The Best of South African Airways
By Monique Burns
Any American traveler who’s ever flown a domestic carrier to a major U.S. gateway to board an international carrier knows that airline partnerships are key. Travel becomes practically seamless. A single itinerary outlines connecting flights and baggage is checked through to your final destination. There’s no need to pick up bags between flights, carry them to another airline counter and re-check them. There’s virtually no worry about missed connections.
South Africa Airways (SAA) not only understands the value of airline partnerships—it actively seeks and develops them. Recently, SAA announced a new interline partnership with Alaska Airlines. It’s the latest in a line of SAA partnerships that include major international carriers Air Canada, American Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue and United Airlines.
South African Airways—South Africa’s national carrier and the Continent’s most awarded airline—is also a member of the prestigious Star Alliance. The first truly global air network, Star Alliance, established in 1997, currently includes nearly 30 major international airlines offering over 19,000 daily flights to over 1,300 airports in 194 countries.
For West Coast travelers, SAA’s new Alaska Airlines partnership is a godsend. Passengers can fly from major West Coast cities like Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle to Washington D.C. or New York and connect seamlessly with direct nonstop flights to SAA’s hub in Johannesburg, South Africa.
From Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport, South African Airways and its regional partners—SA Express, Airlink, and low-cost carrier Mango—connect to over 75 African destinations.
In South Africa, countless cities, large and small, tempt visitors. Perennially popular Cape Town is known for its vibrant dining and jazz scene as well as world-class vintages grown in the lush Cape Winelands. In the Free State city of Bloemfontein, site of the Anglo-Boer War Museum and the National Women’s Memorial, rambling country estates offer farm-to-table dining and cozy overnights. Durban—home to Africa’s Travel INDABA, the Continent’s largest travel trade show—is equally renowned for its “Golden Mile,” a three-mile stretch of unspoiled beaches along the warm Indian Ocean.
Elsewhere in Africa, SAA passengers can connect seamlessly to cities in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
South African Airways Vacations, the airline’s leisure division, offers more than 50 air-inclusive packages. Ranging from value to luxury, they include special theme trips focusing on adventure, culture, cuisine, romance, and that all-time African favorite, safari.
“This interline partnership will enable SAA and Alaska Airlines to provide some of the quickest and most convenient connections between many West Coast U.S. cities and some truly amazing destinations throughout Africa,” said Todd Neuman, South African Airways’ executive vice president-North America.
“Customers on both airlines will enjoy SAA’s renowned South African hospitality and Alaska’s warm and gracious service throughout their journey.”
South African Airways is also ramping up flight frequency. In spring 2019, SAA increased flights between Washington, D.C.-Dulles International Airport and Accra’s Kotoka International Airport to five days weekly with continuing service to Johannesburg, South Africa, on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.
South African Airways is the only carrier providing nonstop flights between Washington, D.C. and Ghana.
Between Washington, D.C. and Ghana, convenient connections can be made to and from more than 100 cities across the U.S. and Canada through SAA’s Star Alliance partner United Airlines.
“We continue to see increased demand for our nonstop service between the U.S. and Ghana,” said SAA’s chief North American spokesman Neuman. “This fifth weekly flight offers an additional opportunity for North American travelers to experience the many wonders of Ghana, including its vibrant cities and its rich culture.”
New airline partnerships and increased lift are only part of South African Airways’ success story.
Incredibly, South African Airways has received the prestigious SKYTRAX 4-Star airline rating in both Economy and Business classes for 17 consecutive years.
Based on customer surveys, SKYTRAX awards review all aspects of passengers’ experiences aloft, including cabin seating, comfort and cleanliness; meals; tax-free shopping; inflight entertainment, and staff service.
Along with South African Airways’ warm, efficient service, travelers appreciate the airline’s roomy, well-appointed cabins. In SAA’s new Airbus A330-300 widebody jetliners, first put into service in 2017 and updated regularly, 203 Economy Class seats offer generous legroom, individual USB charging ports, and 10-inch touch screens for on-demand entertainment, including over 100 movies, up to 100 TV features and even special kids’ programming.
Choose Business Class and step up to SAA’s award-winning flatbed seats. Each of the A330-300’s 46 Business Class seats features a new flat-bed design offering maximum privacy and comfy leather-and fabric seats extending 6 1/2 feet long. As for entertainment, travelers enjoy hundreds of movies and TV programs on big 15-inch touch screens.
South Africa is world-famous for fine wines and cuisine. As the first airline granted honorary membership in the prestigious South African Chefs’ Association, South African Airways does its homeland proud.
In Business Class, designer dishes, served on fine china, are curated by South African celebrity chefs like Siba Mtongana, host of the Cooking Channel show, “Siba’s Table,” and Reuben Riffel, judge on the “MasterChef South Africa” TV show, and owner of five restaurants in Cape Town, the Western Cape, and the Cape Winelands gourmet capital of Franschhoek.
For all diners, there’s always a vegetarian option, and gluten-free, Kosher and vegan meals can be ordered ahead. A special kid’s meal is also available. In Economy Class, all snacks, meals and beverages are complimentary.
To choose the finest South African wines to complement its menus, South African Airways turns to a respected panel of local and international judges.
Expect to enjoy award-winning South African wines as well as Méthode Cap Classique bubbly made with South African grapes and using the traditional French Méthode Champenoise.
Spacious well-appointed cabins. Extra-long flatbed Business Class seats. South African wines paired with designer menus. Friendly cabin crews providing award-winning service. Plus a growing network of airline partnerships that make flying easy and worry-free. Any South African Airways passenger can toast to that.
IF YOU GO
Monique Burns is a longtime travel writer and editor, and a European Correspondent for Jax Fax Magazine, a travel magazine for U.S. travel agents. A former Travel & Leisure Senior Editor, she travels freq to Europe, but can sometimes be found in far-flung locales like India and Asia. After more than 30 years in the travel business, she still appreciates the world’s many cultural differences and can honestly say that she’s never met a place she didn’t like.