FLIGHT REVIEW: South African Airways: Johannesburg to Lagos
As one of the leading airlines in Africa, South African Airways hardly needs an introduction. Based at the O.R Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, South African Airways is a full-service airline operating domestic and regional flights.
My last international flight with South African Airways was in 2018. I enjoyed the airline’s services and looked forward to flying with them again. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the airline’s business rescue program threw spanner in the works. But the opportunity to fly with the airline presented itself again, and I jumped at it.
DATE: 23 October, 2022
ROUTE: Johannesburg - Lagos
SCHEDULED DEPARTURE TIME: 3:55 pm
ACTUAL DEPARTURE TIME: 4:07 pm
SCHEDULED ARRIVAL TIME: 8:45 pm
ACTUAL ARRIVAL TIME: 8:47 pm
EQUIPMENT: Airbus A330-300
FLIGHT TIME: 5 hours, 40 minutes
CHECK-IN AND BOARDING
The night before my flight, I checked in online in the comfort of my hotel room, and downloaded my boarding pass on my phone. It was very easy and convenient. I selected seat 54K.
South African Airways has an efficient and easy-to-use online check-in platform which allows passengers to check in for their flights from the comfort of their own spaces - be it home, office, or on the go. The airline’s mobile check-in opens 24 hours before scheduled departure time and closes 60 minutes before domestic departure and 90 minutes before international and regional departures.
I arrived the O.R Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg around 12:10pm - almost 3 hours before the scheduled departure time of 3:55pm. Since I already checked in online and selected my seat in advance, I only needed to check in my luggage and collect paper boarding pass. And that was after going through other pre-departure formalities, including the COVID-19 'Permit to Travel' check for passengers travelling to Nigeria.
I was travelling with two checked-in bags, weighing 19kg each. South African Airways offers a generous baggage allowance on international flights, allowing economy class passengers to carry up to 2 checked in luggage of 23kg each for free.
Check-in staff at the airport were friendly and helpful. Generally, bag drop off was fast and without issues. And with that, I proceeded to immigration checks and security clearance, both of which also turned out to be hassle-free.
Boarding commenced at gate A4 by 3:10pm, and in no particular order. The Cabin Crew was very welcoming, wearing those signature, but friendly smiles. They were willing and happy to help passengers who needed help. Although it was a full flight, boarding was fast and swift.
THE AIRCRAFT AND THE SEAT
The aircraft was ZS-SXM - a 5-year old Airbus A330-300, delivered brand-new to South African Airways in 2017. It was a familiar aircraft type, having had a few flights on it before now. So, after locating my seat and stowing my hand luggage in the overhead bin, the first thing I did was to check out the aircraft from the comfort of my seat space. And being relatively new, the aircraft spotted a clean and modern interior.
This Airbus A330-300 was configured in two classes: Economy Class and Business Class. The Economy Class cabin had an 8-abreast seating configuration in a staggered 2-4-2 layout. Staggered layout enhances onboard comfort as it makes movement within the cabin easier for both passengers and crew. The aircraft featured comfortable interior, warm colours, and relaxed atmosphere. And with only a total of 249 seats, this aircraft is one of the most premium-heavy and most spacious A330-300s in the skies.
My seat was 54K - a window seat in the first economy class cabin. I love window seats a lot as they help me put my avgeek instincts into good use. The slim-line seat was ergonomic and felt quite comfortable. I didn’t get to measure the seat width and the seat pitch, but both were very generous and better than the industry's standard.
For comfort during the flight, all economy class passengers were provided with amenity kits, including a pillow, a blanket, toothbrush and toothpaste, eye pouch and a pair of socks.
THE FLIGHT AND THE CREW
With the aircraft’s door armed and cross-checked, we pushed back at 3:50pm and commenced our long taxi to the runway. Cleared for takeoff, the two Rolls-Royce Trent 700 turbofan engines came to life and the A330-300 began its takeoff roll, and gently lifted off for a westerly departure.
Climb out from Johannesburg and the initial phase of cruise were punctuated by pockets of mild to moderate turbulence. But that was nothing to worry about as the flight crew provided adequate information and all necessary assistance. Besides, the A330 handled the turbulence well. And we cruised at 36,000 feet above sea level.
Members of the cabin crew were generally warm, approachable, and easy to relate with. They were extremely friendly and professional, both on ground and throughout the flight. For the entire duration of the flight, they demonstrated a high level of professionalism and competence, especially during the turbulence. They were responsive and attended to passengers timely and politely.
And barring the few pockets of turbulence, the flight was generally uneventful and smooth. The Airbus A330-300 handled the flight very well, I found it to be pretty stable and comfortable in the air.
IN-FLIGHT MEAL AND ENTERTAINMENT
In-flight meal service commenced as soon as we levelled up. Meal options on the flight included beef sauce with white rice, chicken sauce with white rice, and a vegetarian dish - all with a choice of (red or white) wines, fruit juices or soft drinks. I opted for chicken sauce with white rice. The hot meal was accompanied by salads, desert, biscuits, bread roll, butter, and cheese. The meal was well presented and tasted good.
For in-flight entertainment, each economy class seat on the aircraft had a personal 10-inch touchscreen monitor that featured AIRSCAPE, South African Airways audio-video on demand (AVOD) in-flight entertainment system (IFE). Each seat also had a USB charging port, as well as access to shared PC power points.
The AIRSCAPE was good enough to keep me busy throughout the flight. On another international flight with the airline just two weeks earlier, there were only 11 movies on the IFE. I was disappointed. But it was a pleasant surprise to find out that there were more movies available on this flight.
Local and international movies, TV shows, music, interactive games, and a variety of audio channels were all available on the AIRSCAPE. Regardless, I still think that South African Airways should add (a lot ) more contents to AIRSCAPE. But if you want to personalize your IFE, the use of personal electronic devices is allowed on South African Airways flights.
We touched down at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos at exactly 8:47 am local time. The landing was as smooth as silk, well, almost. But the jet bridge took a little while to be deployed, so we had to spend more time than was necessary on the aircraft. After the aircraft came to a complete stop at the new Terminal 2, we deboarded. And with that came to a end another beautiful flight with South African Airways.
THE AIRCRAFT: 90%
THE CREW: 94%
THE FLIGHT: 92%
SEAT COMFORT: 90%
IN-FLIGHT MEAL: 90%
CABIN CLEANLINESS: 92%
For an airline that just relaunched flight operations, following a business rescue program and re-emergence from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, South African Airways met my expectations and even surpassed them. All elements of the flight, including check-in, boarding, the actual flight, crew, departure and arrival, were all on point.
The ground crew was helpful and efficient while the flight crew was very friendly and professional. The aircraft was clean and in good shape. I found the seat to be quite comfortable and the cabin spacious. I would say that South African Airways is back and better. I give the flight 92%. Now under a new management, SAA perfectly combines punctuality, safety, and comfort. I will totally fly with them again.
South African Airways Contact :
NB: South African Tourism provided the ticket for this flight, but the opinions are strictly mine and are without bias.
I am an Aviation Analyst, Content Creator, Newspaper Columnist and In-flight Magazine Contributor. You can reach me on mobile: +234(0)8063724208 or WhatsApp: +23408178379876. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com