November 9, 2010 – My previous flights to SA this year had always been full of drama so I was hoping for an incident free flight. I also figured SAA knows a better route to my destination!
On the first occasion it was right smack during the 2010 FIFA World Cup; I don’t know if it was because of all the traffic to South Africa, but my flight out of Nairobi was delayed at the JKIA for 4 hours.
Not to mention the strained capacity of the departure lounge at JKIA and looked like a scene out of a Beirut airport – hundreds of people milling around, sleeping on the floor, air conditioning non-existent, no place to sit or surf at Java… need I say more?
On the return trip from the World Cup, where I was high from the football festivities, I was again delayed at OR Tambo airport for another 3 hours, which resulted in a bunch of us missing the big Ghana game since we were in-flight when it started.
A few weeks later I found myself travelling to Johannesburg once again courtesy of a corporate client and was dismayed to discover that I would be with the same carrier that disappointed me the last time, and whoops! Nothing had changed; flight delays, sub-standard meal service, oh wow!
But this time round on SAA, I must admit I was in for a great treat. I got to JKIA an hour before my flight, thanks to Nairobi traffic, but was able to get onto SAA flight 185, which departed exactly on time. The flight was pleasant, the meal was great – beef with potatoes (my favourite), and the in-flight entertainment was good. We watched Angelina Jolie in Salt, which I had been meaning to watch for a long time back in Nairobi.
Once at O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg, I sailed through passport control seamlessly, read a fast moving queue, actually it tool less than 3 minutes to get through passport control, and the immigration officer, a cute young man was very pleasant, made me smile and cracked a joke that made me laugh! Was he flirting? Whether he was or not, he gave me a warm welcome to South Africa.
As I was transiting to Cape Town, I immediately went to my gate and again, my flight was on time, with quick boarding despite the plane being full. Needless to say, service was efficient and fast, the food great, the red wine was quality – Simonsig Chiraz, and they were not stingy with the servings so I got drink my fill! On landing, the baggage was on the carousel by the time we got out of the aircraft – which is always a plus.
To their credit, SAA has certainly upped their game in service, reliability and quality. Their staff members were friendly and easy on the eyes too! I will definitely Fly SAA again!
I hear they have perks and air miles on FlySAA.com
(The writer is the Head of Digital Media at the Capital Group Limited).