Why doesn't SAA fly overseas from CPT?

Old Nov 8, 17, 8:24 am
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Why doesn't SAA fly overseas from CPT?

This has been a mystery to me since I started flying to South Africa at the end of Apartheid. SAA doesn't have a single long haul, "overseas" nonstop flight from/to CPT. It is a shame to see all those foreign airplanes lined up at the international wing of the terminal sucking up this market, and to fly SAA -- the country's flag carrier -- one must connect at JNB! Particularly now that Cape Town is the greater tourist draw and increasingly business centre.

Considering the congestion at JNB throughout the morning as dozens of flights arrive from Europe and other points, clogging the customs hall and taking up at least an hour to be processed, it seems CPT would provide a needed pressure valve. Last time I arrived @CPT from LHR on BA, I cleared immigration and customs in minutes, and was waiting for the myCiti bus into town in less than 15-minutes from deplaning!

Is there a legitimate reason/rationale for this situation (other than available aircraft)?
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Old Nov 8, 17, 8:33 am
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Immigration in CPT can be horrid at times as well, try e.g. when both AF & KL flights land at about the same time and they only open 6-7 desks or so. (it is the last 2 flights of the day)

Other than that, can't really answer the question, luckily there are plenty of other airlines flying directly to CPT from all over Europe
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Old Nov 8, 17, 11:47 am
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Originally Posted by Shareholder View Post
This has been a mystery to me since I started flying to South Africa at the end of Apartheid. SAA doesn't have a single long haul, "overseas" nonstop flight from/to CPT. It is a shame to see all those foreign airplanes lined up at the international wing of the terminal sucking up this market, and to fly SAA -- the country's flag carrier -- one must connect at JNB! Particularly now that Cape Town is the greater tourist draw and increasingly business centre.

Considering the congestion at JNB throughout the morning as dozens of flights arrive from Europe and other points, clogging the customs hall and taking up at least an hour to be processed, it seems CPT would provide a needed pressure valve. Last time I arrived @CPT from LHR on BA, I cleared immigration and customs in minutes, and was waiting for the myCiti bus into town in less than 15-minutes from deplaning!

Is there a legitimate reason/rationale for this situation (other than available aircraft)?
Firstly, if you've followed SAA's recent problems, you'll notice how they have been downsizing the operation consistently for a number of years. They are flying a lot less longhaul altogether, nevermind from Cape Town. They've dropped Buenos Aires, Beijing, Mumbai, Abu Dhabi (albeit it was only operated briefly), and before that Zurich and Paris.

Secondly, Cape Town has very limited domestic or regional connections compared to Johannesburg, and combined with a bigger O&D market (primarily business), Johannesburg is a hub, while Cape Town is not. So limited domestic and regional feed makes like difficult for SAA compared to foreign airlines that are primarily feeding into or out of large hubs. It's noticeable that most of the long haul airlines to Cape Town are heavily reliant on their large hubs for feed.
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Old Nov 8, 17, 1:38 pm
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I agree with the comments above. Given all their woes, I wouldn't expect SAA to be launching any new routes anytime soon.

That said. In the mid-2000's didn't SAA fly direct from ATL to CPT? I couldv'e sworn I was on a few of those flights. Though to be honest, whether it was the drinks from the lounge or onboard, or the hangover afterwards, there may have been a stop in JNB. I pulled a couple of old itineraries and it seems so...
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Old Nov 8, 17, 2:57 pm
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Originally Posted by jsnydcsa View Post
That said. In the mid-2000's didn't SAA fly direct from ATL to CPT? I couldv'e sworn I was on a few of those flights. Though to be honest, whether it was the drinks from the lounge or onboard, or the hangover afterwards, there may have been a stop in JNB. I pulled a couple of old itineraries and it seems so...
Many of SAA's flights from Johannesburg to the US over the years have had stops due to payload limitations out of Johannesburg, varying between Ilha do Sal, Lagos and nowadays Dakar and Accra. At some point flights to Atlanta (and before that Miami) used Cape Town, but that was quite some time ago.

Assuming SAA were to look at a JNB-CPT-IAD routing (as opposed to the current JNB-DKR/ACC-IAD), the CPT-IAD leg would be far too long for a A333 and really pushing the payload of an A333 or A343.
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Old Nov 9, 17, 11:23 am
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I think a bit politic as well , as SAA do not wanna fly in tourists to DA run Cape Town ?
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Old Nov 9, 17, 3:11 pm
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Originally Posted by Flame3601 View Post
I think a bit politic as well , as SAA do not wanna fly in tourists to DA run Cape Town ?
Many people have claimed this without any evidence to support it. The SAA drawdown at Cape Town began long ago, well before the DA took control of Cape Town. The DA took control of Cape Town in March 2006 and the Western Cape Province in May 2009.

In 1999 SAA flew to Miami (later switched to Atlanta), London, Frankfurt (via Johannesburg, later non-stop), Paris (via Johannesburg) and Zurich (via Johannesburg).

Atlanta was dropped around 2002 (roughly when the A340-600 took over the route from the B747-400) and Paris and Zurich around the same time. Frankfurt ended around 2005 after a last effort to save the route by switching it to a daytime northbound service. London lasted until 2012.
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Old Nov 9, 17, 3:13 pm
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Originally Posted by Flame3601 View Post
I think a bit politic as well , as SAA do not wanna fly in tourists to DA run Cape Town ?
Also, if this were the case why would the state owned ACSA have invested so much in Cape Town International since then, and also, why have SAA increased their net capacity to Cape Town (through Johannesburg) since then. Whatever long haul capacity they have removed from Cape Town they have more than covered in domestic capacity.
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Old Nov 9, 17, 3:21 pm
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They used to fly to London from CPT but dropped it

Airlines without SAA's geographical disadvantage struggle to make non-hub flying work, let alone when you factor in the "end of the line" nature of South Africa

All those airlines you see at CPT have hubs at the other end
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Old Nov 11, 17, 6:21 pm
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If I recall correctly, like others have said, this was based for a move towards a hub and spoke model about 15-17 years ago. It's fair to say that this was pre-congestion. I also think they are more focused on short - medium haul flights these days as they are more profitable for them.
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Old Dec 11, 17, 9:56 am
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Thanks for the replies, reflecting interesting points and particularly vis a vis domestic South African perspectives on the matter. My reason for asking (I fully know how SAA has had to retrench due to financial matters and incompetent management over the years) is that nobody I know here in Canada or the US has the least bit of interest in visiting Johannesburg. Everyone wants to do Cape Town (and nearby wine country). They are put off by the horrendous connection (including 2-hour waits to clear immigration at JNB) required at that hub, and thus would rather connect somewhere else and then fly directly to CPT. Tourism to SA is no longer focused on visiting a wildlife reserve/doing a safari. Just think SAA is losing a lot of potential (and lucrative J) business by flying nonstop from NAmerica to CPT, let alone from at least LHR and FRA.
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