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Virgin Atlantic is (re)launching flights to Cape Town this Winter

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Virgin Atlantic is relaunching flights to Cape Town.

Virgin Atlantic has slowly been growing its route network again after several years of cuts, buoyed by the arrival of new aircraft.  Last year it launched Tel Aviv, March sees the launch of Sao Paulo (I will be on the launch flight!) and we now know there will be at least one ‘new’ route this year – to Cape Town.

Virgin Atlantic previously flew to Cape Town, although it was one of several routes axed in a comprehensive network review in 2015.  The relaunch of the route is welcome news as it is a very popular destination with premium leisure passengers.

Hopefully Virgin Atlantic will be able to drive a bit of competition with British Airways, which is now the sole airline to fly the route direct from the UK since Thomas Cook went under last year.  Because the flights are usually overnight, with minimal time difference, this is one route where hubbing via the Middle East is not very attractive if you can avoid it.

Virgin Atlantic launching flights to Cape Town

When does Virgin Atlantic start Cape Town flights?

The service will start Sunday, 25th October (the first weekend of half term) and will operate daily during the winter season until (we are told) at least Easter.It complements Virgin’s existing Johannesburg service.

Here are the times:

VS478 is a night flight and departs Heathrow at 16:20 arriving in Cape Town at 05:55

VS479 is a day flight and departs Cape Town at 08:00 and land in London at 18:00

Flights to Cape Town clock in at around 10 or 11 hours, which on a night flight is long enough to have dinner and still get a good night’s rests before breakfast.

It is rare to have a day flight back from Cape Town, because – rather like day flights from New York – they are not very popular with business class passengers.  On the upside, Economy and Premium Economy passengers probably benefit as they do not need to sleep.

The benefit to Virgin Atlantic is huge – if the aircraft came back overnight, it would be sitting unused in Cape Town for 12 hours which is hugely wasteful.  Given their limited fleet size, I doubt the route would have returned if the aircraft did not turn around immediately.

Virgin Atlantic launching flights to Cape Town

The route will be operated by a Boeing 787-9, which features the existing Upper Class seat we have previously reviewed here. There are no plans to put the A350 with the new Upper Class seats on this route, although this may change as Virgin receives more of the aircraft type.

The flight will be open for booking on Tuesday 18th February on the Virgin Atlantic website here. If you want to use your Flying Club miles you are looking at 115,000 miles off-peak, plus taxes and surcharges.

Is Cape Town worth visiting?

Cape Town is one of my favourite long haul destinations to fly to, not least because the flight time is long enough to give you a good nights sleep. This is compounded by the fact that South Africa is only ever 1-2 hours ahead of London, so you suffer from virtually no jet lag.

Then, of course, there are the delights of the city and its surroundings themselves. There is the natural splendour of the city itself, from Table Mountain to the stunning Cape Peninsula (these are holiday photos of mine!):

Virgin Atlantic launching flights to Cape Town

…. as well as the beautiful Kirstenbosh botanical gardens (which, incidentally, are also at the base of an exciting hike up Table Mountain), the opportunity to visit Robben Island, with guided tours by former inmates and the chance to try many different wines in Constantia, Stellenbosch and (slightly further afield) in Franschoek.

Cape Town is also an excellent starting or ending point for the ‘Garden Route,’ a coastal road trip between the Western and Eastern Capes, and is also a short domestic flight away from the Safari hotspots around Johannsburg and Kruger National Park.

If you are looking for a bit of winter sun next year, I would seriously consider trying out this new service.


HFP Virgin Atlantic Rewards credit card

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (July 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, one has a bonus of 15,000 Points):

Virgin Rewards credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

The UK’s most generous free Visa or Mastercard at 0.75 points / £1 Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review

You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Points

(Want to earn more Virgin Points?  Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

Comments (38)

  • Graham says:

    Local advice is not to walk too far at night but otherwise it’s much like any other city if you’re sensible. Been to the Eastern Cape twice in the last four years using hire cars and Airbnb without a hint of a problem. If you are a fan of great food and wine at half the cost of the UK I’d heartily recommend it.

  • where2travel says:

    I’m not keen on the mid-afternoon LHR departure which is effectively a night flight to South Africa, I much prefer a later departure and a more sensibly timed arrival in CPT for better sleep.

    If course, I completely get why they’ve had to do it like this, to get the aircraft on its way back from CPT early enough in the morning for it to be a proper day-flight to LHR.

  • Tony says:

    Thank you everybody on your feedback about Cape Town.
    Went to Jordan over Christmas and New Year. Always travel independently.

    • Rhys says:

      Jordan is on my list of destinations I want to do soon – what did you end up doing?

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