SA Airways passengers flying from Cape Town to London will from August 15 be re-routed via Johannesburg, the airline announced on Tuesday.
"SAA is re-deploying its capacity to routes experiencing expanding demand, as part of our larger strategy for growth and increased efficiency within the airline," said SAA general manager (commercial) Theunis Potgieter.
Potgieter said passengers flying from London to Cape Town would from August 16 also be flying via Johannesburg's OR Tambo airport only.
The decision was based on SAA's long-term growth and business optimisation strategy. This included using its aircraft fleet more effectively by re-deploying some to its growing Accra, Mumbai and Perth routes and by adding Abidjan to the network.
Declining passenger numbers to the UK and increasing airport taxes in that country were some of the reasons for SAA ending its 20-year Cape Town-London service.
The airline has two daily services between Johannesburg and London and will be increasing its capacity on these flights by 13 percent through use of larger aircraft to accommodate passengers from Cape Town.
Potgieter said SAA offered up to 44 daily flights between Cape Town and OR Tambo International Airport.
"For South African travellers to European destinations outside London, travel via Johannesburg and Frankfurt or Munich offers significant convenience and cost advantages," he said.
It was also announced that SAA Cargo would re-route airfreight from Cape Town via Johannesburg without impacting on exporters which needed to get products to market in the UK rapidly.
Voyager members who had booked flights between Cape Town and London after August 15th, using Frequent Flyer Miles, would be re-routed via Johannesburg.
"Anyone (else) who has booked a flight between Cape Town and London after August 15th will be re-routed via Johannesburg at no additional charge," Potgieter said.
However, passengers choosing not to be re-routed would be refunded by the airline.
According to Potgieter, serving the Cape Town-London route via Johannesburg will have an immediate positive effect on SAA's bottom line.
"South Africa is among the top five fastest declining visitor markets to the UK, statistics made available by VisitBritain indicate. With declining numbers of passengers using the Cape Town-London flight for onward connections in Europe or North America, the route does not serve any of SAA's network objectives," he said.
"A thorough analysis of the route made it clear that we could use our aircraft more profitably..."
Potgieter said many global airlines were increasingly finding flying via the UK challenging as that country's Treasury had just doubled Air Passenger Departure taxes and air traffic control, and other fees were particularly high.
"The Treasury move has even been opposed by UK-domiciled airlines due to its detrimental effect on trade, travel and tourism. Individual passengers from South Africa must now also pay a minimum of £52 (roughly R685) for transit visas if they are travelling beyond the UK," he said.