Trip Reports & Reviews

FLYING A BANKRUPT AIRLINE! South African Airways: Airbus A340-600 BUSINESS CLASS!

Noel

Noel Philips

Here’s my review of South African Airways Airbus A340-600 Business Class onboard a flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg, South Africa!

I’d just like to say a big thanks to SurfShark for sponsoring this video. More about their excellent VPN service later in the video.

Cape Town airport is a pretty nice airport to fly from. It’s really spacious and didn’t feel crowded at all

Once airside there’s some great views of the ramp activity. I headed for the South African Airways lounge to wait for my flight.

The lounge is pretty smart, with loads of nice places to sit quietly. It also has some cracking views.

This is the A340-600 that will take me up to Johannesburg today. It’s been with SAA since brand new in 2003, making here 16 years old when I flew on her.

With such great views I went live on my Facebook page for an hour or so – if you don’t follow me on Facebook already please do so, you’ll also get the full takeoff and landing videos from my flights on there too.

I was so engrossed in my live video I suddenly noticed passengers walking down the airbridge onto the A340, meaning I had to get a shift on!

Luckily the gate was just downstairs so it wasn’t far to walk.

The business class cabin on the South African A340-600 is in a 2-2-2 configuration. It does have a very early-2000s feel about it, and the seats reminded me of my old Nokia 3310 – blue with silver trimmings. I wondered if I could play Snake on the inflight entertainment.

As we waited to push back, I noticed this IL76 a long way from home, being towed behind me. Notice how it’s being towed with all the doors open. This aircraft operates expeditions to Antarctica from Cape Town.

Pretty soon, we pushed back in tandem with this Ethiopian 777 alongside us pushing back for Addis Ababa. Don’t forget to check out my Ethiopian video if you’ve not already.

Also on the ramp today was the exact Edelweiss A340 I took recently from Buenos AIres to Zurich – again don’t forget to check out that video too.

Pretty soon it was time to line up and get on our way to Jo’burg. I was surprised by just how powerful the A340-600 is compared to it’s older brother, the A340-300.

As we rocket away from Cape Town, let’s take a look at our route today.

We flew on an almost direct track north east from Cape Town to Johannesburg, climbing to a cruising altitude of 39,000ft. Flight time today was 1 hour 33 minutes.

As much as the seats are pretty retro, they’re not too bad comfort-wise. There’s plenty of room, although I’m not sure how they match up to the competition on the longer routes.

There’s plenty of power and seat positions, and the seat has a massage function as well as going into a lie flat position. It has a nice privacy divider between the two seats, but it does however suffer from the usual getting stuck in your window seat while your seatmate has their seat reclined.

There’s a small drinks table on the left and a full table from the right.

The TV screen pops out from the armrest, but wasn’t working on today’s flight.

There was soon a meal service which was pretty nice for such a short flight.

It was a beef fillet with beans, which was more than adequate for a 90 minute flight. It also came with a full bar service – I opted for a delicious glass of SOuth African white.

The views from 39,000ft over the plains of South Africa were stunning. It’s very much like flying over the Sahara, or the outback of Australia.

As we headed further north the weather below us took a turn for the worse, as Johannesburg was suffering some heavy rain storms. We descended over Johannesburg and emerged into a rainy day under the clouds.

It surprised me that my seatmate wasn’t asked to put his bed into the upright position for landing – he stayed in the lie flat position until we were taxying to the gate. I wondered how I’d have got out had we had anything happen on landing.

We touched down in a cloud of spray onto runway 3R at OR Tambo.

My flight from Cape Town today cost me £231.40, or $305.25 US dollars. This was for a distance of 790 miles, giving a cost per mile of 29 pence.

Overall I really enjoyed my ride on the A340-600. It was great for such a short flight – but I’m not sure if I’d be saying the same on a longhaul flight. That said though, the competition on flights to South Africa is all fairly similar iin terms of the hard product, with only airlines such as Emirates, Rwandair or BA offering much of an improvement. That said, the crew were amazing, the service was wonderful and the meal was good.

South African are having a lot of financial difficulties right now which is a real shame. Given a little more investment I think they could have a fantastic product.