In line with my Black and White philosophy of this site, here is my Black and White review of South African Airways (based on 4 flights – two long haul (Perth – Jo’Burg) , 2 short haul (Jo’Burg to Capetown).

A reminder SAA is a members of the Star Alliance network (which AirNZ is also a part of).

Long Haul: Entertainment on their A340′s is CRAP.  One screen in economy class, and only playing one movie on take off and one on landing on a 9 hour flight is what I got in the 90s!  I didn’t think any airlines did this anymore, but apparently I was wrong.  At the VERY least these days I expect an individual entertainment system with on demand movies and TV on any flights over 5 hours.  It’s just not good enough to have such an antiquated (and sub standard) system on such long flights.   If I had known this I would have loaded up my iPad with movies (like I did in the old days by bringing on a portable DVD player) Food and service was fine.   Lounge was nice and clean, and plenty of food/drink etc.

Short Haul: Overall fine, except that the row in front of the exit row had seats that didn’t recline.  Most airlines just give extra room in the exit row to ensure there is enough room in an emergency to get out, but SAA do the cheaper version and just disable reclining in the row in front of it so they can fit more rows in.  Annoying especially when you have just come off a long haul flight and want to try to rest.

Other:

  • What was surprising was that SAA gave a full meal and drinks service on a 2 hour flight (Jo’Burg to Capetown).  Not complaining, but this is very usual these days.
  • I was moved from my seat in row 45 to row 60 for no reason by Qantas staff on my 1st Long Haul journey.  As a result my FF points didn’t show up for this flight, and SAA is the only airlines on Star Alliance that doesn’t allow online adding of this – I need to send in my boarding pass with a cover letter explaining this- a pain in the ass!
  • SAA also doesn’t allow others on the Star Alliance network to use point to upgrade flights to Business Class (I never pay for BC, but like flying it)

It’s clear SAA do some things on the cheap (entertainment and exit rows) but overall they offer an acceptable service and nice clean lounges.

Black and White Version: South African Airways needs major improvements – especially in long haul entertainment systems.

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