Paid Fares and Award Rates for United’s New Cape Town Nonstop

Apr 30, 2019

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Subject to government approval, United will begin flying to Cape Town, South Africa (CPT), later this year. As of Tuesday, the airline’s latest planned route is now officially on sale, with the first flight scheduled to depart Newark (EWR) at 8:30pm on Dec. 15, 2019, on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

As of now, United is showing the old 2-2-2 business-class configuration, but with retrofitted aircraft expected to enter service later this year, there’s a small chance that the new CPT nonstop will launch with Polaris seats, instead.

While business class isn’t available on the inaugural itself, there are plenty of economy seats for sale. One-way fares are astronomically high, however, so you’ll want to book a round-trip or multi-city itinerary, instead.

If the lowest fares are what you’re after, you’ll want to wait until later in the season — rates drop considerably after January.

Economy tickets start at $956 round-trip — not a deal-worthy fare, of course, but competitive for a nonstop. “W” fares, which are required for elite members to apply upgrade certificates, can be had for $1,398 round-trip. United doesn’t appear to be selling basic economy on this route, and hopefully that’ll still be the case at launch.

Business-class seats can be booked starting at $3,814 round-trip, though the fares are double that amount on many dates.

Award rates are steep, unfortunately, since United hasn’t opened lower-level economy or business-class space and the inaugural begins after the airline’s new dynamic pricing kicks in. As a result, you’re looking at some pretty unbelievable one-way economy redemptions:

And business class is hardly a bargain as well — the lowest redemptions I’m seeing there start at 207,000 miles each way, worth $2,890 based on our valuations.

We can hold out hope that rates will drop as we get closer to launch, though I’m not terribly optimistic. United’s new EWR-CPT flight only operates three days a week, and for a period of just over three months, from Dec. 15, 2019 through March 27, 2020. I think demand will be especially high, given the short run-time, and how far in advance the airline announced service. And while these nonstop United flights may eventually be bookable at far lower rates through partners, that doesn’t appear to be the case right now.

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