Major US airline Delta on Monday resumed it’s direct flights between Johannesburg and Atlanta.
The airline stopped flights to South Africa when the coronavirus pandemic begun in 2019.
Atlanta is Delta’s largest hub and offers connections to 150 destinations across the United States.
The American carrier had initially planned to operate a triangular route with a tag flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town and then onward to Atlanta but SA authorities denied the airline permission to go ahead with the plan owing to Johannesburg’s high altitude.
The Airbus A350-900 cannot take off with a full payload and full tanks with the kind of altitude in Joburg.
The airline will now likely have to fly with reduced passenger and cargo loads on the return flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta to make provision for the altitude effect.
Delta told Fin24 on Monday that, while Delta did not receive final approval from the SA government to an operate intra-South Africa service between Johannesburg and Cape Town, Delta had interline agreements in place with local airlines.
“We are excited to welcome Delta back to South Africa. North America is a key market for us and we are confident that this Delta non-stop flight will boost South Africa’s efforts to grow business and leisure tourists’ arrivals out of this market,” acting CEO of SA Tourism Sthembiso Dlamini said.
“We look forward to many years of success on this route, as we continue to share the variety of experiences with all travelers.”
However, Delta’s application to use Cape Town International Airport has not yet been approved by the Department of Transport.
The airline has become the second American carrier after United Airlines to reconnect to South Africa.
The return of Delta will be viewed as a positive step towards the recovery of SA’s tourism sector.
The sector has suffered massive loss since the country was put on lockdowns and restrictions to manage Covid-19.