United Applies For Flights To Cape Town From Washington DC

United Airlines has applied with the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), asking for frequency allocation for flights from Washington Dulles Airport (IAD) to Cape Town (CPT). The airline is planning three flights per week starting in November this year, provided all required regulatory approvals are granted.

United to fly to Cape Town from DC

According to a filing with the DOT, United Airlines wants to fly its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft nonstop from IAD to CPT thrice a week. The airline operates B787-9 with two different seat configuration versions; the one being pitched for this service has a 257-seat with 48 business, 21 Premium Plus, 39 economy plus, and 149 standard economy seats.


United is contemplating starting the service on or near November 17th, 2022, if all necessary approvals are granted on time. The filing also specifies United’s proposed schedule for the 3X weekly service. Flights will depart IAD at 18:30 on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday each week and arrive at CPT 16:15 the following day. For the return leg, the B787 will depart CPT at 21:00 on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday and arrive at IAD the next day at 06:00.

United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner N29975

United has applied for 3X weekly service from IAD to CPT starting in November. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

United said in the filing,

“Allocation of these additional frequencies to United to expand service from the US East Coast to Cape Town is clearly in the public interest. United’s proposal here will provide additional capacity in the US–South Africa market, giving consumers an additional flight and day of week to choose among.”

The African connection

United’s latest push to get additional frequencies to operate nonstop flights to South Africa’s legislative capital is the latest example of US airlines focusing on major African routes. In terms of US carriers, Delta Air Lines currently has the most routes to the second-largest continent, but United is catching up quick.

United recently announced plans to start flying from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to CPT from June this year. Like the proposed IAD-CPT service, this service is also expected to be offered year-round and operated by the similarly-configured Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

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The airline has also expanded its network in the rest of Africa in the past 12 months. Namely, it inaugurated two new nonstop routes to Africa from its Dulles hub in May and November 2021: to Accra, Ghana (ACC) and to Lagos, Nigeria (LOS), respectively. Additionally, United also flies a daily service from Newark to Johannesburg (JNB) since June 2021.

United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

United has proposed using its Boeing 787-9 aircraft for the service. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The competition

Delta and United are the only two US carriers flying nonstop to Africa, and competition between them is increasing. About a month ago, Delta applied for nonstop flights from its Atlanta (ATL) hub to Cape Town to add to its existing ATL-JNB flights. The airline applied for a similar thrice-weekly frequency and proposed using its Airbus A350-900 aircraft for the service.

According to Airspace Africa, only four frequencies are left out of 21 weekly flight allocations between South Africa and the United States. This poses a problem for the DOT as both airlines seek three frequencies each. It will be interesting to see how the DOT tackles both applications and which airline comes out ahead.

What do you think will happen in the competition for frequencies? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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