Delta Airlines resumes Atlanta-Johannesburg operations

SOUTH AFRICA – Delta Airlines has announced the resumption of its direct flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta, US, bringing relief to international travelers in spite of the doubts about the benefits to South Africa’s aviation industry.

Delta said in a statement that it would resume the non-stop service between Atlanta and Joburg on August 1 to all pre-Covid Africa markets, including Accra in Ghana, Dakar in Senegal and Lagos in Nigeria.

Delta said the Johannesburg flights would operate using the Airbus A350-900, marking the debut of one of Delta’s newest aircraft in its fleet between the US and South Africa.

“Delta has proudly served South Africa for more than 15 years, and we’re thrilled to return to a market so highly sought-after by tourists,” said Joe Esposito, Delta’s senior vice-president: network planning.

“Two-thirds of Americans report making summer travel plans, and with demand growing rapidly alongside US vaccination rates, we’re bringing back more flights and destinations to deliver on their anticipation to get back out in the world and reclaim the joy of travel,” Delta said.

Delta’s flights to Johannesburg are operated in partnership with Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic and customers can also reach South Africa via Delta’s European hubs in Paris and Amsterdam.

Delta, which previously had an Atlanta to Cape Town direct flight, was disrupted by the Covid-19 outbreak early 2021.

Delta returns to South Africa’s skies as the struggling South African Airways attempts to return to the skies with a new equity partner, Takatso Consortium.

“With demand growing rapidly alongside US vaccination rates, we’re bringing back more flights and destinations to deliver on their anticipation to get back out in the world and reclaim the joy of travel”

Joe Esposito – Snr Vice-President Network & Planning, Delta Airlines

However, aviation exoerts in South Africa are rather sceptical about the benefits of the re-entry of Delta Airline into the route.

“It is unlikely that South African aviation will benefit from this. Some sectors, perhaps like tourism, may benefit, catering even, but they are bringing their own technical expertise. South Africa is not going to be benefiting from this,” aviation analyst Puthego Mojapele told IOL Business.

“Remember, it is not only about the tourism industry. Yes, maybe the local catering companies can benefit and a few others, but with Delta even having their own technical department, there is still no benefit for us. Imagine the amount of investment that has gone into training our pilots and other staff, and the infrastructure investments. Not being operational after all that investment is killing our industry. We are just at the peak of our development now, and it is all going up in smoke,” Mojapele said.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), passenger traffic continued to improve in April, with the support of ongoing recovery in domestic markets.

However, industry-wide revenue passenger-kilometres were still 65.4 percent lower compared with the pre-crisis level of April 2019, since international side remained weak due to tight travel restrictions.

The aviation body said airlines continued to expand capacity with industry-wide seasonally adjusted available seat-kilometres picked-up month-on-month by 3 percent in April.

“The strength of global economic recovery and decline in new Covid19 cases globally raise some hope for future travel demand. Bookings in May point to a recovery in both the domestic and international travel,” IATA said.

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