Government urged to review rej

Delta Airlines resumes direct SA flights. Image: Pixabay

Government urged to review rejection of Delta’s CT route application

Delta Airlines recently announced that it was abandoning its planned triangular flight route to South Africa: From Atlanta to Johannesburg with a tag-on flight to Cape Town.

Government urged to review rej

Delta Airlines resumes direct SA flights. Image: Pixabay

The reason why Delta Airlines, which has operated flights between the US and South Africa for over 15 years, has dropped the planned Cape Town stop from its South African flight schedule has emerged.

This decision was not by choice, but because Delta has not been granted approval to stop in Cape Town, by authorities at SA’s Department of Transport.


Several airlines operate “triangular” flights to ensure that their route networks serve more destinations and they can ultimately carry more passengers. This is a sensible way for an airline to offer flights to additional destinations without having to deploy an entire aircraft to serve a single destination.

Singapore Airlines will be launching triangular flights to Cape Town from next month, by simply continuing its flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town, before heading back to Singapore.

Delta’s original plan was to operate a triangular flight to South Africa last year. The airline would have flown from Atlanta to Johannesburg and then added a tag-on flight to Cape Town before heading back over the Atlantic to Atlanta.


The United States is an important tourism source market for South Africa. Since the USA adjusted South Africa’s alert level for its own travellers there has been an increase in the number of Americans who are visiting these shores.

Earlier this month, United Airlines started up daily flights between New York and Johannesburg, and Delta Airlines will start up three weekly flights to Johannesburg from 1 August.

The fact that two US airlines will operate direct flights to South Africa, at a time when many carriers have dropped South Africa from their route networks suggests that the USA is a key tourism source for South Africa.

A number of Americans want to travel here, while nationals from many other countries are not allowed to or have no desire to visit South Africa.


Local aviation authorities have not granted approval for Delta Airlines to stop in Cape Town. This has angered the Western Cape government, which is trying hard to rebuild Cape Town as a tourism destination, in the wake of the pandemic and the global slump in tourism.

Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities David Maynier told Tourism Update that Delta Airlines’ flight to Cape Town was key for economic recovery and job creation in the Western Cape.

“And so I appeal to Minister Mbalula to urgently review this matter and expedite this long-overdue application so that Delta Airlines can fly to Cape Town,” Maynier said.

The Cape Town Air Access team has engaged with the Department of Transport over this issue on several occasions but the Department of Transport has not been able to provide satisfactory evidence or arguments which oppose Delta Airlines’ application.

“From the various engagements that officials from the Department of Economic Development and Tourism and from Cape Town Air Access have had with the Department of Transport, it appears that a possible reason for the delay in the Delta Airlines application is that this request is seen as a triangular flight, which will cause competition with domestic carriers,” Maynier said.

Maynier stated that there is no reason why Delta should not be allowed to stop in Cape Town because its flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town would not disadvantage local airlines. Delta would not be allowed to carry fare-paying passengers on only the Johannesburg to Cape Town sector of its triangular flights.

“Delta Airlines is not proposing to carry any domestic traffic between the two points and will not disembark any passengers originating from Johannesburg in Cape Town,” he said.


Maynier pointed out that there were two reasons for the Department of Transport’s delay in granting approval to Delta Airline’s route application. The first being that there is currently no functional Air Services Licensing Council (ASLC) at this time. THE ASLC which is responsible for granting permits to airlines to operate routes disbanded in March this year, and has not yet been reformed.

The second reason is that South Africa’s Aviation Policy Review Committee (APRC) is completing a review of the country’s aviation policy. According to Maynier, the APRC has decided that South Africa will no longer be allowing foreign airlines to operate flights on internal routes within the country.

“Triangular routes will not be approved going forward and the ones ongoing are under review,” Maynier told Tourism Update.


Maynier said that such short-sighted decisions will impact travel and tourism to South Africa. He stated that these changes should not be allowed to hinder air service development in South Africa at a time when the tourism and aviation sectors were adjusting to new norms.

“The global aviation landscape is changing fast and progressively more applications of this type will follow, requiring flexibility in decision-making and the removal of red tape that is a barrier to economic growth in South Africa, Maynier said.

“Through delays like this, the Department of Transport is constraining South Africa’s air connectivity to other countries and unnecessarily compounding the negative impact of the global travel restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.