SA7700
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Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2003 9:38 pm

South Africa / USA On SAA

Sun Feb 22, 2004 7:30 am

I recently did a trip on South African Airways, to the States, in economy class. It was quite memorable as I haven't flown long-haul on SAA in a while.


JNB/ATL via CPT and SID (SA209)

Check-in at Johannesburg International went quite smoothly, as I reported at SAA counters about 4 hours before departure. I got my reserved aisle upperdeck seat, 81H, as prebooked by my travel agent. The hours literally flew by and quite soon our flight started boarding at gate 8.

Boeing 744 ZS-SAX (Kemptonpark) was ready to take us down to Cape Town and pretty soon the door was closed and the tug started pushing us back. Much to my joy, most of the upperdeck was empty. There was only about 10 passengers upstairs. However, my bubble was burst when one of the male crew member's told me that I should enjoy the space for a while, as the flight would fill up to near 100% capacity in CPT. The 2 hour flight down to CPT was a breeze and we were offered a full bar-service and snacks, consisting of tasty rolls filled with either a vegetarian or chicken filling.

We landed in Cape Town on schedule and bid our cabin crew farewell, as they were replaced by a new crew. Unfortunately we had to stay on board the entire time while on the ground and had to remain seated when the refuelling process started. The cabin was cleaned and freshened up by a cleaning service. Hereafter the bulk of passengers started boarding.
Seated on the upperdeck, overhead locker space is somewhat restrictive, yet many people (mostly USA tourists) try to cram as much handluggage + dutyfree shopping into totally inadequate compartments. I was quite puzzled observing some of the desperate attempts made. I'm convinced that this also attributed to our flight being delayed in the end, as these people couldn't seem to settle down.

At last everyone was settled and the safety demonstration started (as in JNB). By the way, SAA has an animated safety video, which I regard as the best that I have ever encountered on all my trips. Pretty soon we were in the air and beautiful Cape Town and Table Mountain could be observed in all it's night-time glory. Virtually immediately we started our 9 hour long journey over the Atlantic to the Cape Verde Islands for our next stop. The Sony Passport PTV system was activated and for those who were interested in some entertainment, there was quite a nice variety of movies, shows, comedies, documentaries and games on offer.
Once again a full bar service was offered. Dinner and hot rolls were served. Throughout the night, cabin crew offered juice and water. There was also a generous supply of boxed fruit juices and bottled water available on a tray for self-help purposes.

We landed at Amilcar Cabral International Airport on the Cape Verde Islands, sometime during the night, for a refuel stop. Somewhat disoriented at that stage, I can't recall the exact time we landed. The only disruptive aspect during this stopover being the fact that all passengers are required by US regulations to claim all their handluggage, whereafter ground security sweep the entire aircraft. Any "unclaimed or unaccompanied" handluggage or shopping bags are removed from the aircraft.
Once again our crew was replaced and after about an hour on the ground, we were on the next and final 9 hour stage of our journey to Atlanta Hartsfield Airport. About 2-3 hours prior to landing in Atlanta, breakfast was served. I'm glad to report that we landed on US soil, close to the actual scheduled time of arrival.


JFK/JNB (SA202)

It was a cold, dreary and misty day. Once again I reported to check-in as early possible, to ensure my upperdeck seat, this time 83C. Boeing 744 ZS-SAV (Durban) was parked for our flight back to sunny South Africa. The dire state of Delta's terminal 3 at JFK certainly does not attribute to positive thinking, rainwater pouring through some of the ceilings! The lack of facilities such as proper dutyfree shopping made the waiting time even worse.
At last a boarding call was made and passengers started boarding. It did not take all that long, this time around, for everybody to settle down. Unfortunately some inconsiderate passengers boarded quite late and slowed us down a bit.

We started our push-back and shortly were on our way to the runway..... Just then the pilot informed us on the p/a system that there was a problem with the landing gear, which he was not happy about. We would be returning to our original gate for technical staff to sort out the problem. Once we docked and the door was opened, the "yellow jacket brigade" started filing through the upperdeck cabin to the cockpit. In the meantime the cabin crew served refreshments.
It took almost 2 hours to sort out the problem, but at last all the "yellow-jackets" left the plane and we were cleared for push-back....... The tug tried it's best but could not move the 744 even slightly. We were informed that the tug, that they were trying to push us back with, was too small and that we would have to wait for a larger one. In the end we left New York after a cumulative delay of about 3 hours, but at least we were on our way back home.

We had extremely friendly cabin crew and were offered the usual full bar service and dinner. This time around the food was not all that tasty. Fortunately there was once again more than enough juice and bottled water available throughout the flight. The PTV's was quite helpful during the 14h35 long flight, but there is only so much one can watch! Luckily the crew was quite attentive and even had the time to chat with those of us who could not sleep and were not interested in watching movies or comedies.

"Breakfast" was marginally better than dinner, but actually confusing as we already flew into late afternoon / early evening at that stage. The usual customs-and immigration forms were then distributed prior to landing. Unfortunately we did not make up much up time during the flight, to compensate for the delay in New York, and we landed in Johannesburg quite a bit behind schedule. This time we parked at gate 1.

Passengers booked on connecting flights were accommodated and rebooked on either the next flight or booked into airport hotels until there was available flights to their ultimate destinations. Personally I would have liked nothing better than to crash on my own Sealy Posturepedic after that long flight, but alas it was not to be. The next available flight to my ultimate destination was only the next day......

To avoid travellers blues, I think I should start planning my next trip immediately....... What's it going to be? Maybe JNB/SFO via SYD and LAX on QF and AA??
When you are doing stuff that nobody has done before, there is no manual – Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs)
 
jeffrey1970
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RE: South Africa / USA On SAA

Sun Feb 22, 2004 8:52 am

SA7700,

That was a great report. How did US customs and the TSA treat you? I hope they treated you very well. Your next trip sounds like a lot of fun.
God bless through Jesus, Jeff
 
SA7700
Topic Author
Posts: 2940
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RE: South Africa / USA On SAA

Sun Feb 22, 2004 7:14 pm

Hi Jeff

There was nothing abnormal about the custom procedures in Atlanta Airport. It was like customs in Perth, Sydney and Christchurch, my usual international entry ports which I use the most, which is fine. US officials didn't give me any hassles and asked the usual questions, like how long I intended to stay, etc. They only thing that flabbergasted me was the fact that there apparently is no customs when you leave the States. I find this quite strange.

I did not have any bad experiences with TSA or airport security in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, DC or New York.
I'm quite aware of the fact that belts, certain types of shoes, etc. trigger security alarms. Therefore, when I travel abroad I try to wear clothing like track-suit pants, T-shirt and sneakers to avoid these alarms. I also take of my watch, empty my pockets and place all this stuff with my cellphone in my carry-on, before I even approach security. I have never had a problem.
The only problem I had with TSA is the fact that they require your luggage to be unlocked, which makes me uneasy. Should they need to open my luggage and go through my stuff, I feel they may ask me to do so and can perform their duties infront of me, where I can see them. I hate it when people roams through my private stuff.

When I fly domestic in South Africa, I usually trigger alarms due to the fact that I'm dressed much more formally. My belt has always been the culprit.

Regards

SA7700


When you are doing stuff that nobody has done before, there is no manual – Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs)
 
MCMAHONSMR
Posts: 316
Joined: Sun Dec 17, 2000 4:21 am

RE: South Africa / USA On SAA

Mon Feb 23, 2004 3:12 am

SA7700 -

How was the load on the return SA202 from SA - New York">JFK. I agree with you that the state of the SA)">DL terminal is utterly pathetic. I think SAA could have a much better operation at SA - New York">JFK if they were to switch over to Terminal 4. But I suppose the reason this isn't happening is because of the SA/DL partnership.

You were lucky to get the upper deck seating - I'm sure much better than the main deck economy seating. I've been upstairs in Club and it was very nice...upstairs economy must be great!

MCMAHON/SMR
 
jeffrey1970
Posts: 1235
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2001 1:41 am

RE: South Africa / USA On SAA

Mon Feb 23, 2004 3:20 am

SA7700,

Thank you for your response. There is no a lock you can get for your suit case that is TSA approved, although I can't remember who makes it.
God bless through Jesus, Jeff
 
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KaiGywer
Crew
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RE: South Africa / USA On SAA

Mon Feb 23, 2004 4:25 am

SA7700, i second Jeffrey1970s comment about TSA approved locks. They can be bought online.

http://www.goinginstyle.com/gis/body_individual.asp?dept%5Fid=14&pf%5Fid=2083

The TSA has special passkeys that will open the locks without breaking them. So if you're concerned about your bags, buy one of these locks  Smile

Happy traveling!
“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, an
 
SA7700
Topic Author
Posts: 2940
Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2003 9:38 pm

RE: South Africa / USA On SAA

Tue Feb 24, 2004 5:10 am

Jeff and KaiGywer

Thanks for the info on the locks, I appreciate it!


Mcmahonsmr

The load was very good on SA202. On both the upperdeck and lowerdeck, there was very few open seats.
I prefer economy class on the upperdeck, whenever I fly SAA, with it's 34in seat pitch. The lowerdeck economy seating is much more cramped at 31 in. The only drawback on the upperdeck, being the smaller overhead storage bins.

I can't comment on terminal 4 at JFK, not having been there. SAA most definitely uses T3 at JFK in order to connect to DL services. However, T3 needs an urgent face lift.

Regards

SA7700

When you are doing stuff that nobody has done before, there is no manual – Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs)
 
prosa
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Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2001 3:24 am

RE: South Africa / USA On SAA

Tue Feb 24, 2004 6:37 am

SAA most definitely uses T3 at JFK in order to connect to DL services. However, T3 needs an urgent face lift.

It'll be getting one soon. DL is spending $300 million on renovations to T2 and T3.
"Let me think about it" = the coward's way of saying "no"

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