Cape Town tourism organization Wesgro is has confirmed to Simple Flying that they are in “advanced” talks with Norwegian to introduce competition on the Cape Town – London route.
According to Inside Travel, on July 11th Tim Harris, Wesgro’s CEO, told delegates at the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) Conference that it is in talks with Norwegian Airlines about introducing a London Gatwick – Cape Town route in the near future.
Growing the tourism sector
In his speech at the SATSA conference, Harris had a discussion about how well-connected cities and regions will do well in the future, saying,
“It’s all driven by consumer choice, and consumers demand to fly point to point. Visitors want to get to Cape Town with one flight.”
Bradley Bouwer, a SATSA executive, also made similar remarks about the importance of air access. In his presentation, Bouwer presented statistics to SATSA delegates, explaining how total seat capacity between South African and international destinations on direct routes has grown by 2.8% since 2013.
Currently, the only direct year-round daily flight between London and Cape Town is with British Airways. This daily overnight flight is 12-hours and uses a Boeing 747-400. With a direct journey lasting 12 hours, it seems like travelers would most likely prefer to not make it any longer by including a stop along the way. As such, British Airways are able to charge a premium for this faster, less exhausting journey.
Thomas Cook also flies from London Gatwick to Cape Town three times a week (Monday, Friday, and Sunday) on a seasonal basis. At the moment this is scheduled to go from December 2019 to March 2020.
The case for competition
Using a random Google Flights search for a round-trip between the two cities, it appears that all other flight itineraries are 20-30% lower than the cost of a direct flight with British Airways. However, with all other competition requiring a connection, passengers are spending at least two extra hours getting to their destination.
It seems then that having other airlines fly a direct route would drive down the price for travelers. British Airways would have to compete with a budget option being Norwegian.
Cape Town is a fantastic holiday destination and a place that already appeals to Brits. However, Cape Town tourism’s Annual Report for 2017/2018 shows that for year-on-year arrivals from the UK, there was a roughly 15% decrease in traffic. Hopefully, numbers have grown since.
What we can expect
If talks turn into action then this would be one of Norwegian Air’s longest routes, and certainly its first to sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, the airline has a number of longer routes from London Gatwick. These include destinations on the US West Coast as well as an almost 14-hour flight to Buenos Aires.
Norwegian’s long-haul fleet is solely made up of its four to one year old Boeing 787 Dreamliners. This would be the aircraft flying the route between the Norwegian base in London Gatwick to the South African city.
Could Virgin Atlantic also launch Cape Town flights?
With British Airways already running flights to Cape Town and Norwegian eyeing them up, it would be natural for Virgin Atlantic to follow suit, the airline already flies to Johannesburg using a 787 and we would expect the same aircraft to be used for service to Cape Town.
When asked for comment, a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said the following:
‘Virgin Atlantic has had a long-standing relationship with South Africa and currently flies twice daily from London to Johannesburg. We are always evaluating new routes for our customers and Cape Town is a fantastic city, however we have no current plans to resume flying there”
So what do you think of more competition on a direct London-Cape Town Route? Do you think there is enough capacity? Would you fly one of these potential airlines between the two cities?
We’ve also reached out to Norwegian for comment. At the time of publishing, they have not responded. We will update this article if anything comes in.