Airlines vying for new international routes from South Africa in 2022
The airline industry is working hard to recoup some of the losses incurred over the past two years to preserve jobs and keep tourism alive in South Africa and around the world. Keep reading to see which airlines are involved and where they plan to fly too soon.
Emirates – Back to business
The UAE’s largest airline has long been a major carrier for international flights from South Africa and intends to more fully restore its wide range of routes over the coming year.
The airline also intends to add a second Airbus A380 to its fleet operating between OR Tambo International Airport and Dubai in July this year.
According to Afzal Parambil, regional director of Emirates Southern Africa, the airline has already returned to 70% of its regular operations and hopes to increase this by 10% before September.
Currently, Emirates operates two twice-daily flights to Johannesburg, one twice-daily flight to Cape Town and five times a week to Durban. That’s just over half of their pre-pandemic capacity.
In addition, Emirates is in negotiations with Airlink to give customers access to key tourist spots in Southern Africa on SA local airlines through a codeshare agreement. Thanks to this, passengers from New York or London could buy a one-way ticket to Nelspruit, George or Port Elizabeth.
Emirates recognizes South Africa as a calling card for tourists and has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with South African Tourism to help grow the brand in Middle Eastern markets.
Virgin Airlines – Growth plans in South Africa
Virgin Airlines will resume flights from London Heathrow Airport to Cape Town International Airport in November and aims to increase this service to incorporate a year-round service to the mother city by 2024.
Virgin Atlantic has been absent from South African skies since 2015, for reasons related to the country’s immigration policies. This announcement by Sir Richard Branson in May therefore has considerable significance for South African tourism.
The airline’s offer will include an overnight flight as well as an 8am flight from London to Cape Town on the new Boeing 787-9. These flights could add an additional 80,000 seats to flights to Cape Town each year.
According to Liezl Gericke, head of Africa, Middle East and India for Virgin Atlantic, the airline is committed to this route because the UK is the largest air passenger market for the Western Cape. .
Wesgro CEO Wrenelle Stander agrees, saying UK businesses enjoyed a 5% CAGR between 2015 and 2019. So there is a lot of demand for more flights, especially during Cape Town summer.
United Airlines – Strengthening ties with the United States
United Airlines is another major player keen to take advantage of the lucrative Cape Town route, with plans to offer direct flights from Washington DC to Cape Town three times a week.
They have filed their application with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) for what will become the first nonstop service between the mother city and DC, using a B787-900. In addition to serving the safari-loving American traveler, this route will prove beneficial for important government-to-government connections, helping to increase communication and trade between regions.
Once approved, United’s service will begin in November 2022 and will effectively connect 55 US cities to Cape Town, which accounts for 90% of the country’s travel demand to the African city.
United’s proposed service would begin on November 17 and would benefit American and South African travellers. The flights offered by the airlines will take into account that the route between DC and Cape Town is the busiest route between the two countries without direct flights, despite the fact that Washington DC is home to the fifth largest expat population South- Africans.
United already offers flights between New York and Cape Town, and this new offer will only serve to strengthen and develop the strong ties between the United States and South Africa.
South African airlines
SAA is slowly getting back on track as global restrictions lift and its finances improve, but currently only offers flights to African destinations.
The airline is unlikely to resume its regular offer of intercontinental routes until demand for those routes picks up.
A promising future for the South African travel industry
This renewed interest in flights to South Africa bodes well for the long-suffering tourism industry. This will help increase job opportunities back to pre-pandemic levels in an industry that is historically responsible for employing one in 22 South Africans.
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