Virgin will re-introduce its non-stop flights from London Heathrow in October 2020, using the latest Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The aircraft features fully-flat beds in Upper Class, extra-wide seats with more recline in Premium Economy, plus Economy Classic and Economy Delight cabins – the latter of which allows you to stretch out and enjoy an increased seat pitch of 34 inches. The new Cape Town flights will complement the airline’s existing daily Boeing 787 flights to Johannesburg.
The seasonal return to Cape Town is the latest step in the airline’s service expansion. As Juha Jarvinen, chief commercial officer at Virgin, explained: “2020 is an extremely exciting year of continued growth for Virgin Atlantic. Not only are we launching a new service to Sao Paulo in March, but we’re delighted to announce a new seasonal service to Cape Town offering more choice for our customers than ever before.”
Last year also saw Virgin Atlantic launch new routes from London Heathrow to Tel-Aviv, London Heathrow to Mumbai, and a new leisure route from Manchester to Los Angeles.
Virgin won’t have it all their own way on their new South African route, though. Just days after their news, British Airways announced an increase its own service from January 2021.
The two new weekly BA flights will add to their existing Cape Town services from London Gatwick and take the total flights from the West Sussex airport to five-weekly. Meanwhile, just around the M25 at Heathrow, BA continues their twice-daily flights to Cape Town – making for an impressive total of 19 weekly BA services to the South African city.
In addition to their London to Cape Town routes, British Airways operate popular double-daily flights to Johannesburg on Airbus A380s and new three-weekly flights to Durban with connections throughout South Africa being provided by British Airways franchisee, Comair.
The extra two BA flights from Gatwick will be operated by a three-Class B777-236ER which, in combination with the new Virgin flights, signifies over 2,400 extra weekly seats being added to the London to Cape Town market.
With the advantageous climate enjoyed in that part of the world, leisure travellers can capitalise on the Southern Hemisphere summer, as well as make the most of the fantastic sights that the Western Cape region has to offer.
Boasting beautiful beaches and a stunning landscape, dominated by Table Mountain, Cape Town is a holiday destination in its own right. But the city also offers easy access to South Africa’s Winelands, including the world-famous districts of Constantia, Robertson and Stellenbosch. Spend a few days – or simply book a day tour – sipping wine and enjoying al fresco lunches among sun-kissed vineyards. David Attenborough enthusiasts can also spot the ‘Big Five’ on safari, as several game reserves are just a short drive from Cape Town. And, if you follow our budget guide to Cape Town, your trip won’t cost as much as you might think.
Virgin Atlantic’s resumption of this route will be seen as a major boost for the future of tourism in the region, particularly as the struggling flag carrier, South African Airways, is unlikely to recommence its own service (ended in 2012) any time soon.
The city is well served by numerous indirect flights from the UK via the Middle East – with Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad – which can be a cheaper alternative for those who don’t mind a longer journey. However, with British Airways unlikely to give up the monopoly they’e enjoyed on direct flights for the last five years, the competition from Virgin Atlantic could easily spark something of a price war between the two carriers – with the result being some bargain airfares may be up for grabs.