Hi and welcome to my first trip report!
I am 16 years old and live in Durban, South Africa. I’ve been reading many TR
’s over the past few years and finally I have the chance to do my own! Hopefully I am also one of the youngest here to do a TR
! I have only ever come across one TR
that involved a South African “role”, so hopefully you will find this one interesting as I include my domestic leg before my international.
I have family who live over on the Eastern Coast of the United States and I visit them every second year, of course being young, in the past I flew with a family member until my last 2 trips where I was an unaccompanied minor. My past trips include South African Airways via Sal, Cape Verde, Air France to Miami, Emirates to New York x2 (One as an unaccompanied where it had its direct flights from Durban and not from Johannesburg), latest Delta direct to Atlanta and finally this trip….BUT not as an unaccompanied! Alone..
The above flights of course include the flight via their hub.
So finally the trip to the United States had been planned but with a week stopover in London where I would meet my gran and aunt at Heathrow who had their flight arriving an hour before mine from Atlanta. The trip consisted of 5 “legs” to reach my final destination which is how I have broken up this TR
up. Leg 1 being the domestic flight from Durban to Lanseria, leg 2 being Johannesburg to London via Amsterdam and leg 3 being London to Miami via Atlanta. With our schools in South Africa closing for our “summer” / “Christmas” holiday, the schools close normally in the first week of December but with my school in Durban, we close in the last week of November as our school is a marking location for the final exams. I’m not complaining. So I was due to depart only on the 4th December but changed my flight to Johannesburg to visit my brother for a week, before my International departure, which was on the 4th December. I had just got the flight deals before the big Peak Season! So without any more rambling on, I present my first Trip Report! Enjoy!
King Shaka International Airport (Durban) – Lanseria International Airport (Gauteng)
Departure – 28th November 2013
Airline – Kulula
Aircraft – Boeing 737-800
Seat configuration – 3-3
Flying time – 45mins
Just in time for the 2010 Fifa World Cup which South Africa hosted, Durban’s new international airport had been built and in operation from May of that year. It was very exciting because, we finally would have jetways…..Also, it was a MUCH larger airport and now has a runway to accommodate the A380. Its located North of Durban and just 15mins from a local town. The airport is located among farms, but I have no doubt that it will all change in the future.
Arriving at the airport was a breeze with hardly any traffic. It’s midafternoon on a Thursday. The signs are clearly shown and it’s very easy to find your way around. Having my mom come into the airport with me to do all the mom things with hugs and kisses and photos….we headed for the undercover parking instead of her driving all the way around and up a ramp to the drop off zone right outside the Departures(Arrivals are located on the bottom floor).
Side View of the terminal:
If you park underground, you make your way to this entrance on the bottom floor and head up for departures:
I think that the departure check-in area is great and very spacious:
King Shaka doesn’t have that many international routes…in fact hardly any. The only major Int Airline to fly through is Emirates who recently started using there 777-300ER for our route and ditched their A330-200. Also, of course, we have SAexpress and Airlink who have their share doing the short routes to neighbouring countries and as well as the cargo.
Emirates has daily flights arriving around 5pm and departing at 7pm. So of course their check-in desks were empty at noon.
I was flying South Africa’s best low cost carrier which is Kulula. They are the green planes that soar our skies and do a damn well job. Known for their humour, it always keeps customers coming back..well I guess for their cheap tickets as well!
Check in was a breeze with them and everything was sorted. The airport was actually pretty empty for a Thursday afternoon….Once through security, there was……nothing. It was dead.
I think for an airport as such, it’s quite lengthy. My gate was A8 which was the first gate, but all the way at the end of the passage on the right hand side…but I’m a teen right? Fit?
I had roughly 30mins until boarding began so I decided to go to the restaurant and buy a cool drink. Actually I went to use their WiFi.. I won’t be cheesy and post an image of what I ordered to drink.
Some images I took walking down to the gate:
Finally I made my way to end of the passage and stood in line for boarding to begin in 5mins. Well, I actually waited for another 20mins. Kulula is known to be delayed often as they really push themselves for a fast turnaround, but sometimes things don’t go as planned.
Like I said before, Kulula are known to be the green machines and normally their aircrafts a very well thought of in terms of designs of their livery. I was pretty excited to see what our plane would look like (They not all the same). Here is what one looks like:
This is what we were flying.
Plain old boring white. All it had was a few stripes on the front part and that’s about it. But, what can you do? Once boarding was started I was keen to get on and take my seat..so much for walking on the jetway, having my seat in row 26 I was redirected to use the stairs and walk around the aircraft and enter from the back.
The leg space wasn’t that bad. I mean it wasn’t good but considering that I had my laptop bag in front of me I didn’t struggle with any problems with spacing. I am pretty tall but skinny, but didn’t seem to have a problem.
With their 3-3 configuration the aircraft was spread out quite well and I was just sitting there watching that no one would appear and take the 2 seats next to my window seat! It would be great! So I sat there, waiting…and waiting and finally the captain comes onto the PA and announces we will push back in 5 mins and doors had been closed! Not that it really made a difference besides the fact that I would just put my legs up, made me pretty happy.
Taxing to the runway was simple. It’s not that far and we headed to end of the runway, taking off in the Southern direction.
Once we were up in the air we went straight for the clouds…and still climbing through the clouds…and still climbing through the clouds..oh look sun!
Oh damn, time to descend. Back through the clouds! The seat belt sign was on for the full flight but luckily the beverage service still took place. Once we finally broke free from the clouds and could see land it wasn’t a long time till we landed. Lanseria is located just north of the Gauteng province and is actually hub to Kulula. The captain came on the PA announcing are soon arrival and informed us that we would be landing on the brand new runway. I was just in Lanseria last month where they were finishing up construction. If I am correct they are also upgrading their old runway, so they will have 2.
There is only one terminal at Lanseria as it’s a tiny airport. They only have one baggage conveyor belt, but it’s what you would expect in the middle of nowhere?
Disembarking was easy and fast and in no time I had my luggage and ready for a week in the City of Gold!
Thambo International Airport (Johannesburg) – Heathrow International Airport (London) via Schiphol International Airport (Amsterdam)
Departure – 4th December 2013
Airline – KLM
Aircraft – Boeing 777-200 & 737-900
Seat configuration – 3-3-3 & 3-3
Flying time – 11h15mins & 1H20mins
Please excuse the poor images as the iPad doesn’t take the best pictures at night with the reflections.
After having a great week in Johannesburg with terrible weather which caused the power to go out for 5 of the 6 days I was there... it was finally the day to depart for my overseas leg of the trip. The flight out of Johannesburg was rather late, departing at 11:55pm. I decided to arrive at the airport early, just because I enjoy wondering in the terminal and having a look around, so I arrived around 8pm. With check-in only opening 3 hours before departure (8:55pm), there were already smartly dressed ladies in KLM uniforms standing and providing assistance to us “early birds” and allowing us to check-in via the self check-in machine. It was extremely simple to use and really made me happy. I’ve noticed that you don’t need to print your tickets any more from your computer at home and bring them to the airport with you. All you have to do is have your passport with you and you sorted to check-in. Shortly the check-in lines for KLM started to have their drips and drabs of people.
After checking-in I made my way to the check-in of baggage which was a breeze as there was no body in the line.
The late night flights out along with the early morning departures:
Security is also smooth. I remember last year where you would have a flight at peak hours and security would be a night mare! However, Johannesburg had it all under control and allowed an easy pour through of the last few customers for the day. Since I don’t really remembered what the terminal looks like since I was actually in it a few year ago with a family member and also I didn’t have the time under the strict surveillance of the Delta crew in 2011 as an unaccompanied where we headed straight for the gate. So finally I had time to gallivant around and see what Johannesburg had to offer. It’s not what I expected, it’s clean and well maintained and it’s got quite a number of shops and restaurants which are very good.
Among making my way around, I spotted the beautifully dressed Emirates flight attendants and of course approached them and the conversation simply went like this..Me: ”Hi, I know you get this a lot, but may I please take a picture of you two beautiful ladies” and I received the picture perfect smile and with their exotic accent I couldn’t make out, I got a “Of course”.
What can I say? They great! Another great highlight of the night is that I magically remembered that I’m actually flying on a Diamond Ticket of SkyTeam! The tickets are booked under my aunt’s name and I didn’t get a priority sticker for my bags at check-in…hmmm! So I immediately made my way to their Sky Lounge and once the sliding doors opened I was faced with 2 ladies kindly tapping away on their computers. What do I say? This is the first time I’m ever doing this without having someone do it in front of me before and I’m a teen who could be taken as a joke and I kept thinking that it won’t work as it’s under my aunts name and not mine. Common Haydn, you a 16 year old young man..do what you do best…flirt! “Umm, good evening. I’m wondering, I’m flying on a Diamond Ticket and would like to go inside the lounge please” .. “Please may I see your boarding pass sir? ..It looks… ”(Interrupts) “I’m flying on my aunts ticket” .. “Ohhhh, why did you tell me that!?” .. “What do you mean, I didn’t say a thing (Gives a wink) Surely a beautiful lady like you would allow me inside tonight” ..”Mr. Henning, I’m sorry but you won’t be able to have any alcohol..Enjoy” .. I’m in? IM IN
! I was shocked, it worked!
The lounge wasn’t as extravagant as I expected it to be, but it was Johannesburg and I wasn’t complaining at all:
Having 2 hours until boarding, I used the time using the Wifi (Of course) and just taking a chill pill and relaxing. Around 10:30pm, I finally got up and made my was downstairs to my gate. Terminal…empty:
Once I reached my gate I headed straight for the second security check which they do before one entering the boarding gate
I was redirected by one of the guards, who were doing another security search before entering the boarding area, and taken to the priority seating! I actually felt a bit embarrassed as it looked as though I was being directed as an unaccompanied minor, but big deal.
There she is! Boarding was late and we started 16 mins late. I wasn’t surprised when we had a lady come over the Gate PA and announce that boarding would begin shortly, but it was said in such a loud and lazy way you could hardly catch a word she was saying. As priority, we of course boarded first and while standing in line to get onto the plane, I had to re-think if I was getting onto the right plane!
Ummm? KLM Asia??
The friendly crew gave me a massive smile and directed me to the isle my seat was in. The aircraft was fresh, clean and felt comfortable. Of course traveling on the Diamond Ticket, I was booked under an Economy ticket and I was just 1 row behind the economy comfort. I asked the flight attendant if I could be “Upgraded to Comfort” if there were any seats left as that’s how it works if you on a Diamond ticket. She gladly said “Yes” and allowed the passengers to board before coming back to me and informing me that there are no seats what’s so ever in Economy Comfort but she’ll gladly allow me to move to the last cabin where I can have 2 seats to myself in the middle..err, I like the Window seat, thanks but no thanks!
The leg space was rather great. I had lots of leg room with nothing to interfere my legs with. I wondered if I had the same amount of space as the people directly in front of me had in Economy Comfort?
Parked next to us was the shutdown Rwanda Air, getting some sleep for tomorrow. As the doors closed and we pushed back on time due to little traffic, we made our way down to runway 21R and not having much to see out the window and take pictures of, we were in no time soaring through the clouds of Johannesburg and finally breaking through to our cruising altitude. No meal service besides a beverage and a peanut service was done after take-off, soon the lights were turned off and people were heading for dream land. Not me, KLM’s entertainment system had to be completely checked out by me. I must say, I wasn’t expecting anything better with their screens. Very small (My iPad Mini screen is bigger) and of course it wasn’t touch interactive, so I had to yank the remote out of my arm rest to control it. I didn’t find their selection of movies that interesting. I actually only decided to watch one movie, The Butler, which is very good, and turn on the live map view and try sleep for the rest of the flight. Well that didn’t happen…I tossed and turned, but what can you do? I fiddled away on the laptop and read some TR
’s which I had saved!
Once the sun started to come out, I wanted the window blind open but paid respect to the other sleeping beauties and kept it closed until the lights in the cabin were turned on. You could smell the great breakfast being prepared for and finally the flight attendants came down the aisles offering us a selection for breakfast of Omelets or Pancakes.
This lovely flight attendant was always having a conversation with the other lady sitting up front. The flight attendant reminded me of Shakira…
I couldn’t have asked for a better view while having breakfast at 36 000ft with the beautiful Alps below me covered in snow!
Finally the flight attendants came around and did their final clean up session and the decent into Amsterdam began. Of course never being in the country it always fascinates me to look out the window and have a view of the land. It was an awesome view and finally we made our approach into Schiphol.
The pilot had come onto the PA and announced us of the terrible weather in Schiphol and that many flights had been effect by this so we must please pay attention to gate changes and delays. Something that I had never seen before happened. They had put all flight information onto our screens, displaying all flights that departed before 12:30pm, with all their time of departures information and gate numbers. I found this really neat and thought it was a clever idea to do so. At last we landed at 11:15am.
Taxing to the gate wasn’t that long and in no time we were parked and of course the usual disembarkation rush was commenced.
Once I was off the flight and into the terminal, I followed the “fish flow” heading to the left and straight to the boards of departures. My flight to London was only due to depart at 13:25, so I had just a couple of hours to kill. I found it really cool that the boards informed you of how long it would take you to walk to the gate, and my time showed at “13mins” .. 13mins??!! How big is this terminal? Well turns out to be massive! I headed in the direction of my gate and really enjoyed the atmosphere of the airport along with the shops and restaurants.
I got a picture of the nose of our plane as we disembarked so I had at least a good photo of the plane in the day light:
I then decided to go upstairs to the SkyTeam lounge which was great and of course much better than the one down in Johannesburg. Unfortunately they didn’t have an American plug point of course and I didn’t have a converter so I was stuck with not being able to charge my iPad! It would never last by the time I land in Heathrow and I don’t have a plan B! At around 12:30pm I got up and started to make my way all the way back to my gate and maybe have a Starbucks on the way. Sounds like I’m going on a road trip.
A few random pictures I took on the way:
Once at my gate boarding began and we had to go through a security check. The rain started to pour down, but the process still continued.
As priority I was literally the first on board and headed down to my seat:
Leg room was a little bit tight:
Ahh! Emergency exit, look at the space:
The flight was actually quite full. Doors were closed on time for an early departure…but that didn’t happen. I was wondering why the airplane felt like it was experiencing turbulence on the ground? The pilot came over the PA and informed us, because of the weather Heathrow is a little bit delayed and the traffic entering Heathrow is a little hectic so they had filled a slot in to land but we didn’t have clearance to depart…for 1hour and 45mins!! We sat on the ground for 105mins which wasn’t really that fun at all. The crew began a beverage and snack service for us and everyone was yapping away on their cellphones or the person next to them. I decided to just waste the iPads battery and play a few games. I took a few pictures of planes passing by:
Finally we pushed back and had clearance to head straight to the runway and we were just behind two aircrafts. Emirates and another KLM flight:
Once we were at cruising altitude another service began and we had broken through into the clear blue sky!
And then the iPad died….
I hope you enjoyed part 1 of my first TR
! Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think!