United Increases Cape Town Offer

Flights to the South African city will operate year-round from June.

Credit: United Airlines

United Airlines is expanding operations to Cape Town (CPT) in South Africa from June by converting its existing seasonal service to a year-round route.

The carrier began flying to the city from Newark (EWR) in December 2019, marking its return to the African market for the first time since suspending flights to Lagos (LOS) in Nigeria in 2016.

After pausing the Cape Town route at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, United resumed flights to South Africa in June 2021 between Newark and Johannesburg (JNB). Operations to Cape Town restarted last December.

The Star Alliance member’s existing EWR-CPT seasonal service is currently scheduled to run through March 26 but will now return on June 5 and operate year-round. The route will continue to be served 3X-weekly using Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

“United’s direct flights from New York/Newark cut the usual travel time to Cape Town by more than five hours, giving visitors extra time to enjoy the beauty and majesty of South Africa,” said Patrick Quayle, United's SVP of international network planning and alliances.

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.

United is only one of two airlines to serve the US-South Africa market nonstop, with Delta Air Lines also providing a 3X-weekly Atlanta (ATL)-Johannesburg route. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, South African Airways also offered daily Johannesburg-New York John F Kennedy (JFK) flights.

Wrenelle Stander, CEO of Cape Town’s tourism, trade and investment agency Wesgro, said United’s planned expansion would provide “much-needed relief to the tourism and hospitality sector” in the Western Cape, as well as supporting the economic recovery in the province.

According to figures provided by Sabre Market Intelligence, O&D traffic between New York and Cape Town totalled 54,000 two-way passengers in 2019—almost half of whom travelled one-stop via Johannesburg. Dubai (DXB) and London Heathrow (LHR) were the second and third largest one-stop markets.

During the summer 2022 season, OAG data shows that United will fly to four destinations in Africa, offering 20X-weekly flights and some 9,900 two-way seats. As well as the two routes to South Africa, it will serve Lagos in Nigeria and Accra (ACC) in Ghana from Washington Dulles (IAD). The airline began the Accra route in May 2021 and Lagos last November.