Update: I wrote this article in April but now the flights are bookable.
We have seen a quite a few airlines expanding into Africa lately. Add United Airlines to that list as the airline just announced they will be returning to Africa. United used to fly from Houston to Lagos but that route was discontinued in June 2016.
United plans to operate a seasonal, non-stop flight between Newark (EWR) and Cape Town (CPT) between December 15, 2019, and March 25, 2020 with the following schedule:
Newark (EWR) – Capetown (CPT): Departs 8:30PM, Arrives 6:00PM (+1 day) [Wed, Fri, Sun]
Capetown (CPT) – Newark (EWR): Departs 8:50PM, Arrives 5:45AM (+1 day) [Mon, Thu, Sat]
There are a few good points, not-so-good points, and a point that is a bummer (in no particular order)…
#1: As I mentioned above, this United flight is non-stop. Delta is the only US-based carrier that flies direct to/from the USA to South Africa (Atlanta to Johannesburg). If you do not fly non-stop on Delta, you will likely connect in Europe or the Middle East and any connection will add significant time to your trip. Therefore, having another non-stop option is great.
#2: United plans to use a Boeing 787-9 for the route, featuring 48 business class seats and 204 economy seats. If you’re not familiar with planes, this is one of my favorite planes.
#1: Unfortunately, United has not installed their new Polaris seats on any of their 787-9’s. Although, business class is arguably more comfortable than economy, you can expect this flight to feature United’s old business class product.
Now that United’s flight to Cape Town are bookable, the bad news is that award seats are priced extremely high. ‘Economy Saver’ award tickets appear to be available at 40k miles, however, ‘Business Saver’ is non-existent. Business Everyday is plentiful but also pricing at 223k miles. Hopefully, that changes soon.
There is a bit more award availability on the Capetown – Newark leg but prices are still high.
INTERESTING POINT: This flight will cover a distance of 7,817 miles, making it one of United’s longest flights. While Johannesburg is the business hub of South Africa, Cape Town is extremely popular with tourists. I think this route will be very popular. Depending on preferences, this point may fall under the good, the not-so-good, or the bummer.
I’m always excited to hear when new routes are announced. I’m also excited to hear that United is being more adventurous and investing a lot in their ultra-long-haul flights. They continue to add long-hauls and their strategy seems to be working.
In respect to South Africa, I’ve been to Johannesburg multiple times but have never been to Capetown. I would really like to fly this route so hopefully the award seat prices decrease.
What are you thoughts about this route? Do you plan to fly this route?