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Acsa hails new United Airlines Joburg-New York route

Positive sign for post-pandemic recovery as financial hubs boost connectivity.
The airline plans to commence direct flights to SA's financial hub in the first quarter of 2021. Image: Supplied

US-based United Airlines’ decision to launch its first-ever non-stop daily service between Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport and New York’s Newark Liberty International Airport in March next year has been welcomed by the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa).

The move, announced by United Airlines on Wednesday, comes as the global airline industry is grappling with its worst crisis in history in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and related international travel bans and restrictions this year.

Acsa to slash capex budget by 95%
Comair needs R1.2bn and to cut 400 jobs: administrators

“United Airlines’ announcement shows a great deal of commitment to SA and the African continent, which is set to be the next growth point for aviation,” Bongiwe Pityi-Vokwana, Acsa’s GM of OR Tambo told Moneyweb.

“The decision to service the Johannesburg route is tremendously encouraging.”

An aerial view of OR Tambo International Airport, Africa’s busiest air hub handling around 21 million passengers annually. Image: Supplied

“It presents massive opportunities for strengthened links between southern Africa and the United States as the largest economy in the world. The move also reminds us that despite the Covid-19 pandemic, OR Tambo International Airport, given its world-class infrastructure and location, is well positioned to connect the northern and southern hemispheres,” she added.

Pityi-Vokwana noted that while “the road to recovery will be long, there will also be opportunities for growth over the coming months as the Covid-19 pandemic curve continues to flatten”.

United Airlines will operate its new Johannesburg route with a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

In its statement, the airline said the new non-stop service will start in “Spring 2021” – referring to the Northern Hemisphere season that begins in March. The Chicago-headquartered carrier did not give a specific date for the commencement of flights.

It noted that the new route is subject to government approval and said tickets will be available for purchase on and the United app in the coming weeks.

The airline said it will become the only US carrier to operate between Johannesburg and New York/Newark.

Before Covid-19 hit, South African Airways (SAA) and US-based Delta Airlines were operating scheduled flights to the US. SAA had two routes – to New York (John F Kennedy International Airport) and Washington, while Delta had a daily flight to Atlanta.

With SAA entangled in a business rescue process, there is uncertainty around the airline resuming all its scheduled international air routes once South Africa’s Covid-19 international travel bans are lifted.

Read: SAA rescue plan comes into operation

Worth noting is that both SAA and United Airlines are Star Alliance members. United Airlines also launched a seasonal three times weekly service between Cape Town and New York/Newark in December last year.

The launch of its Johannesburg-New York route will see the airline offering more non-stop flights from South Africa than any other US carrier.

“This new non-stop service will strengthen our international route network and provide our customers from South Africa with even greater travel choice and the possibility to connect via our New York/Newark hub to destinations across the Americas,” said Marcel Fuchs, United’s MD of international sales.

Read: United Airlines’ nonstop New York/Cape Town service takes off

“Connecting Johannesburg to New York will open up new opportunities for both business and leisure travellers and help our customers in South Africa reconnect with friends and family around the world,” he added.

According to United Airlines, New York’s Newark Liberty International Airport is located just 14 miles (about 22.5km) from Manhattan.

“[The airport] offers the fastest surface transfer journeys to many parts of the city, including the AirTrain service to New York Penn Station in midtown Manhattan, with a journey time of less than 30 minutes,” it said.

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Let me guess, another foreign airline, coming to eat SAA’s lunch from just under their noses! You can’t make this stuff up, even if you tried to wanted to write a gory and macbre Greek tragedy.SAA is a lesson in ‘if you squander a lead, even a significant strategic first mover advantage or home (ground) advantage’, you will fade into oblivion, and several years of bad management will guarantee that.

There’s nothing to eat. United is as inefficient as SAA.
At least SAA offers you double luggage!! and they greet you ‘goeie more’ vandag.

Watch SAA duplicate the route with a shoddy service and then wonder why the plane is half full or half empty……

Not all of the flying for free can go, seeing the outside, on the same time.

I am a frequent international traveller, and have flown many airlines around the world. SAA is streaks ahead of United Airlines in terms of quality, comfort and friendliness of staff. There are only a handful of airlines that are better than SAA – and tons of national carriers that are just aweful. If anyone has ever flown BA, AlItalia, SwissAir, Any american airline, Air Canada, KLM, the list goes on and on, you will know what I am talking about. SAA is a top airline that South Africans should be proud of – its the management and political meddling on its board that is the airline’s problem.

So best is then for you to book on SAA2 from the Ashes when visiting the US.
(By the way, you don’t perhaps have a spare R10,3bn lying around? If yes, you’ll probably need it for take-off from OR Thambo….
Bon Voyage!

Great news. This will help people emigrate.

One wonders why SAA did not think of this route first?
Sorry, I used the word ‘think’ and SAA in the same sentence.

SAA has had the JHB to New York direct route for years – I have flown it several times.

ACSA’s gain is SAA’s loss.

Subject to SA government approval; forget it! Gordhan is eyeing that exact route for SAA as soon as he pursuades the reserve bank (SARB) to print the all-evasive R10bn so he can pay the lucrative severance packages to jobless SAA staff. When Tito wouldn’t budge, Gordhan decided to manouvre his way to the SARB governor who, he was told, had a money printing machine!
So expect Gordhan’s New SAA from the Ashes to be bursting forth from OR Thambo to Chicago very soon – probably even BEFORE global flights resume just in the event that this nasty US United Airlines gets funny ideas about COMPETING with our national airline; years of practice (ask Comair) ensured that no rival takes on SAA on homeground! LOL

Just one of many things our proud national airline lost of late. In fact about the only thing it DIDNT lose was bailouts paid from our taxes! This, while by far the majority of people in SA don’t even have a safe government train or taxi to get them to school or work on time!

Sounds good. Competition is good for any business.

My greatets concerns with United Airlines are
– The air hostes/ses are mostly 70+ years of age and predominantly male;
– United’s reputation of ‘harming’ it’s passengers.

– Newark is in New Jersey (akin to Gugs CT) if you have been there.
– NY Penn Station + Manhattan sounds very sexy but in reality it’s like
Park Station (Jhb) and Adderley St (Cape Town) respectively. You actually need to catch a bus – #38 – to Manhattan USD50. UBER will cost you USD 150 OR ZAR 2700 one way.
– Article does not mention JFK Airport (OR Tambo is 10x more modern
than JFK).
– Hopefully you will not fly elsewhere in US. Issues like paying for luggage, time lags – b/t East and West coast – customs etc ..

My advice. Do your homework. Don’t accept this to be a miracle and that travelling will be more comfortable.

After a long dry season at least some suitcases again ready to be pilfered. VIVA !

End of comments.





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