In the fifth installment of our monthly flight review series, Richard Holmes steps on board South African Airways business class from Johannesburg to Mauritius as the airline marks 50 years of flying holidaymakers to the country. Here’s what’s on offer for those lucky travellers seated up at the sharp end of the plane.
Check-in: There’s no reason not to use online check-in these days and SAA’s system worked seamlessly the day before departure, allowing me to change my seat from an aisle to a window so I wouldn’t miss the island views on arrival. Advance Passenger Information (API) is required for immigration, and at the end of the process boarding passes can be printed out at home or emailed to your smartphone. With check-in done, it was a simple matter of dropping my bags at the airport’s express queue and breezing through security and immigration.
Lounge & boarding: With a connecting flight from Cape Town I had a few hours to while away at OR Tambo International Airport, and lounge access is certainly one of the pleasures of flying in the premium cabin. SAA’s Business Class passengers have use of the Baobab departure lounge on the Mezzanine Level. Although slightly overheated, a problem I’ve found on many occasions, it’s a fairly spacious lounge with quiet corners to escape to. The bar is well stocked and served by friendly staff, but the food offering was scant mid-morning. Perhaps come evening it has more than a few pastries and biscuits. There’s free Wi-Fi, and a separate lounge for keeping young kids entertained. Although we had a bus transfer to the aircraft, boarding was smooth and efficient and the cabin crew were quick to get passengers settled in.
Flight: Aircraft rotation can have a marked impact on the onboard product available (ask your travel agent to check when booking), but on this outbound leg the new Airbus A320-200 was a treat: stylish leather seats arranged in a 2-2 formation providing plenty of personal space for the 3½ -hour flight to Mauritius.
The cabin crew looking after the Business cabin were friendly, informative and attentive, ensuring water and bubbly was poured, and newspapers offered around, well before take-off. Menus were handed out before departure too, with the meal service commencing as soon as we were in cruise: a three-course lunch, including vegetarian options, and paired South African wines.
After lunch you’ll want to settle into a good movie, but surprisingly there’s no in-seat entertainment on offer here, only ceiling screens showing programs on a loop. Luckily there’s in-seat power and USB ports so it’s worth bringing along your laptop or tablet pre-loaded with entertainment. The flight was smooth, with good views over Madagascar and down onto Mauritius during the descent.
Arrival: Since opening in 2013 the spacious new Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport has made flying into Mauritius a pleasure. A fast-track lane for premium passengers will see you fly past the friendly immigration and health officers, and luggage seems to take minutes to arrive onto the carousels. With our touchdown slightly ahead of schedule I was on my way to the resort by the time we should have been taxiing to the terminal.
Richard’s previous flight reviews:
Airline Assessment: Air France From Europe To Johannesburg
Airline Assessment: Virgin Atlantic From Cape Town To London Heathrow
Airline Assessment: British Airways From Cape Town To London Heathrow
Airline Assessment: Cathay Pacific From Hong Kong To Joburg