United Airlines Returns To South Africa From New York

United Airlines has returned to South Africa with its direct service from New York to Johannesburg. Flight UAL188 from Newark (EWR) to Johannesburg (JNB) departed last night at 22:03 EDT and is set to land at around 18:00 SAST. The inaugural flight, operated by a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, offers Polaris business class and Premium Plus cabins and will be a daily service.

United 787-9
United Airlines will offer a daily service from Newark to Johannesburg. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Direct from New York to South Africa

With a gap in the market left by the struggling South African Airways (SAA), United Airlines has returned to South Africa with its Newark – Johannesburg route. The airline launched the daily service late last night, with flight UAL188 departing from Newark at 22:03 EDT.

At the time of publication, the 787-9 Dreamliner (registration: N19986) is still in the sky and scheduled to land at around 18:00 SAST.

United Airlines Returns To South Africa From New York
United’s updated Dreamliner fleet will fly the route. Photo: United Airlines

Waiting for the flight at OR Tambo International Airport will be Tourism Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi -Ngubane and Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula, joined by Airports Company of South Africa executives.

The new route was highlighted as one of Simple Flying’s six most-anticipated routes from US carriers for 2021, coming in at No.2. Initially earmarked to commence on March 27th, United pushed the date back to June.

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United’s stop and start African foray

United last flew direct to South Africa in December 2019 with a thrice-weekly service from Newark to Cape Town, but the route was suspended due to the COVID pandemic. However, United still plans to fly this route in the future, with a date of October 31st penned in. The airline had tried to resurrect the route in 2020 but without success, due to strict travel restrictions and concerns around the ‘South African’ B.1.351 COVID-19 variant.

South African officials will meet the inaugural Newark to Johannesburg flight upon arrival. Flight data: RadarBox.com

When fares went on sale for Newark – Johannesburg, passengers could snag a return ticket for as little as $792 (around R11,000) in economy. The move by United will be welcomed in South Africa, where a large gap in the market was left by South African Airways.

Aviation expert, Linden Birns, said,

“United is the first long-haul carrier to add Johannesburg to its route network since before the pandemic. It’s also the first to reconnect South Africa to the US and it’s the only carrier to provide a daily service between Johannesburg and New York. The inaugural flight will be met this afternoon by the Transport and Tourism Minister as well as senior diplomatic representatives from the United States.”

Vaccinated Americans exempt from quarantine

South Africa began welcoming foreign visitors back into the country earlier this year. Vaccinated Americans will avoid a mandatory quarantine upon return after traveling to South Africa. US rules allow those fully vaccinated with the Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson jabs to enter the country.

United Boeing 787-9
Vaccinated Americans don’t need to worry about quarantining after arriving home. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

However, South Africans are still banned from entering the US without government approval. Those entering the US will also need to present a negative PCR test taken up to 72 hours before flying and must have received their second vaccine jab at least two weeks before arrival.

Do you plan on visiting South Africa this year? Let us know your travel plans in the comments.