Photo: Delta Air Lines

MIAMI- Delta Air Lines (DL) seeks federal approval to offer a new service starting on October 24 from Atlanta to Cape Town, South Africa via Johannesburg.

Using its A350-900 fleet, the company expects to operate the route once travel restrictions are lifted. While it expects the approval, it already has a service from Atlanta to Johannesburg in the nonstop modality and carried by its Boeing 777-200LR aircraft.

Reasons to add a new destination in an already-serviced route

DL President, Glen Hauenstein announced plans to add a Cape Town stop to their pre-existing Atlanta-Johannesburg ultra-long-haul flights as the carrier announced this month the retirement of all of its Boeing 777 fleet due to the plunge in air demand due to the COVID-19 crisis.

In terms of passenger capacity, the A350-900 aircraft will have 14 more seats (306) than the Boeing 777 has (291).

“The new service will increase travel and trade opportunities, boost Atlanta and regional economies, create jobs, and provide benefits to travelers across the US,” argued the airline in its application for the route authority.

The Atlanta-Johannesburg flight covers 8,439 miles, so the Airbus plane would need to increase its fuel capacity. With the new Atlanta-Johannesburg-Cape Town-Atlanta route, the jet will be able to refuel before returning to the U.S. at the newly added destination.

While the operation will connect the U.S. with one more destination in South Africa, it will not allow passengers flying only between Johannesburg and Cape Town because of restrictions on foreign carriers transporting domestic travelers, reported local media the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Delta Air Lines Airbus A350

Boeing aircraft retirements

With only a few days apart, DL not only announced the retirement of its Boeing 777 fleet consisting of 18 aircraft, but it also announced the withdraw of its Boeing 717 fleet by 50-67%, leaving 30-45 aircraft of its total 91. Both operations are to be effective before the end of 2020.

While DL CEO, Ed Bastian stated that the layoffs were part of a general action to protect the company’s cash, jobs, and long-term sustainability, Will Horton at Forbes said that it is unclear whether the Boeing 717 jets will be reactivated for future service.