On Wednesday, major US carrier United Airlines announced in Chicago, in the US State of Illinois (where it is headquartered), that it had applied to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) for approval to operate three direct flights a week between the US capital, Washington DC, and South Africa’s legislative capital, Cape Town (South Africa being unusual in having separate legislative, executive and judicial capitals).
This would be the first scheduled nonstop flight ever between these two cities. United described the institution of a direct Washington DC – Cape Town route as “long-overdue”. The airline planned to operate the service using Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.
Because Washington’s Dulles International Airport was a hub for United, the route to and from Cape Town would link the South African city to 55 cities in the US. The traffic from these cities and from Washington DC itself represented more than 90% of the total US travel demand to Cape Town. Travellers from Cape Town could also use United’s Dulles hub to connect to almost 100 destinations around the world. At the Cape Town end of the route, travellers would be able to use United’s South African partner airline Airlink to connect to multiple destinations across South and Southern Africa.
“From creating new jobs, to supporting key civic and aid organisations, United has taken tremendous pride in growing our family and operations in South Africa and across the African continent,” highlighted United SVP: International Network and Alliances Patrick Quayle. “If awarded by the DOT, this historic nonstop service will significantly enhance travel options for consumers, strengthen ties between our countries’ legislative and diplomatic epicentres, and benefit thriving travel and tourism industries serving our respective countries.”
Washington DC contained the fifth-largest South African-born population in the US. The US capital was the second largest US source of demand for travel to Cape Town. The route between the two cities was the largest between the two countries that did not currently have a nonstop service.
United already operated scheduled flights between another of its hubs, Newark/New York, and both Cape Town and Johannesburg. (Newark Liberty International Airport was actually located in the US State of New Jersey, but mainly served the nearby city of New York, in New York State.) United also operated hubs in the US cities of Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.