South African Business Class Review Johannesburg (JNB) to Dakar (DKR) SA 207, A330
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After my encounter with South African Airways and the many not so knowledgeable agents, I finally had luck struck gold with an agent at the lounge. She managed to locate my bag, make sure it was on my flight to Dakar and re-book me onto my flight to Dakar. Without her I would have never made it out of Johannesburg!
With all the preceding chaos, I was happy to be on ANY flight - just to finally get going and not be stuck in transit anymore.
This time, boarding went without a hitch and the flight was perfectly on-time. It was operated by a A330 - not the A340 that serves JFK that I had used a couple of years back (on a domestic flight but with the international configuration).
Upon entering the cabin, things looked promising - the color scheme of the seats was bright and earthy. It all looked fresh. The flight attendants came by and served glasses of rose and champagne well before take-off - what could go wrong?
The business class cabin is huge and it was filled to the last seat - with the flight cancellations in the days prior, a number of other people had also gotten stuck in Johannesburg.
After a choppy climb, we leveled at 32,000 feet and the dinner service started right away. Another good sign!
However, when I tried my IFE, it would not start and my seat neighbor had the same problem. It worked for other passengers, though. The flight attendant promised to 'reset it' but things never started working, so I used my laptop to watch stored movies instead.
The amenity kit was rather uninspiring.
Just 20 minutes into the flight, drinks and an amuse bouche were served. The amuse bouche was pretty stale and tasteless and I did not like it.
My seat mate and I were 3rd and 4th to choose a meal (even though we were sat all the way in the back of the business class cabin) and the vegetarian option (a biryani - I like biryanis!) was already out for some reason. The flight attendant mentioned that only four such meals were on-board for a capacity of 36 passengers in business class, although that seemed odd to me! He advised us to read the first page of the menu, which duly noted that some options might be unavailable . Well, we both could have figured that out without reading the footnote. Thanks for being so 'helpful'.
My flight attendant kept getting annoyed by me (or by me taking pictures). He refused to clear my plate. He had no idea which red wines were on offer (and there were only 2 in business class) and left me without wine for most of the meal (since I initially did not know what I wanted, he kept serving other passengers for 15 minutes).
The appetizer was better and the main course was pretty good, although the rice was cold and had no taste. The prawns, however, were yummy.
The cheese dessert was tasteless. It seemed to be the same cheese that had been served in the lounge. A generous piece of cheese with no taste!
Once my movie was done, I wanted to sleep, so I walked over to the flight attendant who was doing a crossword. I asked for the bedding and he advised me that it was in the overhead lockers. Interesting :)
I found it and I made my bed. He had crosswords to do! The seat reclines pretty flat - just the footrest part does not go all the way up.
I fell asleep quickly, but woke up several times because my back hurt. Now I'm not a cranky airplane sleeper (I know you guys must keep calling me cranky here), but I sleep well in most economy airplane seats (e.g. my recent Air France flights in international economy) and even better in business class seats, but my back pain was so intense that I had to change the seat back upright. Once I finally woke up before our descent into Dakar, I was so happy that this would be my final destination for now and I did not have to continue further.
I could not really pin it down, but something is very wrong with this seat - I feel it beat my bad experience with Asiana's (old) business class and Lufthansa's (OLD) business class last year.
What's odd about Senegal is that mix of old school (the airport, the building, no gangway) and the hi-tech Ebola screening, fingerprinting and visa scanning. This would become a theme of my Senegal visit - hi-tech and lo-tech in a rather unique combination.
Given that I only paid 35,000 United miles for 12+ hours in business class traversing the huge African continent in mostly international configuration, this was a good deal. But given what happened in Johannesburg and how tough it was (for me) to rest well on the seats, I should have stuck with Ethiopian and just flown economy.
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