Before I start, I have to thank A-netter "HENKYBABY" for planting the seed for this trip report.
After a very tough year, the time had come once again to think about my vacation and, more importantly, where I was going to spend it. The usual fly-to destination – cruise – fly back home somehow didn’t appeal this year. After a great deal of web searching and after considering destinations like Zanzibar, Mozambique, Morocco, Mauritius, Seychelles etc, I finally decided that this year I would stay local and spend my vacation in South Africa.
Great – next question – where to go? In the end I finally decided to do something which I had wanted to do for a very long time – do a train trip. So my vacation was organized. JNB/CPT on the Premiere Class train and fly back on SA.
All the reservations were made on the web and when making my reservation, I reserved a single coupe on the train and after reading HENKYBABY’S report on his trip to South Africa and how he wished he had changed his flight to a J-class, I reserved a J-class ticket on SA 346 CPT/JNB ( an A346).Then on Friday 21 January 2011, I get an e-mail advising that my train trip has been cancelled due to a problem with the air-conditioning and that all services had been suspended until the problem had been sorted out. Major, major disappointment!
So now to reserve an air ticket JNB-CPT. I decided to leave on Thursday 27 January as scheduled - it just meant I would be arriving in Cape Town one day early instead of on the Friday as I would have, had the train trip gone ahead. I reserved a seat on SA333 departing JNB at 12h00 on Thursday 27 January in J-class also on an A346
A cab picked me up at home and, as traffic was remarkably light, dropped me at JNB domestic departures at 10h30, 30 minutes before the scheduled check in time. I strolled through the concourse to the SAA check-in desks, only to discover that there were no business class desks open.
SA check-in desks
Fortunately the normal check-in desks were fairly quite at that time of the morning so I was attended to within a couple of minutes. I had checked-in online the night before, but could not print my boarding pass due to a problem with my printer.So it was just a case of weighing my luggage and getting my boarding pass before proceeding to security which took a while because only 2 lanes were open.
From there up to the 4th floor in the elevator to the SAA Baobab Lounge to await departure.
View of old domestic check-in area from lounge level
I must say I find the Baobab Lounge a very restful place. Upon entry, there is an area on the left with club style seating and some work stations. Follow the curved wall to your right into the "dining area" with more seating at the far end with views of the aprons and runways.I found this area to be a great deal warmer than the area with the work stations closer to the entrance - probably due to the huge windows and the sun that was shining through them. Nevertheless, like a true aircrat junkie, I found a good spot close to the windows in order to have a good view of what was happening airside.
I ordered a pot of tea and a mineral water, and browsed through the food offerings. Croissants, muffins and Danish pastries on the counter with cheese and preserves, while in the coolers was a selection of savoury sandwiches and bagels - chicken mayo with cucumber, Tuna Salad on Rye, Roast beef with gherkin, egg mayo and cheese & tomato. Not a huge selection, but very fresh and tasty. While enjoying my tea and mid-morning snack I did some spotting and took photos.
Then onto the flight itself
DATE: Thursday 27 January 2011
FLIGHT NO: SA333
EQUIPMENT: Airbus A340-600
SEAT NO: 3K
LOAD: 311 - 42/269
DEP (Sched): 12h00
DEP (Actual): 12h30
ARR (Sched): 14h10
ARR (actual): 14h30
Photo © Gary Shephard
Photo © Robert Matthews - FliteZoneImages
Boarding was due to take place through gate E1, which meant that the aircraft was parked remotely ( on DELTA apron as it turned out) and that we were to be bussed to the aircraft. I was on the second bus to the aircraft nd the route took us from the southern side of Terminal B (I think that's Charlie apron) all the way across the front of Alpha & Beta aprons to the northern end of Terminal A where our A346 was parked. Only one set of stairs was available at door 2L so it took a fair while to board. I the meantime I took photos of the surrounding metal.
I eventually arrived at he top of the stairs and was shown through to the business class cabin by the steward at the door. The cabin was almost empty when I arrived, just two other occupied seats and myself - so I took a quick photo. A very friendly steward greeted me and assisted me with placing my laptop and camera bag in the overhead. Once I had settled into my seat he offered me a selection of newpapers, which I declined as I had already read all of them. Oddly though, no welcome drink on arrival or towel!
Our 12h00 departure time came and went with no sigh of the door being closed and shortly thereafter an announcement was made that due to computer problem, the departure data could not be completed and that it was being done manually and therefore the delay. At 12h20 an SAA vehicle from "Departure Control" pulled up and the driver jumped out with a sheaf of documents on his hand. Five minutes later we were told the documents had arrived and we pushed back at 12h30. All 42 seats in the business class cabin were occupied and I found ot later that 269 were occupied in ecomomy. Not a bad load at all!
From DELTA we turned right towards the threshold of runway 03L, but then at the end of the domestic terminal turned left and left again to line up short on 03L for a rolling take-off. With a muted whine we rolled down the runway,and lifted off at 12h43 followed by a left-hand turn-out to the southwest, we climbed towards our cruising altitude.
I was absolutely amazed at just how quiet the A346 is - just a gentle rumble somewhere behind me! We experieced some light turbulence as we climbed through the cloud layer, so imagine my suprise ( and probably most other passengers on board when one of the cabin attendants made an announcement saying " Would the lady standing in the aisle please sit down - the seat belt lights have not yet been extinguished - kindly return to your seat immediately). This was about 2 minutes after takeoff -Unbelieveable.
Very full Vaal River - testament to the massive amount of rain Johannesburg has had
Once the seat belt signs were off, I reclined my seat into its cradle position and made myself comfortable. With 4 cabin attendants in the premium cabin, service was quick and efficient and within 5 minutes of the seat belt lights being turned off I had my drink and some mineral water. Some 15 minutes later a hot meal was served consisting of:
Salad with artichoke hearts, peppadews, green beans, cherry tomato.
Choice of Beef tenderloin with pepper sauce, rice and vegetables OR
Chicken Fillet with mushroom sauce, mashed potato and vegetables
Chocolate Mousse (Very Yummy!)
Cheese and Biscuits
Tea or Coffee
I chose the beef which was great! I was using new camera, and unfortunately managed to delete all the photos of the food and beverage offerings while I was reviewing them.The cabin attendants were really on the ball and frequent checks were made to ensure that glasses were kept topped-up and that we were comfortable. After my meal had been cleared away and my seat was back in its cradle position, I settled down to enjoy the rest a a very comfortable flight to CPT.Top of descent was reached at 13h55 and that's where my problem started. I could not equalise my left ear. I had been on medication the week before for sinusitus and obviously had not quite recovered. I tried everything - nothing worked and the left side of my face was agony - it felt like it was on fire. I did manage a couple of photos on approach however.
Final approach was from the north and we touched down on runway19 at 14h30 - 20 minutes later that scheduled.
Some metal while taxing in to our parking bay
Cockpit after arrival in CPT - posted with thnaks and the kind permission of the captain and FO
My ear remained blocked and I had splitting headache. Disembarkation was via a jetway with very long walk down the full length of the domestic terminal to the baggage claim!
ZS-SNH from the jetway while disembarking
My baggage arrived fairly promptly, although there were several passengers who were not in business class whose baggage was also marked "Priority". Can anyone tell me how this occurs?
From there another long walk to collect my hire care and then onto my apartment at Bloubergstrand to enjoy my vacation. Here are some shots of Cape Town.
View from my apartment - woudn't change it for the world!
Robben Island from the apartment
Just before sunrise
Big Bay at Bloubergstrand
V & A Waterfront showing the "Cape Town Eye"
Two days after my arrival, my ear was still blocked and asked a local pharmacist wht I could do to unblock it. He suggested using nasal spray which which I tried with only a little success. I was due to fly back to JNB on Thursday 03 February 2011, a week after my arrival, but on the Wednesday I was still having ear problems. I made an appointment to see a doctor on the Thursday morning,and after the examination he advised me not to fly for at least 48 hours. I immediately got onto the SAA call centre and managed to change my flight to Sunday 06 February 2011 - same flight number SA346. So I had 3 bonus days in Cape Town - what a pleasure.And started a course of antibiotics and cortisone.
On Sunday I returned my hired car and checked in at 14h00 for my 15h10 flight to JNB.Business class check-in was open at the SA desks and I was promptly attended to.
Views of the CPT domestic check-in area with the Baobab Lounge behind the glass windows on the upper level in the second photo
There had obviously been some note made on my reservation that I had had a medical problem and the check-in clerk acually enquired if I was feeling better and that I was OK to fly. I must say I was quite impressed by this! The security check was fairly brisk but no priority line and then up to the Boabab Lounge.
Ramp to airside departure area from security
Airside departure area
The lounge is siuated on the 4th floor along with the BA 'Go Slow" Lounge that was well reviewed by HENKYBABY recently and the Bid Air Lounge.
Although fairly bright and cheerful, it's also a very restful place to just relax.It has an audio-visual centre, the usual work stations,
a conference/meeting area and , of course,
casual seating overlookimg the check-in area on one side and, through a huge expanse of glass, the apron and runway on the other, consisting of dining tables and chairs and comfortable sofas and armchairs surounding small faux black tree trunk tables.
Food and beverage offerings were exactly the same as JNB.
Selecton of sandwiches, bagels amd rolls
The carrot cake slice was amazing ( I consider myself a self-proclaimed carrot cake addict and expert) - moist and topped with cream cheese frosting with tiny nuggets of glace cherry and watermelon preserve. My seat in the lounge was a great place to do some spotting as can be seen from photos.
German Air Force Transall (I think) powering back under its own power
At 14h30 ZS-SNB arrived as SA333 from JNB
Time for a quick stop in the cloackrooms in the Baobab Lounge
Disabled loo facilities
Shortly thereafter I decided to go down to the boarding gate
DATE: Sunday 06 February 2011
FLIGHT NO: SA346
EQUIPMENT: Airbus A340-600
SEAT NO: 4A
LOAD: 278 - 14/264
DEP (Sched): 15h10
DEP (Actual): 15h07
ARR (Sched): 17h10
ARR (actual): 16h57
Photo © Jakub Sulima
Photo © Sean Mowatt
Boarding was due at 14h40 via Gate A7 which is a jetway. I was checked through the boarding gate and made my way down the jetway to the aircraft door and was shown to my seat 4A.
The ubiqutous leg room shot
Terminal building from my seat with the lounges situated behind the glass windows
I was offered a copy of the Sunday Times which I accepted and settled into my oh-so-comfortable seat to await departure. I was a little concerned about the flight, what with my ear problems, and although the ear felt a lot better, I was not sure just how much effect the medication had had.
Again no hot towel or drink on arrival.Doors were closed at 15h04 and pushback was at 15h07, slightly ahead of schedule (according to my watch) before commencing to taxi to the threshold of runway 01
Metal on the way to the threshold
Turning onto 01
A short pause and the a very powerful surge that pushed you into your seatback as we roared down the runway, acually taking off at 15h15.
This was followed about 30 seconds later by a definite reduction in power and a slight drop of the nose - Noise abatement?? We then banked right to the northeast and began our climb to FL39 en-route to JNB.
Leaving the Cape Peninsula behind us
Approaching the mountains between the coastal belt and the Karoo
Over central South Africa
Once again, due to only 14 seats being occupied up front, drinks service was very brisk and I had tomato cocktail and a mineral water on the side tray within 5 minutes of the seatbelt light being extinguished. The meal service, however, was a bit of a disappointment. The offering was exactly the same as what was in the Baobab Lounge with a choice of Roast beef on health bread or Vegetarian. The only saving grace was that a slice of that amazing carrot cake accommpanied the carrot cake. Service remained attentive and we were well looked after. then my seat went into its cradle position for the rest of the flight lulled by that lovely muted grumble of those RR Trents behind me. My moment of anxiety arrived at 16h25 when we started our descent into JNB - and nothing. Not a twinge!The approach into JNB was through some heavy cloud and a bit of rain, but not much turbulence at all.
Seconds to go
We finally flew out of the rain and landed (very softly, not quite a greaser) on runway 03R at JNB at 16h50, 20 minutes early due to tail winds, and after taking the scenic route,
parked at the new international pier at 16h57, where buses awaited to convey us to arrivals and baggage claim.
RR Trent up close
After a short wait, my lugguge arrived - 3rd or 4th piece on the carousel and then out of the airport to be picked up for the trip home.
In conclusion, both flights were a wonderful experience, as I doubt I will ever be able to fly on an international route in business class. It was not perfect but I thoroughly enjoyed them, although it does not take much for me to enjoy flying. Would I do it again? Without thinking twice!
Hope you all enjoy.