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The TIT-FOR-TAT dispute between South Africa and Delta escalated yesterday with government insiders claiming the airline had to stick to the foreign operator’s permit to allow it a stopover in Cape Town. the return segment of its Atlanta-Johannesburg service.
Officials from the Department of Transportation have accused Delta Airlines of intimidation and of dictating conditions in the domestic market.
Officials said there were not only problems with non-existent bilateral agreements, but that Delta wanted to dictate the terms of its operations against the country’s interests.
“Everyone wants to land and pick up passengers in Cape Town. However, this is killing the Johannesburg and Durban market respectively, ”an official who requested anonymity told Business Report.
“If you go to the UK for example, when there are no slots at Heathrow, they will direct you to subsidiary airports like Gatwick so that they generate business as well.
“Delta wants to impose itself here without taking into account the internal market,” said officials who would not be cited.
One official said the issue was ideally one that required discussions between the South African and US governments.
He said South Africa was too friendly with its bilateral deals which left local industries struggling to reciprocate as other countries were tougher.
Delta’s flights to Johannesburg are operated in partnership with Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic. Customers can also reach South Africa via Delta
European hubs in Paris and Amsterdam.
Delta, which previously had a direct Atlanta-Cape Town flight, was disrupted by the Covid-19 outbreak early last year.
The department said Delta, like all other foreign carriers, had to comply with flights to the capital and then pick up passengers only at subsidiary airports, and not be operational at all major airports, as this distorts the indoor market.
“They can’t possibly want to take over and tell us what to do. It’s more than a matter of bilateral agreements, it’s a matter of compliance. Delta doesn’t want to do this, ”another official said.
Officials said Delta, which over the weekend announced securing the Atlanta-Johannesburg route, currently does not have a similar official approval for Cape Town and has resorted to
threatening a backlash against SAA, which is the only national carrier going to the United States.
SAA aviation expert Jahid Malik said the proposed deal was good if it happened with mutual respect.
“There must be bilaterals against bilaterals. This is an issue that could possibly be resolved in a matter of hours between representatives of different governments, ”said Malik.
Delta said flights from Johannesburg would be operated using the Airbus A350-900, marking the debut of one of Delta’s newest jets in its fleet between the United States and South Africa.
Yesterday, the Western Cape MEC for Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier, accused the department of deliberately bypassing the bureaucracy around the deal.
But independent aviation analyst Phuthego Mojapele said Delta’s access to the South African market, while positive for aviation, was not so economically beneficial.
“South African aviation is unlikely to benefit. Certain sectors, like tourism perhaps, can benefit from it, even catering, but they bring their own technical expertise. South Africa will not benefit from this, ”said Mojapele.[email protected]