Review: South African Airways Business Class A340-3, Dakar – Johannesburg

South African Airways offers long haul services from 10 locations around the world in Asia, South American, North America and South America. This is the continuation of our flight on South African Airways Washington Dulles – Dakar, and our technical stop in Dakar, Senegal. The flight is typically sold as one direct segment.


This post is one chapter on our trip to South Africa, a Safari in the Maasai Mara in Kenya and Mauritius. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: South African Airways Business Class A340-3, Dakar Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport – OR Tambo International Airport Johannesburg, South Africa

Leaving Dakar Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport, we departed our technical stop 10 minutes ahead of schedule. 

On Board South African Airways Business Class:

For those that are just joining us, we were seated in the same seats as on the outbound segment from Washington Dulles to Dakar. The seats were spacious, comfortable and exceptionally roomy.

South African Airways A340-3 Business Class Seats
Lots of Leg Room – South African Airways Business Class Seats A340-3
South African Airways
DAK-JNB (Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport Dakar, Senegal – O.R. Tambo Johannesburg International)
SA 208 – Business Class (D)
7:25 AM – 5:50 PM
November 6, 2013
Booked: Airbus 340-300E
Flown: Airbus 340-300E

It was an absolutely beautiful take off this morning with some great scenery to look at, taking off on runway 36 in a North Westerly direction over what looked to be a gorgeous beach and gorgeous fishing. 

Morning Sky on Takeoff from Dakar, Senegal
Morning Light on the Coast Line of Senegal
Morning Fishing Boats

In one of the more unusual flight introduction announcements, the lead flight attendant announced that sleeping on floor is prohibited. This was another first for me. I had some opportunity to read the SAA in flight magazine Sawubona. I usually flip to the technical details in the back since it’s the most interesting part. I saw this notice in the safety instructions. Had a quick chuckle about it but it was all explained later in the trip when we were to go on our Soweto tour and visit of an informal settlement (slum).

Sawbuona – South African Airways Inflight Magazine
Sleeping on the Floor is not Permitted

The Meal: A Full Breakfast

The crew started the breakfast service immediately after take off. We were offered a coffee service , which was startlingly “instant” tasting. 

South African Airways Business Class Menu DAK-JNB

We started off with the sliced seasonal fresh fruit, which was served with cereal and a roll.

Fresh seasonal fruit, with cereal
Stamped Butter with Salt and Pepper Shakers

For the main even, I went with the Caramelized Peach and Mascarpone French Toast (I wasn’t going anywhere near the goat cheese and leek strata). 

Caramelized Peach and Mascarpone French Toast

After the not so spectacular coffee, I finished off breakfast with the better option of a glass of Taitinger champagne. 

The cabin was kept dark with shades drawn despite it being bright daylight outside. Most of the passengers slept, as it was late night on Washington time. I crashed out for a few hours.

The In Flight Entertainment:

Over the course of the long haul flights, I played with the In Flight Entertainment system. It was a bit dated and had to be navigated using a combination of the remote and the touch screen. This was not immediately apparent when you first picked up the controllers. It’s a good thing that we had 15 hours to fiddle with it. The map function was broken or inoperative – it displayed flight statistics but no map.

South African Airways In Flight Entertainment System
A Simple Interface with a Touch Screen and Wired Remote
SAA Airscape – on our cruise into South Africa

The Second Meal Service: Lunch

About 2.5 hours flight time from Johannesburg, they started the lunch service, which was actually at about 3 PM local time. This was the third meal service we’d had on our journey since we had departed Washington Dulles. The catering was not exactly to the menu, but was similar in that they had 1 beef, 1 chicken, 1 fish and one pasta option. 

South African Airways Business Class DAK-JNB Lunch

We started off with the un named amuse bouche…

Lunch Service Amuse Bouche

I coontinued on with the smoked duck breast starter…

Sliced Smoke Duck Breast Starter

There were a lot of meat eaters on thus flight as I had the grilled chicken breast, as again, they had run out of beef tenderloin. 

Grilled Chicken Breast, steamed rice, carrots and “Yassa Sauce”

Lastly, I finished off desert with the chocolate mouse with pineapple coulis. I had to go with another glass of Taitinger champagne to finish an otherwise arduous journey. 

Pineapple and Coconut Cake with Passion Fruit Coulis

We eventually touched down at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, ending our 16 hour long haul journey direct from the United States to South Africa.

South African Airways A340 on the ground at JNB

Baggage Chandling at Johannesburg Airport:

We arrived to O.R Tambo Johannesburg Airport. I had read about baggage mishandling and theft from the Johannesburg Airport but looking out the airplane window, the baggage handlers were creating new world records for carelessness with the bags. 

Bags left behind
Bags regularly left on the apron
You may not get your bag

I’m not trying to be overly critical, but I’ve never seen anything like this anywhere I’ve been.

With 250 other of my new best friends on the Airbus 340, we got off the plane and made a mad dash for the South African immigration line. It seems that the SAA Beijing – Johannesburg flight was arriving at the same time so we all crushed together in a long serpentine queue waiting for entry stamps. SAA does not issue Fast Track cards for international arrivals at SAA and the immigration officers seem to like to chit chat here about nothing relevant to the immigration process. It took twenty minutes for us to make it through. Make note that this is not a fast process if you’re rushing for the last airport train to downtown. 

OR Tambo International Arrivals Hall – Baggage Claim

Our Checked Baggage? Missing in Action

I made the seventh and final inquiry with the SAA baggage desk in the secure side of the airport. As expected, even though I had a slight glimmer of hope, my checked bag did not turn up. I was told to expect it within 120 hours at the maximum but more likely within 2 – 3 days. I became convinced then having seen the issues with the recovery of the bags and the ones littered over the apron, that there were two kinds of bags – “checked” and “lost”. 

My Final Thoughts on South African Airways Long Haul Business Class:

Overall I was highly impressed with South African Airways Long Haul Business Class. I was not expecting too much. The hard product was far better than what I expected and even included features that you’d expect in First – mattress pads, large thick duvet’s and personal space that rivals true First on some carriers. When they say that First class is being reduced globally with business class getting better and better, that actually applies in this case. As a result, I’d highly recommend using SAA Long Haul Business for your travels to SA. 

It seems they release reward space between 300-360 days or within 7 days in some cases. At the time of writing, I’ve found lots of last minute availability from South America and Asia to South Africa, which might make a good connection point if you’re looking to try this out. It seems that they don’t make last minute space on all routes so it’s a bit of a dice roll as to whether you’ll get lucky.


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