Review: South African Airways Business Class A340 Cape Town To Johannesburg

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South African Airways 336
Cape Town (CPT) – Johannesburg (JNB)
Wednesday, May 25
Depart: 2:10PM
Arrive: 4:05PM
Duration: 1hr55min
Aircraft: Airbus A340-600
Seat: 5A (Business Class)

I boarded at around 1:50PM through the forward door. Upon presenting my boarding pass I was pointed down the near aisle, to seat 5A. As I explained in the Frankfurt to Johannesburg review I wrote, South African’s A340-600 cabin consists of a total of 42 seats, spread across seven rows in a 2-2-2 configuration.

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SAA business class seats A340-600

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SAA business class seats A340-600

The seats have plenty of legroom, and are comfortable enough for a longhaul flight, let alone for the quick hop from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

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SAA business class legroom A340-600

Boarding was quick due to the use of a remote stand, and within 10 minutes two thirds of the business class cabin was full. The seat next to me remained empty.

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SAA business class cabin A340-600

As boarding finished up, the crew passed through the cabin with newspapers and magazines, though there were no pre-departure beverages.

At 2:05PM Captain Hugh came on the PA to add his welcome board. He informed us that the crew had just flown in from Johannesburg, and there was quite a bit of turbulence, so they had to adjust their altitude to cope with it. He also informed us that the flight time would be 1hr39min.

At 2:10PM the air stairs were removed from the plane, and five minutes after that we pushed back, at which point the safety video began to play.

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Cape Town Airport tarmac

There was an Ethiopian 787 at the gate across from us, as we pushed.

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Ethiopian 787 Cape Town Airport

Then there was a plane from an airline I’ve never seen before, and one I actually still can’t identify — anyone know what it is?

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Anyone know which airline this is?

Then there was also a Turkish A330.

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Turkish A330 Cape Town Airport

The most beautiful of all was parked at the very end, which was a TAAG 777. I’d love to fly with them.

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TAAG 777 Cape Town Airport

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TAAG 777 Cape Town Airport

After taxiing for just a few minutes we made it to runway 19, which was just past the 737 cargo planes parked on the cargo ramp.

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Cargo planes Cape Town Airport

At 2:25PM we began our takeoff roll, which was rather quick, as you’d expect for a fairly empty A340-600.

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Taking off Cape Town Airport

The views on climb out were gorgeous, and within about 10 minutes the seatbelt sign was turned off.

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View after takeoff from Cape Town

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View after takeoff from Cape Town

15 minutes after the seatbelt sign was off the crew came through the cabin with hot towels, followed by a snack. The choice was between falafel or fish cakes, both of which were served with a potato salad.

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South African Airways business class snack

I chose the falafel, though I’m still not actually convinced that’s what I was served. Regardless, the dish was rather tasteless, and also lukewarm (I’d rather it be chilled or hot, because when it’s somewhere in the middle I always wonder how it was prepared).

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South African Airways business class snack

The snack was served with a side of fruit.

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South African Airways business class snack

I had a gin & tonic to accompany the snack.

Afterwards I ordered a coffee, which once again tasted powdered. Better than nothing, I suppose.

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South African Airways business class coffee

By the time the snack service was complete, we were only about 40 minutes from landing in Johannesburg. The crew was friendly and attentive, and throughout the flight they passed through the cabin proactively to see if anyone wanted anything.

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Airshow enroute to Johannesburg

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Airshow enroute to Johannesburg

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Airshow enroute to Johannesburg

I turned on the tail camera to look at the beautiful A340-600 from behind.

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SAA A340 tail camera

I also reclined the seat into the fully flat position, since I wasn’t able to snap such a picture on the previous flight. I’d note that South African doesn’t offer any sort of pillows or blankets on their shorthaul flights.

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SAA business class flat bed

At around 3:45PM the captain came on the PA once again to provide us with updated arrival information, informing us we’d be landing at around 4:05PM.

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View enroute to Johannesburg

The ride was quite smooth, except for the last 15 minutes, where we hit quite a bit of turbulence.

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Approaching Johannesburg

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Approaching Johannesburg

The seatbelt sign was turned on about 10 minutes before landing, at which point I had to fold away the personal television.

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Approaching Johannesburg

The worst chop occurred as we descended through the cloud layer, where a few passengers let out gasps.

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Descending to Johannesburg

It was a beautiful day below the clouds, and we touched down in Johannesburg at 4:05PM sharp.

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View on approach to Johannesburg

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View on approach to Johannesburg

From there it was about a 10 minute taxi to our arrival stand, and we once again passed the Air Corridor 737 without engines, which is parked off the runway.

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Taxiing Johannesburg Airport

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Taxiing Johannesburg Airport

We had to cross a parallel runway to get to the terminal.

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Crossing runway Johannesburg Airport

Eventually we pulled into a remote stand, next to an EgyptAir A330 and Lufthansa 747-8.

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EgyptAir & Lufthansa Johannesburg Airport

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EgyptAir A330 Johannesburg Airport

We arrived at our stand by 4:15PM, and then within five minutes the air stairs pulled up so we could deplane.

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Air stairs Johannesburg Airport

In the distance there was a British Airways 747 parked at stand, waiting to return to Heathrow later in the evening.

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British Airways 747 Johannesburg Airport

SAA A340-600 Business Class bottom line

It’s tough to beat flying an A340-600 with flat beds on a sub-two hour flight. That being said, other than the aircraft type, SAA’s shorthaul product generally disappoints. The food isn’t very good, there are no pillows and blankets, etc. It also wasn’t great that the flight used remote stands on both ends of the journey.

At least the crew was friendly.

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Comments

  1. That airline is Air Namibia, which is the flag carrier of Namibia.
    While their most of their fleet is consisted of narrow-body aircrafts like A319 and ERJ 135, They also have two Airbus A330-200 that operates 6 weekly flights to FRA (btw Condor serves Windhoek from Frankfurt twice a week). And Air Namibia isn’t a member of any airline alliance.

  2. Your anonymous A319 is Air Namibia. Which you can probably tell by reading the visible titles on the forward fuselage…

  3. Long time reader and huge fan of useless knowledge. That unknown airline you were looking at is Air Namibia

  4. Air Namibia has recently been updating their product. A trip report on their one long-haul route from Frankfurt to Windhoek would be really interesting if you are looking for a new product to review.

  5. That mystery airline is Tasmanian airways.
    It flys weekly devonport to cape town to jfk then kabul and back to devonport

  6. It looks to me that the air corridor 737 is used for fire training – which would explain its location

  7. After one person responds with the answer to the question about the airplane, why would so many other people respond with the same answer????

  8. I couldn’t agree more. I flew the same route (and went in the Cape Town club) In January. Loved having the 340 seats up front, but I probably wouldn’t take them long haul

  9. @Brian – You do realize that those answers were posted within minutes of each other, likely indicating people were answering at once and weren’t actually continuously refreshing the page to see if others had chimed in yet? Geez, people will complain about anything.

  10. Flew same route two years ago and was underwhelmed by the service.

    Liked the plane itself for the short hop, but the service was “by the book” and I think the book was written under some collective bargaining agreement whereby the crew doesn’t have to work.

  11. @ Lucky

    I am surprised you don’t recognize Air Namibia as I always see it parked across the field from the FRA terminal. 🙂 They do the same turnaround as SAA. In the past its been A340’s; however I believe they now have A330’s. Take a look next time you’re in FRA (which is most likely tomorrow). 🙂

  12. I flew this route in 2014 October in J. Same hard product, but the food was better. Some sort of cold duck. Not bad, not great. A comfortable way to fly domestically.

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