The UAE’s largest airline has long been a major carrier for outbound international flights from South Africa and intends to re-instate its wide range of routes more fully during the coming year.
The airline also intends to add a second Airbus A380 to its fleet operating between O.R. Tambo International Airport and Dubai in July this year.
According to Afzal Parambil, regional manager for Emirates southern Africa, the airline is already back to 70% of its regular operations and hopes to increase this by 10% before September.
Currently, Emirates operates two double-daily to Johannesburg, a double-daily to Cape Town, and five times a week to Durban. This is just over half of their pre-pandemic capacity.
In addition, Emirates is in negotiations with Airlink to give customers access to major tourist points in southern Africa on local SA Airlines via a codeshare agreement. By means of this, passengers from New York or London could buy a one-way ticket all the way to Nelspruit, George, or Port Elizabeth.
Emirates recognises South Africa as a drawcard for tourists and has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with South African tourism to help grow the brand across Middle Eastern markets.
Virgin Airlines will resume flights from London Heathrow Airport to Cape Town International Airport in November and aims to increase this service to incorporate a year-round service to the Mother City by 2024.
Virgin Atlantic has been absent from South African skies since 2015, for reasons related to the country’s immigration policies, so this announcement by Sir Richard Branson in May has considerable significance for SA tourism.
The airline’s proposed offering will include an overnight as well as an 8 AM flight from London to Cape Town on board the new Boeing 787-9 aircraft. These flights could add another 80,000 seats to flights bound for Cape Town annually.
According to Liezl Gericke, head of Africa, Middle East and India for Virgin Atlantic, the airline is committed to this route as the UK is the largest air passenger market for the Western Cape.
Wesgro CEO Wrenelle Stander agrees, saying that business from the UK enjoyed a 5% CAGR between 2015 and 2019. So, there’s plenty of demand for more flights, particularly during the Cape Town summer.
United Airlines is another major player keen to take advantage of the lucrative Cape Town route, with plans to offer direct flights from Washington DC to Cape Town thrice weekly.
They’ve filed their application with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) for what will become the first non-stop service between the Mother City and DC, utilising a B787-900. Apart from serving the safari-loving American traveller, this route will prove beneficial for important government-to-government connects, helping increase communication and commerce between the regions.
On approval, United’s service will commence in November 2022 and will effectively connect 55 US cities with Cape Town, representing 90% of the country’s demand for travel to this African city.
United's proposed service would begin on November 17 and would benefit both US and South African travellers. The airlines’ proposed flights will address the fact that the DC to Cape Town route is the most in-demand route between the two countries without direct flights, despite the fact that Washington DC is home to the fifth-largest South African expat population.
United already offers flights between New York and Cape Town, and this new offering will only serve to enhance and grow the strong ties between the USA and South Africa.
SAA is slowly getting back on track as global restrictions lift and its finances improve but is currently only offering flights to African destinations.
The airline is unlikely to resume its regular offering of inter-continental routes until demand for these routes picks up.
This upswing in interest for flights to South Africa bodes well for the long-suffering tourist industry. It will help increase job opportunities back to pre-pandemic levels in an industry that’s historically responsible for employing one in every 22 South Africans.