Delta delays its most anticipated long-haul route of 2021
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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