It Just Got Much Easier to Fly to South Africa

United’s newest flight connects Newark to Johannesburg in 14 hours

Panoramic View Of Landscape Against Sky
Ashim D Silva / EyeEm / Getty Images

If you're planning a South African safari sometime soon, we're pleased to report that your trip just got a whole lot easier.

After a few delays, United Airlines was finally able to inaugurate its new nonstop service between New York and Johannesburg, South Africa. At approximately 10:03 p.m. on June 3, UAL 188 took off from Newark Liberty International Airport and touched down at O.R. Tambo International Airport just under 14 hours later.

“We are excited to inaugurate our new service between New York/Newark and Johannesburg, which further expands our Africa route network and provides our customers from South Africa with even greater travel choices via our New York/Newark hub to as many as 80 U.S. destinations this year,” Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of international network and alliances, said in a statement. “This service, operated with a brand-new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, offers our customers from South Africa our newest, award-winning aircraft, featuring our United Polaris suites and United Premium Plus seats.”

This new daily route is a boon for east coast travelers who have been waiting patiently for a single nonstop option to get from the U.S. to South Africa. In 2019, the long-struggling South African Airlines finally collapsed into bankruptcy and ceased all operations, including the only direct flights between the U.S. and South Africa.

This blow was initially softened by the much-anticipated, first-ever service from Newark to Cape Town offered by United that kicked off in December 2019; however—surprise, surprise—the pandemic quickly threw a wrench in the thrice-weekly service, which is still currently suspended.

Fast-forward to March 2021, when both United and Delta were battling it out with plans to launch new South Africa routes; Delta was too amped to resume its daily pre-pandemic long-haul flights between Atlanta and Johannesburg—adding in a cheeky new stop in Cape Town along the way—while United’s Newark-Johannesburg was going to hit the air for the first time.

After the emergence and continued concern over the South African variant of SARS-CoV-2, Delta has deemed that demand was still not high enough to resume service and has pushed back their South African service resumption a few more times. The return is now slated for Aug. 1 of this year.

All of this leaves the new United EWR-JNB service as the only nonstop service from the U.S. to South Africa—and, coupled with the airline’s seasonal thrice-weekly service between Newark and Cape Town, means United also offers the most nonstop services to South Africa than any other U.S. carrier.

“We are excited to welcome United Airlines as it will definitely boost South Africa’s efforts to continue to grow business and leisure tourists’ arrivals out of North America," said Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, South Africa's Minister of Tourism. "South Africa is ready to welcome back visitors from across the world and is certainly open for business."