Review: South African Airways A320-2, Johannesburg – Cape Town

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Our Aeroplan Business Class Redemption had us breaking out journey on that ticket with a stop over in Johannesburg. Since most of the excitement (for us) in South Africa is down in Cape Town, we needed a short positioning flight to get down there. We booked this ticket separately on the SAA website on the most commonly travelled domestic route in South Africa.


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 A320-2, Johannesburg – Cape Town

This will be a brief review. By the time we had flown this segment, we had been travelling for almost three days straight. We’d started in Vancouver, flown United Airlines Vancouver to Chicago, had our flight cancelled, unexpectedly stayed overnight in Chicago, and then another overnight flight on South African Airways Washington Dulles – Dakar, then onwards on South African Airways Dakar to Johannesburg. This was our last flight before our touching down at our hotel room for the next few days.

About 30 minutes before the flight, we headed down to the gate. On arrival, people were lined up already waiting to board at the podium. There was no priority boarding call and we again did the mad crush boarding style for the gate. 

Boarding Area, SAA Domestic

The gate agent didn’t like our roller board suitcase and laptop bag combination that is common throughout North America. We got stopped and told we would have to gate check one of the bags. The gate agent held up the line while he filled out a limited release and the forms needed to tag and gate check the carry ons.

It’s funny how when you get really irritated, your mind reflects back to things you have perhaps experienced or seen in the past. In this case, it was the words of Kate Winslet’s character Rose Dawson from the movie Titanic when she ran away from Cal’s bodyguard with Leo “I’m through being nice!”  

 After the end of our fifth consecutive flight and about 40 hrs of continuous travel, we’d had it by this point with the lost luggage, stubborn ticketing issues / interruptions and short sleeps and decided as soon as we were out of the gate agent’s sight, we’d sneak on the bags. Around the corner, we tore off the gate check claim tags and just rolled on our suitcases onto the plane, which thankfully no one seemed to notice. 

On Board South African Airways A320 Short Haul Domestic:

Today’s flight was served by one of SAA’s brand new Airbus 320-200’s. We had initially booked on the A340-6, but they had an aircraft swap or downgrade and that equipment didn’t show up. The crew was very proud of the newer A320 aircraft as it was a recent arrival to the SAA fleet..

South African Airways
Economy Class
JNB-CPT (O.R. Tambo Johannesburg International – Cape Town International)
SA 223 – Economy Class (L)
6:30 PM – 7:20 PM
November 5, 2013
Booked: Boeing 340-600
Flown: Boeing 320-200

The configuration is 2-2 in Business Class, and 3-3 in economy class. By a stroke of luck, we were seated in the bulkhead.

SAA JNB-CPT A320-2 Bulkhead Seats on the way to Cape Town

The aircraft had the next generation form of moving map, which had interactive displays of your position.

On our way from JNB

The Meal: A Small Dinner

On the way down to “The Mother City” of Cape Town, a beverage service including complimentary bar service was offered. A complimentary meal was also offered with a choice of chicken and rice or beef with strips. I can certainly applaud South African Airways for offering a free meal and bar service, even in economy for a domestic flight.

Beef, pasta and salad with white wine

Arriving to The Mother City:

We arrived in Cape Town to a non gate position and boarded a bus to the terminal. There was a bit of rain on the ground in Cape Town, on a cool evening.

Arriving to Cape Town with the terminal in the background

As we were arriving at about 10 PM, I decided back in Chicago that we’d attempt to book the car service for our transfer to the hotel. The Westin Cape Town was attentive enough to respond to emails within 24 hours. By the time we had arrived in Johannesburg, the process had been confirmed. On arrival in Cape Town, we were met by the Westin meet and greet service and were taken to the hotel in a pleasant E Class Mercedes for a 20 minute transfer to the hotel.

Pleasant Merceies E Class Car Transfer

In closing:

Our South African Airways domestic flight was pretty reasonable given the difficulties we’d had earlier in the trip. Aside form the carry on police, we were fed, watered and had a reasonable bulk head seat. The newer Airbus 320 – 2 is among the newer more fuel efficient aircraft that SAA has and you can tell that the staff are really proud to fly it.


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