South African Airways Flight #327 Johannesburg, SA (JNB) to Cape Town, SA (CPT) September 9th 2015

South Africa is incredible, getting there is somewhat less so. There are very few direct flights from major European cities into Cape Town Airport, zero from the US and few from elsewhere. It essentially means that almost all of you hoping to visit the seaside city, set along the foothills of Table Mountain, which is so beautiful it might as well be a dreamed up movie set, will connect through Johannesburg. In doing so, I grabbed paid business class tickets, which were relatively cheap, flexible and offered flights at the same price on South African’s long haul Airbus A340’s, the same planes that serve many of their most famous far away cities…

a group of airplanes at an airport

Check In + Lounge

people standing in front of a check-in counter

Checking in, coming off our Virgin Atlantic flight was a breeze. There were no lines and since we were traveling without checked luggage, no added hassle. We did have some help

a man sitting in a chair holding two glasses of liquid

South African operates very solid lounges with tea sandwiches, breakfast pastries, fruits, and some hot selections during meal time. As evidenced by the disgraceful double fisting in this photo, I was most interested in the South African wine. 

The Seat + Bed

a plane with seats and a television

Most flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town are operated by domestically configured (crappy seats) 737’s. I found the flights in their schedule that featured large, wide body aircraft with international business class seats. The cabin is arranged in a 2x2x2 layout, with very wide, cozy seats. If you’re traveling alone you’ll want to snag an aisle for direct access. We grabbed 1J and 1K offering a roomy bulkhead at the front. 

a woman sitting in an airplane

Laura settling in nicely to a space with enough legroom for an NBA star. 

a man and woman sitting in a chair

And shortly after taking off, settling turned to settled, which prompted this sinister photo opportunity. No one is safe!

a woman sleeping on an airplane

I might have pushed the buttons to begin the recline process…, which by the way does go fully flat and features a massage function.  

a woman lying on a chair in an airplane

Ah yes, fully flat. The seats feature a foot stool, which Laura has chosen not to use, which can be excellent for pushing off while sleeping. It’s one of the most surprisingly useful things on a plane. Two and a half hours of this photo on repeat and we were there. Meanwhile… 

Food + Drink

a tray with food on it

Once we reached cruising altitude we were greeted by name and offered a nice light cold snack, this one was couscous with tossed and seasoned beef, accompanied by some nice fruit. It was a safe, easy bite with lots of flavor thanks to the spices. To my understanding, long haul international flights offer a very refined three to five course menu, far beyond this offering.

a cup of coffee on a tray

It’s not coffee! Ok, it is, but it has Amarula, an African treasure of a liqueur in it! Creamy and rich like Baileys but dare I say better?! On long haul flights they serve Taittinger Brut. On this flight I didn’t find any, and that’s ok. 

The Experience + Tips

a group of people standing in front of a plane

As I mentioned briefly we had a rather unique experience upon landing, as we were greeted at the plane door on the tarmac and whisked into a private vehicle thanks to a test of Gateway VIP Services. The tips are really simple on this one. If you’re flying internationally on a long flight this is the cabin you’ll get, you’ll also receive much more food and alcohol. If you’re looking at flights to connect short haul, this is the best possible way to fly between Cape Town and Johannesburg. It’s spacious, quiet and it’s the same price. Find a flight number operated by an A330 or A340 and enjoy the improved seat and less turbulence. 

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Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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