Review of South African flight Hong Kong Johannesburg in Economy

Airline South African
Flight SA287
Class Economy
Seat --
Aircraft Airbus A340-300
Flight time 13:25
Take-off 22 Feb 15, 23:50
Arrival at 23 Feb 15, 07:15
SA   #64 out of 142 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 54 reviews
pwecar
By 5477
Published on 3rd March 2015
Hello and welcome to my latest trip to South Africa with SAA.
It was Spring Festival, and the whole country was in the move: either going home or going on holidays.
For our holiday we decided to visit some warm place, yet there isn't many places warmer than Guangdong: too crowded in Southeast Asia and too expensive for Oceania and South America. So in overall there's only one option left: Africa. Since South Africa is the most developed country in Africa, it should be the most accessible destination.

There would be 4 legs of flying, all with South African Airways:
SA287 HKG-JNB A343 [This Report]
SA359 JNB-CPT B738 [http://flight-report.com/en/report-9585.html]
SA334 CPT-JNB A346 [http://flight-report.com/en/report-9625.html]
SA286 JNB-HKG A346 [http://flight-report.com/en/report-10136.html]

The group meeting point was in Fuyong Port, near Shenzhen Airport. Therefore we took a coach bus to SZX at 1300, almost 11 hours before the departure time..
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The legroom wasn't that nice as the airport express to CAN.
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Surprising we didn't meet any traffic en route to SZX, thanks to the opening of S3 highway. This highway is situated right under the approach route to SZX, a great news for planespotters!
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Within 70 minutes we could already see the airport in distance.
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And here we are. From the picture you can see crowds of people watching takeoffs in the viaduct(without pedestrian walk). Three days ago a car lost control at this place, rushing towards the crowd and killing 9 innocent persons.
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The iconic design in the SZX T3.
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We waited another 2 hours in the SZX GTC(Ground Transport Centre). There were also several shops and restaurants in this building, with affordable prices.
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At 1630 we took the free shuttle bus from SZX to Fuyong Port.
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We waited another hour to catch the 1830 ferry….
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Finally….
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There was only 40~50 pax for a 400 pax ferry so you were free to sit on anywhere.
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On the second floor there's even an empty first class section though I didn't notice any difference except a wider seat.
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The ferry only took 45 minutes to HKG Skypier.
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For selected airlines like CX, KA and HX you can even check your baggage on your departing port. For other airlines there's a list of check-in counters in Skypier.
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Here's the departures tonight.
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Since the Skypier is out of the HK immigration, there's dedicated security lines for ferry passengers, which means, no waiting at all!

There's an APM line connecting the Skypier to the airside of main terminal.
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Still 4 hours till the departure time…

Though flying in Y, we had Dragonpass(introduced in my previous reports) credits that can be used in lots of lounges worldwide, and in HKG, the Plaza Premium Lounges.

There are two Plaza Premium Lounges in HKG Departures and an arrival lounge, one located near gate 2 and another in gate 40. At the time we were informed that the gate for our flight would be 31, at the middle of the Central concourse. We opted for the one on the west wing(near gate 40) since it was less crowded.

Several different lounges were also located upstairs, including Emirates Lounge, United Club, Thai Lounge, and so on.
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I was quite hungry so the food station was my first stop. Food was mostly oriental except the Vegetarian Pizza. All selections were quite tasty.

You could grab these classic Canton dishes from the noodle bar.
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A disappointment for alcohol lovers: there wasn't any alcohol drinks apart from beers. I'm not a fan of alcohol so it's OK for me.

Later I made my way to the resting area that featured more comfy seats. All seats were equipped with a power socket plus a USB port, however most USB ports were not working and the output was too small to charge my device faster.
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Snack station.
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It's quite difficult to take aircraft pictures from the lounge due to the glasses.
A Royal Jordanian B787 was being pushed back.
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The PCs offered in the lounge were too slow to open multiple pages while surfing. Actually it crashed right after I took this picture…
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Shower room is located in the airline invitations zone. For pay-in users you gotta buy extra packs to access.

Time flies and soon it was 2300. Strangely our aircraft was still in the remote stand.
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In overall the lounge is a good place to kill time if you don't wanna shop in those duty free stores.

Heading to gate 31.
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Surprisingly a Cathay B77W was parking at the gate we were supposed to use while our plane was still out there. Soon the gate change announcement said we were departing from gate 524, a bus gate.
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CX flight to JNB was also gate changed. Some CX passengers was waiting in our gate till the agent directed them to the correct one.
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BP.
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The second shuttle bus didn't show up till 0020, causing a further delay.
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Finally..12hrs after leaving….we were there!
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ZS-SXF would be operating today. This wasn't anything good as it was one of the three A343s that has 2 extra rows squeezed in the Y class.
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According to the ground agent the LF was only about 50%, really a surprise during the Chinese New Year.
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The seat is wide on the shoulder yet a bit narrow on the bottom due to the wide armrest.
Legroom was not too bad.
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Safety video was a bit boring…could be more attractive.
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Amenity kits were handed out by FA. There were a toothbrush & toothpaste, an eyeshade and a pair of socks in it.
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Some reading materials.
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Then the chief purser came to speaking. She said that after 33 years of flying our captain would be retiring when we land in JNB and there would be a water cannon ceremony dedicated to him!
I couldn't be more exciting! It is something you don't see everyday!

And we were rolling on rwy 07R. The Airbus A340-300, also known as a 5 APU Plane in Chinese flyers, wasn't that powerful as other heavies like B777. I think it took much longer time than expected to rotate….

The IFE was engaged shortly after airborne. SAA hadn't updated their seats since the introduction of these heavies, so it looked a bit outdated. The touchscreen was not sensitive nor accurate, so you'd better use the controller instead.
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Though not as good as its east Asian competitors, the old system still provided with adequate and rather new choice on movies. There were even Chinese subtitles on some new releases. Thumbs up!

On the redeye flight SAA still offered a proper hot meal after takeoff. Three choices were available: Beef with fried rice..
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which is tender and juicy..
And a teriyaki pork..
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which is also quite good in portion and flavor.

There's also a vegetarian option that I didn't try on.

The salad and egg pudding were also really delicious.

Metal cutlery also added some points to the catering.

Beverages selections were quite good and generous. All beverages were bottled and you are free to take as you wish.

In overall this is the best airplane food I've had so far.

Take a glimpse on the galley and the cabin.
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Still a long way to go…
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On the following hours I struggled to get asleep…Probably 3 hours or so..It was still noisy on the back of the fuselage despite the noise in A343 was significantly less than B772.

90 minutes prior landing the breakfast service commenced. Two choices were available:
One is omelette with hashbrown and sausage..
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the other being stir-fried noodle with bok choy and fried dumplings.
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Well done!

It's time to freshen up for the water cannon!
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Entering the Africa continent.


For better views I switched to an empty window seat. More photos:
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Safety instructions.
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There's a large IFE box under the seat that could be really bothersome.
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Almost there!
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You can see the shadow of our aircraft on the thick clouds below.
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We crossed the clouds just moments before touchdown.
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Final approach.
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The CX flight had arrived..The cruise speed for B77W is faster than its competitors, therefore having the same scheduled departure time, CX's average flight time on HKG-JNB is almost 30 minutes less than SA's.
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BA A380 operated as BA55 had delayed for an hour too..
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And here the salute comes!
WARNING: YOU WILL GET WET AHEAD!


The crews on this flight were really professional and attentive. They kept handing bottle water to passengers to keep them hydrated.
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Then I made my way to the cockpit.
Passing the business class cabin. Leading the industry 10 years ago, lie flat seats are now mandatory for top airlines while some of them even opted for direct aisle accessed seats for more privacy and convenience added to passengers.
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My first ever cockpit tour!
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Had some very good conversation with copilot. He's an Airbus pilot while favors more on Boeing^_^
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The star today: Captain Vic Powell! Happy retirement!
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Since the BA A380 was arriving, to avoid super long queues I had to rush to the immigration. Wish I could stay longer!

We parked at gate A7, next to an El Al B763.
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Tarmac view.
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Within 3 minutes I got to the immigration.
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It took me another 10 minutes to cross the border, not too bad during the morning rush hours in JNB.
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Arrivals hall, occupied by Samsung..
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Our first stop in SA would be Pretoria, 40 minutes from OR Tambo International. On the highway you can see those parked heavies resting for the evening departures.
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And here's the first part of my holiday with SA. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for next!
See more

Verdict

South African

8.5/10
Cabin7.5
Cabin crew10.0
Entertainment/wifi6.5
Meal/catering10.0

Plaza Premium Lounge Management Limited The Travelers' Lounge (West Hall)

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

Hong Kong - HKG

10.0/10
Efficiency10.0
Access10.0
Services10.0
Cleanliness10.0

Johannesburg - JNB

8.0/10
Efficiency8.0
Access8.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

SAA offers impressive and solid soft products. The only drawback is the lack of Chinese-speaking FA on Chinese routes which would be really nice touch to Chinese customers.
The hard products were a bit outdated but still comfortable.
Plaza Premium Lounge were not too bad. Being a pay-in lounge you really couldn't expect more. The lack of free showers and resting place is the biggest issue.
HKG is the best airport in the world.
Though not quite modern, JNB does a good job on providing basic services.

Related

9 Comments

  • Comment 130963 by
    padawan 1498 Comments

    Thank you for your first FR to Africa !
    What a long way from home to the plane :/
    The catering looks good. Too bad the pitch is occupied by the IFEbox.

  • Comment 130977 by
    NGO85 1622 Comments

    Thanks for the report, looking forward to some Cape Town pictures!

    As Padawan said, it was quite an odyssey just to get to HKG from your home for the flight. I hope you are spending the night in HK before heading home after the return flight.

    Two full meals with Western/Chinese options for both is a plus for the catering. Were there ample snacks in the galleys between meals? What was in the amenity kit?

    It sounds like you had a great crew, which makes up for the antiquated cabin (although older long-haul seats are generally better than the new slim-line seats that are like sitting on a park bench).

    HKG is the best airport in the world. You've obviously never been to NY-LaGuardia. (<== that's a joke if you haven't been there before)

    • Comment 311867 by
      pwecar AUTHOR 53 Comments

      Actually my home is just less than 60km from HKG if you measure the distance on the map...We wanted to make sure not missing the ferry in SZX since the highway was always full of traffic and there isn't an alternative route.
      On the returning flight I asked for some snacks yet only some biscuits and chips were available at the time.
      There were a toothbrush, an eyepatch and a pair of socks in the amenity kit.
      The seat was comfy in general and the pitch was generous according to data provided by their website(33.5in).
      Though not visiting LGA before I know the place was notorious for being a Third world airport lol.

  • Comment 130985 by
    SKYTEAMCHC GOLD 8167 Comments

    Thanks for this report of an airline that we don't see so often on Flight report.
    The cabin looks from another era but the flight seems good with a great crew and a catering for which i might have not given a 10 but that seems good for coach class.
    The amenity kit looks nice and is a good thing on such a flight.
    The last pics are much better in quality than those at the beginning report , did you change your camera ?
    Looking forward to further reports from you.

  • Comment 130994 by
    Airline Spotter 90 Comments

    Great report. Funny fact I was also in HKG airport this day, I was waiting for my flight by back to Paris!

  • Comment 131814 by
    Chibcha 432 Comments

    Thanks for this unusual FR!

    It seems like a pretty long flight, good thing SA's 343s look well maintained. I found the way HK airport is connected to the mainland so interesting and clever!

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