Delta Air Lines’ application to fly a triangular route between Atlanta, Johannesburg and Cape Town has finally been approved by national government – a move welcomed by the Western Cape government, which had reinstated an intergovernmental dispute process last month to ensure a speedy resolution.

Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier, said that while his provincial government remained committed to working with national government to find solutions to the challenges faced, the intergovernmental dispute process was ongoing.

This will ensure:

  • that all foreign operator permit applications are processed in accordance with existing national policy, legislation and agreements; and
  • ensure that all foreign operator permit applications are processed by the responsible person, which in this case is the Chairperson of the International Air Services Council, with administrative support from the National Department of Transport.

“We regard the approval of Delta Air Lines’ application to fly a triangular route between Atlanta, Johannesburg and Cape Town as a big win and we will continue to work hard to expand air access in the province, because more flights mean more tourists and more tourists mean more jobs in the Western Cape,” said Maynier.

“We remain committed to increasing investment, expanding trade and scaling up tourism with the United States, and so we look forward to finally welcoming Delta Air Lines to the Western Cape.”


Delta’s initial application to operate a triangular route to Cape Town from August 2021 was blocked by the South African Department of Transport.

Maynier explained that he had written to the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, in May 2021 to request that Delta’s application to operate a triangular route, Atlanta-Johannesburg-Cape Town, be processed urgently, precisely because tourism was a significant contributor to job creation and economic growth in the Western Cape.

“After receiving no substantive response to seven separate letters over six months directly from my office to Minister Mbalula, I was left with no choice but to launch an Intergovernmental Dispute in a bid to resolve this urgent matter on November 25, 2021.

“On February 21, this year I received a letter from the Minister requesting additional time to respond to the matter. In the interest of co-operative governance, I granted him an extra 15 days, which lapsed at midnight on March 16. I had sincerely hoped that we would have been able to resolve this urgent matter in this time,” said Maynier.

The Western Cape government then reinstated its intergovernmental dispute on March 17.

More US air access needed

Readers continue to highlight the need for increased air capacity between the US and Cape Town to meet the rising demand for travel from one of South Africa’s biggest source markets.

Delta recently applied to the US Department of Transport for the rights to operate a direct service from Atlanta to Cape Town and United Airlines is to launch its thrice-weekly service between Newark and Cape Town in June.

United Airlines has also applied for regulatory approval in the US and South Africa to introduce year-round flights between Cape Town and Washington DC, starting with three flights per week. It is not known how long the approval process will take. United said it hoped to launch the new service on, or close to, November 17 this year.

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