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South Africa rejects Delta flights to Cape Town

Delta Airlines is planning a return to South Africa in August, but the SA government has foiled their plans to extend its route to fly from Johannesburg to Cape Town. US travellers can still fly with Delta's partners or enjoy cheap flights to Cape Town with local SA Airlines.
South Africa rejects Delta flights to Cape Town

Delta Airlines plans to resume its flights to South Africa this August, but it’s come across an unexpected stumbling block. The US Department of Transportation has revealed that the airline is blocked from flying into Cape Town by South African authorities, resulting in a tit-for-tat response from the United States.

The rejection comes amid government concerns that more flights into the Mother City from the USA would negatively impact South Africa’s other international airports, which are already struggling in light of the pandemic.

The City of Cape Town has announced its intention to enter into serious discussions with the government to reverse this decision, claiming flights to Cape Town would help the economic recovery of the beleaguered tourism industry.

According to James Vos, Cape Town's Mayoral Member for Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Asset Management, “Inconveniencing travellers in this way could severely hamper tourism in South Africa."

The Democratic Alliance in South Africa welcomes this initiative and urges the government to reverse this decision. The DA adds that: “If South Africa’s people and its economy is to survive the Covid-19 pandemic, we need access to as many opportunities to reinvigorate the economy as possible. Tourism provides ample opportunity for entrepreneurs to create small businesses that will in turn create jobs for more people. Government should not stand in the way of the livelihoods of its people.”

The US response

In return, the US government has announced a slew of restrictions on South Africa’s (currently non-operational) flights to their country.

Due to the South African Department of Transport’s insistence that Delta’s request flies in the face of its co-terminalisation arrangements, the USA has opted to rescind SAA’s previous co-terminalisation rights.

This blocks the airline’s access to New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami, and Washington DC.

Despite requests to SADOT requesting clarification and resolution of the issue, the US Transportation Department’s received no feedback as yet. Part of the reason could be that SAA only intends to resume international flights during 2023, thanks to its long process of recovery after decades of financial troubles.

Alternatives for US travellers planning flights to Cape Town

Passengers can still take advantage of direct Delta flights from Atlanta to Johannesburg or look for the cheapest flights to Cape Town with Delta’s European partners. These include:
  • Aeroflot
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM
  • Alitalia
  • China Airlines
  • Air France
Passengers can also fly with United Airlines direct to Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Flights to Johannesburg With Delta Airlines

Delta has replaced its fleet of 777-200LRs with A350-900s. These aeroplanes aren’t capable of making the trip back to the USA from Johannesburg at full payload, necessitating a stopover in Cape Town to refuel.

Now, after the long-awaited arrival of the long-range A350-900, Delta doesn’t really need the Cape Town route anymore and has abandoned its plans to offer this service. Passengers can still interline on one of the airline’s partners if they want to proceed to Cape Town.

The Atlanta to Johannesburg is one of nearly 20 weekly flights to Africa offered by Delta Airlines. The others include flights to Accra and Dakar from New York-JFK as well as flights from Atlanta to Lagos. Delta will commence inaugural flights from San Francisco to Bangalore in August, too.

In light of SAA’s current situation, it’s unlikely that the government will change its stance on Delta flights to Cape Town until the national carrier’s back in the air.


SA Airlines
SA Airlines is a leading South African destination for everything from cheap flights in SA to carrier overviews, airport information and live SAA flight status updates.
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