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United plans seasonal Cape Town flight

United Airlines is seeking authority to begin seasonal service to Cape Town, South Africa, from its Newark hub in December.

The Star Alliance carrier would offer thrice-weekly service with a 252-seat Boeing 787-9 through the end of March 2020, it says today. The route needs US Department of Transportation approval.

"We are always looking at ways to expand our industry-leading international route network to offer our customers more convenient options," says Patrick Quayle, vice-president of international network at Chicago-based United. "We're thrilled to announce the addition of Africa to our global route offering."

Cape Town is not United's first proposed destination in South Africa. It sought and was granted authority to operate thrice-weekly service between Washington Dulles and Johannesburg with a Boeing 747 in October 1992. However, flights never began and, in 1994, the airline instead shifted the authority to flights operated by codeshare partner Lufthansa via Frankfurt.

United served Accra, Ghana from 2010-2013, and Lagos, Nigeria from 2011-2016, Cirium schedule data shows.

Cape Town is a base for the airline's Star Alliance partner South African Airways. SAA serves New York John F Kennedy and Washington Dulles airports from its Johannesburg hub.

SAA was the last carrier to serve the USA nonstop from Cape Town, with a flight to Atlanta that ended in 2004, schedules show.

Delta Air Lines is the only US carrier serving Africa. The SkyTeam Alliance carrier serves Johannesburg and Lagos from its Atlanta base, and Accra, Dakar and Lagos from New York JFK, according to schedules.

United plans to grow capacity by 4-6% in 2019. While the bulk of that growth is in its domestic network, international additions include new service from Denver to Frankfurt, and from San Francisco to both Melbourne and New Delhi.

No airlines fly between Newark, or any New York-area airport, and Cape Town, schedules show.

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