Review of South African flight Frankfurt Johannesburg in Business

Airline South African
Flight SA261
Class Business
Seat 4H
Aircraft Airbus A340-600
Flight time 11:00
Take-off 16 Dec 14, 20:35
Arrival at 17 Dec 14, 08:35
SA   #64 out of 142 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 54 reviews
Nick
By 3047
Published on 16th December 2015
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.

Johannesburg to Frankfurt (Economy, Lufthansa): http://flight-report.com/en/report-12213.html
Frankfurt to Cairo (Economy, Lufthansa): Mentioned in the prior report, full report skipped
Cairo to Casablanca (Economy, EgyptAir): http://flight-report.com/en/report-12363.html
(Side trip) Laayoune to Casablanca (Economy, Royal Air Maroc): http://flight-report.com/en/report-12400.html
Casablanca to Lisbon (Business, Portugalia): http://flight-report.com/en/report-12501.html
Lisbon to Frankfurt (Business, Lufthansa): http://flight-report.com/en/report-12718.html
Frankfurt to Johannesburg (Business, South African): You Are Here

photo December 2014 Flight Route


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.

photo IMG_3131photo IMG_3132photo IMG_3133


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.

photo IMG_3134photo IMG_3135


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.

photo IMG_3164


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.

photo IMG_3148photo IMG_3145


Breakfast.

photo IMG_3149


Some shots in the daylight as we neared JNB and wrapped up the flight.

photo IMG_3150photo IMG_3157photo IMG_3156


JNB arrivals.

photo IMG_3160


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.

photo DSC00468


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.

photo DSC00472


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.

photo DSC00473


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.

photo DSC00483photo DSC00482


The tour ended with a walk through this end of the neighborhood and the commercial area.

photo DSC00508photo DSC00501
See more

Verdict

South African

7.5/10
Cabin8.5
Cabin crew7.0
Entertainment/wifi6.5
Meal/catering8.0

Lufthansa Business Lounge Opposite Gate B44 (Non Schengen)

6.8/10
Comfort7.0
Meal/catering7.0
Entertainment/wifi6.0
Services7.0

Frankfurt - FRA

7.8/10
Efficiency8.0
Access7.5
Services7.0
Cleanliness8.5

Johannesburg - JNB

7.1/10
Efficiency6.0
Access7.5
Services7.5
Cleanliness7.5

Conclusion

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.

Information on the route Frankfurt (FRA) Johannesburg (JNB)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 5 reviews of 2 airlines on the route Frankfurt (FRA) → Johannesburg (JNB).


Useful

The airline with the best average rating is Lufthansa with 7.4/10.

The average flight time is 10 hours and 31 minutes.

  More information

10 Comments

  • Comment 154129 by
    SKYTEAMCHC GOLD 8167 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this report with us.
    As you say , compared to any economy flight it's much more better and I understand that you were satisfied with this flight.
    However for people who travel more often in business class this cabin looks out of fashion with a 2X2X2 seating and seats that make the cabin look cramped. The IFE could also be much more bigger.
    The meals look good but could be presented without the tray to give a more business class feeling. The amenity kit seems nice with everything you might need.
    Thanks also for the interesting bonus.

    • Comment 331709 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment SKYTEAMCHC! I've become well aware that this business class offering isn't up to par based on my extensive reading of other business class reports on here. I doubt South African will ever make a significant upgrade. Their recent cabin renovations look nearly exactly the same as this, just with Earth tones instead of blue upholstery.

  • Comment 154140 by
    socalnow GOLD 980 Comments

    Thank you Nick for sharing this excellent report. I really enjoy not only your flight experiences but your land experiences in such exotic destinations.

    As others have noted the cabin is from the 1990s but as you pointed out, it's worlds ahead of economy class!

    Plus a ride on the stunning A340-600 is hard to beat.

    Thanks again and happy flying.

  • Comment 154184 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    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
    - Congratulations Nick on your first long haul business experience. We all have to start somewhere, right? ;)

    The LH lounge looks relaxing and most importantly, not crowded. A full lounge is never a premium experience.

    Crowded cabin with lack of privacy. Other airlines do a better job with their seats, but you had a comfortable ride according to your marks and that's the important thing.

    The amenity kit looks very basic.

    It was kind of awkward that they ran out of the beef entree so early.
    - I find this inexcusable, especially on a long haul and with an airline that claims to be one of the best in Africa.

    The meal looks average but the soup and amuse bouche are nice extras.

    Very interesting bonus. You seem to go for unique, authentic local experiences. Thanks for sharing this nice FR.

    • Comment 331852 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Thanks for reading and commenting Jetsetpanda, I agree with all your comments. I certainly do my best to go for authentic local experiences wherever I go. The usual tourist attractions and sightseeing spots don't really do it for me.

  • Comment 154234 by
    NGO85 1622 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this FR with us!

    Congratulations on your first long-haul J experience! As others have said, J > Y no matter what the cabin looks like. This cabin reminds me a lot of the one that SK still has. It's a shame SA is not modernizing their fleet. You've probably seen a lot of the KQ and ET reports coming out recently and how much more modernized their hard-product is, which doesn't bode well for SA (especially since ET is a *A competitor). It sounds like you were able to get some sleep so the seat obviously did it's job.

    I don't have much to compare it
    - I'd say it's on the light side (no pen or lip balm), but it also depends on what they stocked in the lavatory. For example, SQ doesn't give kits, so you can't really judge a carrier by its kits.

    It was kind of awkward that they ran out of the beef entree so early.
    - This is a common occurrence on US carriers too. I've yet to encounter this problem on an Asian carrier since they usually don't under load their galleys. Based on what I saw in EastAfrican's report, SA's presentation could be better, but it's the taste that counts and if you liked the food then that's all the matters (You can't judge taste from pictures). Getting served a soup is always nice, not very common these days.

    Fascinating bonus. You are pretty adventurous, I'd be feeling nervy going into that brewery! But I guess if she liked 1980s WWF, then she was probably legit.

    • Comment 331859 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Yeah, Ethiopian's 787 product is quite sharp, heads and shoulders above South African right now. It doesn't seem like South African is keen to compete either. Their latest business class renovation looks just like this but with Earth tone upholstery.

      Haha, I was pretty nervous to take a sip of that homemade beer. It tasted warm and bitter and had a thick consistency. I think I'll stick with the store bought stuff. The whole tour was a very eye opening experience.

  • Comment 154529 by
    East African 1521 Comments

    Hi Nick,

    Many thanks for this short and sweet FR which is, if i'm not mistaken, the very first on A340 and from FRA here on Flight Report, well done! Congrats that with the fare paid you did not get a craddle seat/narrow body bird, a dry airline nor odd hour departure/arrival times which remain the most essential criterias when travelling upfront!

    SAA is the best airline in Africa for 12 consecutive years in a row including 2015 according to Skytrax, surely there must be a valid reason! I do hope they recover quickly from the financial turmoil and will manage to offer an up to date hard product for demanding local and international travelers. Like you as a rookie, I must admit that the catering and seat would have sufficed me (At the opposite of the strong guy on the pic after Some shots in the daylight as we neared JNB and wrapped up the flight. who looks cramped while sleeping^^).

    Did you not have enough time for a quick visit at the Arrivals Lounge in JNB?

    Your bonuses are truly unique/interesting and somehow contrast with the hotel stay lol!
    using Mageu Number 1 banana drink => if you have been to Zambia or Malawi there is a famous drink named Super Maheu quite tasty, filling too and sometimes flavoured with banana, is it the same?

    Very looking forward for more of your travel experiences :-)

    Best regards

    • Comment 332255 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Thanks for commenting East African! I too hope that SAA will get their hard product up to par but it doesn't look likely in the near future.

      I wasn't even aware of the arrivals lounge at JNB or I would have definitely tried it out. Where is it?

      I have been to both Zambia and Malawi, but haven't encountered Super Maheu. I just Googled it and read up on it and it seems very similar if not exactly the same. They both appear to be maize based with several different flavors.

Login to post a comment.