United Airlines Announces First Ever Washington DC to Cape Town Service

LONDON – On July 28, the US based carrier United Airlines announced that they will be starting scheduled services between Washington DC and Cape Town, South Africa.

The new service …

After waiting for quite some time, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) has granted United Airlines the ability to fly three weekly flights from Washington DC to Cape Town in South Africa, making United the first ever carrier to connect the two major cities.

However, it is worth noting that the South African Government is still yet to approve the new service.

The new three weekly service will inaugurate from November 17, and depart from United’s main hub at Washington’s Dulles International Airport (IAD) to Cape Town International Airport (CPT), using United’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.

When this new routes commences from November 17, it will mean that United will have a total of 19 weekly services between the US and Africa, with the new route joining their services from New York / Newark to Cape Town and Johannesburg, and Washington DC to Accra, Ghana, Lagos and Nigeria.

Prior to this new flight being announced, Washington DC to Cape Town was the highest demand route from the US to Cape Town that has never had a nonstop direct service.

United’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft have a configuration of 257 seats, broken down as 48 lie-flat United Polaris Business Class, 21 United Premium Plus and 188 economy class seats. The carrier has a total of 38 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners in its fleet, as well as 12 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners and 13 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners with a further eight 787-10’s on order.

Commenting on their new route announcement between Washington DC and Cape Town, United’s Senior Vice President of Global Network Planning and Alliances, Patrick Quayle, has said, “We are thrilled to further expand our Africa offering with this first-ever direct link between Washington DC and Cape Town. “

“These new flights build upon our existing year-round New York / Newark to Cape Town service – together they’ll provide a near-daily pattern from the US to Cape Town along with connectivity to the broader region through our Airlink partnership.”

In line with Quayle’s comments, United signed a codesharing and loyalty program agreement with the South African carrier, Airlink, back in September 2021.

This meant that customers flying on both United and Airlink had access to more than 40 different destinations throughout South Africa, as well as the ability to easily transfer onto United’s scheduled services from both cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg.


It is evident that United is seeing significant demand on all of their services throughout Africa, and with many US cities having rather large diasporas of African origin people, it is certainly telling that there may well be yet more growth in air travel between the two continents .

It will certainly be interesting to see if any of the other US ‘Big Four’ join the club on rapidly expanding their African offerings in the coming months, especially given Delta Air Lines has some routes to Africa from its US hubs.

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