United Airlines Uses Entitlement for Cape Town flights to Ease Out Rival Delta Air Lines

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In its application with the Department of Transportation (DOTp), United Airlines filed for rights to fly to Cape town (CPT) from Washington-Dulles (IAD) and if accepted, these flights will commence starting November 17, 2022, with thrice-weekly services on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays and will compliment the carrier’s existing Newark (EWR) to CPT route.

The proposed timings for the new IAD to CPT route shows United Airlines will be departing Washington-Dulles at 6:30 P.M. and arrive in Cape Town at 4:15 P.M. the following day. The flight would return from Cape Town at 9 P.M. and arrive in Washington-Dulles at 6 A.M the next day. These flights would operate year-round but have the option to convert to seasonal “adjusting capacity to potential fluctuations in demand.”

United Airlines plans to operate the 257-seat Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner from Cape Town to Washington D.C. This aircraft features 48 Polaris Business class seats, 21 Premium Plus seats, 39 Economy Plus seats and 149 economy class seats.

Similarly, Delta Airlines applied for the rights for thrice-weekly flights between Atlanta (ATL) and Cape Town last month that would begin on November 18, 2022, served with 305-seat Airbus A350-900 aircraft aimed at complimenting the existing service from Atlanta to Johannesburg (JNB). Delta Airlines would depart Atlanta at 8:45 P.M., arriving in Cape Town at 6:45 P.M. the following day. The aircraft would depart Cape Town at 9 P.M., arriving in Atlanta at 6:25 A.M. the next day.

The tricky part is, out of the 21 weekly allocated flights between South Africa and the United States, there are only 4X-weekly frequencies left for U.S carriers to operate to South Africa and United Airlines wishes to receive all three frequencies for IAD-CPT but proposes that the DOT allocates two weekly frequencies for Delta’s ATL-CPT and United’s IAD-CPT.

Since both carriers are competing for frequencies, United Airlines reply to Delta Airlines’ application, claims that Delta Air Lines’ proposal “offers unpredictability and lacks vision.”

If this split goes through, United would hold 12 weekly South African flights compared to Delta which would hold 9.

United Airlines touts its ability to offer multiple services to South Africa, including its flights from Newark/New York to Johannesburg, South Africa and Cape Town, South Africa. With both flights to Cape Town, the Chicago-based carrier would enhance consumer access to 45 destinations, serving nearly 90 percent of all U.S. to Cape Town demand.

Washington-Dulles would also receive its first service to Cape Town, South Africa. In the past, South African Airways operated a daily nonstop service between Washington-Dulles and Johannesburg, before converting the flight into a Johannesburg to Dakar, Senegal to Washington-Dulles routing. Later, South African Airways changed the routing with a stop either in Dakar or Accra and suspended the route in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Delta’s case, the Atlanta-based carrier earlier in 2020 and 2021, proposed a triangle route from Atlanta to Johannesburg to Cape Town to Atlanta, spurring out the need to operate flights at a maximum payload on the Airbus A350. Later, this proposal was rejected by the South African Government, and now, Delta Airlines connects Atlanta and Johannesburg nonstop.

Therefore, this leaves the Department of Transportation with the opportunity to grant rights to either Delta Air Lines or United Airlines or split the frequencies between both carriers.


Photo: @aviator_nic

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