Virgin Atlantic to add Cape Town-London route? What this could mean for Cape Town International Airport

Despite the crippling pound, and its current Brexit woes, the UK has an overwhelming appeal for South Africans.

Whether it’s the scones, strawberries and cream, visiting family and friends or shopping until we drop, a city like London is always high on SA travellers’ wanderlust list.

In October 2018, British Airways launched its three weekly flights from Durban to Heathrow, London - also improving its connectivity via OR Tambo in Johannesburg. Virgin Atlantic in turn added a second daily route via Johannesburg, operating its Boeing 787-9 aircraft and thereby adding an additional 188 000 seats between Johannesburg and London Heathrow.  

However, British Airways currently dominates the direct route between Cape Town and London, particularly considering the recent insolvency of the Thomas Cook Group and the cancellation of the Thomas Cook Airlines service (i.e. the Gatwick to Cape Town route).  Could we be seeing an introduction of a Virgin Atlantic Cape Town to London route anytime soon?

READ: 9 Improved flight routes South Africans should be getting excited about 

Despite whispers, nothing has been confirmed yet.

Darrin Thomas, the Marketing and Communications Manager for Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd, South Africa, says: “Virgin Atlantic have set out our intentions to fly from Heathrow to up to 84 new destinations in the UK, Europe, and across the globe once the airport’s third runway is complete. Our plans would increase choice and significantly enhance competition, reducing the cost of flying for millions of potential customers for whom the airport is the gateway to the world. We would also provide the UK with a real opportunity to boost its trade and investment links around the world." 

Traveller24 contacted David Kings, project manager for Air Access at Wesgro, who told us that “Cape Town Air Access met with Virgin Atlantic last week, during the World Routes 2019 Conference, which took place between 21-24 September. Talks were held on the potential reintroduction of the Cape Town route but there are no plans currently in place. Comment on the airline's activity, as it relates to the Thomas Cook announcement, should be made with the airline directly.”  

How would this added route impact both the passengers and Cape Town International Airport?

More competition, means more choice, and subsequently lower airfares for passengers. When one airline has a monopoly, it tends to push prices up. 

"The reintroduction (remember they flew here a few years back) of Virgin Atlantic will provide additional capacity on one of the busiest and most popular routes, providing healthy competition and offering the passenger more choice. All of these factors combined will in all probability grow total traffic and passengers overall, providing much needed additional economic growth and job stimulation at regional level.

"New airlines are always welcome! Cape Town International Airport is gearing up for an ambitious expansion programme, which upon completion will see a bigger and enhanced *International Terminal able to manage the additional growth. And since the inception of the Air Access programme, led by Wesgro, we have seen 15 new routes and 19 route expansions," says Deidre Davids, Senior Manager of Corporate Affairs at Cape Town International Airport.  

*We are also building a new Domestic Arrivals Terminal as well as realigning our runway.

READ: Return of Boeing 737 Max later this year could mean a drop in plane tickets prices

“Expansion plans are dependent on the third runway at Heathrow being constructed, and whether the UK Government reforms the way the new Heathrow slots are allocated to enable to creation of a second flag carrier at the airport,” adds Thomas. 

Get that runway built Heathrow! 

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