Domestic Flight Review of South African Airways on the A330-200!
When traveling to a new country, a big part of what I enjoy in my travel journey is trying the services of that country's national airline.
So when on a trip to Cape Town, I decided to squeeze in a domestic sector with South African Airways, and was thankful I did, as I discovered on this short flight, South African hospitality and the community spirit of the South Africans.
Operator: South African Airways
Route: Cape Town to Johannesburg
Operating aircraft: A330-243
Departure from Cape Town: 3.05pm / 3.09pm*
Arrival in Johannesburg: 5.00pm / 4.41pm*
Flight time: 1h55 / 1h32*
(*denotes actual timings)
I arrived at Cape Town International Airport on a drizzling day, utilizing the public bus A01 from the Civic Centre. If you are planning to do the same, do factor extra time as A01 doesn't run so frequently.
After checking-in using the self check-in kiosk, I proceeded to drop my luggage at the check-in counter. My checked baggage was 1 kg over the 23kg limit so I had to hand-carry a few extra stuff.
The widebody A330-200 greeted me just after the security clearance. Even though it was a domestic flight, I was quite excited to fly South African Airways internationally-configured aircraft. South African operates multiple flights a day on this trunk route between Cape Town and Johannesburg but if I am not wrong, only one flight daily in either direction is on the widebody.
This flight SA346 has, in the past, operated by the A330-200, A330-300, A340-300, and even A340-600! If in bad luck, it is sometimes subbed for an A320.
The airside is spacious, with plenty of seating and eateries and shops. There's also charging points. Wi-fi is restricted though with a limited time free option then you have to purchase a Wi-Fi plan.
Boarding soon commenced for the flight. I was excited!
We were warmly welcomed at the door at boarding but otherwise, no cabin crew were present in the cabin. I later learnt that the aircraft was being refueled - not sure if it was a factor in the cabin crew congregating in the galley during the boarding process. It just didn't feel like a very warm first impression with not a cabin crew in sight in the cabin throughout the boarding process.
Thankfully, this impression was soon changed, with the arrival of my seat mate. A cabin crew came to apologize to him and thanked him for accommodating their request at the boarding gate to give up his original seat so that a family could sit together. I thought it was very kind of the man to give up his original seat for the family but also very thoughtful of the South African Airways staff to accommodate the family, even on this very short 1.5 hour domestic flight.
After the safety video and cabin checks, we took off under very wet conditions to Johannesburg.
During the take-off, the chief cabin crew introduced herself, and also the languages spoken by the cabin crew on this flight: English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Tswana, Sepedi, Xhosa and Ndebele (for your information, that's 7 of the 14 official languages in South Africa!).
Once the seatbelt sign was turned off, the cabin crew began the snack service. They conducted the snack service with plenty of smiles and laughs, and took their time to ask each passenger on his or her choice of sandwich from Chicken, Cheese or Vegetarian options. When my seatmate requested for the Vegetarian one, the cabin crew even went to the extent of informing him about the ingredients inside, and suggested he go for the Cheese sandwich. I thought it was very personal of her.
The Chicken sandwich I chose was delish - huge chunks of chicken with fresh capsicum and lettuce, cottage cheese and a slice of cheddar cheese. It certainly looked gourmet! I was impressed!
Drinks were served from a cart, and upon my request for red wine, the cabin crew nicely showed me the two types they had onboard (two types of red wines in Economy Class!), asking for my preference. I went for Bayede! The Prince 2016 Red Blend.
Even on this short flight, service is casual, friendly and not at all hurried. How wonderful the South African hospitality is!
When the cabin crew cleared the trash, they continued to engage in conversations with the passengers. The mood was really like flying with friends. From the nice impression of accommodating the family during boarding to the warm in-flight snack service, I had great admiration for this community spirit of the South Africans they had showed on this domestic flight.
I must highlight the lavatory was stocked with Aigner Parfums Hand and Body Lotion which had a most amazing fragrance. I really enjoyed my little pampering of my hands with a few squeezes of the bottle.
Note that on this flight, the personal entertainment screens are not activated.
It was a quiet moment enjoying the warm South African sun and the vast flat landscape below us, before we descended into Johannesburg.
This flight, however short it was, left me with a deep impression, not of the delicious sandwich, but of how kind the South Africans are to one another.
How do you really define good inflight service? Is it about a professional consistent and scripted service that you may be assured of on every flight? How about travelling with friends, as what the South African Airways cabin crew showed to their passengers on this flight.
For the full flight video of my SA346 flight experience, see below: