Dates: 31/5 and 1/6
Airline(s): SAA and BA
Aircraft: Airbus 340-600 and 737
Lounge(s): Terrace lounge at CPT
The last change of location on this trip was the move from Cape Town to Mauritius (MRU
). I like Cape Town and the West Cape in particular. Beautiful scenery and very nice people. Time to move on however. I had booked a flight on BA
that left at 9 a.m. in the morning so I had to stay overnight in JNB
since there was no flight early enough to ensure my connection.
I did not mind, since this gave me the chance to take the SAA CPT
flight on which they operate their Airbus 340-600. I was wondering if it would fly their international business class product on this short flight. I did not risk the upgrade however although it turned out business class was sold out anyway. In case you are interested: they do. So if you want a cheap experience of the SAA business class product you can buy a return ticket JNB
(or vv) and spend 2 hours per leg in it. If I had known beforehand I would have done just that.
First things first however: checking in online! I had the cheapest economy ticket and that does not give you the opportunity to preselect seats. I logged in exactly 24hrs before departure to check in to experience the most bewildering online check in process ever. After I had entered my reservation number I was led to the seat selection page. I selected an exit seat and was looking for the ‘next’ button. Nothing there… Well, now that is strange. Let’s try again. This time after entering my reservation number I was told I was already checked in… Ok, so where can I see on what seat? Turns out: nowhere. Print boarding pass? No. I called the service center and they told me I was in seat 48D or something. After a little negotiating they told me that “although they could assign me a specific seat on my class of ticket they had assigned me an exit seat”. Now that is logic I am not going to argue with. 45C was mine!
Still had to print my boarding pass at the airport and I was a little weary. No problem at all though, it read 45C. Once again I was happy I had carry on only since the line at check in was extremely long. I was flying SAA but technically I was in transit for a BA
flight so I decided to try to get access to the BA
lounge at CPT
. They were very friendly and after I showed my Silver membership card I was allowed in. Very nice, since they did not have to.
The Terraces lounge at CPT
is very nice. It has a mezzanine and a separate smokers section. I took a seat on the mezzanine level where it was reasonably quiet.
The lounge gives you a good view of the runway and I managed to sneak a picture of what I expect is our a/c. Not the best weather in the world. Good thing I was flying to Mauritius!
The food offerings at the lounge were good but very limited. Drinks were plentiful as always.
Since they did not do SAA boarding calls in the lounge I went to my gate about 30 minutes before departure. No bus, no nothing yet. Turned out we had a 30 minute delay so I went back to the lounge (1 minute walk) to relax some more.
After 30 minutes I returned to the gate and still managed to be on the first bus to the aircraft. Since I had basically 2 carry-ons it is always best to have first pick of the overhead bins. I noticed the business class seats and started to feel sorry I did not decide to upgrade myself but I felt better when I looked at the legroom in row 45. Amazing! I figured that the two seats on the left would be A and B and C would be the left isle seat of the middle four. Turned out that the mark AC
DEFG… So I was in the isle seat of the twosomes on the left. No problem!
Here are some shots of the cabin:
The flight was really full (100%) but did not feel crowded. I can understand the enthusiasm of the Airbus 346 fans. One of the features I really liked was that they have outside cameras on the a/c. One on the tail, one in the nose and one on the side I believe. When I sat down I noticed a TV
screen with a fantastic view of the a/c.
Unfortunately they store the screen during take off and landing and sitting in an exit seat you have to fold down your personal screen. When you are in a ‘normal’ seat you can however keep watching the landing. Very cool.
The other thing I liked is SAA’s seat. The were very comfortable and even the ‘normal’ seats seem to have adequate legroom. The cabin feels very spacious and relaxing and combined with the absolute quiet of the plane itself must make for some very comfortable long distance travel in Y. I have heard some complaints over SAA on board service, but I have nothing but good words for them. Friendly and funny and not with a stiff upper lip.
After landing at JNB
I noticed we approached an air bridge so I put my camera away. No photo ops this time. Wrong… Although we were parked next to an air bridge we were once again bussed to arrivals. I guess they only use the air bridges for boarding? Such a shame for losing the chance to take some close ups of this pretty plane.
I went straight to the shuttle terminal for the hotel busses. I had reserved a room in the Emperor’s Palace complex. The Metcourt Laurel hotel. For people who have visited the Venetian in Las Vegas: the Emperor’s Palace is a very, very, very flawed copy of that. Unfortunately I was too shell shocked to take any pictures.
My room at the hotel I did take a picture of.
After a good nights sleep it was of to the airport very early. The shuttles only leave every 20 minutes and I did not want to miss my flight. The ride to the airport is approximately 15 minutes. When I arrived at the International Departure terminal I went to the first BA
desk I saw and asked where the check in for the MRU
flight was. They pointed (very uninterestedly) to the far side of the terminal. I was a bit surprised since I thought that was the SAA section. He probably thought I was an SAA passenger or so? Anyways after reiterating that I was a BA
C class passenger he pointed (with equals disinterest) to another BA
counter. From that moment on check in went really smoothly and I was soon on my way to the lounge. I shot a terminal building pic first.
The lounge at JNB
is bigger than on CPT
. Only logical since BA
flies two 744’s out of here every night. The place must be very crowded then. The lounge did not really impress me much. The food was ok, especially the salmon sandwiches.
There is however no view and since there was really nothing to do there I decided to leave for the gate a little earlier and look around the airport a bit. Here are two pics of the section of the airport where the busses to the plains leave from.
Nice and clean and not crowded. I had to wait for approximately 10 minutes before boarding started. Where was everybody? Turned out there where maybe 20 passengers on the whole flight and only 5 of them in C. Not a profitable run I imagine. We had to drive quite a distance to the plane. BA
(Comair) only flies 737s in South Africa.
Plain seen from the bus.
Just before boarding.
I had preselected seat 1A since on the seatmap there did not appear to be a bulkhead there. Unfortunately there was. Always annoying since you then have less legroom. I was eying the seats on the other side, hoping nobody would turn up late.
The also have a bulkhead but with a baggage compartment at the bottom so you can stretch your legs. I managed to change seats and this is what I am talking about.
Plenty of legroom.
It is a 4hr flight but they do not provide IFE so you best bring your own. I have often advertised the perfect combination of the Archos mediaplayer combined with the Etymotic earphones. It doesn’t get any better. Everybody was looking at me a little envious and the FA
’s wanted to know where they could get one themselves.
Me nesting with my Archos
The first ‘meal’ was a cold pita bread with some kind of weird chicken filling. It was not very good. The salad that started my lunch only one hour later was surprisingly tasty. Mostly salads on planes are bone dry and tasteless, but not this one. It was followed by pasta. For desert I opted for the mint ice-cream. Note to self: do not like mint ice-cream.
Let me take some pictures of the plane.
Overhead lights etc
My original seat
Ah, what the hey… Me on board the plane
Some picture of the outside:
Passing the east coast of Madagascar
You gotta love the shadow of the plane with its special aura around it. Mystical, isn’t it?
Soon after it was time for the approach into MRU
. It was surprisingly bumpy. Every time we went into a cloud the plane really shook. I guess that is because on MRU
the clouds are really almost always formed where they are so there is a lot of atmospheric activity there. Nice views during descend and here they are:
Some impressive landscape
Getting closer (Mauritius is mainly flat)
Touchdown! And a nice view of the airport
After a short taxi we arrived at our stand to be taken to (of course) a bus. When the door opened I saw a nice lady from BA
coming up the stairs with a big folder in her hand. Somehow I knew this was for me. The reason for my coming to MRU
in the first place: picking up my First Class RTW ticket. They needed to give it to me on the plane, since I need it to get through customs. The RTW is a 20 section one, so no e-ticket for me. A real, old fashioned pack of coupons. Strange, but I somehow love it. In a sense it was an anticlimax. I was looking forward to it for quite some time and here it was over in a second and I did not even have time to enjoy the moment cos we had to disembark. In my mind I had made this big present to myself out to be a far bigger thing. Ah well. I have it.
Getting of the plane. Lousy lighting.
Customs and health check at MRU
where all very thorough and very unfriendly. It took no time whatsoever. I was the first one at the declaration section so I got ‘questioned’ by a very nice customs official. A mere formality that was over in 30 seconds. My prebooked taxi was waiting for me and drove me in 60 minutes to my hotel in Flic-en-Flac (west coast).
So, was this trip all worth it? Although I won’t become a big fan of Mauritius (overpriced and overrated) the sunset is magnificent…
I hope you enjoyed this trip report. Comments and suggestions are welcome as always.
[Edited 2008-06-11 13:09:34]