South African Airways has recently been named Best Airline in Africa by Skytrax, this is the fourteenth consecutive year that the airline has been awarded this prestigious title. I have flown SAA business class a number of times across the continent and thought the announcement is a great opportunity to write a review of Africa’s best carrier’s business class cabin
Check in and lounge ***
Priority check in is a standard feature when flying business on most airlines, the SAA check in process is very well set-up at OR Tambo International Airport, with clearly highlighted signage to usher business class passengers to the correct check in counter. What the SAA team do very well at this particular airport is ensuring there is sufficient check in counters to avoid even the slightest queue forming at priority check in. Very important.
The SAA departures International Lounge disappoints however, once you get past the friendly front desk staff at the entrance to the lounge, the level of customer service seems to drop drastically. The staff within the lounge do a great job of leaving you alone to go about your business but lack the responsiveness you would expect within a business lounge. The lounge is decently kitted out with plenty of seating and a well proportioned “virtual” working area for those that need to catch up on emails etc. The lounge furniture is due for a refresh I believe.
In-flight Service ***
The SAA business class cabin is a very pleasant environment to be in, the ergonomics are just right with more than enough space to stretch your legs, walk around and even catch a much needed sleep on the flat beds. Being seated in a window seat might present a challenge for those who aren’t flexible as you’ll need to stretch over the passenger next to you if they have their flat bed laid out fully.
The menu on-board is usually made up of a good selection of South African wine as well as international spirits, the food is equally good without blowing you away, however the quality is what you’d expect in a business class cabin.
The overall inflight staff service varies dramatically with every flight, the staff are either very in tune, attentive and friendly or very lax. This is the one area I believe the airline can make a big improvement on, the inflight staff make a big difference to the overall passenger experience.
Overall, SAA remains the preferred airline of choice when travelling across the continent, the fleet is well maintained and the routes flown offer good opions whether one is travelling for business or pleasure. Although the airline is no doubt leading the pack in Africa, there is significant room for improvement when compared to other world Airlines.
PS Look out for Ethiopian and Kenya Airlines