Delta Air Lines is applying for federal approval to launch flights from Atlanta to Cape Town, South Africa via Johannesburg.
Atlanta-based Delta wants to operate the route with Airbus A350-900 jets starting Oct. 24, 2020, pending approval and the lifting of travel restrictions.
Delta previously used the Boeing 777 for flights from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to Johannesburg, one of the world's longest nonstop flights.
But the airline announced this month that it will retire all 777s from its fleet amid a steep decline in travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 306-seat A350-900 has more seats than the 291-seat 777-200LR.
But operating the “triangle route” from Atlanta to Johannesburg to Cape Town would allow Delta to attract passengers flying from the U.S. to two destinations in South Africa, as well as U.S.-bound travelers from both of those cities.
The flights would allow the airline to continue its Johannesburg service and offer a new option for Delta customers to travel to Cape Town, the seventh-largest African destination for U.S. travelers, Delta said in an application to the U.S. Department of Transportation this week.
“The new service will increase travel and trade opportunities, boost Atlanta and regional economies, create jobs, and provide benefits to travelers across the U.S.,” Delta said in its application for the route authority.
Because of restrictions on foreign airlines transporting domestic passengers, Delta would not pick up passengers flying only between Johannesburg and Cape Town.