Yes, it’s worth it once you catch that first view of Table Mountain or the green vineyards of Stellenbosch from above, but getting to Cape Town is a slog. No matter what city in the U.
But all of that could change this December: United has announced it is launching the U.S.
Department of Transportation’s approval.
“We are always looking at ways to expand our industry-leading international route network to offer our customers more convenient options,” Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of International Network, said in a press release.
We’re thrilled, too, because United will be flying the route on its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, a more fuel-efficient plane that will cut down flying time to 14 hours on the way, and 16 back thanks to headwinds.
(The current flight time is 18 hours one way, plus the layover.) The aircraft has specially designed cabin pressure systems to help with fatigue, a more humid cabin (your lips and nasal passages will thank you), and a lighting system able to mimic daylight in the destination, all to reduce the affects of jet lag.
Flying directly to Cape Town will likely ease stress among travelers who previously had to wait in long customs lines, pick up and drop off checked luggage, and pass time in the busy Johannesburg airport between flights. “United’s announcement has brilliant timing because Johannesburg is overburdened being the hub of Southern Africa.
I don’t think it can cope with the huge influx of flights coming in,” Traveler specialist Deb Calmeyer of Roar Africa says. “Cape Town survives on its tourism—it can’t afford to make a bad impression—so as soon as you land it’s important to be in an airport that’s not congested, with manageable lines and friendly staff,” she says.
It’s a straight shot and you don’t have wait for hours and then take another two-hour flight, which can cause a lot of anxiety for traveling families,” Calmeyer says. Plus, the new flights will give travelers more time to spend in South Africa overall, according to Calmeyer.
“These new flights free up time and give travelers an extra day or two on either side that they would have spent in transit before, that they can spend on safari” or soaking up a few extra hours in Cape Town, she says.
When Kenya Airways launched the first commercial non-stop direct flight from New York to Nairobi in November, it cut down travel time by more than seven hours and stopped East African safaris from being once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. “American travelers are focused on efficiency, they don’t want the headache, so these are the kind of things African countries should be offering, to make it easier to visit,” Calmeyer says.