Sunday, September 11, 2011

African Trip Review -- Transit: VFA-JNB-LHR

Our last day in Africa started early.  We knew we had a long travel day ahead of us.  We woke up at 05h30 for the final game drive.  Mervin (from Durban) and Rene were leaving with us.  We traveled 45 minutes to the Victoria Falls Airport together -- we had a lovely conversation the entire time. I do wish we had gotten better acquainted earlier in the trip.  They aren't people we'll ever hang out with again, but I did find them quite entertaining.


Carrier: South African Airways
Flight #: 41
Seat: 4A
Departure: March 11, 2011 - 13:25 / 13:27
Arrival: March 2, 2011 - 15:10 / 15:02
Travel Time: 1 hour 45 minutes / 1 hour 34 minutes
Flight Miles: 575



 The above pictures shows the glamorous Victoria Falls Airport.  The woman with the blue floral tank top is the lovely Rene -- Mervin is no where to be found -- probably at a bar.  You'll also notice our hand written boarding passes.  Less than ideal.  We were also concerned about missing our flight because of the long lines at ticketing, customs and security.  Then we realized there are only two flights a day...they'll probably wait for us.  No need though, we even had time to find what use to be a bar (not surprisingly there was no airport lounge).  Mervin and Rene were a little put off that we were upgraded to first class on this flight -- not that it really mattered.  We had the same food and service style..just slightly wider seats.  Interestingly enough, first class on this flight was a 2-3 configuration, while coach was a 3-3.  The seats were quite wide up front.  The flight was uneventful, the food was tasty and before we knew it we were in Jo'burg.

We opted not to check our bags all way through to ORD (VFA-JNB-LHR-ORD just seemed like a lot of failure points to overcome).  We exited like we were staying in JNB and immediately checked our bags again.  At this point, I was hurting.  After my massage the day before, I had gotten a very bad sun burn (less than 10 minutes in the sun with no sunscreen and massage oil on you makes for a blistery burn).  I always travel with Clinique After Sun Care (even when going to Minneapolis in winter), but I didn't bring it to Africa with me. I was trying to find some at Duty Free, but I couldn't justify spending $US65 for it (when it goes for $16 back home).  I just suffered through it.

We had a 5 hour lay over in JNB. I wanted to find some booze -- either South African Port or a great liquor called Amarula.  I opted for the Port, which was a great choice, considering I found Amarula at a liquor store in Chicago immediately upon my return.

We tried to sneak into the First Class Lounge, but the South Africans are quicker than we expected.  We went to the Star Alliance Gold/Business Class Lounge and spent time checking email (after being disconnected for 4 days), writing post cards and enjoying our last few minutes in South Africa.  Upon checking the news, we heard of the massive earthquake in Japan and the ensuing tsunami warnings for the west coast. I ended up working for about an hour making sure we were properly prepared for this.

OR Tambo (JNB) isn't like Heathrow, but it is a long walk from the lounge to the gate.  We had a night cap (Amarula on the rocks) and headed to our flight.


Carrier: South African Airways
Flight #: 9842
Seat: 52A
Departure: March 11, 2011 - 20:50 / 20:59
Arrival: March 12, 2011 - 06:25 / 06:02
Travel Time: 10 hours 35 minutes / 10 hours 03 minutes
Flight Miles: 5,620


The plane to London was such an upgrade compared to the flight from London to Cape Town.  We didn't get exit row, like we requested.  We did get two seats next to each other, ate a great meal (who knew SAA would have such tasty food) and watched some movies.  Since I can sleep on planes, I put on my Bose headsets, put my travel blanket over my head and went to sleep -- I slept about 7 hours on the flight and was perfectly rested by the time I woke up for breakfast about 90 minutes from Heathrow.

Would I fly South African Airways again?  Absolutely -- considering that is really the only logical Star Alliance carrier to get to South Africa.  My experience with EVERY Star Alliance partner (except Lufthansa) you need to file a request for the miles to be posted to your account.  A little bit of a pain, but on the grand scheme of life -- not a big deal.



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