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I was very nervous about flying with South African Airways after reading so many negative reviews however I was pleasantly surprised by my four flights.
My international and domestic flights were all on time. Some of the flights also made up on time while in the air. The boarding procedure at Heathrow is very efficient. They board people in groups depending on their seat numbers which saves lots of time and hassle getting past people to get to your seat.
The staff were efficient and friendly, especially in the air. At the Heathrow check-in desk they were a bit aloof and rude. They were sat around looking bored and then when approached they did not make much effort. They also could not answer my question about whether I needed to recheck my bags in Johannesburg. However the check-in staff in Johannesburg were very friendly.
The food was surprisingly good and there was lots of it! A tray is provided with the main meal, salad, crackers, bread, cake and even a little chocolate. I enjoyed the food and got my first choice each time. Even my two short internal flights provided food and a hot drink which was a pleasant surprise. They also came around with alcohol.
The seats are not comfortable but I expect this from any aeroplane. South African Airways do their best to ensure comfort, providing you with a blanket, a pillow, an eye mask and also a toothbrush.
One thing that I would say is that on my first flight the staff were much more friendly than on my return flight. Perhaps they are not consistently as good as I experienced and this is a reason for poor reviews.
Overall the flight was pleasant and I cannot fault South African Airways.
Flew 4 flights with South African Airways this summer and found the service to be great. The flight was 3 hours late departing Heathrow, but i believe South African Airways did all they could so that the flight wasn't cancelled all together. The plane flying to Heathrow from South Africa was cancelled due to a door fault on the plane. South African Airways sourced another of their planes from South Africa and flew it onto London so to prevent cancelling the flight. The late departure meant that i missed my connecting flight in Johannesburg, but the ground staff booked me onto another flight easily.
On board i was in economy class and found the leg room to meet my needs - i am tall (5"10) and i had enough room to stretch my legs. The refreshments on board included soft drinks, beers, lagers and a selection of South African wines which was a nice touch. The crew were very accommodating and served extra drinks when you requested them. The evening meal seem very similar in size and quality to what i have had with other airlines, but i found the breakfast to be a great improvement on other airlines. There was a hot serving of eggs and sausage, with a croissant and fruit & yoghurt on the side. On other airlines i have found the breakfast to be cold maybe just include a bread roll and yoghurt.
The personalised screens were great providing a range of entertainment such as films and games. A lot of the films were very recent and included films that hadn't even been released on dvd yet. My favourite aspect of the personal tv screens, was to watch live feed of the plane in motion. A camera was fixed to the back of the plane meaning you could see the whole plane and the ground below in the sky. This was particular spectacular when approaching landing. However this feature was not available on return to the UK - the plane was a different type and so had a different entertainment system installed.
The crew were all really friendly on board and met your requests as required. The captain even alerted us to look out of the windows in order to see the snow on the mountains below us as we approached Cape Town.
All in all a good relaxing flight. I definitely fly with them again!
If you ever find yourself using this airline then you better not check in any bags because the odds are pretty good that their baggage handlers will break into them and steal your stuff. Search on Google to see how often it happens.
You will then find yourself filing a claim with a customer service rep who is either indifferent or annoyed to be bothered by you. This rep will most likely give you some attitude when you ask for copies of the claim. (The claim forms ask for your bank account number to speed up the compensation process. Why anyone would give their bank information to a company who's employees have already stolen from them is beyond belief to me.)
The claim process is supposed to take three weeks but will take much longer than that. In my case I received a check with my name spelled wrong that I can not cash that was for less than 5% of the value of items stolen from my suitcases that were in there care. I had called to complain and spoke to someone very indifferent to my horrible experience who was unsympathetic. I had also complained about my name being spelt wrong. That was about a month ago and they have yet to send me a new check.
Glad to see that they care so much about their customers.
My family always favours SAA over British Airways for flying to South Africa. In fact, I flew with them just yesterday and had and entertaining, uneve=ntful flight home with no fuss.
Space is a main concern on a long haul flight so SAA are chosen as they offer slightly more leg room in economy class than British Airways or Virgin. As well as this, South Africans are known for their politeness and customer service and this is true for the customer service we receive. The staff on the plane are always polite, but not in that overly plastic manner that I feel many of the other airline staff have. They will normally do their best to help you out if you have any problems or specific requirements.
The entertainment system on-board is okay, with many films to chose from. But it does need to be updated as I'd seen many of the better films they offered. Their newest offering was probably Ice Age 3 which is not very new. Also, in the recent years that we have been flying with them, we have always had individual entertainment systems, but we were shocked and very disappointed on our way to South Africa three weeks ago to find we were on a plane with no individual entertainment systems (in economy). I think it was just an old plane, but they should have at least warned us so we could take books and more things to entertain ourselves with. I was stuck for a 12 hour flight with one book and nothing more. So if you are concerned about this it might be best to call and find out.
The only other thing is that we had a little problem with our seating at first this time, but after a phone call we were allowed to change our seats so we could sit together and then we got to chose when we checked in online anyway so there was no problem. They normally do their best to try to accommodate you.
Overall, a nice friendly airline, with friendly staff. All tha'ts needed it a little update on their entertain,ent system and aircraft.
I first flew with South African Airways a number of years ago and I must admit that the service I received was not that great. Originally when I booked my flight to Johannesburg, the prices were quite competitive with British Airways, and as I was flying to South Africa, I thought that I would give their local airline a try. Due to the fact that the price was quite expensive, I could only assume that the service would be quite good. The flight was on time and the staff were very friendly. However, as it is an over-night flight, I was expecting a nice meal and comfort. The meals were not that great and when I was still hungry afterwards, I asked if they have more food, but unfortunately due to health and safety, they could not re-heat the food up so gave me a bag of crisps instead, which I was okay with.
The seat space is quite slim and I kept finding myself with ym knees pressed against the seat in front of me. The satff were not always there when wanting assisatnce and sometimes I had to press for assistance several times before getting service.
Nevertheless, the flight itself was alright and quite steady. After 12 hours of flying, I was exhausted and could not sleep much, so was just really happy when I got to Johannesburg.
I can recommend South African Airways for any domestic flights in South Africa, but for long haul flights, I would think again and look around before choosing South African Airways again.
We flew South African Airways to South Africa last year. We did not choose the airline as it was part of a package but we would be happy to use them again. I do not have agreat deal of experience with different airlines so not much to compare it against but I felt the experience was unremarkable, and certainly with nothing bad to complain about.
The queue at checkout was short and we were able to sit togther in window seats as we had requested. Leg room wasn't great, but I think that is a general complaint in economy sections, however it wasn't too uncomfortable. I got a vegetarian meal as requested. they tried to give my husband one as well even though he didn't want or order one, but he just said he wanted a normal one and got that. The food was ok but not very imaginative vege options ie. potatoes and veg for a main meal. I was very very hungry at the end of the flight due to the tiny portions.
The entertainment films/ programmes/ music was varied and on demand so gave us plenty to do during the long flight.
Our bags arrived without incident at the other end even though as rucksacks we worried they might be damaged.
The flight home was a similar uneventful experience but we were helpfully allowed to change seats to sit near to friends. The plane was half empty and may people bagged four seats to lie across so they were a lot more comfortable!
I flew with SAA from London Heathrow - Joburg in April 2009 & hated every second!
When I made my original booking back in November 2008 I requested a seat with extra legroom - I did this by viewing the seat plan and clicking on the seat with extra legroom; just like every customer can do. At that time I though "great" I'm going to be comfy for the 11hour flight - well that excitement didn't last long at all!
In December I received an e-mail saying that as the configuration of the plane had changed so had my seat and that I was just going to have a normal one - to say I was unhappy at this stage is an understatement. I contacted their customer services and was told that as it's only a request there is nothing they can do which really frustrated me!
The flight itself was awful nobody comes when you press your buzzer and when I eventually got an air stewardesses attention as she walked past I politely asked for a glass of water, the response I got was "I'll see what I can do", that is NOT something anyone should hear especially after paying quite a hefty sum for a flight nor a company that relies on its customer service.
The air stewardesses are too busy dancing & chatting in the kitchen area to even care about the passengers, a disgrace! I would rather pay the extra and go with Emirates next time.
This airline goes from bad to worse! There really is no hope for them. They despise their customers! You will be disappointed, they will probably lose your bags or cancel your flight. Don't expect any sympathy from them. Their service recovery is non-existent. The CEO told blatant lies on camera on national TV. They won't think twice about trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
Check these horror stories out if you are even considering buying a ticket on this airline.
The head of their aircraft maintenance division resigned recently stating that it was not a matter if but when, one of their airplanes will drop out of the sky. They appear to have done very little to remedy this worrying situation. South Africans try to never use these dinosaurs and they are one of the most reviled companies in South Africa - search on google for SAA and you will discover a lot of anger towards them.
The last time I went on a South African Airways plane was Christmas 2007.
Starting from the beginning, the person that i rang to book the tickets was lovely a very nice South African accent, she was very helpful and helped me with the best tickets for the days I wanted.
The day of travelling can be very stressful if you are going away for a month and are double, triple checking that everything is turned off and locked.
The lady at the check in desk was another lovely lady a huge smile on her face and really helped with where we had to go and what time to be there.
The plane itself is huge and how they manage to get so many people in it and happy I have no idea.
This airline is very good but I am going to say that as they gave me a free upgrade to the "bubble" of the plane.
This part of the plane downstairs would maybe hold 50 but upstairs there were only 30 of us, this really made the trip that little bit better, we had more standards per person and the extra room was great.
The disabled were catered for with front row seats and easy on and off exits, all help was given to what I saw
Entertainment was good as there was a range or 30 or so films 100's of radio stations and games to play all on your own screen.
The meals we good compared to other plane food that I have tried and there were once again a wide variety of choices, fish, vegetarian and 2 meat dishes. If my memory serves me correctly.
The seats are comfy and can be slid back to become more like a bed, which is needed on a 12-hour flight.
Overall the flight was very good, the staff were great and very helpful and I would advise people who are going to South Africa to use this airline to any other.
Prices vary alot and if you wish to travel in December you have to book in jan.
The current prices are around £500 for a return and the high season is between the 6th of December to mid jan which put prices up around £100-£200.
South African Airways! Hmmmm....not the best service I have had ever I have to say (and I'm a 21 year old student!!) But anyway...I flew in May from london to J'berg, then a short flight from J'berg to Livingstone, and later in May from Cape town to London. The one from j'berg to livingstone was great, but the long ones...well!The plane going out was delayed on the tarmac for well over an hour, and I had a connection, so only just made it, but hey!The food wasn't great and the LEG ROOM! It was ridiculous! Only travel long haul if you are SHORT!!!! There was neveranyone around, and the air con dried out my throat so much during the night, I felt sick, but no one was there to give out water for over 2 hours.Ok for a cheap flight!
Once we were onboard, the service was courteous but they consistently run out of meal choices. They do give you first choice for the next meal if this happens. Johannesburg airport organization is a nightmare of waiting and lack of information. It is difficult to find staff who can help. Boarding information can be changed, but announcements are not made. Staff, when they are located are not responsive to complaints. Flight information on screens is not necessarily up to date. The stress ruins what could be a pleasant experience.
After travelling on a horrendous Air France flight to Joburg (see my previous review) I was looking forward to experiencing the onboard service offered by South African Airways.
Check-in was easy simply provide your credit card or Voyager Card (their frequent flyer programme) at check-in with your passports and you are checked in. (I had already pre-booked seats via www.flysaa.com)
At Joburg there were no announcements for final boarding so I sat staring at the screen waiting for the boarding announcement to flash up when it did I proceeded to board the aircraft, walking across the tarmac to a covered set of steps not the most pleasurable experience when you are scared of height and stuck queueing on stair that aren't exactly solid!!!
On board we walked throught the business area of the cabin separated during the flight by a curtain.
During the flight they run out of the choice of sandwiches leaving me with the only option of beef and cheese rather than my preffered option of cheese and tomato but all the same it was quite tasty. Optional drink of soft or alcoholic beverage which went down very well.
The legroom was pretty non existent but luckily I was only on the flight for just over two hours, no problems with luggage and the service was great.
On the return flight I had to change to a later timing which the Airline accommodated free of charge and also sent through a new confirmation email and there were no problems on check-in, overall a pleasant hassle free trip and if I get the opportunity to travel to South Africa in the near future SAA will be the no1 choice.
There are only two things I take into consideration when booking a trip ? cost and safety. On both of these SAA scored excellent. There is no doubt that their safety record is very good. Every time I have flown the pilot has been top notch and coped with everything and anything. I double checked their prices against all other possibilities and at the time I was wanting to travel they were the cheapest on offer. I also checked if I could get cheaper booking direct from the airport, but the price was the same as what I was offered by the travel agency I dealt with. So my gripes? Well, if you are travelling within South Africa ? none. I never had them run out of food. In fact I found they fed me too much! On a trip where I had to change flights a few times I was served food on each flight. First breakfast, then a snack and then lunch! I rolled off the last flight about 5 kg fatter than when I started! The food was fair to good. I can?t remember breakfast. It was early and I was half asleep, but I do remember that the snack was a roast beef and salad roll. and it was fresh if a bit dry. There were snacks with every meal. Little packets of biscuits and nuts etc. Hostesses were friendly and helpful and things went smoothly. International flights. The toilets were clean and everything worked. I say this as a plus as I have travelled on other airways flights where this was not the case. My first trip overseas the staff were excellent. This was from Johannesburg to London. I get insomnia on planes and never sleep so you get to watch a lot of what?s going on. The hostesses kept an eye on everyone all through the night. They brought water and juice around every hour or so and they were there before you needed them. The food was good. A chicken portion done in a very nice Italian style sauce on rice with a little salad and pudding to end with. Plus a teeny packet of crackers and a wedge of cheese. The little TV each seat has is very nice. I did have
a bit of a problem with my earphones not working, but a hostess brought me a new pair straight away. The seats are total hell though. Economy class was being joked about around me as ?cattle class? and as the trip wore on I soon understood why. There is NO room! I?m short, only 5 foot 3, and yet my knees were touching the seat in front of me. The poor man next to me was an athlete over 6 foot and he had to sit like a frog. They give you this little health and safety brochure showing leg exercises to stop deep vein thrombosis. Pictures of people wiggling their toes and flexing their knees. If I?d flexed or wiggled I?d have bounced the person in front of me out of his seat! There is no room and no escape. If you are a window seat everyone has to stand up to let you get out. If you are an aisle seat you get bumped by everyone passing down the narrow walk way AND you have to get up every time the window seat and middle person need to get out! As short as my legs are there was no room to put my feet underneath the seat in front of me without my kicking the feet of the guy in the seat in front of me. So basically you are stiff, sore, jostled and bumped at the end of a few hours. I have never been so uncomfortable as I have been on the international flights on SAA. My second international flight with them was a very different scenario. This was from London returning to South Africa. The hostesses were indifferent and mostly non-existent! I gather there was ?someone important? in Business class as I could see through the curtain that they had at least THREE times as many hostess crew in there as we had! When I was given dinner I found my little utensil packet had three knives instead of knife, fork and spoon. The plane was full and boisterous and hostesses were nowhere to be seen. It took ages before a hostess came past and I virtually had to yell at her to get her to stop and take notice. he went off and was gone for an annoyingly long time before retur
ning with new utensils. I got no apology for the inconvenience or delay. I have no memory of the meal as I was just too angry by then to care what I was eating. I do know I got a small bottle of wine with the meal, but no recollection of the food. Later on I opened up the sealed packet they give you that contains your sleeping blanket, pillow and eye cover. The blanket looked clean, but SMELT LIKE VOMIT! Once again I had to wait until a hostess finally appeared and once again there were no apologies. She brought me a new blanket and told me to ?just stick the other one under the seat.? The revolting other blanket on the floor was a problem the whole night as the lack of space for feet meant it was constantly getting in the way. It was a ghastly night once again only this time there were no thoughtful cabin crew doing the rounds with trays of water and juice. I was trapped by a large snoring aisle passenger otherwise I would have gone looking for someone to complain to. Trapped and helpless I could only wait in hope someone would come by? no one did from about 1:00 am till 4:00 am! Otherwise on all flights my luggage has arrived fine, but you are warned NEVER to put valuables or electric/electronic items in your luggage when dealing with South African Airports. Take anything you value in your hand luggage or you do stand a good chance of never seeing it again. This means you can end up with heavy hand luggage. By the end of my trip I felt like I was carrying a baby elephant around with me so do get hand luggage with wheels if you don?t want to end up walking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame! So final opinion? SAA is fine for short flights, but I?d never recommend them for long flights unless you are willing to endure hell to get a cheap yet safe flight.
The dreaded SA 220 flight from Cape Town to London. If you really want to end up sick – try their breakfast. As a Management Consultant I fly most of the time. It is sad that my company has downgraded our flights from business to cattle class. In business class most airlines are on par; in cattle class the difference is huge. The flight leaves at night which means trying to drown your sorrows during the flight is almost impossible. Some advice would be to get the liquor yourself or if the flight attendant passes ( once or maybe twice if you lucky ) to insist for more than a nip. The breakfast in the morning reminds me of the good old SADF which served us handgrenade egg washed in some watery substance. Try to avoid S.A.A, and go for B.A instead. It is not surprising that the South African Football team do not fly with S.A.A - way to go Bafana B.Airways
SAA used to be well above average, but now I'd rate them no better than average. I have flown with South African Airways twelve times over the past five years consisting of two return flights to Johannesburg, two return flights to Cape Town and two return flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town. Last month we went to Cape Town. It is very difficult to give an objective opinion on any airline since much of ones experience is based on what happens during the twelve hours that we are strapped into a seat. And so the attitude of the one or two cabin staff assigned to our area has an dis-proportionate influence on us. Let me first cover the good points, based on my most recent flight, a London-Cape Town- London journey two weeks ago. SAA departed on time and arrived on time, and gave us a smooth safe flight. We were given our requested seat allocations and there was no check-in queue at all at Cape Town's new terminal. The 747 plane was packed and the seats were standard economy class. I was surprised there were no screen back televisions, just an old fashioned large screen at the front of the cabin. The films on offer did not interest me and I never unwrapped the headset. On the return flight they showed a three week old BBC TV news programme. Loudspeaker announcements during the flight were muffled, I couldn't understand any of them. Food was basic economy class fare. On the way out cabin staff made a show of laying a cloth over the table tray, but not on the return. On the return the breakfast was served without any choice although the menu did show an alternative. Wine is a high point of SAA for me. They serve South African wine in 187.5 cl bottles and as I am a fan of SA wine making my choice is something Iook forward to, but cabin staff were not interested in showing any choices - it was red or white as far as they were concerned. A request on the return for the Sauvignon Blanc I'd enjoy
ed on the outward flight was met with irritation. SAA give out a useful travel kit in a miniature plastic duffel bag containing eye shades, a good folding toothbrush, toothpaste, comb and sleep slippers. Our disembarkation at London was delayed by a plane in 'our' arrival bay. My partner was infuriated and said that it was because SAA were renting space from another airline and didn't have dedicated spaces like BA. Last night she returned from a trip with BA and the same thing happened then! To summarise. Travel economy class with SAA is not as good as it was and now rates as no higher than average. That is for two main reasons. Cabin crew are new and inexperienced and - to be frank - not very good at their job being slow inefficient and unfriendly and unhelpful. Past flights had older professional cabin crew who were a delight. Now other long haul airlines have seat back television screens in economy, SAA has a dated offering. Next time I will try Virgin or BA. Sorry SAA.