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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.

Virgin Atlantic launching flights to Cape Town

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.

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Comments

  1. Assume points will be same as J’burg?

  2. Would a return to Vancouver or Tokyo be on the cards? Would be great to have some flights to Canada with VS.

  3. This is fantastic news, although unfortunately not Oneworld.
    BA have in my opinion exploited the LHR – CPT route for too long. So expensive.
    Any competition is welcome.
    I have managed to take advantage of the BA AMS-LHR-CPT deals, and would have booked the recent OSLO-LHR-CPT deal had we not of already booked on QR.
    I don’t mid the DOH stop, as the CPT flights now have Q-Suite.

    That said, for all my moaning, I do love being upstairs on BA’s 747’s. Glorious.

  4. Sp. Kirstenbosch. We’ve just returned from Cape Town and Franschhoek (again) and had a great time. Recommended.

  5. “The benefit to Virgin Atlantic [of daytime return flight] is huge – if the aircraft came back overnight, it would be sitting unused in Cape Town for 12 hours which is hugely wasteful.”

    But if the demand is half what it is for an overnight return flight, then it’s a completely false economy – and the route won’t generate a profit. This is why so many european aircraft spend the day on the tarmac at JNB.

    • Jonathan says:

      I’d imagine they’ll get away with it for Cape Town as it’s a largely leisure route & many of those in PE & Y may prefer a day flight & prices are normally pretty high in all cabins compared to a similar length route such as LA.

      Glad to see some competition for BA though as it’s a cash cow for them at the moment, especially considering they send their cruddy non refurbed 747’s.

      • For the majority of passengers going for a holiday in SA

        Overnight flight going outward in Y isn’t much of a problem as you can schedule a lazy day for the first day there, but Daytime flight on the way back means you don’t have to choose between breaking yourself at work immediately after an overnight in Y, or essentially wasting an extra day of holiday that you have to take off whilst being in your own house from 10am onwards!

    • Edward Mitchell says:

      Good point. Another issue is that day flights across Africa during the Southern hemisphere summer are traditionally rough, with significant turbulence. The cumulo nimbus clouds go to 60,000 feet, so in a lot of instances turbulence is unavoidable. As a South African living permanently in the UK, I can assure you that day flights are uncomfortable. A recent DUR-LHR on BA040 I travelled on meant that passengers and crew had to stay in seats with seatbelts fastened for the first 5hrs of the flight. The 787-900 Dreamliner turned into a Screamliner as the aircraft experienced severe turbulence.

  6. At last, some much needed competition. BA has owned this route for way too long and this will only be better for consumers!

  7. This is great news. A little OT I’m aware of the Amex issues but can Virgin prem be used for monese top ups does anyone know?

  8. Wow. Genuinely a surprise. A good one. Nice to have a 789 too.
    I can understand the day-flight thing. Not convinced its commercially the best idea, but hey, at least give it a go.
    With KLM aboard you can down day flight ex-AMS south and day flight with VS north, or vice versa for night flights … so maybe some method in this!
    Much as I adore BA 747 Upper Deck, I won’t take it to/from CPT these days.

  9. I encourage people to contact Curve and to request a breakdown of any fees charged to their account that have been embedded into transactions. I recently discovered that I was being overcharged by 2% on every USD transaction I had made (rather than the 0.5% foreign transaction fee that I thought I was subject to), and have discovered that Curve has some rather nefarious and definitely misleading fees that are not made clear on their website.

  10. OT: Does Barclaycard work on Corve for South England etc?

  11. Shah Hussain says:

    Bring back the Dubai route 😎
    I enjoyed flying with virgin in that route and would have been a good opportunity to use my points for some upper class redemptions.

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