United Airlines halts flights to SA due to jet fuel shortage in Cape Town

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A fuel shortage issue at South Africa’s Cape Town International Airport has prompted United Airlines to temporarily halt its Newark (EWR) to Cape Town (CPT) return service.  

The US carrier cancelled its EWR-CPT service scheduled to be operated on October 3, 2022, and October 4, 2022, according to News24 

Passengers who had booked flights on these days were notified of the cancellation on October 1, the report added.  

“Your flight was cancelled because we were unable to fuel your plane,” United Airlines explained.  

However, amid United’s efforts to reaccommodate passengers, the US airline noted that the flight status could still change.    

According to United Airlines’ website, the airline is still operating EWR-CPT flights on canceled days via connecting flights to destinations in Europe and through Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB). These flights are operated by other international airlines, such as Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA), Ethiopian Airlines and S.A. Airlink with which the airline shares a partnership. 

News of the cancellations comes as United Airline’s prepares to launch a new direct non-stop service between Washington Dulles Airport and Cape Town. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) granted the airline three weekly direct flights, which will commence on November 17, 2022, and will be operated by its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner fleet.    

Delayed fuel ship and rough seas spark unease at CPT International   

In late September 2022 the Airline Association of Southern Africa (AASA) had initially warned that the fuel shortage at Cape Town International Airport could result in schedule disruptions and flight cancelations. 

“These restrictions are now likely to result in disruptions to airline schedules and possibly cancelled flights at a time when the industry and the economy can ill afford it,” the AASA said, reported by BusinessTech on September 28. 

The limited fuel supply was due to delivery delays caused by bad weather, the Airports Company SA (ACSA) told News24, and the fuel was slated to arrive on October 2, 2022.  

“The adverse sea conditions continue and we are monitoring the situation very closely, including the estimated time of arrival of the vessel,” said the ACSA.   

According to News24, once jet fuel arrives in the port, it undergoes rigorous procedures before being delivered to the airport, resulting in a 48-hour period before airports gain access to the new supply. However, the ACSA highlighted that that up to four days of fuel stock was available in the airport’s supply tanks and that all flights from CPT international were operating on schedule.  

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