All South African Airways flights from Atlanta in the United States are to take about 90 minutes longer because the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a directive that the carrier's planes must stop at Ilha do Sal, SAA officials announced on Sunday.

The FAA had said that SAA planes would not be allowed to refuel in Atlanta until manufacturers completed investigations into fuel pump reliability on all Boeing 747s and 737-800s, SAA's chief executive, Andre Viljoen, said in a statement.

This meant that long-haul flights from Atlanta would have to refuel on the Cape Verde island, off West Africa.

The change means that SA210, which leaves Atlanta at 10.30am each day, will stop in Ilha do Sal at 9.45pm for 90 minutes and arrive in Cape Town at 9.30am instead of 8am and in Johannesburg at 12.30pm instead of 11am.

SA212 is to leave Atlanta at 10.30am and arrive in Ilha do Sal at 9.45pm, Johannesburg at 9.45am and Cape Town at 12.55pm (all times are local).

Normal schedules are expected to resume by mid-January.

"As usual, SAA will take all precautions to make sure that the safety of its customers will not be compromised," Viljoen said. - Sapa