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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 (September 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

Until 2nd November 2021, there is a special offer on The Platinum Card from American Express.

You will receive a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Amex points which converts into 60,000 Virgin Points.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee 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)

  • Benilyn says:

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

  • 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.

  • Neil says:

    I have 270k miles and have always wanted to go to Capetown. What’s the best way of using them? Paying and using them for an upgrade or just using them on the whole flights?

  • ChrisC says:

    post in v-flyer slay saying LHE-HAV going 3 times a week and changint to B787 from A330

  • Sal says:

    Why do economy and premium economy people not need to sleep?

    • Jonathan says:

      It’s a day flight so would have slept in hotel the night before. I guess if you can get a decent sleep in an economy/PE seat then night flight is preferable but otherwise I’d choose a day flight in the same way I like the day flight back from New York even in Business as it’s too short to sleep properly.

    • Rob says:

      I’d prefer 8 hours sleep in a hotel bed and then a day Eco flight.

    • Lady London says:

      I wish there were flights back from the West Coast in the day when I’m stuck in Y or PY as it’s impossible to sleep. But they all run overnight. In J most people can sleep. So it can save wasting a day travelling.

      For me overnight flights in Y (or even PY) are a living hell. How much hell depends on the airline.

  • Nic says:

    You forgot to mention that Cape Town has some of the best food in the world and at a fraction of what it costs in other places. Unbelievable seafood and steaks…and the wine and beers are also very cheap.

  • Tony says:

    Can anybody who has taken a holiday in the Cape Town area (not on an all inclusive basis) & travelled independently tell me what the security is like?

    • Rhys says:

      You have to be aware, but otherwise fine. Had car one time and another just used Uber’s to get around. Never had any problems. Just be sensible about things.

    • Rob Harper says:

      Tony, we’ve been to CT 3 times in the last 5yrs, once in economy, once in BC, and once in FC! (Thanks to HFP’S!). Hired a car, and drove up to Stellenbosch and Franschoek (both recommended). No issues with travel, just be savvy at the lights (Termed Robots in SA!). Lot of beggars/window cleaners etc. Bottom line, doors all locked, valuables out of sight, and windows closed. CT itself is safe as houses. The centre has everything and is a food/wine paradise. We stayed on the waterfront in a private apartment. The place is magical. Take the red bus round Camps Bay & be sure to stop at Hout Bay for an hour for the best fish and chips ever! Enjoy.

      • Genghis says:

        Perfectly safe, coming from someone who lives in SE London. The most dangerous thing is the driving – people not moving to the left leading to undertaking, lack of indicators, cutting in etc.

    • Caroline Stocks says:

      We have travelled independently using Airbnb in January, hired a car from the airport in Cape Town. Once there, everything is cheaper than UK. We also flew from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth to spend 2 nights at Sibuya Reserve to do 4 safari trips out. Safety there is like anywhere else…common sense. We use Uber to go out evenings, Amazing vineyards to visit and have lunch out…no need to worry. Do not leave any valuables visible in a car, and enjoy.

  • Madeline says:

    Good to have competition for BA but leaving aside the negatives (for me) of a day flight, even on the outbound flight a 5.55am arrival (3.55am British time) would really impact on being able to sleep. CT flight is usually 11 – 11.5 hours. Walking around any area a tourist might visit in daytime is generally as safe as most other countries. But don’t walk up table mountain or go hiking except with a guide or in a group as there have been regular muggings. At night on the Waterfront and in the main streets of Sea Point its pretty safe to walk around. Other places often have secure parking or security patrolling. It’s the most beautiful place and very easy to get around, people are generally lovely but the awful legacy of apartheid and extreme poverty is still very evident

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