United to return to African market

United Airlines is planning a return to the African market later this year when it will become the only carrier to fly non-stop between the US and Cape Town in South Africa.

United Airlines has applied to the US Department of Transportation for authority to begin new service between its  Newark Liberty International hub and Cape Town International Airport. It hopes to open the three-weekly route in December 2019 using Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.

The market between Cape Town and the US is currently unserved although South African Airways and Delta Air Lines operate daily service from Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport to New York John F. Kennedy International Airport and Hartsfield - Jackson Atlanta International Airport respectively.

“We are always looking at ways to expand our industry-leading international route network to offer our customers more convenient options,” said Patrick Quayle, United's vice president of international network.

The airline’s non-stop service between Newark and Cape Town will decrease the current travel time from New York to the South African city by more than four hours.

Located at the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town is home to some of the most popular attractions in the country including Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.

If approved, the route will be operated with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft featuring 48 seats in business class, 88 in economy plus and 116 in economy.

Star Alliance carrier United last served the African market in 2016 when it flew between Houston Intercontinental and Lagos International Airport in Nigeria. It also flew between Washington Dulles International Airport and Accra - Kotoka International Airport in Ghana between 2010 and 2012.

According to figures from Sabre Market Intelligence, 53,800 passengers travelled between New York and Cape Town in 2018, 38.6 percent of which flew via Johannesburg.