Delta gets approval for South Africa triangle route, will launch Cape Town service

Apr 28, 2022

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Delta is finally getting its South Africa triangle route.

The Atlanta-based airline has tried for nearly two years to win approval from the South African government to operate an Atlanta (ATL)-Johannesburg (JNB)-Cape Town (CPT)-Atlanta service pattern on its Airbus A350. That approval finally came and service will launch later this year, a Delta spokesperson said.

“Delta is pleased that its application to operate its triangular route from Atlanta-Johannesburg-Cape Town-Atlanta has been approved,” the spokesperson said in a statement about the recent approval by regulators. “We look forward to extending our new routing to serve South Africa later this year and offering more choice of travel between the U.S. and South Africa.”

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter.

Delta currently operates a nonstop flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg three times a week.

There are two big upsides for Delta to operate a triangle route.

First, Johannesburg’s airport, O.R. Tambo International, is over a mile high in elevation — 5,558 feet to be exact. Takeoff at that elevation stretches the abilities of Delta’s A350-900 on the 8,439-mile flight because jet engines have more powerful performance at the higher atmospheric pressure found closer to sea level. On certain days this past Southern Hemisphere summer, Delta’s nonstop to Atlanta sometimes required a technical stop in Boston (BOS) due to performance limitations. Cape Town, on the other hand, is only 151 feet above sea level, which will allow Delta to maximize payload and fuel for the return trip to Atlanta without having to make any stops.

(Map courtesy of Cirium)

From a logistical standpoint, this also gives Delta inexpensive access to Cape Town for the first time, allowing both cities to be served with a single aircraft. With Cape Town being a tourist-heavy market, Delta’s bet is that its leisure-focused passengers won’t mind a brief stop in Johannesburg.

But, there’s more to the story.

More: Delta Air Lines again applies for authority to operate Cape Town flights

Even though Delta will serve Cape Town via its triangle routing, the airline is also pursuing approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation to operate a separate South Africa flight — an Atlanta-Cape Town nonstop. The Delta spokesperson confirmed that the triangle route’s approval does not change the carrier’s plans for this.

For its proposed Cape Town nonstop, Delta faces competition from United for the remaining South Africa “slots” that are available under the bilateral air service agreement between the two countries. United hopes to launch service to Cape Town from its hub at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). It is up to the DOT to decide which carrier wins this route authority.

South Africa has become a big market for U.S. airlines during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the struggles and subsequent retrenchment of South African Airways. Prior to the pandemic, the Star Alliance carrier served New York’s John. F Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Dulles. Now, the much-diminished carrier doesn’t serve any destination outside of Africa. Delta and United — which, in addition to its Cape Town proposal also operates service to Johannesburg and Cape Town from its Newark (EWR) hub — likely see opportunity and demand for the market as travel rebounds.

Featured photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card

Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy Bonus Points after spending $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 8/31/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.99% - 26.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$125
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.