Delta poised for Cape Town landing

“We are proud to have this service,” said Paul Hassenstab, Delta Air Lines Director Sales EMEAI at a press function ahead of the arrival of the first Delta flight to Cape Town.

After waiting patiently for regulators to approve its new route, Delta will touch down at Cape Town International Airport on Saturday, December 3.

The new seasonal service will increase the carrier’s capacity in South Africa by 67% year-on-year. Delta already reports tremendous demand for the first flights between Cape Town and Atlanta.

As Delta begins flying the four-times-weekly triangular route, ATL-JNB-CPT, the service won’t remain the airline’s only Cape Town service for long.

Once the second Atlanta-Cape Town service, a non-stop thrice-weekly direct route on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, begins on December 17, Delta will offer 10 flights a week between the US and South Africa, and both cities will have daily operations. This takes into account the existing service from Johannesburg to Atlanta.

The Cape Town-Atlanta, non-stop, thrice-weekly route commencing on December 17 will operate flights on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.

Hassenstab was elated ahead of the first flight’s arrival and described a phenomenal recovery of demand for travel, particularly out of the US. Corporate travel is back to about 80% of pre-COVID levels, he said, however, leisure travel is booming. “Large corporate business is the last piece of the puzzle.”

Delta’s post-COVID-19 recovery is clearly on track and Hassenstab reported a record Thanksgiving weekend in the US in terms of passenger volumes and revenue. He expected the airline to be back at pre-COVID operating levels by the US summer/spring of 2023.

200 city connections

Pax flying ex-CPT can connect to more than 200 cities across the US and still reach their final destination on the same day. New York, Los Angeles and Washington are just some of the popular destinations on the airline’s US network.

But it is demand from the US that has really boosted Delta’s confidence in its new route. Since 2021, the US has been South Africa’s top inbound source market, according to Hassenstab.

“We are already seeing tremendous demand for our flights to South Africa and adding our second gateway to the country with our Cape Town service is proving popular as our customers seek new experiences.

“In just a year, we have increased capacity to South Africa by a staggering 67%, contributing to the recovery of the tourism sector in Cape Town and the region overall as we reaffirm the strong business ties between our two countries.”

Hassenstab also felt the new route would benefit from healthy trade and export relationships between companies in the US and SA.

CPT – Delta’s fifth Africa gateway

In addition to JNB and CPT, Delta services Accra, Dakar, and Lagos. It has codeshare partnerships with Kenya Airways, Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic, which also help to feed traffic from the continent into its international route network.

Jimmy Eichelgruen, Director Sales, AMEI, was happy with this strategy. He told Tourism Update the partnerships provided Delta with excellent coverage on the continent and he reported plenty of demand for premium classes on Delta’s SA routes. While most business outbound from South Africa is expected to originate in South Africa, connecting business from destinations such as Zambia and Mozambique is growing.

Overall, Delta’s Africa executive leadership team was bullish about the airline’s position and prospects ahead of 2023.

Hassenstab was also happy to note that long wait times reported in US visa processes seemed to have improved. The delays were not specific to South Africa and were largely due to pent-up demand after COVID-19. “We want a system that produces visas with demand.”

Delta will operate its flagship Airbus A350-900 on its new CPT route, configured with 32 Delta One suites, 48 seats in Premium Select, 36 seats in Delta Comfort+ and 190 in Main Cabin. “There’s an experience for every traveller,” Hassenstab said.

As to whether Delta would seek government approval for even more capacity to and from SA, Hassenstab said the airline aimed to capture as much current demand as possible. “Our first priority is to make Cape Town work. We are proud to have this service,” he said.

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