CAPE Town Air Access is optimistic that another carrier will soon fill the gap in capacity on the London-Cape Town route left by the collapse of Thomas Cook.

This is the word from Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris, following Cape Town Air Access’s attendance (as part of Team SA along with SA Tourism and Airports Company SA) at the recent World Routes 2019 conference in Australia.

“The conversation with other airlines that could pick up that capacity is really encouraging and has been almost immediate, so I am fairly optimistic that we will be able to ride out that loss of connectivity quite quickly,” he told TU. Harris declined to comment which airlines. Thomas Cook served Cape Town seasonally three times a week from London Gatwick and its demise has given British Airways a monopoly on the route.

Cape Town Air Access Project Manager, Paul van den Brink, said bilateral air service talks between the South African and UK government were due to take place in December. It was hoped the governments would iron out the current bureaucratic restriction on Norwegian Airlines taking up the extra capacity from Gatwick Airport. Even though Norwegian Airlines has a UK air operator certificate (AOC), it is majority owned in Norway. This means it is not a designated carrier under the current bilateral air service agreement between South Africa and the UK.

Meanwhile, Harris said Cape Town Air Access had received very positive feedback from most airlines serving Cape Town about the profitability and viability of the route. “There is a lot of interest from potential new carriers, but what is most important for us is to keep our network locked in and to retain the flights that we have. When we touched base with all of our carriers that are already flying to Cape Town, one or two of them have had some issues, but overall we got very positive feedback. People were talking to us about the opportunities and the growth out of Cape Town and we had really interesting conversations about growing the network to destinations that are un-served, such as South America, Australia and Scandinavia.”

Harris said Team SA had prepared to answer difficult questions concerning recent violence in Cape Town, but got almost none. “We got one or two questions about the drought, so it is clear that we need to keep driving the message that the crisis is over and that the dams are 80% full, and actually that it has left us as a model of resilience compared with other cities in the world. It will take a while for that message to spread and we are working hard with our partners to clarify that situation,” he said.