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United Inaugurated Washington to Cape Town

The first-ever flight between the two cities landed in Cape Town, South Africa on November 18

by Fergus Cole

November 21, 2022

Photo: Courtesy of Wesgro

United Airlines has launched the first-ever nonstop flight between Washington, D.C., and Cape Town, South Africa. The new service, inaugurated on November 17, is set to run three times per week.

The 14-hour journey between Washington DC and Cape Town departed a few minutes before 7:00 pm and arrived by 4:00 pm the following day. Operated with the airline’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, the 8,000-mile journey is one of United’s longest.

Photo: Courtesy of Cape Town Airport

This new route is also United’s third service to South Africa and the first-ever link between Washington and Cape Town. The carrier also operates from Newark to Cape Town and Johannesburg (JNB).

The United States has long been an important market for Cape Town, with around 213,000 passengers traveling between both markets in 2019.

Alderman James Vos, a Mayoral committee member for economic growth in the City of Cape Town, expressed his excitement about the opportunities this new route will bring to South African passengers flying to the U.S. and the tourism industry of the local region. “The landing of this flight from Washington signifies our destination strength and the success of the City’s mission to connect with more source markets through the Air Access initiative, clever campaigns, and city-to-city agreements,” he said.

“My team and I will continue to work on such projects that ensure more travel and trade to the Cape,” he added. “This includes efforts to lobby national government to liberalize measures for a more open-air transport market. Where implemented, it has resulted in increased utilization of airspace, more competitive fares, and more choice for travelers.”

Photo: Courtesy of Cape Town Airport

According to Vos, the new route to Washington DC “will open up fantastic tourism and trade opportunities. We’re on a mission to land more flights that will bring investors and visitors to our shores,” he said.

The Washington-Cape Town route was initially touted as a possibility when the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) approved United and Delta Air Lines’s requests to introduce flights to South Africa. Now that the approval process has been finalized, Delta is also set to open a route to South Africa from its hub in Atlanta (ATL) on December 17.