Ndiphiwe Ntuli says Barsa member airlines, throughout 2018 and 2019, have been establishing new routes into South Africa’s three main international gateway airports, with some existing operators increasing their seat capacity to grow their passenger volumes and expand their overall presence in the market. He says air access varies for each region, depending on the market drivers. “Most of Europe is well served, but seasonality plays a key role on the Cape Town route. East Asia, North America and Latin America are getting better connected, with recent announcements of new entrants and expansions on routes.

“Access to West and East Africa is much better than to Central Africa, where market sizes are not substantial enough to support regular flights because of volatile commodity markets, which is the primary driver of travel into this region,” he says.

African links with Cape Town have improved substantially, says Cape Town Air Access project manager, Paul van den Brink. “Since 2015, four African airlines started operating to Cape Town and nine African destinations were added, including St Helena from December 2019. It is now easier to have an African highlights itinerary starting or ending in Cape Town, including Victoria Falls and a bush experience. For companies based in Cape Town it is easier to do business in Africa and internationally.

“We see substantial market stimulation on new routes between African cities and Cape Town. When RwandAir extended its Kigali-Harare route to include Cape Town, the number of passengers on the Harare-Cape Town route improved by 50% during the first six months of operation. Passengers want to travel point-to- point at reasonable ticket prices,” says Paul. He says Cape Town still lacks air access to West and North Africa. “The main obstacles are that SAA only operates international flights from Johannesburg, and West- Africa does not have many carriers that are able to operate the distance.”

With United Airlines starting three weekly seasonal non-stop services between Cape Town and Newark Liberty International Airport on December 15, Delta Air Lines says it is keeping a close watch on demand from South Africa, “but we are satisfied with our current offering out of the country,” says Jimmy Eichelgruen, director sales: Africa, Middle East and India. “We’ve established a good network of connecting flight options operated by partner airlines that feed the Johannesburg route, including from Cape Town,” he says.