introduction of this new route not only provides a much-needed a link between the USA and Cape Town from a tourism perspective, but a direct flight, with an estimated four hour saving in travel time, will also mean an increase in business and investment opportunities.”   

READ: SAA still number one in seat capacity: The hard numbers behind South Africa's air connectivity

The Points Guy details United Airlines as the third largest airline in the US.  Its headquarters is in Chicago which is also the location of the largest United hub. In the past couple of years the airline has dealt with a quandary of overbooking incidents – including the infamous incident of a doctor being forcibly dragged off a plane.

While the new direct US route is not going to be directly linked to New York's popular  JFK - Newark Liberty International Airport, located in New Jersey about 25km from downtown Manhattan. Wesgro states, in 2017 the airport was the 6th busiest airport by international passenger traffic in the US. It is one of four airports serving the New York metropolitan area - providing quick access to the Big Apple and it’s commercial and cultural centres. 

SA Air connectivity ups and down

The announcement comes not too long after Iberia, cancelled its route between Johannesburg and Madrid. Over the last 10 years, South Africa has lost 47 airlines and 37 direct flight routes, including to countries like India, Russia, Portugal, Argentina and Thailand. 

This is according to SA Tourism's Head of Global Trade Bradley Brouwer, speaking at World Travel Market Africa in Cape Town last week. However, seat capacity to OR Tambo International and Cape Town International airports have increased significantly over the last six years.  

Cathay Pacific has also just confirmed it is bringing back its popular seasonal route between South Africa’s Mother City and the Hong Kong - with non-stop flights between the two global hubs from November 2019 to February 2020 – just in time for the festive period. The seasonal route will operate alongside Cathay Pacific’s existing daily non-stop flights from Johannesburg to Hong Kong.

The Cape Town Air Access initiative has helped land 8 new international airlines, 13 new direct routes and 19 route expansions, resulting in more than 1.5 million two-way seats being added into Cape Town International, boosting the local economy by R6 billion. Currently, SA has 106 active international routes in 2018 connected to 69 cities across the globe - 55 linking to the rest of the continent and 51 connecting to overseas destinations. 

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