Two African airlines have launched flights to Cape Town over the past month, bringing more business and tourism opportunities to the Mother City.
Kenya Airways launched a nonstop direct flight from Nairobi to Cape Town on June 6. The new service operates a Boeing 737-800. This is in addition to Kenya Airways’ three flights a week from Nairobi to Cape Town via Victoria Falls, in Zimbabwe, and four flights per week via Livingstone, in Zambia.
Further, RwandAir kicked off its first flights to Cape Town on May 16 this year, with four flights a week on the Kigali–Harare–Cape Town route on its Bombardier CRJ-900 aircraft.
Wesgro CEO Tim Harris on Wednesday told delegates attending the aviation development conference, AviaDev, in Cape Town, that the Cape Town Air Access team had assisted four new African carriers in bringing their operations to the city since 2015.
These are TAAG Angola Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and RwandAir.
“Eight new destinations have connected to Cape Town, adding 400 000 seats over the past three years,” he added.
Namibia, followed by Mauritius and Zimbabwe were the top three African countries in terms of passenger traffic to Cape Town in 2017. They are followed by Angola, Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania.
“We are transitioning from a tourist hub to a business hub. The routes we have developed have unlocked the potential of the city and are connecting us deeply to our continent,” Harris told the AviaDev conference, which has attracted 250 delegates from across the globe.
TAAG has, meanwhile, added another flight to Cape Town and now flies into the city four times a week. Air Mauritius is adding a third flight a week from October 26. SA Airlink is replacing its current 37-seater aircraft, with an 83-seater AvroRJ regional jet. It has also introduced business class for its Cape Town to Maun service, as well as for its flights between Cape Town and Victoria Falls.
The top five African carriers to Cape Town are Ethiopian Airlines, Air Namibia, TAAG Angola Airlines, Kenya Airways and SA Airlink.
Harris said passenger growth had increased by 17% in 2016 and 20% in 2017, while there had been "phenomenal" growth in air cargo. A total of 21 airlines fly into Cape Town from 25 destinations. There are more passengers from the UK than anywhere else, and the market continues to grow.
Cape Town Air Access, which is a division of Wesgro, says its five fastest-growing destinations in Africa are Walvis Bay; in Nambia; Victoria Falls, in Zimbabwe; Mauritius; Maun; and Dakar, in Senegal. Its statistics are based on two-way passenger travel in 2017 for flights between Cape Town and the rest of Africa.
Links with Asia and Europe are also expanding. In late October, Austrian Airlines will introduce a direct service to Cape Town and offer two weekly flights from Vienna to Cape Town during the South African summer season.
Cathay Pacific is also coming on board, by offering a seasonal three times per week non-stop service between Hong Kong and Cape Town.
Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde said the increase in passengers to Cape Town had boosted both tourism and business in the city.
“Despite being in the third year of a drought, we have still had the most investment into tourist infrastructure than any other city in South Africa.”
Winde said 1 060 rooms were under construction in the tourist sector, mostly by major hotel groups, although there has also been "phenomenal growth" in the Airbnb space.
He was also excited about the proposed expansion of both the domestic and international terminals at Cape Town International Airport. The Department of Environment Affairs has also approved the construction of a realigned runway.
The airport registered 10.7-million passengers in 2017, 2.4-million of them international terminal passengers. Cape Town Air Access said there had been a 20% increase in passengers to its international terminal.