DALLAS – Following a year-long deadlock, South Africa’s government has finally granted Delta Air Lines’ (DL) bid to fly between Atlanta and Cape Town via Johannesburg.
Cape Town, South Africa’s tourism magnet, is a destination sought after by competing carriers in the US in preparation for a post-pandemic recovery of air travel.
Delta resumed flights to Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport (JMB) in August 2021. While the relaunch was welcomed, it was clouded by controversy around a proposal for flights to Cape Town (CPT) as part of a triangular route connecting Atlanta and Johannesburg.
Documents provided by the United States Department of Transportation shortly before DL restarted flights to Johannesburg revealed a regulatory stalemate stifling the CPT route. According to the filing, the carrier wants to fly its 306-seat Airbus A350-900 aircraft to CPT.
According to Business Insider South Africa (BISA), this impasse, attributed to South Africa’s refusal to alter the airline’s Foreign Operator’s Permit, prompted DL to “abandon” its application. In turn, the US Department of Transportation denied South African Airways’ (SA) previously granted coterminalisation privileges.
The Western Cape government was not pleased with DL’s decision, especially given that Americans were to be South Africa’s top tourist group in 2021. DL’s initial application for the route, lodged in 2020, requested “year-round service with seasonal flexibility to tailor capacity to demand during off-peak periods.”
Delta filed a new application for nonstop flights between Atlanta and Cape Town in February, running concurrently with its prior attempt at a triangular route. A month later, United Airlines (UA) petitioned for flights between Washington, DC, and Cape Town, with flights set to begin in November 2022. It seems DL won the route.
However, while Western Cape was glad to confirm that DL’s filing was finally approved, BISA reports that South Africa’s department of transport says it’s not aware of the decision to grant DL access to Cape Town.
It is worth mentioning that South Africa’s International Air Services Licensing Council was only recently reformed.
Comments from Cape Town Officials
David Maynier, the provincial minister of finance and economic opportunities, said, “We regard the approval of Delta Air Lines’ application to fly a triangular route between Atlanta, Johannesburg, and Cape Town as a big win and we will continue to work hard to expand ‘air access’ because more flights mean more tourists and more tourists means more jobs in the Western Cape.”
“We remain committed to increasing investment, expanding trade, and scaling up tourism with the United States, and so we look forward to finally welcoming Delta Air Lines to the Western Cape.”
James Vos, mayoral committee member for economic growth and tourism at the City of Cape Town, said, “Cape Town’s economy has been given a big boost with the news of the US’ Delta Air Lines finally getting the go-ahead from the South African government to fly a triangular route between Atlanta, Johannesburg, and Cape Town.”
Featured image: N501DN, Delta Air Lines Airbus A350-900. Photo: Michael Rodeback/Airways