Delta Air Lines has announced its return to South Africa this August. However, the airline will only serve Johannesburg and has axed its plans to serve the Atlanta-Johannesburg-Cape Town-Atlanta triangle route. Instead, using an Airbus A350-900 will serve Atlanta to Johannesburg nonstop and fly its longest nonstop flight.
Delta will return to Johannesburg
Delta Air Lines will return to Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) on August 1st. The airline’s only route to South Africa, Delta will serve the airport from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).
Delta plans to fly the route three times per week to start. The flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg will run on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The return flight will operate on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Mondays.
Flight DL200 departs ATL at 19:00 and arrives the next day in JNB at 16:30. Flight DL201 departs JNB at 22:55 and arrives the next day in ATL at 09:15. All times are local.
Joe Esposito, Delta’s SVP of Network Planning, stated the following on the airline’s return to South Africa:
“Delta has proudly served South Africa for more than 15 years, and we’re thrilled to return to a market so highly sought after by tourists. Two-thirds of Americans report making summer travel plans, and with demand growing rapidly alongside U.S. vaccination rates, we’re bringing back more flights and destinations to deliver on their anticipation to get back out in the world and reclaim the joy of travel.”
Onboard, passengers will be able to delight in inflight entertainment and high-capacity overhead bins. The airline has also decided to offer uniquely crafted menu items, choosing flavors unique and known in South Africa. All customers will receive a choice of an entreé, alongside an appetizer and dessert. There will also be a full beverage selection available.
Meal items in economy include dishes like beef stew with jollof rice, fried plantains, and sautéed spinach, or Malay chicken curry with coconut rice and ginger-infused French green beans. Meanwhile, Delta One customers can pre-order their meals on flights between the US and South Africa. This includes items like Peri Peri chicken or grilled prawns with jasmine rice.
Delta will use a four-class Airbus A350-900 on the route. This features the airline’s Delta One Suites in business class, Premium Select (premium economy), Comfort+ (extra-legroom economy), and standard economy. There are 32 Delta One Suites, 48 premium economy seats, 36 extra-legroom seats, and 190 economy seats.
Delta had previously planned to use the Airbus A350 to fly the route. However, Johannesburg is a hot and high airport, and this limits aircraft performance. Pre-crisis, Delta flew a Boeing 777-200LR between the two cities, which was the initial aircraft that unlocked nonstop flying between the two cities.
Delta bid farewell to its 777s last year. The plan was to use Airbus A350s to fly all the ultra-long-haul routes the 777-200LRs flew. However, Delta needed to wait for a higher gross weight, longer range Airbus A350 to serve the routes nonstop.
The lack of those Airbus A350s was why, last year, Delta announced plans to add a stop in Cape Town on the way back from Johannesburg. Delta could sell tickets between Cape Town and the US, but not exclusively between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Losing its competitive advantage
Delta was the only US airline flying year-round to South Africa. United Airlines ran a seasonal nonstop between Newark and Cape Town. American Airlines did not serve South Africa on its own metal.
With South African Airways in an uncertain future, United Airlines decided to throw its hat in the ring with a nonstop between Newark and Johannesburg using a Boeing 787-9. This would leave Delta’s one-stop return routing uncompetitive compared to United’s nonstop.
With the enhanced Airbus A350-900, Delta can eliminate the stop in Cape Town and regain a competitive foothold in the market. The airline has not detailed any other plans to serve Cape Town at this time. It will offer interlining to Cape Town, and passengers can connect in Delta’s partner European hubs to fly to Cape Town.
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Delta in Africa
When Johannesburg service resumes, Delta will have restored its entire pre-crisis Africa network. This includes resuming flights to Accra (Ghana), Dakar (Senegal), and Lagos (Nigeria).
Delta is operating nearly 20 weekly flights to Africa. This includes daily service between Atlanta and Lagos and New York-JFK, and Accra. There is another five-times-per-week service between JFK and Dakar. On July 8th, Delta will bring back service four times per week between Lagos and JFK.
Are you glad to see Delta gear up to resume its ATL-JNB nonstop route? Are you sad the airline will not service Cape Town? Let us know in the comments!