Flight cut: American Airlines surprised
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American Airlines (AA) entered, for the first time on Monday, the debate over whether SAA's cutting of the Miami to Cape Town direct flight was justified, calling the flight "extremely lucrative" and expressing its willingness to operate the route in future.
AA has had an alliance with SAA to operate flights between Miami and Cape Town, but SAA has terminated the agreement, with effect from January 31 next year.
SAA has instead formed an alliance with Delta Airlines, which will include jointly operating a new flight between Atlanta and Cape Town, via Johannesburg.
The managing director of Amsa Aviation, which represents AA in South Africa, Mike Tyler, said he has been "highly surprised and disappointed by SAA's actions. The fact is that the Miami to Cape Town is an extremely lucrative and successful route".
Tyler accused SAA and its CEO, Coleman Andrews, of misinforming the South African public on "several issues", the most important of which is that the SAA/AA liaison had a direct connection with 73 cities in the United States, whereas Andrews officially said Miami only had access to 21 cities.
Asked for his comment on Andrews' handling of the situation, Tyler replied: "I have nothing to say about that man."
Madelain Roscher, SAA's senior manager for corporate communications, says the airline has "no comment" until the end of a scheduled meeting with Andrews this morning.
Tyler says AA is "very interested in maintaining its position in the South African market and even expanding it".
He adds that, although AA has no airplanes to fly directly to Cape Town from Miami, "planes are not a problem, and we can very easily obtain them if we could operate the route".
Tyler says AA is considering "several options" to maintain their position in South Africa, "which could also include alliances with other airlines".
Meanwhile, tourism authorities in Cape Town reacted with caution to revelations that the new route from Cape Town to Atlanta, instead of Miami, will take at least six hours longer.
SAA neglected to inform the public about the fact that the Cape Town/Atlanta flight will stop over for refuelling at Ilha da Sol in the Cape Verde Islands.
The flight will take at least 20 hours, whereas the one to Miami takes 131/2 hours, not 111/2 hours, as was reported.
Rick Taylor from Cape Metropolitan Tourism and Sheryl Ozinsky from Cape Town Tourism say they will be clarifying the stop-over at Ilha da Sol as well as other issues when they meet Delta Airlines' representatives later this month.
Victor Nosi, vice-president of Corporate Services for SAA, is currently in Atlanta, ironing out details of the alliance with Delta Airlines.
Taylor confirmed that discussions are taking place with AA over the future of the Miami/Cape Town flight.
He added that tourism authorities in the Cape "will continue to fight for international airlines, who are not SAA partners, to fly direct to Cape Town. Cape Town International Airport has the capacity."