SAA stops Cape Town-London flights

Cape Town - South African Airways (SAA) announced on Tuesday it was halting daily direct flights between Cape Town and London to avoid losses amid shrinking demand.

The national carrier will close the Cape Town route, operational for 20 years, in August when two daily flights with increased capacity from Johannesburg will become its sole leg to Heathrow.

"A thorough analysis of the route made it clear that we could use our aircraft more profitably elsewhere while continuing to ensure excellent business and tourism links... via Johannesburg," said Theunis Potgieter, SAA commercial general manager.

"It is also clear that we would lose money on the direct route in the future, whereas it is possible for us to operate more optimally between Cape Town and London via our Johannesburg hub," he said in a statement.

SAA is expanding its network of destinations, and said the move will see aircraft from the axed route serve routes to India and west African capitals.

But the airline is under pressure and last month said it was looking to the government for help to renew its fleet.

"Serving the Cape Town-London route via Johannesburg will have an immediate positive effect on SAA's bottom line," said the airline.

Reasons cited included a 24% drop in demand between Britain and South Africa for all carriers in the past three years, as well as a dwindling passengers from Cape Town to London as a destination and for onward connections.

Competitors also offered cost effective routes from Cape Town, the airline said.

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