Delta Airlines, one of the United States’ (US) major airlines, has submitted an application to the US department of transportation to operate direct flights between Atlanta and Cape Town three times week, year round, starting from November 18, 2022.
The world’s oldest operating airline submitted its application to US officials on Thursday following a decision by United Airlines to resume its direct flights between New York and the Mother City, starting in June 2022.
If greenlighted by officials, this will make the Cape Town direct route Delta’s second route to the country as it already operates routes to Johannesburg.
The province’s officials and tourism sector has welcomed the move by the international airline, saying that an approval of the application will inject much needed investment to the provinces tourism industry.
“We welcome the application made by Delta and hope that it is approved promptly. Clearly, there is a surge in demand for direct flights from the United States to Cape Town, and this is good for our tourism and hospitality sectors in the Western Cape,” the Western Cape’s minister of finance and economic opportunities David Maynier said in a statement.
Atlanta-Joburg-Cape Town triangular route
However, the bid for the Cape Town route does not cancel the airline’s plans to have a triangular route between Atlanta, Johannesburg and Cape Town. The airline is still seeking approval from the South African government despite being rejected in 2020 and 2021.
Seeking resolve, the Western Cape government says it has launched an intergovernmental dispute with the Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula.
“The minister has not responded to the substantive issues I have raised, and this matter has now been escalated to the Minister of Co-Operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to urgently secure a meeting to find a solution to the granting of co-terminalisation rights for Delta Airlines, between Atlanta, Johannesburg and Cape Town,” he says.
Rise in demand
According to the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for economic growth Alderman James Vos, Delta has confirmed that their bid for the Cape Town route follows an increase in demand from customers.
“The US is a key tourist market for Cape Town. The majority of US travellers to South Africa include the Mother City in their itineraries,” Vos says.
“Should this application be denied like the previous one, it will severely impact Cape Town’s – and thus South Africa’s – tourism industry,” he adds.
Like the rest of the country, the Western Cape’s tourism sector has been hard hit by Covid-19-induced lockdown restrictions which have imposed harsh limitations to trade for many sector participants.
Further, the province which historically has been the destination of choice for international tourists has had to – for the last two years – make do without a majority of these travellers who, along with their spending power, were kept out of the country by international travel bans.
Official Air Access spokesperson and CEO of Wesgro Wrenelle Stander says that as the largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) the US remains an important tourism and export market for the province, attracting about R19.7 billion in FDI.
“The US remains a key tourism and export market for South Africa. For the first time, the US was the number one country for Western Cape exports in 2021,”
“We are looking forward to welcoming Delta back to the Mother City, and we are confident that this non-stop flight will boost the province’s efforts to grow leisure tourism and help increase trade between the Cape and the US. This will contribute to growing exports, and attracting investment,” Stander adds.