South African Airways » A330-200 » User reviews
Seatplan rating 8.4
- Boarding 9.0
- Seat for sitting 8.0
- Seat for sleeping 8.0
- Service 8.5
- Entertainment 8.5
- Food & drink 8.0
- Punctuality 9.0
- Baggage 8.5
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I flew return LHR to CPT via JNB, so got to experience the newish SAA A330 service 3 times (one leg was 737). My overall opinion is that I'd be happy to fly SAA A330 again, but wouldn't go out of my way for it.
So, what's to like?.............
Well, for starters, the seat (a window on each sector) was easily roomy enough for me while I was awake. I'm approx 6 feet tall and trim, so tend to prefer knee room rather than seat width and was a little worried that the A330s favouring width compared with A340s favouring knee room would be a problem, but it wasn't. Being new, the cushioning was also in good condition.
The supplied blanket was big enough to wrap around and still be able to move without it riding up or leaving cold gaps.
The A330 itself always seems fairly smooth to me, and tends to have particularly smooth landings. Which I appreciate!
I also liked the cabin crew. Not overly friendly, but not cold or officious either. Simply got on with their jobs professionally.
The IFE offered more than enough movie, TV and radio options for me, as an irregular traveller on SAA, plus some menu details etc.
Drinks. Was nice to see a decent local range.
What's not to like?..................
I struggle to find an economy seat that I get comfortable in for sleeping and the SAA A330 seat is no different. I'm simply always looking for an extra few degrees of recline. The main problem though was the headrest arrangement. My preference is for nice substantial wings that let me wedge myself in a bit and leave me no chance of sliding sideways and waking myself (or otehrs) up. The SAA arrangement didn't provide this.
Many of the films (maybe all of them? - I didn't check) are shown in pan and scan (ie cropped at the sides), even though the LCD is widescreen. Always seems an off thing to do.
The colour scheme (a sort of sand, with red blanet etc) isn't the most soothing. But then I'm used to greenery so maybe this depends on where you are from.
The new luggage allowance arrangements are definitely not as good as they used to be. The main issue is the use of an overall cm system which might be fine if all airlines used the same figure but is a nuisance when they don't. So might mean having to buy new luggage to fit SAA if you usually travel on airlines with a larger (or no) cm limit.
Finally, I'd have liked a more frequent drinks check. Just for water etc.
The 'same everyhwere'................
Food. Nothing special, perhaps a bit on the small size, and could do with 1 more option, but perfectly edible and went down well.
I guess I'd give the SAA A330 a 7.5 - 8.0.
If I was to add in airports, connections, and interlining I'd have to drop the score. I connected in on a OneWorld flight and had to collect my luggage at LHR and manhandle across terminals to re-check it. Then at JNB I had to collect it again and again re-check it. At LHR, the gate was at the very end of the pier, so what with the terminal changes and distances and hauling it was more of a slog than I'd care to do often. Then at JNB the regular desks had failed and redirection to a suitable desk (which turned out to be upstairs) was non-existent. The return trip was much smoother, but if going out LHR-JNB-CPT, it may be advisable to go for longer connections.
We had an excellent experience on this trip from LHR - CPT and JNB - LHR.
We arrived in plenty of time and were pleased to see that as all check-in desks were open there was actually no queue and we could walk straight up to the desk.
The lady behind the counter was very friendly and well-spoken, and once she had checked us in informed me that I might need to have a copy of my itinerary to hand when arriving in CPT as I was a dual citizen and therefore using two passports. When I replied that I didn't have one she called through to the information desk with our flight number so that they could print out the information, and then personally walked us over to the desk where the itinerary was waiting with another smiling service person. Absolutely first class!
Boarding was very orderly, with economy being boarded according to seating section to prevent long queues and congestion inside the plane itself. Staff were all extremely friendly and had the situation well in hand.
Due to orderly boarding passengers were seated quickly and plane took off bang on time. The pre-flight safety video is also very entertaining, and so refreshing compared to the standard boring announcements. There was a drinks service about 30mins after we got airborne with a good selection of wines and soft drinks.
The seats are fairly spacious, and have an arm-rest that folds away completely to give you a bit of extra room or allow you to get comfortable if travelling with a partner. The seat itself with regards to head rest configuration, seat pitch and recline were what you would expect for economy, though we found the leg room to be perfectly comfortable (both hubby and I are 5'7"). The blankets were comfy and generous, so you didn't have to choose between cold shoulders and cold feet!
Quick note: During the LHR - CPT flight there was a man next to me who had obviously taken sleeping pills and was snoring like a geriatric rhino. When he couldn't be roused by myself or the stewardess she promptly went to the business class section and came back with handfuls of earplug sets, which she handed to everyone within a 5 seat radius. As the flight was relatively empty she also offered to relocate any passengers that required it.
It was about 3 in the morning and she handled it all with a smile and a laugh and put other passengers at their ease as much as she could. Well done to her!
Very good selection of films and TV shows, including all the latest blockbusters. Screen was of a decent size and had enough tilt that the picture was still clear even when the front seat was reclined and ours was in the upright position.
Food was decent, and both menu options were in plentiful supply. It was the standard "beef or chicken" unless you had selected a special meal option before the flight. Breakfast was very nice, with both hot and cold options and another good selection of drinks about 90mins before landing.
We landed about 45mins early due to a tail wind, and were past border control within 15mins due to all the gates being open. A smiling man at my gate asked if I was visiting and wished me a pleasant stay. (We got through border control at LHR within about 15mins too, due to Terminal 1 being relatively quiet and arriving early in the morning). Our baggage came through about 5 minutes later, and we were in the arrivals lounge soon after.
An absolutely excellent experience. Staff were a pleasure to be served by from check-in to arrival in SA and behaved as though they honestly could not do enough for you. Hand-luggage allocation is a decent 8kg, and the trip itself is quite comfortable with plenty of entertainment if you're not able to sleep on the plane. It is that staff that really make this airline though, and the thoughtful little touches the airline puts in to lighten and enhance your journey.
I would thoroughly recommend SAA to anyone travelling in economy!