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It's official: Delta files for rights to begin Cape Town flights

May 21, 2020
4 min read
It's official: Delta files for rights to begin Cape Town flights
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Delta Air Lines plans to return to South Africa in October with new joint service to Cape Town and Johannesburg, giving the carrier one of the few new-route announcements to come since the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the industry.

The Atlanta-based SkyTeam Alliance carrier aims for flights to begin with an Airbus A350-900 on Oct. 24, Delta said in a regulatory filing Thursday. The service will extend its existing nonstop between Atlanta (ATL) and Johannesburg (JNB) to a triangle that includes a stop in Cape Town (CPT) on the return leg.

Here is Delta's proposed schedule with all times local:

  • Depart Atlanta at 5:45 p.m., arrive Johannesburg at 3:45 p.m. on the next day
  • Depart Johannesburg at 5:15 p.m., arrive Cape Town at 7:25 p.m.
  • Depart Cape Town at 9:25 p.m., arrive Atlanta at 6:45 a.m. on the next day

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Delta plans to add service to Cape Town as part of a new circle route with Johannesburg on the A350. (Image by Cirium)
Delta plans to add service to Cape Town as part of a new circle route with Johannesburg on the A350. (Image by Cirium)

Delta does not plan to carry local traffic between Johannesburg and Cape Town, it said. In addition, tickets will not go on sale until it has the relevant approvals from both the South African and U.S. governments.

The new routing, and service to Cape Town, follows Delta's decision to retire is fleet of Boeing 777s amid coronavirus-related fleet reductions earlier in May. The the 8,439-mile nonstop Atlanta-Johannesburg route was exclusively flown with the jets.

The carrier's A350s are outfitted with 306 seats. The jets have 32 Delta One business class suites, 48 Premium Select premium economy seats and 226 economy seats.

Related: Delta will add Cape Town service to keep Johannesburg flights going with the A350

A Delta Airbus A350 at ATL (Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)
Delta will fly A350-900 jets on its new Cape Town service. (Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)

United Airlines also plans to return to Cape Town this fall, a spokesperson told TPG. The Star Alliance carrier began seasonal nonstop service between the Western Cape and Newark Liberty (EWR) with a Boeing 787 in December.

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Delta's decision to resume South Africa flying indicates it will take delivery of new A350s before October. The 13 jets already in its fleet do not have the capabilities to fly the route, with only newly-delivered A350s from Airbus able to do so, airline president Glen Hauenstein told staff during a May 20 virtual town hall that was viewed by TPG.

The carrier's existing A350s have a range of 7,275 miles while the baseline A350 today has a range of 9,321 miles thanks to a higher maximum takeoff weight, according to Delta and Airbus.

Related: Delta sending Airbus A350s to Los Angeles, will close Cincinnati pilot base

As recently as April, Delta did not have firm plans to take more new aircraft this year in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.

"Whether eventually over the course of the year we wind up taking some fully financed aircraft, it's an open question right now," Delta CEO Ed Bastian told Wall Street analysts on April 22.

Delta has 26 A350-900s on order. This includes 14 jets and orders that it acquired from LATAM Airlines last year.

If Cape Town flights do begin in October, it will not be the first time Delta served the Western Cape. The airline served the city and Johannesburg from Atlanta and New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) via Dakar (DSS) from 2008 to 2009, according to Cirium schedule data.

Related: A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Featured image by Getty Images

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more