United Airlines has applied to the US Transportation Department (DOT) to launch a second route to Cape Town (CPT) alongside its existing service from Newark (ERW).
The Chicago-based carrier wants to connect the South African city with Washington Dulles (IAD) three times per week from Nov. 17. Flights would operate year-round using Boeing 787-9 aircraft.
However, the airline is set to compete with Delta Air Lines for the frequencies, given that under the current air services agreement between the US and South Africa there are only four unused weekly flights available to US carriers.
Delta is hoping to take three of them for a service between Atlanta (ATL) and Cape Town. The SkyTeam alliance member applied to the DOT in February for the rights to operate the route, which it wants to serve from Nov. 18 using Airbus A350-900s.
In a filing to the DOT, United argues that its proposal would offer “significant consumer benefits” including facilitating important government-to-government links. It adds that the IAD-CPT route would also create connecting opportunities at Cape Town via partner Airlink to 15 points across Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
“In addition to seamlessly connecting key business and government hubs between the US and South Africa and enhancing consumer options and convenience, the allocation of these frequencies to United will enhance competition against Delta, which has been the incumbent US carrier to continental Africa for almost two decades,” United’s application says.
In a separate filing responding to Delta’s application for a 3X-weekly ATL-CPT service, United accuses Delta’s plans of being “an afterthought for its South Africa vision.” It also claims the proposal “offers unpredictability and lacks vision.”
However, United admits it “would be amenable to accepting an immediate allocation of two weekly frequencies to both Delta and United.”