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FRA-JNB-CPT And Back On SAA: A346, B738 And A319  
User currently offlineLeskova From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 6075 posts, RR: 70
Posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 16783 times:

Here it is - the report about my first longhaul of the year - hopefully not the last, but I guess I'll have to see about that...

Anyhow, about 2 weeks ago, I was surprised by a member of my employer's management, informing me that, because of my work these last 12 months since joining the company, they had decided to give me an extra gratification, and that turned out to be an (almost-)all-expense-paid trip to South Africa for about a week (I took two extra days off, and had to pay for my hotel and for the rental car myself).

While I've been to South Africa before (actually, 11 times before), I've always loved the country, so I was thrilled - not just about the trip, but also about the fact that the company I work for does seem to be quite happy with my work. Ok - enough patting myself on my own back now...  Wink

So I started looking for flights to Cape Town, only to find out that almost all flights had already been booked enough so that I wouldn't be getting any agent's discount for my ticket... fortunately, management agreed without hesitation that I could simply travel on a ticket booked at a regular fare.

After booking my flights, I issued my tickets - electronic tickets, since I really hate paper tickets - and, just a few days later, found myself on the suburban train taking me to the airport (which is where I'm writing these lines right now).

Check-In went like a breeze, took about 3-5 minutes: there was no queue, and I found out that there were still some seats open on the flight (roughly 60) - maybe I'll be lucky and have an empty seat next to me, and if not, I might just relocate myself (if my neighbor doesn't do so) to have a bit more room to sleep.

Since SAA had not been able to get me confirmed seats for an AD ticket in either Economy or Business, they at least immediately confirmed an Emergency Exit row seat for me, so that I'd have enough room for my legs - I'm 1.89m tall, so seat pitch is rather important...

After checking in, I went through security and customs - security taking about 5 minutes, customs about 1 minute - and went on to my gate.

Date: 9. June 2005
Flight: SA261
Depart: Frankfurt at 20:45, Terminal 1, Gate B28
Arrive: Johannesburg at 07:25 on 10. June 2005
Equipment: Airbus A340-600, ZS-SNA
Seat: 45A, Window, Emergency Exit


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Boarding started a little late, it was planned for 20:00, but actually commenced around 20:15; as a result of that, we eventually were late leaving the gate - not sure by how much, since I didn't have my watch with me, but I guess it was around 21:00. Afterwards, we stood next to the terminal for around 10 more minutes, waiting for dozens of planes and vehicles to drive or taxi by. During this time, the engines were started, and then we were moving. Comparing the noise to that of the A340-300, I'd say the -600 is a bit louder on the ground... then again, who really cares what amount of noise a plane makes on the ground - it's "in flight" that matters.

Just to get back to the issue of the seats for a moment - when I arrived at my seat, 45C was already occupied... by a person wide enough to fill almost two seats. And the next surprise was the width, more specifically, the lack of width of the seat (aside from the guy in the next seat "spilling" into mine): I guess that's what the other people who mentioned 45A were talking about when they said that it was somewhat uncomfortable, regardless of the massive amount of legroom.Anyhow, 46A/C remained empty, so I simply relocated myself that one row back - that way, I had two seats for myself, even if I now had a window seat without a window...

So here I was, making myself comfortable in 46C - I took the aisle seat for the time being, because I really didn't see any advantage in the windowless window seat, and I can only say that I truly do not understand what all the fuss is about regarding the pitch on these planes.

Sure, it's not as generous as the B747-200s, -300s and SPs (have never flown on SAA's -400s, so I cannot compare it to them) were, but it's nowhere near as bad as some make it seem: I'd say it's about the same level as Swiss, in other words - better than Lufthansa (which, regarding Economy Class comfort isn't necessarily something to be proud of in itself, but it's a start).

Obviously, because of my height, I had the usual problem of not really being able to see what was displayed on the PTV, so I had to duck down a bit - because one thing I certainly didn't want to miss was the outside camera... or the three outside cameras.

Eventually, I had the tail-mounted camera on most of the time, because I found that to be the most interesting view; then again, I had two PTVs at my disposal, so I had the other switched to the front camera.

So, here we were, taxiing towards the runway, stopping twice to let planes cross our path. At around 21:20 we entered the active runway, waiting for a few moments for an Austrian Arrows Dash 8, which had entered the runway a few feet down the way, to take off, and then the four RR Trents spooled up. Again comparing it with the A340-300, I'd say... well... ok... no real comparison possible. While I still love the A340-300, I think it's now moved to the second place in my personal hitlist of longhaul aircraft: the volume of the engines of the -600 just doesn't increase much during the takeoff roll, and it stays nice and quiet all the time; in terms of accelleration, I'd say the A340-600 is quite close to the B777-200ER - maybe not quite as quick, but very close.

The takeoff roll was quite long, but the plane was filled with cargo and there weren't that many seats open, so I guess that would explain it; takeoff itself was quite smooth and not very steep.

A while later the seatbelt signs went off, and the cabin crew started the service.

The "Bar Service" was the first pass through the cabin - this ended with me having a bottle of mineral water on my table, accompanied by an orange juice and, last but not least, a bottle of Boland Kelder 2004 Chardonnay - the latter was a bit too wooded for my taste, but what can you say - quite a few of South Africa's wines are heavy on the oak flavor, the ones that aren't are some of my favorite wines. So much for, on some airlines, the discussion to get the whole can of the softdrink you wanted to have...  Wink

Next, one of the flight attendants came through the cabin with the special meals - which is where I got my dinner set in front of me: while I haven't had a lot of vegetarian meals on planes - I've only been a vegetarian for about half a year - I'd say this one, especially the main course, ranks at the very top: it consisted of pasta with vegetables (broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, bamboo sprouts) in a spicy sauce, and it was absolutely fabulous.

The starter was a small salad, including a tomato filled with egg and corn, the tray also included the - always present - crackers, cheese and chocolate. Unfortunately, the desert consisted of two types of melons, to which I have rather uncomfortable alergic reactions, as well as a half a strawberry, some orange slices and a grape - those last three things, I ate.

By the way - by now, we had passed overhead of Zürich and Milan, had gone past Florence and were heading for the coast a bit north of Rome, on a southward heading that would - according to the map - make us fly past Palermo a bit to the west, as well as Tripolis a bit to the east.

By now, we were 1204km/751mi along our route, our estinated time of arrival had changed from 7:46 down to, currently, 7:34, and we still had some 7534km/4680mi ahead of us - and we were flying with 10141m/33272ft of air between us and the ground, with the ground passing below us at a speed of 952km/h or 593mph.

One comment to the lighting - I've long preferred the lighting in Airbus cabins to the one that Boeing uses, specifically because the lights in Airbus' cabins are "whiter" (not as yellow - for lack of a better description), and this plane was no exception - but there was one improvement over other Airbus-planes that I've been on: the personal reading lights now seemed almost like LED lights, a light that I found extremely comfortable while reading.

By now, the plane had actually become a lot quiter than before, but not because of the plane itself - I had asked for, and received, some earplugs, which I was planning on using while I was asleep... but the person sitting accross the aisle from my seat was making such disgusting noises with either his throat or nose that I decided to use the plugs earlier.

Currently, at 22:51, the crew is passing through the cabin and collecting the meal trays - and this will now, most likely, conclude the part of this trip report that I'm writing today.

Just one more thing I wanted to mention - the entertainment system that SAA has on board seems quite nice, and the selection of movies and TV programming is really quite extensive - the list of films available on this flight is: Be Cool, Drom, Hitch, Lackawanna Blues, Million Dollar Baby, Robots, The Pacifier, Sophiatown, Hulchul, Blackmail, National Treasure, Hide and Seek, Racing Stripes, Phantom of the Opera, Coach Carter, In Good Company, and Cry The Beloved Country.

As usual, I won't be watching a single one of them, instead preferring to sleep... Big grin

.....

It's now 1 hour and 52 minutes prior to arrival, we've passed Lubumbashi and Ndola a short while ago and are currently heading for Lusaka - it's still dark outside, but traces of the sunrise are already visible, and - as always - it looks stunning.

Our current altitude is 11368m/37295ft and the outside temperature has gone down to not so comfortable -49°C/-56F, and we have 1358km/843mi left to go.

To some extent, I guess I'll need to ammend my comments about the seat pitch from earlier: the pitch is actually quite good, it's those annoying boxes for the IFE that make the whole thing somewhat uncomfortable. Nonetheless, I was able to get around 6 1/2 hours of sleep, so I am reasonably rested.

Once again, the special meals were served first, and my breakfast, just as my dinner, was very tasty - the fruit selection this time was a bit more diverse, and while it again contained melons (which I'm not complaining about - there's no way SAA could have known that I have an alergic reaction to them), there were several strawberrys in there this morning... the last of which I popped into my mouth just as we passed the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe over Lake Kariba.

By now, the sunrise had started turning brighter, and according to the inflight-map, we were now just 848km/526mi from our destination, with a remaining travel time of 1:13... out location is about halfway between Lake Kariba and Bulawayo, flying due south, at an altitude of 11977m/39294ft, flying at 887km/h or 552mph.

Our descent began at 6:56 and was calm, the outside camera presented beautiful views, especially as we were skimming the clouds. A few turns later, about 4 or 5 minutes prior to landing, just after the landing gear had been extended, the crew did something that I still fail to understand: they deactivated the IFE and, with that, the outside cameras - especially the landing would have been great to see on this, but unfortunately, that wasn't possible.

At 7:16 we touched down on Johannesburg International Airport's runway 21L, with the pilot using up the whole runway: when we turned off the runway, we were at the end of it. Our landing was followed by a very long taxi towards the terminal, which took us alongside SAA's colorful B747-300 Ndizani - but we never got to the terminal itself: we had been assigned an outside parking position.

So there we were, around 300 passengers getting off the plane waiting to catch a bus... and if anyone from ACSA (Airport Company of South Africa) or from Equity Aviation, the people who operate the ground services - at least those for SAA - reads this: PLEASE TEACH YOUR DRIVERS HOW TO DRIVE WITH PEOPLE ON BOARD!!!

The driver of the bus I was on seemed to be wanting to present the accelleration- and decelleration-capabilities of his bus, because accellerating and decellerating was basically all he did, even when the road was straight and no other traffic in the way... and his maneuvers would not at all qualifiy as smooth... which really isn't a good idea with a bus filled with about 50 people, most of which were standing.

Anyhow, once I was in the terminal, I was pleasantly surprised that the queues for immigration were extremely short - the longest one had three people waiting. Needless to say, about 5 minutes later, I was standing at the baggage caroussel, waiting for my bag. Once I had that, I proceeded through customs and was in the public part of the terminal, walking directly to the counter to re-check my baggage for my onward flight to Cape Town.

Seeing that the line here was quite long, I decided to walk over to the domestic terminal to re-check my bag there - and along the way it dawned on me that, with the opening of the new domestic terminal, the distance between the international and domestic terminals had increased. So there I was, walking past the ruins of what used to be the domestic terminal, and arrived at the new terminal.

First impression: huge improvement!

The old domestic terminal was somewhat of a dump, the new one is everything but - unless, of course, you walk past gates C13 and D1 to gates C12 and lower, because that part is essentially still the old terminal...

Date: 10. June 2005
Flight: SA317
Depart: Johannesburg at 09:00, Domestic Terminal, Gate C13
Arrive: Cape Town at 11:10
Equipment: Boeing B737-800 (Winglets), ZS-SJC
Seat: 31F, Window


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When I took a look at my boarding card, which I had been issued in Frankfurt yesterday evening, I realized that I was already checked in as the 114th passenger - and that was more than 12 hours prior to the flight! Well... that's what you get when you're on the standard connecting flight for several international arrivals.

By coincidence, this plane was the exact same one that I had flown on before - so now I've flown on SAA's B737-800s twice, once on 5 October 2000 from Cape Town to Johannesburg and now on the same route, just the other way around. The only difference was that, in 2000, ZS-SJC had not yet been fitted with winglets.

The flight was full, not a single seat empty. Just before we were meant to leave, an armoured vehicle drove up to the side of the plane, several guards armed with machine guns appeared, and a metallic box was transferred from the vehicle to the plane - whatever it was, it seems to have been quite valuable, considering the safety measures.

Anyhow, we pushed back exactly on time and were on our way, taxiing towards runway 21R. Along the way we passed, amongst others, an Air Zimbabwe B737-200 (Z-WPC), an Ethiopian Airlines B737-700 and several SAA planes; next to the A340 that I'd arrived on I could now see Nationwide's B767-300, which had arrived in the meantime.

Then we were on the runway, and due to the weight of the plane again used up quite a bit of it - while we went past SAA's maintenance area, I could see several parked white B747-300s, as well as B737-200s and TAAG Angola's B747-300.

After takeoff, we flew past Jo'burg Downtown, made a turn and were heading towards Cape Town; the altitiude for our flight would be 9500m, because the pilot wanted to keep us out of turbulence... didn't work for long, at around 9:50 the turbulences began, just around the time we passed the town of Kimberley, with it's "Big Hole", an old diamond mine, prominently visible in the middle.

The cabin crew then started the first of 5 passes through the cabin for meals and drinks - well, one for the snack and 4 for drinks. There was a choice between a chicken sandwich and a mozzarella and carrot sandwich, so I expected that there would not be a special vegetarian meal for me - about halfway through my sandwich, another one was placed before me... the vegetarian special meal.

Aside from the girl sitting behind me constantly trying to push my seat forward so that she would have more space to herself, the rest of the flight was ok... and I hadn't even reclined my seat.

When we started our descent into Cape Town, one of the pilots informed us about the weather - clear skies, light northerly wind, 9°C, so rather cold... but, then again, it is winter down here right now. Again a few minutes later, we flew by the snow-covered Matroosberg (but that was on the other side of the plane, so I didn't see it), and Ceres Valley, and soon afterwards, Cape Town came into view. We made a turn to the left, and I got a great view of Table Mountain (which I've seen so often, either from a plane of from the ground - but, so far, had never been on top of - which changed that afternoon).

After overflying the beach, we made a 180 degree turn and were on the ground a few minutes ahead of schedule.

On our way to the terminal we passed the South African Government's BBJ and were parked at the far left-hand-side of the terminal; the walk to the terminal itself was a bit of a distance, and it took a while for my bag to arrive, but - finally - I had arrived.

.....

Here I am now, in seat 59G on my flight back to Frankfurt... but I'll just "rewind" a bit...  Wink ... after all, this is not my first flight of the day.

Anyhow, I spent the last few days in Cape Town, had two days of absolutely brilliant weather, two days of absolutely horrible weather and two days that alternated between the two. Even though I'd been to Cape Town numerous times before, I had - so far - never managed to go up to the top of Table Mountain, but this time, it finally worked, and now, 11 years after my first visit to Cape Town, I finally got to see it from the mountain that so beautifully overlooks the city.

Unfortunately, as with all nice things, this trip had to end sometime - and that time was this morning. After saying goodbye to the colleagues that had also taken this trip, I checked out and drove to the airport; I filled up the tank of my rental car, parked it in the parking lot for rental returns, left the key in the office and was on my way to the check in counter; there was a bit of a queue since it was a bit of an early flight, but after a few moments, I was checked in for both of my flights - the one to Johannesburg as well as the one to Frankfurt.

Date: 16. June 2005
Flight: SA314
Depart: Cape Town at 08:00, Gate 14
Arrive: Johannesburg at 10:00
Equipment: Airbus A319-100, ZS-SFK
Seat: 16B, Middle Seat


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No, I had not reserved a middle seat - and I only noticed that I had been given one when I was through security.

Unfortunately, no-one could help me with that problem, because the flight was full.

Boarding started roughly on time, everyone was in the plane quite quickly (though, once again, the bus driver from the terminal to the plane seemed to have won his drivers licence in the lottery), and at least my fellow passengers of row 16 were both of rather narrow build, so I didn't expect any problems.

The first setback came before we had even left the ground: the girl sitting in the window seat closed the blind half way down, so I couldn't see anything. Then my neighbor in the aisle seat fell asleep, his head slowly sliding onto my shoulder... when I tapped his shoulder to wake him up, since his head was already fully resting on my shoulder, he actually was annoyed that I had woken him up.

He was even more annoyed when I told him that I really didn't give a damn if he was annoyed, because I simply didn't want to act as his pillow.

Around that time, breakfast was served and, once again, I got my meal way before the others got theirs, because of the special meal I had ordered. It consisted of scrambled eggs, hash browns, some fruit and a roll - it was reasonably good.

The seats, by the way, were the most comfortable seats I had ever sat in on a shorthaul plane: they were Recaro seats, and it really surprised me that they were comfortable, because I'd had some rather uncomfortable experiences on seats by the same company on previous flights - but these seats were truly comfortable.

The rest of the flight, by the way, was uneventful, up to - and including - our arrival in Johannesburg, which was a couple of minutes ahead of the scheduled time.

Even the bus ride to the terminal was unsurprising, because - once again - the bus driver seemed to have absolutely no idea of how to actually drive a bus while it's filled with people...  Yeah sure

In Jo'burg, I then headed up to the observation deck and was, for now, pleasantly surprised: big, somewhat clean, windows, and vending machines in case you needed something to drink or a snack. I got some nice pictures, all of which will, as tradition has it, most likely be rejected by this website....  Wink

During the day, I sent fellow member SA006 an SMS, asking if he'd meet me at the airport - which he later did; we took a ride around JNB with his father at the wheel, and I got to know some great new spots for spotting. Unfortunately the time was already somewhat advanced, and the winter sun was setting fast, so after roughly an hour, I was back at the airport - but in any case, I can only say: THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME!!!

So, here I was, back at the airport and waiting for my departure to Frankfurt - since I had already checked in that morning in Cape Town, I, fortunately, didn't have to go queue up for that again. I proceeded directly to security, which went by quickly, and passport control, which took ages, and found myself in the departure area. Since I still had some time, I did some last minute shopping.

After I was through with that, I proceeded to my gate and waited another few minutes before boarding began, again, roughly on time...

Date: 16. June 2005
Flight: SA260
Depart: Johannesburg at 19:10, International Terminal, Gate 4
Arrive: Frankfurt at 05:55, Terminal 1, on 17. June 2005
Equipment: Airbus A340-600, ZS-SNA
Seat: 74D, aisle seat - later 59G, also aisle seat

Yes, the second time on this trip, I got a plane that I had been on before, just that the difference between the two flights on ZS-SNA is a mere week, instead of the almost five years in the case of ZS-SJC.

When I got to my seat, I found someone sitting in it... bad start to a flight. I asked him what seat he had, and he told me that he had 74E - so I, politely, told him that he was sitting in 74D which was my seat (for those that don't know, that seat has no other seat in front of it, so it has loads of legroom).

Instead of moving to his seat, he started arguing - that he didn't think that 74D was the aisle seat, but 74E. By this point I was getting slightly annoyed, so I asked him why he thought that, while in the normal alphabet, the letter C is followed by D and then E, why on a plane that would suddenly be rearranged to read 74C (aisle) 74E 74D...

... he still didn't get it.

Then I showed him the sign that clearly read 74E middle / 74D aisle...

... now he started believing me.

So he moved to the middle seat, and launched right into complaint-mode, about how bad an airline SAA was, that everything had been better if he'd flown Lufthansa (yeah, right...) and that this would be a very bad flight...

At that point, I had had it.

Don't get me wrong - I love having legroom available to me, but I also don't want some constantly complaining idiot sitting next to me; and since he was travelling with his wife (who wasn't much behind him in the complaining-league), I decided to exchange legroom for a quiet seat.

So, I moved to 59G, an aisle seat that had a free seat next to it, so it was reasonably comfortable. Once again, by the way, I cannot really understand the exaggerated fuss that's almost constantly being made about the pitch: I'm currently sitting in my seat, with my notebook in my lap and the screen at a good (readable) angle, something that I don't even come close to on Lufthansa and some others, and my legs and knees have space available to them... I am reasonably comfortable.

While changing my seat, I was accompanied by a crew member, whom I also told that I had reserved a special meal and that they'd have to - obviously - now not bring it to 74D but 59G. He said "Ok, I'll take care of that".

About 10 minutes later, a different crewmember stood next to my seat asking for my name - which I gave him; he then launched into a mini-lecture about changing seats when you've got a special meal, telling me that I should have informed the crew.

He was a bit surprised when I told him that his fellow crewmember who had helped my find this seat had very well been informed by me about just that - he apologised and gave me my dinner.

I have no idea what that dinner actually was, but it was superb! It seemed somewhat like rice wrapped in pasta, together with some vegetables and loads of curry... if anyone has an idea what that dish could be (and what it's called), please tell me!

As usual, the meal was accompanied by a salad including dressing, a roll, desert (a small piece of cake) - and the bar service left a bottle of Simonsig Chenin Blanc of 2004, a pack of Ceres Mango Juice and a bottle of mineral water at my table.

All of it was very good.

While the meal was served, we had already left South African airspace, crossed through a bit of Botswana and were about at the level of Bulawayo - and I finished eating about halfway between beautiful Lake Kariba and Lusaka.

Currently, we're about to cross the border between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, heading straight for Lubumbashi; we're cruising at 10794m/35413ft, have already travelled a distance of 1532km/953mi, and have about 8 hours and 29 minutes left to go... and I'm about to go to sleep.

...

There's just nothing like a good night's sleep - and, on this flight, that's exactly what I got.

I fell asleep roughly around Lusaka, when I woke up we had already passed Palermo, so a rough estimate would be that, of the 10 hours 40 minutes flight time, I spent the first two hours awake as well as the last 1 hour 45 minutes: just under 7 hours of sleep.... I often don't get that much sleep at home...  Wink

Minutes after I woke up, my breakfast got served - scrambled eggs with vegetables in a tomato sauce, müsli, fruit (apple, pineapple, melons) and a croissant. The food was, again, quite tasty.

By now, we've got about 65 minutes of flight time left and we're about to overfly the Italian coast about halfway between Genoa and Florence; the sun is already rising, which I can see through some of the open windows as well as through those two outside cameras that are available.

Our current altitude, as we cross the coastline at La Spezia, is 12319m/40410ft. The distance left to fly is 691km/427mi, and our remaining flight time is 63 minutes - currently, we're scheduled to land ahead of schedule at 05:40... wouldn't mind if we could make that, because I have to be at the office at 10:00 - and that would give me more than enough time to freshen up before walking to the office.

Since the battery of my notebook is now starting to run a bit low, I'll have to stop writing now, as we're passing through Swiss airspace - my PTV is still set on the tail-mounted camera, the plane is now fully visible even though the sun has not risen above the horizon quite yet... and I can see the contrails forming from the two inboard engines...

...

A few minutes after the breakfast trays were taken away, the announcement was made that we'd be commencing our descent into Frankfurt; at something around 15000 to 20000ft we went through a bit of turbulence, but nothing really rough. About three turns later, we were on the direct course for Frankfurt's runway 25R - we touched down at 05:38; after another 8 minutes, the plane was parked at the gate, and I had arrived back home... or at least at the airport of my hometown.

From here on, everything went quite quickly, even though it, at first, didn't seem that way: the queue at immigration was enormous, but suddenly about 75% of the people standing in line went away, because they seemed to be part of a group: so suddenly, I was the third person in line. As usual, the officer at the desk only took a look at the picture, looked at me, seemed to think that the two have a reasonable amount of similarity and let me pass.

I then went on to the baggage carrousel, where - to my surprise - the bags were already arriving: at 06:14, I had my bag in my hand, went through customs and got a slight shock when I saw that I only had three minutes to get to the train station before the next train to town would leave. I ran, and got the train. After my usual connection at the main train station, I arrived at my local train station precisely one hour after my flight had touched down.


Summary
SAA still has high standards - they easily outclass airlines like Lufthansa and, to a slightly lesser extent, British Airways or Scandinavian Airlines; the seats themselves are very comfortable, but the fact that economic realities have forced SAA to reduce the seat pitch does not go unnoticed - then again, as I've mentioned before, it's really nowhere near as bad as some have tried to make it sound. I'll agree though, those boxes for the IFE really are annoying.

But those two main gripes are being addressed anyhow - SAA is experimenting with smaller IFE boxes, and they've started reconfiguring the A340-600s with less seats: it won't be the pitch it used to be, but it'll be better than what it is right now.

As for the IFE, as usual, I didn't really use it - I had the flight map on and, whenever it was light enough outside, either the tail camera or the front mounted camera. But from what I've heard from other passengers, the rest of the system seems to be quite nice as well - it is AVOD, I've seen passengers fast-forwarding and/or rewinding, pausing etc. the films they were watching.

The meals were of good quality, somewhere between tasty and very good - not something that can be said of too many airline meals these days.

For both longhauls, by the way, small bags with things like socks, eye-covers and a toothbrush and toothpaste were given out, on both flights I also received - on request - earplugs, which I need to sleep on planes.

Would I fly SAA again? Without a second's worth of hesitation.

Would I recommend SAA to others? Absolutely.


I'll leave you now with a few images that I took this morning on approach into Frankfurt... I'm really surprised that I got this all done now - it's currently 08:43, three hours after my arrival in Frankfurt, and another hour and 15 minutes to go before I have to be at the office... I'll just go get my next cup of coffee now... Big grin



Still at cruise level, with the beginning of sunrise visible


Over the southeastern suburbs of Frankfurt, our last turn towards the airport


Overflying the Autobahn, airport already visible


Over the Autobahn A5


Seconds till touchdown


At our parking position



Smile - it confuses people!
22 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineAtco2b From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2005, 1114 posts, RR: 7
Reply 1, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 16711 times:

Wow! Those pics of the fuselage are amazing!

Very detailed, thanks for sharing. I really like the A340-600, found it actually very spacious.

Tom



Hey, you want to go out for pizza and some sex? What, you don't like pizza?
User currently offlineSpootter10 From Germany, joined Aug 2000, 76 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 16619 times:

Thanks for this great trip-report! I`d love to go to South Africa one day - maybe I´ll do it as part of my university-studies.
And I love those pics!


User currently offlineLHR27C From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2004, 1279 posts, RR: 16
Reply 3, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 16553 times:

Hi,

Excellent report, very detailed. I have flown SAA twice to South Africa, though on the 744 instead of 346 and I agree about their on the whole very good service.

The domestic terminal at JNB is great, isn't it? The only thing I found annoying transiting through JNB from international to national was having to collect bags and re-check them in again, but apart from that it's a fantastic airport, and the viewing deck is good only I found the glass rather dirty.

Love those tail photos!

Oliver



Once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned forever skyward
User currently offlineRyanair737 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 16361 times:

Excellent report, thanks for taking the time to write it.  Smile

I would really like to try SAA out, but they are (probably) the most expensive carrier to fly with from the UK to South Africa.

I'm glad you enjoyed your time over in SA, its a fantastic country and I can't wait to go back!

Regards
Ryanair737


User currently offlineSA7700 From South Africa, joined Dec 2003, 3431 posts, RR: 26
Reply 5, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 16306 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
HEAD MODERATOR

Great report Frank, thanks!

Quoting LHR27C (Reply 3):
The only thing I found annoying transiting through JNB from international to national was having to collect bags and re-check them in again, but apart from that it's a fantastic airport

This is not something "unique" to JNB. Whether you travel to the USA, Oz, etc; you have to collect your baggage on arrival in the international terminal, proceed through customs and recheck your bags for domestic flights - your bags have to be cleared at your first point of entry.

Quick tip for those of you who have to transit JNB onwards to international destinations: A dedicated walkway to the international terminal has now been opened on the far side of the "retail level" in the domestic terminal.

This means that should you arrive on a domestic flight and have an onward international flight, with your baggage checked through to it's final destination, you can make use of this walkway without venturing outside the terminals like before. You must have a boarding pass for your international flight ready, as this "facility" has its own customs desks. You will walk via moving walkways straight into the international airside and duty-free zone, ready to board your flight.

This also beats the crowds, that can sometime form during peak-times, on the landside of the international terminal.

Rgds

SA7700



When you are doing stuff that nobody has done before, there is no manual – Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs)
User currently offlineLeskova From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 6075 posts, RR: 70
Reply 6, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 16237 times:

Thanks, folks, for the comments.

Regarding those pictures, they at least give an impression of how nice those IFE systems with outside cameras are; if available, I'll usually have one of two things on my PTV - the moving map and the outside camera(s). Otherwise, the screen usually remains dark.

Quoting Spootter10 (Reply 2):
I`d love to go to South Africa one day - maybe I´ll do it as part of my university-studies.

It is a simply spectacular country - fortunately the country removed itself from it's isolation just over a decade ago, otherwise this beauty would have remained unknown for millions of travellers.

If you have a chance to go to South Africa - go there! Only a small minority of people I know to have travelled there come back saying they didn't like it, and most love it. Just keep one thing in mind: Africa is addictive. You'll want to come back. Big grin

Quoting LHR27C (Reply 3):
The domestic terminal at JNB is great, isn't it?

It was amazing, especially knowing the old terminal, where I've spent hours and hours over the years: it was similarly surprising as the change from the old international terminal to the new - in both cases, saying it was a huge improvement is almost an understatement!

Quoting Ryanair737 (Reply 4):
I would really like to try SAA out, but they are (probably) the most expensive carrier to fly with from the UK to South Africa.

Well... SAA isn't cheap, they usually can afford not to be - their flights, at least the ones from Frankfurt, are usually full (or almost full) regardless of that: they're almost never the cheapest, often in the middle and not seldomly amongst the more expensive carriers from here as well (probably also has a bit to do with their cooperation with LH... talk about high prices on lots of routes).

I know there's always a limit, but when comparing SAA to other airlines I've flown on, personally I'd be more than prepared to pay a bit extra to fly on them.

Quoting Ryanair737 (Reply 4):
I'm glad you enjoyed your time over in SA, its a fantastic country and I can't wait to go back!

Hell - I can't wait to go back, and I've been back just over 24 hours now... Big grin

Quoting SA7700 (Reply 5):
This is not something "unique" to JNB. Whether you travel to the USA, Oz, etc; you have to collect your baggage on arrival in the international terminal, proceed through customs and recheck your bags for domestic flights

That's true, and it annoys me almost everywhere I travel. Actually, the only area where I know this is not so (and please tell me if there are others) are within the EU, where your baggage always clears customs at your final destination, not at the port of entry - of course, with me living in Frankfurt now, my final destination and port of entry into the EU have more frequently become one and the same...

But it's interesting to hear about that walkway from the domestic to the international terminal - now I only wish SAA and/or ACSA would increase the amount of counters in the international arrivals hall for rechecking of luggage... it can be quite a pain to wait there at times...

Regards,
Frank



Smile - it confuses people!
User currently offlineSA7700 From South Africa, joined Dec 2003, 3431 posts, RR: 26
Reply 7, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 16198 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
HEAD MODERATOR

Quoting Leskova (Reply 6):
now I only wish SAA and/or ACSA would increase the amount of counters in the international arrivals hall for rechecking of luggage... it can be quite a pain to wait there at times...

I'm sure that will be changing in the near future, of course in anticipation for the World Cup in 2010 and the arrival of possible A380's.
Work are in progress at the old domestic terminal, as well as outside to the North of the international terminal. Parking at the D-apron when you arrived, you must have seen that there is quite some work going on out there.

There are also extension work in progress at the C-apron where all the DH8's, CRJ's and J41's are parked.

Rgds

SA7700



When you are doing stuff that nobody has done before, there is no manual – Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs)
User currently offlineLeskova From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 6075 posts, RR: 70
Reply 8, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 2 hours ago) and read 15989 times:

Quoting SA7700 (Reply 7):
Work are in progress at the old domestic terminal

Well... "work [...] in progress" is one way to put it - the old terminal is completely demolished... Big grin

Do you know if they're using that space for expansion of the domestic terminal? Or will it be used for something completely else?

Quoting SA7700 (Reply 7):
as well as outside to the North of the international terminal. Parking at the D-apron when you arrived, you must have seen that there is quite some work going on out there.

That's true - and the bus drivers do an excellent job of making people aware of the work: the one that was driving the bus I was in made certain that we got to experience every single hole or bump in the road on our way to the terminal...

Will there be some more remote stands there? Or could the international terminal be extended that way?

Regards,
Frank



Smile - it confuses people!
User currently offlineSA7700 From South Africa, joined Dec 2003, 3431 posts, RR: 26
Reply 9, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 hour ago) and read 15978 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
HEAD MODERATOR

Quoting Leskova (Reply 8):
Do you know if they're using that space for expansion of the domestic terminal? Or will it be used for something completely else?

At this stage they refer to it as the "Central Terminal Building" and a link between the new domestic and international terminals has been completed (as previously reported). However, I read in the Sunday Times, a while ago, (and heard it via the grapevine); that SAA International would be moving to that area. Again, I'm not 101% certain, but that's the word out on the street.

Quoting Leskova (Reply 8):
That's true - and the bus drivers do an excellent job of making people aware of the work: the one that was driving the bus I was in made certain that we got to experience every single hole or bump in the road on our way to the terminal...

Will there be some more remote stands there? Or could the international terminal be extended that way?

I know exactly what you are talking about; we had a similar bumpy ride out to SA236 on the D-apron when I flew out to LHR. They have no mercy at all - until someone gets seriously hurt.

I haven't seen any blueprints, but apparently the International Terminal will be extended with additional jetways. Gate A1 at the far end has not been operational for quite a while now - so something is definitely cooking out there. Big grin

Rgds

SA7700



When you are doing stuff that nobody has done before, there is no manual – Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs)
User currently offlineAT502B From South Africa, joined Dec 2004, 347 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (9 years 1 month 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 15931 times:

Great report, I'm glad you had such a great time in South Africa.

Only I have to disagree with you on the pitch on the SA A340's. In my opinion it's just horrible- a big reason I will not be flying SAA on my next 2 trips to South Africa.



I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning.
User currently offlineTriStar500 From Germany, joined Nov 1999, 4692 posts, RR: 43
Reply 11, posted (9 years 1 month 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 15908 times:

Hi Frank!
Thank you very much for a very good, highly enjoyable trip report, IMO one of the best I have ever read about SAA. Your great attention to detail gives me almost the impression of being on board with you.  Smile

You are really a lucky S.O.B.  Wink to get to travel on your company's expenses in such a nice way, everytime I have to travel and my boss pays for it, it actually means I will have even more work than if I would be staying in my office. Big grin



Homer: Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!
User currently offlineSA006 From South Africa, joined Sep 2003, 1883 posts, RR: 55
Reply 12, posted (9 years 1 month 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 15771 times:

Quoting Leskova (Thread starter):
During the day, I sent fellow member SA006 an SMS, asking if he'd meet me at the airport - which he later did; we took a ride around JNB with his father at the wheel, and I got to know some great new spots for spotting. Unfortunately the time was already somewhat advanced, and the winter sun was setting fast, so after roughly an hour, I was back at the airport - but in any case, I can only say: THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME!!!

No problem mate  Smile

If you are ever here again , contact me , you must have more time next time to spot. JNB is great for that. (got your e-mail btw  Smile )

-SA006  wave 



Proudly South African
User currently offlineStevenUhl777 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (9 years 1 month 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 15687 times:

Wow...great trip report, thanks for spending the time to write it...and those tail-mounted pictures are simply amazing...WOW! Imagine what they would be on a 744 or soon the A380!

I'm also one who wants to make it to SA one of these days, perhaps on SAA! For me, I'm about 10,000 NM away from CPT, so I have a 10h flight to FRA (from PDX most likely on LH) and then another 10 down to CPT or JNB. I could fly to IAD and then down on SAA, too I suppose.

Thanks again..I'll definitely consider SAA if I go...though I'd hope for a 744!  Wink


User currently offlineLeskova From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 6075 posts, RR: 70
Reply 14, posted (9 years 1 month 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 15683 times:

Thanks for the comments, folks - nice to see that you like the report... Big grin

Quoting SA7700 (Reply 9):
that SAA International would be moving to that area

Sounds reasonable - it would put them closer to the domestic terminal, which would facilitate easier transfers, although transferring at JNB can hardly be called a pain as it is now, there's always room for improvement.

Quoting SA7700 (Reply 9):
They have no mercy at all - until someone gets seriously hurt.

As much as they're trying, I don't think that point in time is that far off...  Wink

Seriously though, the way those guys slam on the brakes and accellerators, I'm actually almost surprised that no-one has been hurt yet.

Quoting SA7700 (Reply 9):
Gate A1 at the far end has not been operational for quite a while now - so something is definitely cooking out there.

With all the building going on out there, it sure would be surprising if they'd just close up each one of those holes they've dug out there and everything were back to the way it was before... it would probably have some people staring in disbelief to the burst out laughing... Big grin

Quoting AT502B (Reply 10):
Only I have to disagree with you on the pitch on the SA A340's.

Well, as I mentioned a bit below my first comments about the pitch, I do have to agree that the IFE box makes it a bit annoying; but in general, I'm usually more of the picky kind, having problems with seat pitches that a lot of people still find comfortable. I do agree that SAA's current removal of one or two rows (I think it was one per Y-class compartment) is a good idea, because coming from the pitch they used to have to the one they've got now must have been quite a culture shock for people who flew on both within a short timeframe.

The plane I was on (it was the same one on both longhauls after all) still had the old config - maybe, when they're through with the reconfig, it'll be even better for me and back to acceptable for you...  Wink

Quoting TriStar500 (Reply 11):
to get to travel on your company's expenses in such a nice way,

Well, it doesn't happen all that often (first for me), and it was quite a surprise to me that I got this trip after just one year with the company - these trips are normally awarded to some degree on our version of seniority...

Quoting TriStar500 (Reply 11):
everytime I have to travel and my boss pays for it, it actually means I will have even more work than if I would be staying in my office.

Well, I did have to fill out some forms for accounting and for my days off, so it was work for me as well... Big grin ... ok, just kidding... but at least you get to travel more frequently than I do, though I know from my own previous experience that there is such a time when you start not really looking forward to your next flight, and it all just becomes a "normal" part of work.

Quoting SA006 (Reply 12):
you must have more time next time to spot. JNB is great for that.

I certainly will - and JNB certainly is great for spotting!!

Quoting StevenUhl777 (Reply 13):
and those tail-mounted pictures are simply amazing...WOW! Imagine what they would be on a 744 or soon the A380!

Actually, I think it would probably not work as much on those two, but I guess a B777-300 would be great for it - the length of the plane (at least in my eyes) really adds to the view from up there; the other option would be a really short plane, something like a B737-600 or A318...

Quoting StevenUhl777 (Reply 13):
For me, I'm about 10,000 NM away from CPT, so I have a 10h flight to FRA (from PDX most likely on LH) and then another 10 down to CPT or JNB. I could fly to IAD and then down on SAA, too I suppose.

Well, one of the colleagues on the tour with me was from our office in Los Angeles, and she flew LAX-FRA-CPT; she was a bit knocked out the first one or two days.

I guess I'd try to go through IAD on one flight and through either JFK or ATL on the other, just to get both longhaulers that SAA has - and if you're not planning on flying in the next few months, you'll most likely already get the reconfigured A340s, so they should be quite nice then.

As for, alternatively, flying Lufthansa: don't.

While I don't know what the prices will be like from PDX, the service on SA beats that on LH by far, if you put LH at 100%, I'd put SA at around 800 to 1000%... and the worst thing I've ever heard someone say about the pitch on SAA is "this is just as bad as Lufthansa"... while I still feel it was more than that (though I don't have any numbers), I'd strongly disagree that it's even a single millimeter less than LH.

Should anyone be interested, I've now also got some pictures from the trip itself on my own website - the descriptions are only in German at the moment (still haven't had time to translate them), but if you want a rough idea what the area around Cape Town looks like...

http://www.leskova.de , click on "Reisen" and "Kapstadt 2005"

And, again, thanks for the comments!

Regards,
Frank



Smile - it confuses people!
User currently offlineSabena332 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (9 years 1 month 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 15629 times:

Hi Frank,

This is a fantastic report with many details, I enjoyed reading very much! I am glad that you had a good time in South Africa, even better that the flights were for free. Good that you didn't have to fly Craphansa and that you got a seat on the SAA flights, I also think that they are a pretty good airline.

The tail-cam pics kick ass, simply awesome!

Patrick


User currently offlineStevenUhl777 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 16, posted (9 years 1 month 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 15603 times:

I mentioned PDX, as I have family there, and the fact I can fly on LH direct to FRA and on to CPT or JNB.

I also could go SEA-IAD-CPT, part UA/part SAA, now that they fly into IAD. I'm a long ways off, but planning a trip for '08 or maybe '09 after I finish my MBA, and am considering South Africa as a possible destination.


User currently offlineAirbus3801 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2004, 1089 posts, RR: 5
Reply 17, posted (9 years 1 month 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 15507 times:

Excellent report, very detailed and I loved the pictures.

User currently offlineMrniji From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 18, posted (9 years 3 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 15299 times:

Frank, fantastic report: I enjoyed every single line! good to know that SAA seems to be such a great airline

Quoting Leskova (Thread starter):
booking my flights, I issued my tickets

The dream of every aneter: book and issue yourself (I would love to issue myself once a paper-ticket - but I agree, etickets are convenient as one can't loose them - you will see in my upcoming report what I mean  Wink )

Quoting Leskova (Thread starter):
then again, I had two PTVs at my disposal, so I had the other switched to the front camera

Brilliant! Big grin

Quoting Leskova (Thread starter):
Then my neighbor in the aisle seat fell asleep, his head slowly sliding onto my shoulder... when I tapped his shoulder to wake him up, since his head was already fully resting on my shoulder, he actually was annoyed that I had woken him up.

He was even more annoyed when I told him that I really didn't give a damn if he was annoyed, because I simply didn't want to act as his pillow.

I know what you mean.. I once had an alcoholic dinosaur next to me, who must have thought I am the most tender thing on earth..  Sad - snored that the entire plane remained awake

Quoting Leskova (Thread starter):
The seats, by the way, were the most comfortable seats I had ever sat in on a shorthaul plane: they were Recaro seats, and it really surprised me that they were comfortable, because I'd had some rather uncomfortable experiences on seats by the same company on previous flights - but these seats were truly comfortable.

The ricardo seats on LH are the most uncomfortable seats I have sat in - I prefer the camping chair style Big grin


Quoting SA7700 (Reply 5):
This is not something "unique" to JNB. Whether you travel to the USA, Oz, etc; you have to collect your baggage on arrival in the international terminal, proceed through customs and recheck your bags for domestic flights - your bags have to be cleared at your first point of entry.



Quoting Leskova (Reply 6):
Actually, the only area where I know this is not so (and please tell me if there are others) are within the EU, where your baggage always clears customs at your final destination, not at the port of entry - of course, with me living in Frankfurt now, my final destination and port of entry into the EU have more frequently become one and the same...

Actually, I thought this was convenient in the states: collect baggage, clear customs, and put it on the conveyor belt again, NOT rechecking it... btw, this EU thing has a funny logic:

- I for instance flew BOM-CDG-TXL... CDG-TXL is treated as domestic.. so no custom control possible!!! Funny, eh, and good for smugelling  Wink

- And when I flew TXL-FRA-IAD on UA (and that after 9/11), no special baggage procedures for the USA leg...

Can someone explain the logic of these scenarios?

Cheerio, MrNiji


User currently offlineLeskova From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 6075 posts, RR: 70
Reply 19, posted (9 years 3 weeks 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 15277 times:

Quoting Mrniji (Reply 18):
Frank, fantastic report: I enjoyed every single line! good to know that SAA seems to be such a great airline

Thanks - looking forward to your next AI report...

Quoting Mrniji (Reply 18):
The dream of every aneter: book and issue yourself

Well, it's nice to, once in a while, issue tickets with one's own name on them; my own tickets (or tickets for colleagues from the non-booking/-ticketing parts of the company) are the only ones I get to book myself, though, all the other ones are sent to us after being booked by other offices - which is a good thing, lets us concentrate more on avoiding mistakes while issuing the tickets.

Quoting Mrniji (Reply 18):
The ricardo seats on LH are the most uncomfortable seats I have sat in - I prefer the camping chair style

In my case it was Recaro seats on Air Berlin and Hapag Lloyd - both are not a positive memory about the respective flights... and the one on SAA's B737-800 was similar to the AB and HF seats; but the one on the A319 was absolutely perfect - no idea why, if it was a different design or just because it was newer...

Quoting Mrniji (Reply 18):
I for instance flew BOM-CDG-TXL... CDG-TXL is treated as domestic.. so no custom control possible!!! Funny, eh, and good for smugelling

That's what I always thought as well, until I was stopped by customs officials after arriving from a MIA-FRA-HAJ flight - I was stopped in HAJ, they searched my bags, and I could leave again (fortunately I wasn't carrying anything I wasn't supposed to Big grin).

The baggage tags give you away - if you haven't got green stripes at the side of your tags, you're arriving from outside the EU, so the officials that are present (even if you often don't see them at first, but they are there) know where you're coming from.

Quoting Mrniji (Reply 18):
And when I flew TXL-FRA-IAD on UA (and that after 9/11), no special baggage procedures for the USA leg...

I guess the special checks are made "under ground" - while checking in for US bound flights in FRA or HAJ, I did not notice any difference either compared to checking in for this specific flight to South Africa... not sure if there even are any special procedures any more - or if the tighter measures haven't been adapted for all flights by now...

Now I just need to figure out when, and where, I'll be flying next... Big grin

Regards,
Frank



Smile - it confuses people!
User currently offlineManchesterMAN From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2003, 1217 posts, RR: 1
Reply 20, posted (9 years 2 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 15031 times:

Great trip report. Particularly interesting as I'll be flying to South Africa myself for the first time in September, although I'll be flying Emirates from LGW-JNB, although I have booked SAA for JNB-CPT (on the A342 and 744  thumbsup  ) and your report has wetted my appetite. I should have a few hours to kill at JNB so looking forward to checking out the viewing deck. Does CPT have a viewing area as well??

Also enjoyed your pictures of "Kapstadt" and Table mountain - can't wait to get up there. just hope the weather is as good as it looks in your pics when I go.

[Edited 2005-07-09 17:29:16]


Flown: A300,A319,A320,A321,A330,A340.A380,717,727,737,747,757,767,777,DC9,DC10,MD11,MD80,F100,F50,ERJ,E190,CRJ,BAe146,Da
User currently offlineAnxebla From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 21, posted (8 years 12 months 9 hours ago) and read 14727 times:

Frank ...In your opinion ...what airline of wich service do you know have the best service in Economy?

User currently offlineLeskova From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 6075 posts, RR: 70
Reply 22, posted (8 years 11 months 3 weeks 3 days ago) and read 14523 times:

Hola Andrés,

Quoting Anxebla (Reply 21):
what airline of wich service do you know have the best service in Economy?

Sorry it took a while for me to reply, but I haven't checked the trip reports within the last 7 days (hope this isn't considered bumping my thread back up)... anyhow, to answer your question: SAA and TAM are my personal favorites, these are the airlines on which I've experienced the best service in Economy.

I also enjoyed my flights on Cathay Pacific, United and Swissair/Swiss International Air Lines quite a lot, but SAA and TAM lead these by quite a bit.

That's, by the way, my opinion for both long- and short-haul.

Regards,
Frank



Smile - it confuses people!
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