South African Airways (SAA) is South Africa’s flag carrier with a fleet of 50 airplanes, flying to eight domestic destinations and over 50 destinations worldwide. SAA is an airline partner of Skywards (a frequent flyer programme for Emirates) and a Star Alliance member, with code-share agreements with Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, and other Star Alliance members. Today, South African Airways is one of only nine airlines in the world to fly to all six populated continents (Antartica being the only continent excluded for obvious reasons).
SAA flies from Cape Town to the following destinations (not all direct flights):
Dar Es Salaam
SAA tickets are easy to book on their recently revamped website. You can also choose to book a hire car or accommodation through their partners worldwide. SAA also offer online check-in to avoid the queues when you get to the airport.
For domestic flights, check-in closes 30 minutes before departure, except for the Cape Town-Durban route, check-in closes 40 minutes before departure.
For international flights, check-in closes 50-60 minutes before departure depending on the destination.
For flights from Lagos, check-in closes two hours before departure.
For checked baggage, the maximum weight per piece is 32 kg. Combined weight for each passenger in First Class is 40 kg, Business Class is 30 kg, Economy Class is 20 kg. But for certain destinations, they have higher allowances for checked baggage; it’s worth checking with them before you fly (for example, an economy passenger flying to Lagos is allowed 40 kg).
SAA offers various movie and audio programmes, as well as gaming for the kids. Programmes are usually available in few select languages (adapted for the routes) and depending on the airplane you travel on, you have personal screens and full control of the programmes, to stop/play as you wish.
SAA has well-planned menus, being the first airline to be granted honorary membership of the South African Chef’s Association. Each international route has menu items chosen from the destination’s culinary favourites. Wines available in-flight and in SAA lounges are chosen by a panel of wine specialists, and for years SAA has been amongst the top ten airlines named for good wines, chosen by the Global Traveler publication.
SAA has 80% compliance for greener operations, stipulated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). They have plans to better their fuel and carbon efficiency, as well as maintaining a young and fuel-efficient fleet of airplanes.
SAA has a large fleet consisting of four models of Airbus planes, and B737-800 Boeings. You can check your flight details for the plane you’ll be flying on and find the seating plan on their website.
SAA has a code-share agreement with Mango for their Cape Town to Durban route. Mango is SAA’s low-cost airline, and this agreement allows SAA to place their passengers on Mango aircrafts, while the passengers still have all the SAA privileges, such as earning Voyager miles, an in-flight meal voucher and access to the SAA Business class lounge (for passengers with the relevant Voyager membership status).
Voyager is SAA’s loyalty programme that offers members miles for travelling with SAA, or for using the services of their partners. With these miles, you can get free flights, upgrades, car rental or credit for online shopping. Joining Voyager is easy; you can apply online at www.flysaa.com.
From South Africa
0861 359 722 Daily (including Public Holidays) from 6am to 10pm
+ 27 11 978 5313 Daily (including Public Holidays) from 6am to 10pm (GMT +2)
by Alice Kühne
My first experience of SAA was in 1988, travelling to South Africa for the first time. I still remember the plastic collapsible donkey, the little pink dolls and the scribbling pad they gave me for entertainment. I remember the plastic smell of scrambled eggs served in the foil trays, and I remember the old SAL logo in orange blocks and a flying animal I could never figure out.
Air travel for Taiwanese was still a novelty back then, as we were, similar to South Africa, closed off from the world for decades. I remember my parents half cringing, half howling with laughter over stories of fellow Taiwanese passengers keeping their in-flight meals as takeaways, including the tray, the cutlery and crockery. How they got away with it is still a mystery. A few years ago, a family friend emigrated and gave us a box of kitchenware; in there we found whole sets of cutlery from various airlines.
SAA bore new meaning to me much later when I spent months abroad, growing homesick as soon as the plane’s wheels left South African soil. Arriving at each major airport, you can easily spot that country’s national carrier planes, as they line up, gleaming in their homeport. Cathay Pacific planes at Hong Kong International, KLM planes at Schipol, Air France planes at Charles de Gaulle… when I finally came home to Johannesburg, touching down at the then Johannesburg International, the sight of rows of SAA planes with their SA flag tails brought tears to my eyes as I dramatically touched the window with my clammy hand and exclaimed to them: I’m home, like you!
Our flag carrier may not have had the most positive stories in the news in recent years, but nothing beats the pride of boarding an SAA plane in foreign lands, and feeling like you’re on a little piece of home turf. Nothing makes you feel more welcomed than when the crew greets you with “Sawubona!” after months of being surrounded by Chinese. It gives you an inexplicable over-eagerness to recommend a South African wine to the foreigners in your aisle, or to list places of interest in South Africa and feel an urgent sense of responsibility to make them fall in love with our beautiful country. I’ve always felt that SAA was our connection to the world, to our expats around the world, and I hope they will fly the skies for a long time to come.
South African Airways was born in February 1934, from the previous Union Airways, bought by the South African government. It started out with just domestic routes between Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg. Later in the 1930s, SAA started to fly to international destinations, flying to Kenya and Uganda.