The launch of United Airlines’ first-ever direct flights between New York and Cape Town has already resulted in an 11% increase in forward bookings by American tourists. According to Wesgro CEO Tim Harris, the inaugural flight will take off from Newark Liberty International Airport in New York on December 16.
United Airlines will also operate a seasonal service on the route between December and March, with three flights per week.
“The US is a key tourism source market for Cape Town and the Western Cape, with around 200 000 American tourists coming here annually,” Harris said to Moneyweb.
He added that the new route comes at the most opportune time, as the Western Cape is only now properly recovering from one of its worst droughts, in addition to the decision made by the Department of Home Affairs to scrap unabridged birth certificates for foreign minors who travel to SA.
“All this is going to no doubt bolster tourist arrival numbers to Cape Town and the country as a whole. The drought and the unabridged birth certificate issue negatively impacted our international tourist numbers here in the Western Cape, but we believe that we are turning the corner,” Harris said. ‘Forward bookings to Cape Town are not only up from the US, but also 30% up from the UK and 20% up from Germany – which are all major tourism source markets for us.”
“This points to a bumper peak summer season from December to March. We are coming off a lower base following the drought but are now seeing an increase in forward bookings by foreign tourists. United Airlines’ new route to Cape Town will also boost trade,” he said.
United Airlines has plans to operate a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on the route, which has a seating capacity of 252 passengers. This includes 48 business class seats, 88 economy-plus seats and 116 economy class seats.
The non-stop flight will reduce travelling time between New York and Cape Town by some four hours. The route will be United Airlines’ only direct route to the African continent.