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Aviation Blog

United Airlines Gets Heroes Welcome On First Flight From Washington To Cape Town – Simple Flying

The new flight service to Cape Town will complement United Airlines’ Newark-Cape Town service.
On the 60th anniversary of the opening of Washington Dulles International Airport, United Airlines celebrated the launch of its new service to Cape Town in South Africa. The route officially positions the airline as the first US carrier to provide a non-stop, round-trip flight service connecting the two cities.
On November 17th, the inaugural flight service UA 2222 was operated using N24979, a two-and-a-half-year-old Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner retrofitted for 257 passengers in a three-cabin configuration. The widebody aircraft departed from Washington Dulles Airport at approximately 00:19 before landing at Cape Town International Airport at 13:50.
The first passengers to fly the non-stop service from Washington Dulles Airport, including the airline's Vice President, stepped onto the Cape Town International Airport apron and were greeted by local officials. Members of the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town, Wesgro’s Cape Town Air Access team, and the local talented Cape Minstrels band were also there to warmly welcome passengers.
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Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Growth at the City of Cape Town, Alderman James Vos, said in his welcoming speech:
“The landing of this flight from Washington signifies our destination strength and the success of the City’s mission to connect with more source markets through the Air Access initiative, clever campaigns, and city-to-city agreements. We look forward to the bumper summer season ahead, and we would like to thank United Airlines for its continued commitment to our destination."
Then at approximately 19:01, the passengers on the return flight UA 2223 were warmly sent off as the aircraft departed Cape Town before returning home to Washington at around 10:51 the next day. All timings are in UTC. The flight service was flown again on November 19th and will be flown thrice weekly on Thursday, Saturday, and Monday to complement United Airlines' year-round, thrice-weekly flight service between Newark Liberty International Airport and Cape Town.
The launch of United Airlines' new route also symbolizes growing economic ties between the US and Africa. The US has historically been Cape Town’s third largest international market, with two-way passenger volumes between the US and Cape Town equalling 213,000 passengers in 2019. Based on previous route introductions, it is estimated that this new direct route will result in a passenger stimulus of at least 25% for Cape Town.
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And concerning air cargo, a total of 686 metric tonnes was transported between Cape Town and the US within the first quarter of this year, representing a vital 74% recovery rate compared to the same period in 2019. In 2021, an estimated 2,384 metric tonnes of cargo was transported on the same route, representing an estimated 50% recovery rate compared to 2019.
The boost in air travel and air cargo will certainly play a significant role in the recovery and future growth of the African aviation industry, as emphasized by Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, Mireille Wenger:
"Tourism is a major contributor to the Western Cape, supporting almost 175,000 jobs and generating roughly R15.5 billion in gross value added to the economy in 2019. We are excited to welcome United Airlines’ direct flights from New York. Not only do these flights boost tourism, but they also provide great opportunities to export proudly Western Cape goods via air cargo."
With the introduction of UA 2222 and UA 2223, an estimated 191 international flights will come into Cape Town each week from January next year. The new route also makes business travel easier to boost investment and trade opportunities, and airfares between airlines will also be more competitive for the benefit of passengers.
Journalist – Charlotte is currently pursuing a full-time undergraduate degree majoring in Aviation Business Administration and minoring in Air Traffic Management. Charlotte previously wrote for AirlineGeeks. Based in Singapore.

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