United Airlines continues to boost Africa service, will now fly to Cape Town year-round

Feb 10, 2022

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One of United’s four Africa routes is moving from seasonal to year-round service.

The airline’s flight from Newark (EWR) to Cape Town, South Africa (CPT) will now operate year-round, starting in June. The service will continue to operate three days a week using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. That aircraft features 48 of the airline’s Polaris business class lie-flat seats, 21 Premium Plus seats and 39 extra-legroom Economy Plus seats.

The Chicago-based carrier’s Cape Town route was originally scheduled seasonally and began service in December 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, service on this route did not return until December 2021. In the meantime, there were three notable developments.

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First, Delta Air Lines, the other U.S. carrier servicing South Africa, dropped its plans to fly to Cape Town via an Atlanta (ATL)-Johannesburg (JNB)-Cape Town-Atlanta triangle route, because the Atlanta-based carrier was unable to get approval from the South African government.

In the meantime, United launched service from Newark to Johannesburg in June 2021. That service is already scheduled year-round.

And finally, South African Airways, one of United’s Star Alliance partners, was hit particularly hard by the pandemic. The airline nearly went out of business, and only restarted its flights in September 2021. Its international network is severely limited, with service only as far as Accra, Ghana (ACC), and Lagos, Nigeria (LOS). Prior to the pandemic, South African operated flights from Johannesburg to Washington Dulles (IAD) and New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK), according to Cirium schedule data. United’s move could be a sign that it sees the demise of South African’s overseas flying as an opportunity.

United’s service currently departs Newark as UA1122 at 8:30 p.m. on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays and arrives in Cape Town at 6 p.m. the next day, all times local. The return service departs Cape Town as UA1123 at 8:50 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays and arrives at Newark at 5:50 a.m. the next day.

The service will actually end in March, as previously scheduled, but will return for good on June 5 instead of October, subject to government approval.

More: Nonstop to South Africa: Onboard United’s most exciting inaugural of the year

“United’s direct flights from New York/Newark cut the usual travel time to Cape Town by more than five hours, giving visitors extra time to enjoy the beauty and majesty of South Africa,” Patrick Quayle, United’s senior vice president of international network planning and alliances, said in a statement.

With United also recently launching service from Washington Dulles to Accra and Lagos, Africa has become a key part of its international growth — with Thursday’s announcement underscoring that.

The newly extended flights are a sweet spot MileagePlus redemption. Wednesdays in June and July are showing saver availability on the EWR-CPT flight at just 70,000 MileagePlus miles, an incredible value for an over 14-hour flight. This inventory will likely not be available for long, so it’s worth booking now and taking advantage of MileagePlus’ generous redeposit policy if you choose not to travel.

(Screenshot courtesy of United Airlines)


Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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