This is the final report about my roundtrip itinerary from Johannesburg to Casablanca on Star Alliance. If you've read any of the prior entries, go ahead and skip the preamble.
Intra-Africa travel can yield a great value when using United MileagePlus awards, if done correctly. Travel between most city pairs in Africa are usually the same award price, whether they're an hour apart or across the continent. When travelling from far southern Africa to far northern Africa, you can often get a complicated routing through Europe. For someone looking to get from point A to point B, this may be viewed negatively, but for a backpacking AvGeek, it's a huge positive. My itinerary below cost 52,500 Mileage Plus Miles and $192.30 in taxes and fees. It was ticketed as a roundtrip from Johannesburg to Casablanca, but it afforded me an 8 hour daytime layover in Frankfurt, a two night stopover in Cairo, and a 17.5 hour overnight layover in Lisbon. For comparison's sake, a one way Business Saver Award from Frankfurt to Johannesburg is 55,000 miles plus taxes and fees. Even Frankfurt to Casablanca would cost 55,000 miles, a bad value for such a short distance, but that's the price of Europe region to Northern Africa region. I was technically just travelling from Southern Africa region to Northern Africa region and back. The value of itineraries like this are even greater when you consider the high cash price of intra-Africa airfares.
The Lufthansa business lounge near my gate was great. It had plenty of self serve drinks and decent snacks like big pretzels, though nothing meal-like such as sandwiches. It also wasn't crowded so I had plenty of room to spread out. I didn't have my JNB boarding pass yet, but they let me in without hassle. If you recognize this lounge and notice that I picked the wrong one in list above, please let me know and I'll fix it. I don't remember specifically which lounge this was.
The layout was 2-2-2 with each seat turning into a horizontal lie-flat. My apologies for missing a picture of the seat in bed mode.
This is the amenity kit (snapped this picture later at the hotel). I don't have much to compare it to since this was the first long-haul business class ticket I've ever bought.
The food was fine, though again I don't really know what to expect. It was kind of awkward that they ran out of the beef entree so early. This was actually the last one they had left, the guy sitting next to me got his second choice of chicken. We were seated only about halfway back in the business cabin, so I imagine most pax were left without their first choice.
The IFE was a small fold out screen from the armrest. Not very comfortable to watch and not a very good selection.
Some shots in the daylight as we neared JNB and wrapped up the flight.
Gautrain station at the airport. The Gautrain is very clean and safe and the best way to get from the airport to Sandton, where I was staying.
I stayed at the Hilton Sandton using Points + Money. For me it was 12,000 HHonors Points and 500 Rand. Looks like they've since increased this rate to 16,000 Points and 785 Rand, but the Rand has also lost about 30% against the Dollar since this stay.
That marks the end of the flight portion of the trip. Read on for a short tourism bonus of Johannesburg.
I took a bicycle tour of Alexandra Township which is pretty close to Sandton, just one Gautrain stop away. Jeff, the main operator, picked me up at the station and brought me over to their home base where I settled the bill and picked out a bike. I was the only one on this tour and Jeff's right hand man Papi was my guide.
We started out in the upper class area of Alexandra.
Midway through the tour we stopped by Papi's house to get his clothes off the line before it started raining. You can see our bikes on the lower right of the photo.
We stopped at this woman's house to get some homemade beer which is brewed in the large blue container on the right side of the photo using Mageu Number 1 banana drink seen in the next photo. Not sure if you can tell in the photo, but she was watching 1980s era WWE professional wrestling on that TV in the back. Papi said he also liked watching professional wrestling.
The tour ended with a walk through this end of the neighborhood and the commercial area.
Lufthansa Business Lounge Opposite Gate B44 (Non Schengen)
Frankfurt - FRA
Johannesburg - JNB
It's hard for me to compare this flight to its peers since this this is the first long haul business class flight I've ever bought. Comparing to my usual economy though, this was fantastic, haha. The fully flat seat made it easy to sleep and the food wasn't bad. My only gripe would be that the IFE was small, old, and had a pretty poor selection. Also, they ran out of the beef entree only halfway through the cabin. Overall, I had a good experience.
I definitely recommend the Hilton Sandton. It doesn't look very glitzy from the outside, but the inside is definitely high end and the rates aren't bad either. The location is also pretty good being walking distance to Sandton City Mall and the Sandton Gautrain station.
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