New Joburg-New York route set to take-off

The Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) has welcomed the launch announcement of US-based United Airlines' first-ever non-stop daily service between Johannesburg and New York.


The flights, scheduled to begin March 2021, will see the service operating between OR Tambo International Airport and New York's Newark Liberty International Airport. 


The move comes as the global airline industry is grappling with its worst crisis in history in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and related international travel bans and restrictions this year.

'Tremendously encouraging'


"United Airlines' announcement shows a great deal of commitment to SA and the African continent, which is set to be the next growth point for aviation," Bongiwe Pityi-Vokwana, Acsa's GM of OR Tambo told Moneyweb.


"It presents massive opportunities for strengthened links between southern Africa and the United States as the largest economy in the world. The move also reminds us that despite the Covid-19 pandemic, OR Tambo International Airport, given its world-class infrastructure and location, is well positioned to connect the northern and southern hemispheres."


Pityi-Vokwana noted that while "the road to recovery will be long, there will also be opportunities for growth over the coming months as the Covid-19 pandemic curve continues to flatten."


In its statement, the The Chicago-based carrier said the new non-stop service will start in "Spring 2021" – referring to the Northern Hemisphere season that begins in March. 

SAA uncertainty


The airline said it will become the only US carrier to operate between Johannesburg and New York/Newark.


Before Covid-19 hit, South African Airways (SAA) and US-based Delta Airlines were operating scheduled flights to the US. 


SAA had two routes – to New York (John F Kennedy International Airport) and Washington, while Delta had a daily flight to Atlanta.


With SAA entangled in a business rescue process, there is uncertainty around the airline resuming all its scheduled international air routes once South Africa's Covid-19 international travel bans are lifted.


"This new non-stop service will strengthen our international route network and provide our customers from South Africa with even greater travel choice and the possibility to connect via our New York/Newark hub to destinations across the Americas," said Marcel Fuchs, United's MD of international sales.


"Connecting Johannesburg to New York will open up new opportunities for both business and leisure travellers and help our customers in South Africa reconnect with friends and family around the world."


New York's Newark Liberty International Airport is located just 14 miles (about 22.5km) from Manhattan.


"[The airport] offers the fastest surface transfer journeys to many parts of the city, including the AirTrain service to New York Penn Station in midtown Manhattan, with a journey time of less than 30 minutes," United Airlines said.

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