Review of South African flight New York Johannesburg in Economy

Airline South African
Flight SA204
Class Economy
Seat 68C
Aircraft Airbus A340-600
Flight time 15:25
Take-off 20 Jul 18, 10:50
Arrival at 21 Jul 18, 08:15
SA   #58 out of 124 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 52 reviews
JAZ350
By 1513
Published on 31st December 2018
J.Hamilton for JAZ350

Johannesburg Express


Welcome to my flight review! The world series continues as we embark on the journey from New York JFK to Johannesburg's OR Tambo Int'l. As one of the longest flights in the world, this route stands among the few that connect North America to the Motherland. Below are some details of the report:

Details

Aircraft Registration: ZS-SND
Aircraft Type: A340-600
Boarding: 10:30 (NYC time)
Push Back: 10:55 (NYC time)
Departure: 11:10 (NYC time)
Arrival: 08:25 (J'burg time)


On a bright July morning, the A340-600 stood perched at T4. South African Airways shares this multi airline terminal with DL and VS, amongst others.
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Our J'burg chariot at gate b29.
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T4 was relatively quiet around boarding, the time between push back and takeoff was relatively short.
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It was clear that SAA's cabin was aging as seen by the old personal TVs and worn Recaro seats. The IFE was also quite limited. This particular Airbus (ZS-SND) had been delivered in Nov 2003.
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As we banked, we headed towards the Southern Atlantic. Soon after lunch was served. I chose the butter chicken and white rice which was absolutely amazing![photo 558beed8-5d7b-4b9c-85f9-c3693f7fda2dphoto d8e5988b-3a57-4341-836f-309897a33580

Midday came while the aircraft made its way. The gorgeous flag of the rainbow nation poses as a stark contrast to the blue sky.photo 267cadf5-0ef9-4e0a-8e0f-6f21a6e02099photo 4d69d5c8-a925-4be2-a1fb-cd8f5886448f

Inflight map
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A few more hours in, the sun began to set as we approached the western tip of the African continent.Nighttime swiftly approached. The cabin fell into sleep while the aircraft meandered its way over the borders of Southern Africa.
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Dawn came and the crew brought breakfast. Although the meal was not quite as nice as lunch, it wasn't too bad. I picked the western option.photo 0879fbdf-5fb4-4c49-a37a-2606e47e711a

Soon enough, cabin crew prepared the cabin for arrival. The beauty of the nation shown radiantly whilst on approach. photo 44d3aef7-c484-4a55-9ef9-b52062da6584

Just like that, our journey was over and I made my way to customs and immigration. Before however, I was able to snap this pic of VS's 787.



Thank you for viewing!

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Verdict

South African

7.1/10
Cabin6.5
Cabin crew9.0
Entertainment5.0
Meal/catering8.0

New York - JFK

6.6/10
Efficiency6.5
Access6.0
Services6.0
Cleanliness8.0

Johannesburg - JNB

7.3/10
Efficiency7.0
Access7.5
Services7.0
Cleanliness7.5

Conclusion

South African offers an overall average product. Despite this, there were a few great parts of this flight. Unfortunately, IFE and seating were aging which would inevitably play a role on the customer experience. I am hopeful however that this experience does not occur throughout the entire SAA fleet.

Related

9 Comments

  • Comment 482274 by
    KL651 TEAM 4230 Comments

    Thanks for this FR.
    The meals look good but are they enough for such a long flight?
    Too bad the IFE was ancient as you sure need entertainment for 15 hours.

  • Comment 482822 by
    hometoyyz 406 Comments

    Hi Jaz350

    I transit JFK T4 fairly frequently, and often see SA’s planes there. Nice to see a review of the flight experience. I’ve only ever done LHR-JNB and reverse, and JNB-DPT with SA, so interesting to see their ultra longhaul experience.

    The Flying Pencil certainly has a certain attractiveness to it, and your shots of the bird are great.

    Ooof! That IFE! Did then hand out pneumatic headsets too? At least the catering looks really good for economy — and god a good review too.

    How was immigration? I’ve had some loooong waits at JNB.

    Thanks for a sharing a great quick look at a very long flight. I’m glad it was a fairly positive experience for you!

    • Comment 483217 by
      JAZ350 AUTHOR 26 Comments

      To my surprise, the immigration wait was pretty short, no more then 20 or 25 minutes. Fortunately I brought my own headsets so I did not pay much attention to what types they handed out. In respect to catering, I was impressed with the quality we received. I'd like to try other African carriers to compare their service. Thanks for reading!

      • Comment 483407 by
        hometoyyz 406 Comments

        Just in case the joke fell flat, the reference to pneumatic headphones was is referring to really old-timey in-flight-entertainment. I remember having those old pneumatics on my first flight, when I was five, going to Wales on a CP Air 747. Listened to the kids’ channel on the headphones the whole way there and the whole way back.

        • Comment 483409 by
          KévinDC TEAM GOLD 4555 Comments

          LOL, I remember those too! When I was a kid in the 90s on Tower Air 747s. It was the coolest thing flying a 747 when I was a kid (still is), but now that how know how crappy Tower Air was run, I'm thankful to be alive, haha

  • Comment 483338 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 4555 Comments

    Nice report! The A346 is a beautiful bird, but SAA would do well to refresh the ancient cabin, especially compared to the new A330s. Otherwise service looks quite nice, especially butter chicken for the meal, yum!

    I never really understood why SAA fly nonstop to JFK, but fly a 1-stop to my home airport of IAD for a similar distance.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 483392 by
      JAZ350 AUTHOR 26 Comments

      I often wondered when SAA would change the cabin on the A346s. I'm actually looking to try out the IAD-ACC route this summer. I was thinking that it stops due to fuel, maybe? But I know some people that use SAA to get to DSS or ACC so it can be useful to some extent.

      • Comment 483395 by
        KévinDC TEAM GOLD 4555 Comments

        Yeah, the A330 for sure doesn't have the legs of the A346, but should still be able to do IAD-JNB without too much weight restriction. But you're right, it does seem that there's a real market for IAD to DSS and ACC so SAA may be smart in doing that stop and making money on that TATL sector.

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