United won’t be flying to Cape Town as early as expected this year

Jul 26, 2021

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Cape Town is one of my favorite destinations in the world. Many travelers remain hesitant to visit South Africa at the moment, however — while the delta variant is currently wreaking havoc among unvaccinated populations, the beta variant had widely been referred to as the “South African variant” after it was initially detected within the country, leading other countries to add South Africa to their “red lists,” where in many cases it still remains. The country is also seeing a big uptick in confirmed COVID-19 cases, given that less than 4% of the population is fully vaccinated.

I recently traveled to South Africa myself, on United’s inaugural flight from Newark (EWR) to Johannesburg (JNB). I’m fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine, and with the extra precautions I took while visiting the country and on the flight home, I felt comfortable venturing out on a solo outdoor-focused tour.

I didn’t encounter many international tourists on the ground, though, and it seems United Airlines isn’t expecting demand to recover anytime soon. As a result, the return of United’s seasonal flight between Newark and Cape Town (CPT) has been pushed back by several weeks, and the carrier is scaling back its Newark-Johannesburg service as well.

United will offer its latest business-class product once Cape Town service returns. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

United’s Cape Town flight was originally expected to return in October. Now, it’s scheduled to resume on Dec. 1 — the beginning of South Africa’s summer — and will operate three days per week through March 25, 2022.

Newark-Johannesburg, meanwhile, has been flying daily since it launched in June. As of now, it’ll move to five days a week after Sept. 7, with daily service expected to return on Dec. 1. From September through November, it’ll fly from Newark every day but Monday and Wednesday — factoring in the date change en-route, it won’t fly from Johannesburg on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

If you’ve already booked your flight and you’ve been impacted by the delayed Cape Town launch, I recommend calling United reservations and asking an agent to rebook you on a connecting trip through Johannesburg, instead. If your flight has been canceled, you’re also entitled to a full refund to your original form of payment, if you prefer.

Meanwhile, if your Newark-Johannesburg flight has been canceled, you shouldn’t have any problem moving to the same flight a day before or after — just give United reservations a call at 800-864-8331 to get rebooked.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy

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