London to Jo­han­nes­burg in SAA busi­ness class

HEATHROW- JO­HAN­NES­BURG

Business Traveller - - CONTINUED... - Ju­lian Gre­gory

BACK­GROUND The A330-300 is SAA’s new­est air­craft hav­ing en­tered ser­vice in De­cem­ber 2016, but with the ma­jor­ity of air­craft de­liv­ered in 2017. This lat­est busi­ness class prod­uct has been on the London to Jo­han­nes­burg route since March 2108. There are five in the fleet, each with a ca­pac­ity of 249 pas­sen­gers, 46 of these in busi­ness.

CHECK-IN I ar­rived at Heathrow T 2 at 1630 for my 1900 flight, SA235. At checkin area D is­su­ing of the board­ing pass and pass­port check was quick (when fly­ing to South Africa you should have two con­sec­u­tive empty pages in your pass­port for en­try stamps). The agent in­formed me that I could use any of the Star lounges, but that the Sin­ga­pore Air­lines and Air Canada ones were clos­est to the gate, with the United lounge just a cou­ple of min­utes’ walk away. So I asked which lounge was best of the Star Al­liance op­tions, and was told that Air Canada’s one had the best beer.

THE LOUNGE I went to the Sin­ga­pore Air­lines lounge, which is by gate B42; it was quiet as the Sin­ga­pore Air­lines’ flights leave a bit later. There was a good choice of hot and cold Western and Asian food – sal­ads, sand­wiches, curry, pad Thai, boeuf bour­guignon, soup, cake and bis­cuits as well as lots of snacks (crisps, nuts, Bom­bay mix, pop­corn, ice cream). There was a good se­lec­tion of UK and Sin­ga­pore news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines.

BOARD­ING The air­craft was parked at gate B43, just two min­utes from the lounge. Board­ing be­gan at 1811 with pre­mium cus­tomers first. The crew were at­ten­tive, tak­ing my jacket quickly. When most of the pas­sen­gers had boarded they of­fered news­pa­pers and a choice of juices or sparkling wine. The plane pushed back at 1910 and was air­borne at 1931 for what was to be a 10 hour, 40 minute flight.

THESE AT Busi­ness class is split be­tween two cab­ins with rows 1-8 in the first and 9-12 in the sec­ond sep­a­rated by a gal­ley and two toi­lets. The con­fig­u­ra­tion is 1-2-1 (A-D, G-K), so all seats have di­rect aisle ac­cess.

The space feels gen­er­ous for sit­ting, sleep­ing and stor­age. The seat is up­hol­stered, ex­cept for the leather head­rest, and is ad­justed us­ing two sets of con­trols, one for when sit­ting up and an­other when ly­ing down. When fully re­clined into a flatbed the seat is al­most 2m long. The arm­rest on the aisle can be ad­justed, al­though I kept mine up so I was not knocked dur­ing the night. There is a good­sized pil­low, mat­tress pro­tec­tor and du­vet. The amenity kit con­tained an eye mask and earplugs, as well as face cream and lip balm from Crab­tree & Eve­lyn.

In the sit­ting po­si­tion, the seat was 23 inches wide with footrest. Good stor­age was on hand nearby for small items in­clud­ing a wa­ter bot­tle, and at my feet was a gen­er­ous mag­a­zine rack and stor­age box which could take shoes and a lap­top with room to spare. For take off and land­ing there was also a shoul­der strap that came out from the back of the seat and crossed the body fix­ing to the buckle.

For work­ing there was a good-sized, solid ta­ble, in­ter­na­tional power plug and USB, as well as an ad­justable read­ing light.

BEST SEAT I was in seat 1 K. While it was at the front of the cabin, which gave it pri­vacy from other pas­sen­gers, it looked di­ag­o­nally into the gal­ley, so it was not the qui­etest op­tion – there are bet­ter choices.

I asked which lounge was best of the Star Al­liance op­tions, and was told that Air Canada’s one had the best beer

The same ap­plies to 1A – not a quiet op­tion. So if trav­el­ling alone, I would opt for a win­dow seat (A or K) as these have more pri­vacy. The mid­dle seats (D and G) are bet­ter for those trav­el­ling to­gether. As these seats are not in line with the win­dow seats, it would be hard to talk across the aisle if you wanted to.

As to which row to choose, I would opt for the mid­dle of the first cabin (rows 3-5) as these seats are fur­ther from the gal­leys which were noisy (both are used), as well as fur­ther from the toi­lets and the likely po­si­tion­ing of bassinets in row 1 and 9. The rear cabin is also right in front of econ­omy and bassinets are likely to be placed on the wall di­rectly be­hind row 12.

THE FLIGHT Shortly af­ter take-off there was a drinks ser­vice and menus were handed out. I opted for a glass of white wine and was of­fered ei­ther a South African chenin blanc or un­oaked chardon­nay. The wines were not de­tailed on the menu, so I went for chardon­nay which was good. Canapés were served with the drink.

When the flight at­ten­dants came to take the food or­der, they re­alised that the wrong menus had been loaded, so then went to the gal­ley to see what they had. They re­turned a while later of­fer­ing a choice of three starters (soup, tuna or salad) and four mains (beef, chicken, fish or veg­e­tar­ian pasta). De­scrip­tions were lim­ited due to the lack of menus, but I opted for the chicken. This was a chicken breast served with rice, what I think were onion bhaji (or sim­i­lar), chick­peas with some spicy sauce and gar­nish. It was tasty, fresh and nicely pre­sented. For dessert I was of­fered tri­fle, cheese­cake or cheese. I went for the cheese and crack­ers, which in­cluded three cheeses, grapes and dates. I was of­fered a glass of port as an ac­com­pa­ni­ment. The food tray was promptly taken away, and shortly af­ter­wards a small box of choco­lates was of­fered.

At this point I re­clined the seat, made the bed (the du­vet and mat­tress cover be­ing stored in the feet area, or un­der the seat in front) and went to sleep. The bed was com­fort­able and very gen­er­ous in size.

Hav­ing slept well, I woke an hour and 15 min­utes be­fore land­ing and was al­most im­me­di­ately of­fered a towel and a choice of juices, shortly af­ter which break­fast was served. Though menus were lack­ing, I was of­fered a choice of ce­real, muesli, yo­ghurt, fresh fruit, pas­tries and cheese omelette and sausage, among other op­tions.

I didn’t use the IFE, which has a 15-inch screen and noise-can­celling head­phones. On of­fer were 82 movies (in­clud­ing sev­eral re­cent re­leases), 67 TV pro­grammes, 15 games, 14 ra­dio sta­tions and 160 al­bums. The IFE can be con­trolled by touch­screen or us­ing a track­pad/but­ton on con­trols un­der a cover by the seat. Next to the screen there is a space for your own tablet.

AR­RIVAL We landed at 0715 and were at the gate just seven min­utes later. From there it was a very short walk to im­mi­gra­tion.

I had no lug­gage so walked through the bag­gage hall to the SAA Ar­rivals lounge, just af­ter cus­toms. There is a small lounge area with seven ta­bles and 15 chairs, and four large shower cu­bi­cles. I show­ered and changed, then did some work in the lounge, which was empty when I ar­rived. There was a cof­fee ma­chine, a good se­lec­tion of teas, fruit, yo­ghurt, cheese, pas­tries, toast, ce­real, crisps and hot food in­clud­ing eggs, ba­con and toma­toes. VER­DICT This flight boasts a very gen­er­ous-sized seat that pro­vides plenty of space for sleep­ing and work­ing, with ser­vice given by a warm and cheer­ful crew.

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