For travellers, getting to South Africa has always been a challenge. With the fall of travel behemoth Thomas Cook early this year, things looked bleak with the primary route manager of all direct UK to South Africa trips no longer running.
But the fall of Thomas Cook brought immense opportunities for other airline carriers, who leveraged the situation through the introduction of new direct flights from the UK to South Africa.
Virgin Atlantic re-appears on the scene
Virgin Atlantic Airways has decided to make a complete comeback to its South Africa route. The airline, which closed down its London to Cape Town direct route in 2015, is still actively servicing the London to Johannesburg route twice daily.
The decision to restart flights to Cape Town comes after the release of Virgin Atlantic’s new operations blueprint at London Heathrow. The airline carrier is working towards increasing its global presence and has added more carriers to its fleet. The company is also amidst the process of starting direct flights to Jakarta, Kolkata, and Panama City.
Additional flights between London and Johannesburg, are also part of Virgin Atlantic’s plans for the year 2020/2021. However, the carrier still has to wait for the UK Government’s sanction for a third runway at Heathrow airport before it implements these plans.
Norwegian Airlines expected to make an entry
Virgin Atlantic isn’t the only airline carrier on the scene after Thomas Cook’s demise.
If the words of Time Harris, CEO of South African tourism organisation Wesgro, are to be believed, Norwegian Airlines may soon introduce a direct London to Cape Town route in the 2019-2020 period. The news broke at the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) Conference, where Harris informed delegates of Wesgro’s talks with the European budget carrier.
According to plans, the flight hub will be London Gatwick and not Heathrow. This route is estimated to become Norwegian’s longest route till date, and the airline carrier plans to use its Boeing 787 Dreamliners to service this long route. The Boeing 737 Max carriers have already been grounded, following their tragic crash over Ethiopia earlier this year.
British Airways loses post-Thomas Cook monopoly
The only other airline apart from Thomas Cook with the maximum number of direct flights from London Heathrow to Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town was British Airways. But its poor passenger service, shoddy time management, and high ticket rates prevented a steep increase in its customer base.
Additionally, after British Airways cancelled its daytime running flights between London and Johannesburg earlier this year (in favour of the London to Mumbai route that was serviced by Jet Airways), the company witnessed a lot less business on its South Africa route.
Currently, British Airways operates 17 flights between the UK and South Africa every week.
Other direct routes to South Africa
South African Airways continues to be the only in-house airline to run a direct flight from London to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Tambo International Airport.
All other airlines like Lufthansa, KLM and Turkish Airlines offer connecting flights to South Africa from different European cities.