Review: South African Airways Lounge Cape Town Airport

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I was booked on the 3:50PM flight to Johannesburg, though showed up way early, at around 12:50PM. I had some work to catch up on prior to my long journey home, so always like leaving a bit of extra time before my flight.

Cape Town Airport’s check-in hall is quite large, and it took me a minute to find South African Airways’ premium check-in.

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Cape Town Airport check-in hall

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Cape Town Airport check-in hall

As it turned out, business class check-in was located at the far left of the terminal, across from their economy check-in area.

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Cape Town Airport check-in hall

The agent who helped me was friendly, and after I explained I was on the 3:50PM flight, she said “great, do you want to take the 2:10PM flight instead? Your flight is oversold.”

“Hmmm, what kind of a plane is the 2:10PM flight operated by?”

“Big big plane.”

Given the opportunity I figured I might as well switch flights. That would give me a better seat to Johannesburg, and also more time on the ground there, as my previous connection was on the short side, and I didn’t want to miss my flight.

I proceeded towards the security checkpoint. While there was no premium queue, it didn’t take all that long to clear — I was through in about 10 minutes.

Just past the security checkpoint I admired the incredible tarmac views, as there was an A340-600 parked right there, with a British Airways 747 in the background.

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South African Airways A340-600 at Cape Town Airport

I turned right and followed the signage towards lounges.

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Cape Town Airport departures hall

Cape Town Airport is very serviceable, though not especially modern.

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Cape Town Airport departures hall

Just before the food court area and to the right I found the elevators for airline lounges, which I took up to the fourth floor.

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Elevators to lounges at Cape Town Airport

Down the hallway was the entrance to the South African Airways Lounge.

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South African Airways Lounge entrance Cape Town Airport

The lounge had a long entryway, which led to a very nice seating area in front of the reception desk.

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South African Airways Lounge entryway Cape Town Airport

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South African Airways Lounge entryway Cape Town Airport

After my boarding pass was scanned I was admitted to the lounge, and informed there wouldn’t be a boarding call for my flight.

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South African Airways Lounge Cape Town Airport

The lounge was quite beautiful, with plenty of seating, high ceilings, and lots of natural light.

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South African Airways Lounge Cape Town Airport

The lounge had a unique shape which meant it had several different zones with lots of privacy.

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SAA Lounge seating Cape Town Airport

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SAA Lounge seating Cape Town Airport

The lounge was probably actually in a rectangular shape, but due to the unique zones they have, it didn’t feel like it.

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SAA Lounge seating Cape Town Airport

There was a cool entertainment zone, which sort of felt like the inside of a ship, or something.

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SAA Lounge entertainment room Cape Town Airport

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SAA Lounge entertainment room Cape Town Airport

There was also a similarly designed smoking lounge.

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SAA Lounge smoking room Cape Town Airport

Towards the back of the lounge was some high-top seating.

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SAA Lounge seating Cape Town Airport

There was also a business center with a long desk, along with several printers and PCs.

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SAA Lounge seating Cape Town Airport

Just past that was more seating, which featured great tarmac views.

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SAA Lounge seating Cape Town Airport

I love the variety of traffic at Cape Town Airport, between the South African Airways heavies, the Comair 737s in British Airways livery, and the cool Mango 737s.

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SAA Lounge view Cape Town Airport

At the far end of the lounge was a station with a broken coffee machine, as well as some soup.

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SAA Lounge espresso machine Cape Town Airport

There were also muffins along with packaged sweets and tea.

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SAA Lounge snack selection Cape Town Airport

Then back near the entrance was the main buffet.

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SAA Lounge buffet Cape Town Airport

It featured crackers, several types of salad, veggies, sandwiches, warm croissants, waffles, chicken, etc.

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SAA Lounge food selection Cape Town Airport

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SAA Lounge food selection Cape Town Airport

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SAA Lounge food selection Cape Town Airport

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SAA Lounge food selection Cape Town Airport

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SAA Lounge food selection Cape Town Airport

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SAA Lounge food selection Cape Town Airport

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SAA Lounge food selection Cape Town Airport

Back by the windows was the bar area, where alcoholic drinks and made to order espresso beverages were available.

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SAA Lounge bar area Cape Town Airport

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SAA Lounge bar area Cape Town Airport

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SAA Lounge bar area Cape Town Airport

I love that South African Airways lounges seem to consistently offer made to order espresso drinks.

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SAA Lounge espresso machine Cape Town Airport

Overall I was pleased by the lounge in terms of the design, food spread, etc. There was only one major issue — the wifi was virtually unusable. To me functioning wifi is the most basic amenity a lounge can have, as it’s a necessity before getting on a flight. The wifi was so slow that it literally took several minutes for me to open a single webpage. This is completely unacceptable, and a huge fail on SAA’s part.

I brought this to the attention of the staff, and they said “sorry, it’s running slow today.” “Running slow” is one thing, but it taking literally several minutes for a webpage to load is another thing.

I left the lounge at 1:20PM for my 2:10PM flight to Johannesburg. My flight was departing from gate C9, which was just a short walk away. As it turns out, gate C9 was really a remote gate which they bussed passengers from, which is true of gates C1-12.

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Remote stand departure gate Cape Town Airport

At around 1:30PM everyone lined up at the gate, without there actually being a boarding call.

Finally at 1:40PM boarding commenced, though it was a free for all. There was a guy at the gate with a bag sizer and scale, who was being quite aggressive about having people gate check bags. I wasn’t about to check my bag before flying from Cape Town to Johannesburg to London to Toronto to Vancouver to Los Angeles.

Fortunately by the time my boarding pass was scanned he was checking three other peoples’ bags, so he was distracted, which was good.

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Remote stand departure gate Cape Town Airport

The bus ride to the plane took about 10 minutes, and it was so cool to board the A340-600 by stairs. Aesthetically I think the A340-600 is one of the most beautiful planes out there, even if it’s not necessarily my favorite plane to fly.

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SAA A340-600 taking me to Johannesburg

But getting so close to the such a long plane is pretty awesome.

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SAA A340-600 taking me to Johannesburg

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SAA A340-600 taking me to Johannesburg

SAA Lounge Cape Town bottom line

While the South African Airways Lounge Cape Town was well designed and had a good food spread, the unusable wifi was disappointing, and frankly, unacceptable.

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

Comments

  1. It would be really interesting for you (if you can) to write an article about the kinds of ‘refunds/benefits/compensation’ you have received from different airlines due to over-bookings from different airlines (e.g. in this case from SA)! Helps readers like myself get an idea what is reasonable.

    Just an idea 😉

  2. While the SA Lounge in Cape Town is indeed very nice, the lounge attendants (well, one in particular) have no clue about access policies. I’ve had two negative incidents there, both with the same lady ironically but with different issues.

    The first was when she insisted on seeing my *G card in order to grant access to a guest. She said that even though the system showed I was *G, she had to swipe the card to allow a guest. After 30 minutes of argument and waiting for her supervisor, we were finally granted entry.

    The second time she insisted that *G on purely domestic itineraries booked in “G” class were not allowed lounge access. After I reminded her of the previous issue we had about lounge access and how she turned out to be wrong, she offered to allow me access as a “one time exception”. I said that wasn’t good enough and insisted that the supervisor was called. Same supervisor who recognised me from my previous issue months earlier and chided her for once again making up rules. Lots of apologies and a comment to the agent that “we’ll talk about this later with xyz” (presumably their boss).

    I’ve also had more issues with access to the SAA Johannesburg lounges than I can remember – to the point where actually getting access without an argument is more comment worthy than the alternative. Excuses range from “Ethiopian Airlines flights are not Star Alliance flights unless the boarding pass is printed on cardboard with the *A logo” (which the kiosk boarding passes don’t print obviously) to “I know your flight is 2 hours delayed but it is past the boarding time printed on your boarding pass so I can’t let you enter” to “flights to Malawi on Mondays are not eligible for lounge access, but the flights on Wednesday and Saturday are ok”. Yeah, I couldn’t make these up if I tried.

  3. Lucky
    It’s Africa ! Frankly to get good wifi is the exception, not the norm. My parents still use a 56k dialup because nothing else is available in the Eastern Cape where they live.

  4. I have priority pass lounge access and can take guests in for free. I take random people into the lounges. Random as in if I have only talked to them for a few minutes and they seem down to earth and nice.

    Do you “give back” to the community at no additional cost to you?

  5. Great website.
    Question: I have United Airlines club lounge passes as a freebie for using the United Chase credit card. Will the South African airlines lounge in Cape Town accept these alliance passes? To make it even more difficult, i am flying on Ethiopian Airlines. Good luck, huh!?!?

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