Travel update: United postpones restart of its South African flights
The US carrier has once again delayed the resumption of daily direct flights between New York and Johannesburg.
United Airlines was scheduled to start daily flights between Johannesburg and New York from the end of March. It would have been the only carrier offering direct flights between the United States and South Africa at this time.
In 2020, United cancelled resumption of its seasonally operated flights between Cape Town and New York which were due to start on 15 December. The airline cited the global slump in demand as the reason for dropping the route.
DIRECT FLIGHTS TO US DELAYED
The airline had also planned to launch direct flights to Johannesburg in the first quarter of 2021, making it the only carrier flying between South Africa and the US.
United was to offer daily flights to Johannesburg, with the non-stop route between New York and Johannesburg set to be launched on 27 March. This would have been the shortest and most direct way of getting from South Africa to the US.
IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON AIRLINES
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on tourism and aviation across the globe. Travel restrictions, flight bans and border closures have led to a slump in demand for flights.
US President Joe Biden announced the expanded restrictions on travel to the US, which now include a travel ban on nationals from South Africa.
UNITED SCALES BACK ITS OPERATIONS
Like most major international airlines around the world, United is implementing measures to cut costs and prevent bankruptcy. There are many ways an airline can cuts costs. These include reducing frequencies of flights, dropping certain destinations from its route network or suspending the launch of new routes.
“As travel demand remains at historic lows due to the pandemic, we continue to be nimble and flexible with our network and schedules by making adjustments to our schedules as needed, based on changing demand trends,” a spokesperson for United said, as quoted by The PointsGuy.com.
JOHANNESBURG ROUTE POSTPONED UNTIL MID-2021
As part of its expansion strategy, United Airlines was to launch flights to three new destinations in Africa – Lagos, Accra and Johannesburg. The pandemic has forced the airline to review its route expansion plans. Flights to Johannesburg are expected to begin on 3 June.
“In response to fluctuating demand, we are shifting the start dates for two new international routes this summer. Our new non-stop service between Newark and Johannesburg, South Africa, is now scheduled to begin June 3 2021,” the United Airlines spokesperson said.
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