South African Airways Flight 210
Scheduled Departure 10:30 AM
Scheduled Arrival 8:20 AM
Departure Gate: E14
Arrival Gate: A1 (JNB)
Flight time: ATL-CPT 14 hr. CPT-JNB 2 hr.
Photo © Yevgeny Pashnin
Woke up at 4:00 AM after planning not to sleep at all the night before so I’d sleep easier on the plane. Quickly made sure I had everything needed for the week trip to South Africa, which included a through check of my camera to make sure everything I needed was there and in working order.
Left the house at 5:15 AM and headed off to Steak & Shake to grab some breakfast. Where the waitress felt it necessary to tell us that they in fact, had no ice cream. Thanks, I needed to know that…
At 6:20 AM we were on the road for ATL. Arrived at Mercury and caught the shuttle to the South Terminal International Departures area. Went straight to the SAA/DL check in desk to find no line.
Checked in and got seats 71H and K with the middle seat open, just as I had reserved. Took the bags to TSA to be X-Rayed and began to question the TSA agent on the process, being an airside GSC I never get to see the landside aspect of everything.
Questions answered, I headed off for gate E14 to await the arrival of flight 209 from CPT.
I had gotten an email the night before being notified that we would be on ZS-SAY, Vulindlela which is strange for ATL because we normally only see the GE aircraft. At 8:20 SAY made the turn off of Dixie taxiway and pulled into gate E14, ending an 18-hour trip from CPT to ATL via SID. And beginning a 2-hour turn around to head back to CPT. Staring at the aircraft, it still didn’t seem real that after 5 years of wanting to go, I was actually going to do it.
At 9:30 the SAA agent called for boarding. Being in row 71 we were among the first to board.
Taking our seats I noticed how tall the seats are. You feel somewhat boxed in because of the height and width.
Push back was commenced at 10:24…6 minutes early. Does it really matter when your flight is 14 hours long?
Taxied off of Dixie taxiway and entered the queue for 27R. In front of us, an ASA ATR 72 and behind us a Delta 767-300. After about 15 minutes of taxiing we pulled onto runway 27R where we sat. After a minute of sitting the breaks were set and the engines spooled up….we sat.
After 15 seconds with the engines spooled the breaks were released and we began slowly rolling down 27R.
Experience has shown me that SAA usually rotates around ramp 1 – between T and A concourses. So looking forward to a full length departure I sat back and enjoyed my tour of 27R.
Around B concourse our nose slowly began to raise, A concourse mains off the ground. Parking deck – passing through about 100 feet. Only 13 hours 59 minutes to go.
Ten minutes after departure we were only climbing through 6,000 feet with the purser giving service information for the flight.
After an hour in flight we were at our initial cruising altitude of 29,000 feet and passing over CHS.
Lunch was being served…
Lunch was the standard Chicken or Beef, I chose the Grilled Chicken and continued watching TV.
Not being one who cares about details of the meal, I’m skipping over that part.
The one thing I wasn’t quite ready for when it came to the flight was the amount of time that it was light out, the first 8 to 9 hours of the flight it was day light which seemed to make time pass very slowly.
Night fell and the flight attendants came around with a snack service – snickers ice cream bars. Excellent choice.
The f/a’s were fairly frequent with drink service, offering water or OJ throughout the flight.
Four hours after the snickers bar was served the flight attendants came around with a smoked turkey sandwich, which was also quite good. The drink service continued once an hour – and the flight continued. Only 4 hours to go.
About 2 hours prior to landing the lights were switched on and the main cabin screens were switched back on to Air Show, about 600 miles off the coast of Namibia…almost there!
Breakfast was served and the customs forms were passed out.
Hints of sunrise began to appear and that’s when I realized that this flight was so long that we had been served lunch, two snacks and had just finished breakfast….we had seen most of a day, sunset all night and now sunrise – kill me.
The captain came on the PA and announced we were starting our decent into Cape Town, and he would be switching on the seat belt sign shortly – decent?
We would be arriving about 30 minutes early into CPT at 7:50 AM local time, landing on runway 19 according to the captain.
Shortly after we made a sweeping turn to the left which brought all of Cape Town into view, the waterfront, table mountain and the city bowl were all visible in the little light that we had at 7:40.
Shortly after we made a smooth landing on runway 19 to begin our hour stop in CPT…still not allowed off the aircraft.
After looking around a little we decided to move to the upper deck which had become open, I took 84K, an exit row window. Right after I was seated the seatbelt sign was switched on and the cabin doors were closed.
Push back started about 10 minutes later and we turned north for our taxi to runway 19.
At the holding point for 19, we waited for a landing King Air to pass and we took our position.
Throttled up and began rolling. After a very short takeoff roll we were airborne and making a left turn towards the northeast and JNB.
Photo © Brian Stevenson - SPOT THIS!
This being a relatively quick flight at only 2 hours, we were up and down in no time, landing in JNB on runway 3R. Made a long taxi to gate A1 and deplaned, finally. In total we spent 18 hours on the plane – 1 hour in ATL, 14 hours in-flight, 1 hour in CPT and 2 hours to JNB.
Customs seemed to take a while, but I wasn’t exactly coherent at that point.
Cleared customs, and claimed our bags…welcome to Jo’berg.
After meeting up with some of the Johannesburg local spotters we rented our cell phone and headed out to do some spotting.
I’ll post my trip report from JNB – CPT on Nationwide Airlines and the return to Atlanta shortly.