United Airlines has announced a direct, non-stop service between Washington Dulles Airport and Cape Town International Airport.
The route positions United as the first carrier to provide a non-stop, roundtrip service from US capital, Washington DC, to Cape Town, with the tickets already available for the route.
It follows an agreement between the US and South African governments to increase the bilateral frequency allowance between the two countries.
The original framework of 21 frequencies per week has been increased to 23, meaning that United Airlines will be able to operate three times per week from Washington.
The route remains subject to final government approval by the South African Department of Transport; however, the inaugural flight is scheduled for 17 November 2022.
The new route will operate alongside their current Newark/New York – Cape Town service which also operates three times per week, year-round. This route has already contributed generously to the economic recovery of the Western Cape, particularly the local tourism and hospitality sectors.
With the new route on the horizon, it is expected that a further R523 million worth of direct tourism spend will be driven into the province within the airlines’ first year of operation.
“We are thrilled to further expand our Africa offering with this first-ever direct link between Washington DC and Cape Town,” said Patrick Quayle United’s Senior VP of Global Network Planning and Alliances.
“These new flights build upon our existing year-round New York/Newark to Cape Town service – together they’ll provide a near-daily pattern from the US to Cape Town along with connectivity to the broader region,” he adds.
Two-way passenger volumes for the first quarter of 2022 exceeded 27,000, which was a 51% recovery compared to the same quarter in 2019. Based on previous route introductions, it is estimated that a new direct service results in a passenger stimulus of at least 25% for Cape Town International Airport.
Beyond the positive tourism spin-off, there are further gains to be had with increased cargo opportunities, the airline said.
A total of 2,384 metric tonnes of cargo was transported between the Western Cape and the US in 2021, which was a 50% recovery compared to 2019. Between January and March of this year, 686 metric tonnes of air cargo were transported between the two regions, a 74% recovery compared to the first quarter of 2019.
United will fly a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft on this new route, which features 48 lie-flat, United Polaris business class seats, 21 United Premium Plus seats and 188 economy seats.