Delta delays its most anticipated long-haul route of 2021

Feb 1, 2021

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.

Despite the pandemic, the “Big 3” U.S. airlines are all slated to launch a slew of new ultra-long-haul flights this year.

However, the coronavirus has just delayed its latest inaugural. Delta’s new triangle route to Johannesburg and Cape Town won’t take off as last planned for March 27.

The Atlanta-based carrier has pushed the service launch to June 1, per Cirium timetables and confirmed by the carrier.

The three-month delay comes as South Africa is in the midst of another virus outbreak. This time, with a variant that appears to be more contagious.

Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter for more airport-specific news!

Delta explains the delay in a statement,

We continue to adjust our flight schedules in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions and customer demand. As a result of this, we have delayed the planned restart of operations between Johannesburg and Atlanta, plus the launch of our new Cape Town service. We plan to relaunch these flights once the situation allows. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause to our customers.

As with any new international route during the pandemic, the June 1 date is still subject to change. When Delta first announced its two-city South Africa service, the carrier planned to start flights on Oct. 24, 2020. It was then delayed to Jan. 8, 2021, and again to March 27, 2021.

Only time will tell whether Delta will need a fifth delay for its hotly anticipated new triangle route.

Before the pandemic, the carrier operated daily non-stop flights from Atlanta (ATL) to Johannesburg (JNB) on its Boeing 777 aircraft. However, the 777 fleet was retired late last year due to the pandemic. As such, the route will be flown by the carrier’s flagship Airbus A350, outfitted with 32 fully enclosed Delta One business class suites, 48 Premium Select premium economy seats and 226 economy seats. The flight time will run about 16 hours.

Delta’s new triangle route (Image by Cirium)

Flying an A350 from JNB to ATL presented Delta with a problem. Due to the city’s high elevation, the A350 couldn’t reach Atlanta at maximum payload. That’s why the carrier added the tag flight to Cape Town (CPT), allowing the plane to refuel at sea level before beginning the 8,130-mile trek back to the U.S.

Flyers can book flights to/from both JNB and CPT on a single itinerary, but the 790-mile domestic flight isn’t available to book as a standalone.

Paid fares on the inaugural flight start at a whopping $2,200 round trip in coach, $3,400 in Premium Select and over $7,000 in Delta One Suites, while one-way award redemptions for the inaugural start at 140,000, 250,000 and 465,000 SkyMiles, respectively.

Other airlines: United pushes back two major long-haul launches following low demand

United Airlines is planning to launch a flagship Johannesburg route in 2021. Following the successful late 2019 launch of a Newark (EWR) to CPT nonstop, the Chicago-based carrier is planning to launch a second South Africa flight to JNB using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

Last week, United delayed its Johannesburg inaugural to June 3. United is also planning a new San Francisco (SFO) to Bangalore (BLR) flight, which was also recently delayed due to the pandemic.

American Airlines’ long-haul plans for 2021 include a new Seattle (SEA) to BLR flight, two Tel Aviv flights (one from Dallas/Fort Worth, the other from New York-JFK) and a seasonal nonstop from JFK to Athens.

While all the aforementioned routes are “on the books,” it’s anyone’s guess which — if any – actually launch as planned.

Featured photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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.