Review of South African flight Johannesburg Nairobi in Business

Airline South African
Flight SA180
Class Business
Seat 3A
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 04:20
Take-off 24 Nov 15, 15:45
Arrival at 24 Nov 15, 21:05
SA   #64 out of 142 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 54 reviews
East African
Published on 28th December 2015
Hi there,

Welcome to the 4th installment of this Series that covers the first leg to Europe.
Thanks to the delayed KQ762, the ground team rebooked me on this SA180 in order to catch KL566 from Nairobi.

The itinerary:


1/ MRS – AMS: Air France, AF1820, Economy: no report
2/ AMS – LHR: KLM, KL1021, EBC (C), B737-700, click here
3/ LHR – NBO: Kenya Airways, Premier World (J), B787-800,click here
4/ NBO – JNB: Kenya Airways, Premier World (J), B787-800, click here
5/ JNB – NBO: Kenya Airways, Premier World (J), You are here
6/ NBO – AMS: KLM, World Business Class (J), coming soon
7/ AMS – MRS: Air France, AF1807, Economy: no report



Yeah, the other basic option suggested the direct KL592 overnight but the primary fear was getting, as a reward of a worthless 12h idle time at JNB, the infamous KLM old J seat on some of 772/77Ws (like in KevinDC's great TR) …


Finally it got delayed by 2h only!
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At 1:50 pm, KQ agent informed me about the long walk towards SAA check in counters at the opposite side from where we dealt with the issue. A friendly agent tagged my luggage all the way up to Marseille. As i had left my M&M card at home, later i discovered the hassle of claiming miles from SAA (BP was sent to Flying Blue already), different from most of *A partners…

Premium check in area
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Initially a stroll at the nearest observation deck was planned, but the remaining time forced to go airside and discover the Baobab lounge. I must admit it's a very convenient place, much better than The Pride Lounge in Nairobi, and also outpaces BA Galleries located just accross the windows.

Platinum go left, business class pax go right, the fouth lounge visited in Jo'burg!
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General view
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Natural light
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A glimpse at BA Galleries & First Class Lounge
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The light choice ( food area is self service while it is a staffed bar)
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At gate A08, a A320 waited for the crowd, i was glad because 738 with an old 2-3 config are often seen elsewhere in Africa.

ZS – SZF – 16 months old
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Since March 2014, SAA A320 have Priestmangoode design cabin. Nice colors!

No PDB, but as soon as slides were armed, the crew handed over a bottle of still water and offered newspapers.

24 premium seats
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Pillows softer (and bigger) than KQ ones
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The good crew sprang into action and distributed a warm towel, a food and drink menus and treated us immediately with plate of gorgeous cold canapés.

JNB
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Reading material
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Probably not noise cancelling, but somewhat ok!
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=> Menu ( translated in French too)

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As fine as some well known champagne brands
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They consisted of fish, beef and cheese, lovely!
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For the starter, the purser let the passenger select his preference, as she carried around trays of both choices – SAA can not go wrong that way!

Event though, they patrolled regularly the cabin to top up glasses or assist passengers, i found the service was rushed.

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What you have to choose from
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Juicy and firm texture, on the left a piece garlic bread quite starchy tho
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Once the hors d'oeuvre plate was cleared, i got my main course order taken!

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Far from reaching half of the knowledges of a wine connoisseur, she made me taste both!
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Visually, not exactly what was expected, especially after KQ's fabulous lamb rack on LHR – NBO leg
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Cooked perfectly, but it definitely lacked of flavours and herbs!
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Always a kind gesture to sample new chocolates, too bad i was still chewing on my lamb … :-(
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Dessert and cheeses!
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These first mini bottles probably froze over as the sweet nectar thickened and became impossible to pour. It got replaced very quickly with sincere apologies
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Pitch of 39, recline of 7
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To stow your tablet ;-)
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Lake Malawi !
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The last 2hr were spent on reading and listening some music from a Zambian artist… ;-) :


The forward galley curtain remained open during the entire flight duration, the best way to focus on customer service?
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Let's go for more then!
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After landing slightly behind schedule, 2 buses drove passengers to the Arrivals hall ( most of them) or the main departure terminal for a onward journey (only a handful of people including me) via the security checks of T1A.

Should not we be parked the other way round… ;-) ?
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Notice the sticker Nelson Mandela Day on the fuselage
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See more

Verdict

South African

6.8/10
Cabin6.0
Cabin crew7.0
Entertainment/wifi6.0
Meal/catering8.0

South African Airways Baobab Lounge

7.4/10
Comfort7.5
Meal/catering7.5
Entertainment/wifi7.0
Services7.5

Johannesburg - JNB

7.8/10
Efficiency6.5
Access8.0
Services7.5
Cleanliness9.0

Nairobi - NBO

7.2/10
Efficiency8.0
Access7.0
Services4.0
Cleanliness10.0

Conclusion

A premium lane at security and immigration could be a great improvement.
I could not see a rest area at the lounge. However one can hardly complain about the atmosphere and the other features!
In flight SAA offer a solid product, a bit disappointed by the lamb meal and the lack of personnal IFE.
At the end of the day, I'm glad to have experienced for the first time SAA C product, courtesy of my most flown airline: Kenya Airways

Thanks for reading, coming up next KLM 747 to AMS?

Information on the route Johannesburg (JNB) Nairobi (NBO)

8 Comments

  • Comment 153440 by
    hometoyyz SILVER 538 Comments

    Thanks for this flight report!

    The new cabin on the A320 looks a lot better than the sad, old 2-3 configuration I flew last year on JNB-CPT. The seats are interesting.. at first glance, they look rather similar to a current-generation slimline economy seat... but then there's a decent console between the seats, and a good legrest/cradle system. They look good, though, for a narrowbody premium cabin seat.

    Although it sounds like the lamb was a bit of a disappointment, I'm impressed by the catering on a narrowbody C flight, although I'd guess that NBO would be a premium destination for SA, if they have such a designation.

  • Comment 153455 by
    Nick 172 Comments

    Wow, great report. Looked like a nice onboard service overall. I have a SAA A320 business class itinerary coming up and this makes me look forward to it. Out of curiosity, is the Baobab lounge the main lounge for SAA business pax? If there are others, I'd assume Baobab is the nicest?

    • Comment 331684 by
      East African AUTHOR 1522 Comments

      Thanks Nick for your feedback

      Lucky you! what will be the routing?

      If you arrive at JNB in J/C, don't forget to check SAA Arrivals lounge, i saw the signs after the customs but obviously could not enter!
      TBH with you it looks like the platinum entry leads left to another section reserved exclusively for the most loyal pax, but i'm not 100% sure ( please correct me if i'm wrong), since after the reception one has to walk right a bit further into the corridor to discover the massive business class section!

      Of course if you fly domestic that will be a different lounge

  • Comment 153526 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5256 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this great report! in a way, it's kind of cool that your flight was cancelled and that you were rebooked on SAA to try a different product. Wow, I'm really surprised that an A320 has 6 rows of Business class! In the U.S. there's usually only 3 or 4 rows of Premium cabin. These new seats look really nice and certainly better than the previous weird 2-3 configuration on narrowbodies.

    How interesting that the menu on JNB-NBO, between two English speaking countries was translated into French. They must have known they had a Frenchman onboard :-) Very impressed with the choice of 3 appetizers! I just flew CX Regional and there were no choices on appetizers. Catering looks really good overall, although the main is not terribly attractive.

    Thanks for sharing and see you on the next one!

    • Comment 331685 by
      East African AUTHOR 1522 Comments

      Thank you KevinDC

      Indeed, the rebooking was the best thing that could have happened on this day!
      Good to know about the premium cabin in the US!
      How long lasted your flight on CX?
      i presume that the 3rd appetizer choice is the salad visible on the tray :-)

  • Comment 154164 by
    NGO85 1622 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this FR with us!

    The A320 cabins on SA look so much better than those 3-2 business class cabins they used to use. The cabin looks really good visually, but the obvious flaw is the lack of a personal IFE. However, for a 5-hour flight, you can’t even compare these seats to what KQ offers. For a shorter flight, this looks like a very nice regional product.

    SA’s catering looks very strong; getting to select your appetizer is very rare. Four choices of main on a regional flight is also very impressive. Issues I see are the lack of linens and the use of trays (looks like it is covered by a piece of paper?). Presentation of the dishes didn’t look the greatest, but there didn’t seem to be any shortage of food (and drinks) on this flight.

    Having already flown the KQ B788s, it was at least a nice opportunity to unexpectedly try a new product!

    • Comment 332059 by
      East African AUTHOR 1522 Comments

      Many thanks for another extensive comment NGO85

      However, for a 5-hour flight, you can’t even compare these seats to what KQ offers. For a shorter flight, this looks like a very nice regional product. JNB-NBO is a 4h flight maximum (there is 1h time difference), also i think that A320 are sent to all continental destinations, sometimes SAA schedule the B737 for neighbouring countries. Surprinsigly the A330 is a regular visitor to Harare - Zimbabwe.
      Issues I see are the lack of linens and the use of trays (looks like it is covered by a piece of paper?) => You are absolutely right to notice this, you are an expert of premium cabins
      Presentation of the dishes didn’t look the greatest, but there didn’t seem to be any shortage of food (and drinks) on this flight. => i do agree especially after accommodating last minute passengers

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