TAP Air Portugal has announced plans for a new seasonal service between Lisbon and Cape Town this winter.

Confirmed in a press release issued by Wesgro – the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape – the new route is set to operate three times weekly between November 11, 2020 and the end of March 2021.

Flights are set to be served by an A330-900 neo aircraft, configured for 169 economy seats, with 96 seats in Economy Extra and 34 in business class.

Wesgro said that Lisbon has seen notable growth in passenger traffic to South Africa over the last couple of years, up 25 per cent in 2018 and 7 per cent in 2019. Business class traffic has particularly benefitted, with passenger numbers up 86 per cent in 2019.

The agency also highlighted connection possibilities with the new route to destinations in Southern Europe, North Africa and South America, all of which are currently not served with direct flights from Cape Town.

The current turmoil in the aviation industry means nothing can be taken as certainty, but Deon Cloete, general manager of Cape Town International Airport said that the news “could not have come at a better time”.

“These past few weeks have been surreal,” said Cloete. “We’ve watched the world close down in an attempt limit the spread of this devastating virus to which sadly, none of us are immune. The announcement by TAP Airlines could not have come at a better time. It’s instilled some much needed hope into the aviation industry.

“Their commitment is a clear demonstration of confidence in our destination and travel. As the team at Cape Town International Airport, we will be sure to be ready for their inaugural flight later this year and we look forward to welcoming them to the City.”

Meanwhile Alderman James Vos, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management within the City of Cape Town, commented:

“Despite the current challenging times we face, I am excited to confirm a new direct flight between Cape Town and Lisbon, Portugal. Connectivity forms part of our strategy to connect Cape Town with key destinations in Africa and globally to stimulate and increase travel and trade, for the benefit of our residents.

“To increase connectivity and bring economic benefits to Cape Town, the City funds the Air Access initiative within Wesgro. While the tourism sector has been hit very hard due to the lockdown measures in South Africa and globally, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I will continue to work with my Departments’ Special Business Partners to ensure that we assist businesses to weather this storm so they are ready to welcome back tourists and trade once we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis.”

Earlier this year there was a flurry of announcements concerning an increase in flights between the UK and Cape Town.

British Airways had planned to increase frequencies between Heathrow and Cape Town this spring (although clearly this did not happen), while Virgin Atlantic announced plans to bring back its Cape Town service from October.

It’s unclear if this route will now go ahead – Virgin has already dropped plans to launch flights to Sao Paulo later this year.