Delta, one of the major US airlines, has applied to fly to Cape Town as part of its already existing direct flight to Johannesburg.
Olivia Cullis, regional director of international communication, told Fin24 on Friday that Delta is reviewing its network in South Africa following the announcement that it will retire its Boeing 777 fleet, which operated on its non-stop route between Atlanta and Johannesburg.
Deon Cloete, general manager of Cape Town International Airport, confirmed that they are aware of the application.
"We are pleased with Delta's intentions to operate via Cape Town. We welcome that, and will support them. It is early days, yet and there is some due process that must be followed in order for them to obtain the necessary approvals from the Department of Transport," said Cloete. "Direct flights to the US is a prime route for as it is a very important market for Cape Town."
Only once the department has approved the application, will there be a slot approval process to determine the frequencies of the flights.
Cloete said both existing international routes, as well as any new ones, will only be able to fly again once Covid-19 flight bans are lifted by the government.
Aviation consultant Andreas Spaeth said that Delta is phasing out its Boeing 777-200LRs with long range capability. To replace it, the Airbus A350 is being deployed.
"As the airline lacks its ultra long haul version, it can't do the return flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta non-stop due to Johannesburg's altitude preventing full payload at the same time as haviing full fuel tanks for the A350," said Spaeth.
"To keep the Johannesburg route, Delta wants to make a stop in Cape Town on the return to the US. Cape Town is located at sea level, so the aircraft can be fully fueled and loaded."
United, another major US airline, started its seasonal non-stop route between Cape Town and the New York area's Newark Airport in December last year. The seasonal flights ended just ahead of the start of the lockdown period in South Africa in March.