The airline applied with the U.S. Department of Transportation for authority to begin new service between New York/Newark Liberty International Airport and Cape Town International Airport.

“We are always looking at ways to expand our industry-leading international route network to offer our customers more convenient options. We’re thrilled to announce the addition of Africa to our global route offering,” said Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of International Network. “This new flight will provide customers with the only nonstop service between the United States and Cape Town.”

United’s nonstop service between New York/Newark and Cape Town will decrease the current travel time from New York to Cape Town by more than four hours and provide customers from more than 80 U.S. cities with easy one-stop access to Cape Town.

If approved, United’s service between New York/Newark and Cape Town will be operated with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft featuring 48 seats in United Polaris business class, 88 seats in United Economy Plus and 116 seats in United Economy. Together, United Airlines and United Express operate approximately 4,900 flights a day to 355 airports across five continents.

This will be a game-changer for Cape Town and the Western Cape, linking the Cape to the important North American market. It will not only boost tourism but grow cargo and attract even more FDI into the Western Cape from US companies.

Increase in jobs and foreign direct investment

According to a study conducted by Grant Thornton, a direct flight to North America would add an estimated 24 000 passengers, which was 20% of the 2018 market. This would add an estimated R283 million in direct tourism spending to the Cape Town economy in the first year, with this set to increase by R425 million by 2021. It would see 890 jobs in the city and province in the first year of operation.

The flight will also see an increase in direct and indirect imports into the province, with cargo capacity contributing approximately R94 million in a potential trade. It is also estimated to contribute R286 million to the Gross Geographic Product (GGP) and R144 million in direct Gross Value Add (GVA) to the Cape economy.

Between January 2003 and February 2017 a total of 76 Foreign Direct Investment projects were recorded from the United States to the Western Cape amounting to a total capital investment of USD1.9bn. During this period, a total of 7,510 jobs were created.

New Airport Infrastructure 

Cape Town International Airport (CTIA) is spending R7 billion on several key infrastructure projects planned over the next five years.

These upgrades include:

  • The refurbishment of the domestic arrivals terminal
  • The expansion of the international terminal
  • A new realigned runway worth R3,93 billion which will achieve the runway the realignment that will in the future allow for the expansion of the terminals
  • The new runway will allow the airport to increase its per hour landing and departures from 30 to 45 aircraft movements
  • It will allow the airport to handle the new generation large aircraft such as the Boeing 747-800 or the A380 aircrafts
  • It will ultimately facilitate greater air access into Cape Town and the Western Cape which is something that the City has been lobbying extensively on as it will enable the growth of passenger and cargo traffic that is essential for tourism and economic activity.

Deon Cloete, the Airport Manager of Cape Town International Airport, says: “The introduction of this new route not only provides a much-needed a link between the USA and Cape Town from a tourism perspective but a direct flight, with an estimated four hour saving in travel time, will also mean an increase in business and investment opportunities.”

The Executive Mayor of the City of Cape Town, Dan Plato, says: “This direct flight positions our beautiful city as an attractive point of entry into Africa and allows us to showcase all that the city has to offer as we welcome visitors from the United States, both new and old. On behalf of the City of Cape Town, I thank United Airlines for the confidence they have shown in our city. ”

Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management, Alderman James Vos, says: “As a proud funder of the Air Access initiative, the City of Cape Town commends all the efforts that have contributed to landing this important development in the City’s aviation economy. Its impact will definitely have a positive effect on the local market, facilitating job creation as well as further economic opportunities.”

“This is a game-changer for our region. North America was one of the largest unserved markets for Cape Town and the Western Cape, with the USA ranked as the 3rd largest market for inbound passengers to Cape Town International Airport in 2017”, says Tim Harris, Wesgro CEO.

Cape Town Air Access

Cape Town Air Access is a partnership between the City of Cape Town, Western Cape Government, Wesgro, Cape Town Tourism, South African Tourism, Airports Company South Africa and private sector partners. To date, the CTAA initiative has helped land 8 new international airlines, 13 new direct routes and 19 route expansions, resulting in more than 1.5 million two-way seats being added into Cape Town International, boosting the local economy by R6 billion.