A Virgin Atlantic airplane takes off over British Airways jets sitting at Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport in London, U.K., on Friday, March 19, 2010. British Airways Plc Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh will hold talks with the Unite union for a second day as he seeks to head off a three-day strike by 12,000 cabin crew thatÕs scheduled to begin tomorrow. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Audrey D’Angelo

EXTRA flights from the UK are helping to boost South Africa’s income from tourism.

British Airways (BA) has doubled its flights into Cape Town to two a day and rival Virgin Atlantic, which withdraws in winter, has returned to the Mother City for the summer with seasonal flights.

BA publicised the city as one of the world’s top 10 tourism destinations, all year round.

Simon Newton-Smith, Virgin Atlantic’s general manager in South Africa, said yesterday that he expected to bring “about 31 000 tourists to Cape Town: meaning about R270 million in foreign exchange”.

Earlier, Ian Petrie, the BA regional commercial manager for Africa, said the additional flights put on by BA would increase the number of seats between London and Cape Town by nearly 2 400 a week. Demand was already heavy and he had been unable to find a seat on the direct flight to Cape Town, he said.

He had been obliged to come to South Africa by way of one of BA’s daily flights to Joburg.

Both managers pointed out that tourists from Britain had outnumbered those from any other country last year, despite the economic situation.

Newton-Smith said: “The UK is by a long way South Africa’s biggest tourist market, having attracted 420 483 tourist arrivals in 2011. Encouragingly, this has increased by 5.5 percent in the first six months of this year.”