My Africa trip included 10 flights, but my journey from Johannesburg to Accra onboard the South African Airways A330 in business class was easily my favorite flight. SAA truly impressed me with its comfort, service, and dining onboard. This airline has so much potential.
South African Airways A330 Business Class Review
After arriving from Cape Town and spending the afternoon in the South African Airways Premium Lounge, I ventured over to the gate ahead of scheduled of boarding…and I am certainly glad I did. Boarding began about 10 minutes ahead of schedule. SA209 travels to Washington Dulles via Accra, however I did not experience the usual “security interview” prior to boarding that are generally a staple of US-inbound flights.
Earlier in the afternoon I had watched my aircraft arrive at the gate:
South African Airways 209
Johannesburg (JNB) – Accra (ACC)
Wednesday, March 11
Duration: 06hr, 05min
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 4A (Business Class)
South African Airways is known for last-minute equipment swaps and I was relieved to see the A330-300 instead of an A330-200 (which is comfortable, but features a much older business class seat).
The SAA A330-300 offers the carrier’s latest business class product with aisle access from every seat. The cabin includes a total of 46 flat bed seats. Each seat has 45 inches of seat pitch and 24 inches of width. I love the red color scheme (designed by PriestmanGoode) and the cabin was extremely clean, unlike the A320 I had flown earlier in the day from Cape Town. These are the Thompson Aerospace Vantage XL seats you will also find on SAS, Delta, and LATAM.
Each seat had a compartment next to the IFE screen to store a tablet device. There was also a reading light, power outlet, and USB charging port. Seat position could be adjusted via a control pad to the side or another one on the armrest.
The tray table folded out from the side:
There was also a small compartment with a mirror and a coat hook above the screen.
I find these fully flat seats extremely comfortable and spacious in term of elbow room and also foot room. I sleep in a fetal position on my side and had no trouble getting comfortable. SAA also offers comfortable bedding with a plush pillow and oversized duvet and even sheets.
Choose row one for even more foot room, with huge cutouts for your feet that are not obstructed by the seat in front of you.
Oh, what wonderful service onboard the flight. Shortly after setting in, I was offered a choice of orange juice or sparkling wine and a newspaper. Flight attendants were cheerful and friendly.
Prior to pushback, the captain welcomed everyone onboard. He offered a helpful warning:
“If you are not a regular flyer or don’t like flying, there are storms in the area and we will hit some bumps climbing out of Joburg. Don’t go all dense. We will smooth it out in a few minutes. We thank you sincerely for bringing your business to us and welcome you to the warm South African hospitality onboard.”
Warm hospitably indeed. And efficient too. Shortly after takeoff, meal service began without delay. It felt like I was on EVA or China Airlines! After being asked for my appetizer and main course choices, I thought I’d have some time to wait, but the first course showed up almost immediately. Considering this was only a six hour flight (actual flight time was about five hours), I greatly appreciated the chance to eat quickly and have plenty of time to take a nap.
A couple of other observations I found interesting. First, check out the flight attendant call button on the screen:
Notice anything about it? With the exception of Japanese airlines, you simply do not see that any more (and haven’t in 20 years). I’m referring to the female flight attendant.
Second, I thought the purser’s greeting was a bit unusual. For passengers leaving in Accra, he said, “Goodnight and God bless.”
It was raining in Johannesburg, but beautiful above the clouds.
Food + Drink
As I mentioned, dinner began shortly after takeoff and was not only quickly and nicely presented, but very delicious. The table cloth was laid immediately and I was offered a hot towel.
Browsing the menu, I noticed that this flight offered dinner out of Johannesburg, another dinner out of Accra, and then breakfast prior to landing in Washington.
Warmed nuts were offered first along with a choice of beverage. I ordered sparkling water and asked which white wine the flight attendant would recommend, knowing I would choose the fish as my main course. I loved his reply: “Let’s try them both.”
Both wines were South African and I found the Worcester Viognier 2019 from Alvi’s Drift a bit better (less sweet than the Chardonnay).
For my first course, I chose carrot soup, served will dill garnish and a delicious warm bread roll with garlic.
I found it interesting that while SAA uses real towels in the lavatory, the napkins were just paper.
Next, the main course came–sea bass with risotto. I understand I missed out my not ordering the famous SAA “ribeye” steak, but after the poor beef experience at the Westin in Cape Town I figured I’d had enough red meat for the week. The fish was beautifully presented and delicious: moist with a taste of butter.
Next came a lovely cheese course with Camembert, Gouda, and Cheddar.
I enjoyed the sunset as I enjoyed my cheese:
Finally, I finished out the meal with some caramel macchiato ice cream. Minus points for the economy class presentation, but very good ice cream. I would have a cappuccino with it, but was informed it was powdered.
Overall, I was so impressed with the efficiency, presentation, and taste of the food on South African Airways. It was a pleasant highlight of the flight.
After dinner, I reclined my seat into the the lie-flat mode and browsed the entertainment system, which included a mix of movies, TV shows, games, and music. There was also arrival information for SAA’s international destinations and a library of city guides. But I didn’t watch anything…instead I just went to sleep.
I should add the noise-cancelling headphones were also comfortable and above-average in quality.
I awoke as we neared Accra.
The amenity kit came in a small brown SAA-branded bag. Contents included socks, eyeshade, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, and lip balm + moisturizer from Aigner, a German brand.
A shout-out to SAA for stocking real towels (versus paper towels) in the lavatory. A small touch, but a very appreciated one. The lavatory was spotless and included Aigner face wash, body lotion, and skin moisturizer.
We landed in Accra ahead of schedule and I really hated that the flight was over so soon. Passengers continuing to Washington remained onboard and I was quite tempted to stay onboard! South African Airways offers (offered?) a wonderful product. Sadly, SAA has surrendered its A330s, including this aircraft, during the pandemic and its future is uncertain. While SAA is like a cat with nine lives and always seems to find a way to survive, I do hope that recovery will eventually come to this beleaguered airline. Everyone about this flight flight was great…I really cannot underscore enough how lovely this flight was and how much I look forward to (hopefully) flying South African Airways again. In terms of Star Alliance long haul products, this is one of my favorite business cabins.
Have you flown SAA? How would you review South African Airways business class onboard the A330?
This story is part of my An African Adventure As The World Shut Down trip report.