Wednesday, September 07, 2011

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




Carrier: South African Airways
Flight #: 306 / 40
Equipment: B737 / A319
Seat: 17B / 29D
Departure: March 8, 2011 - 07:00 (06:54) / 10:50 (10:59)
Arrival: March 8, 2011 - 09:00 (08:49) / 12:35 (12:41)
Travel Time: 5 hours 25 minutes (5 hours 37 minutes) including layover in JNB
Flight Miles: 785 + 575 = 1360


We arrived at the airport in Cape Town about 90 minutes before departure, as everyone said the traffic to the airport was horrendous and the lines were unmanageable at the airport.  Neither were accurate.  So we went to the South African Airways Domestic Baobab Premium Class Lounge at the Airport.  We had to walk past the British Airways Lounge -- which had a divine breakfast (or at least it smelled that way).  The Baobab lounge had standard pre-wrapped sandwiches and cheeses along with yogurts and several types of fruit juice.  The lounge was perfectly acceptable with showers, conference rooms and a children's area (which we didn't use) and booze, food and wifi (which we did use).


We didn't explore CPT at all before our flight to JNB.  About 40 minutes before departure we headed over to our gate.  It was a cool morning and we were parked at a remote gate and had to cram a ton of folks on a bus to the plane. We had exit row seats, but SAA has a rule that while in an exit row seat you cannot store anything under the seat in front of you -- that's a little obnoxious.  We were served an acceptable breakfast on this flight - including yogurt, fruit and a breakfast pastry.  The flight was very quick, but they still managed to serve everyone a meal.


We landed early and immediately headed through JNB to find our gate.  We knew we'd have hours to spend at the JBD lounge on our return, so we weren't necessarily keen on hanging out there much.  We did have a bit of shopping to do - we needed a hat to keep the sun off of our heads and I wanted to see what kind of Port options available - which we'd pick up on our return. 


We headed to the gate about 30 minutes before departure and saw a large group of Brits and a couple Americans (mostly white) with their silly safari hats, all wearing khakis, cameras and binoculars around their neck.  Oh good god -- is this was Zimbabwe (Zim as the locals call it) is going to be like.  We schlepped out onto the tarmac and crammed again into a bus making our way to the A319. this time we sat in the back of the plane -- interestingly enough, it was like no one on this plane had ever been on a plane before: No one could find their seats, everyone seemed to be sitting in someone else's seat. Ugh.  The boarding process was extremely long - not SAA's fault, just the passengers craziness.


This flight was about 90 minutes, but we did get two drink services and a meal. The meal was a simple pre-packaged sandwich, which was perfectly acceptable as well.  Nothing amazing, but still pretty good.  One thing I love about SAA is that they do all their announcements in both English and Afrikaans. Who doesn't love that.


Victoria falls is a small airport with only two regularly scheduled flights each day - both from JNB. One is operated by British Airways and one is operated by South African Airways.  Both arrive a few minutes before 1pm.  The airport is like a small high school gym.  Luckily our flight landed before the BA flight.  The customs and immigration area was tiny and was fully staffed with a whopping 3 people. Everyone entering Zim needs a visa -- these visa are all handwritten by the immigration people.  Imagine how long this takes -- 300 visitors arriving at the same time and lazy people "interviewing" guests and writing the info.  It took just under two hours from the time we landed until we managed to make it through the airport and meet our guide to take us to the lodge.  The airport was not air conditioned and there was no water or fans.  It was March in Africa -- let's just say it was hot and we were running on our last nerves because those damn BA people were trying to cut in front of us.  No, we had no part of that!

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