Review: South African Airways Business Class A320-2, Johannesburg – Mauritius


South African Airways offers medium haul services from Johannesburg to Mauritius. British Airways’ South African franchise also offers service on this same route four days a week on much older B737 aircraft. Today’s experience was on SAA’s newest aircraft and offered a really pleasant way to get to Mauritius.

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 A320-2, O.R. Tambo International Airport Johannesburg, South Africa – Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, Mauritius.

South African Airways had recently announced a turn around strategy that involves focusing on African routes and the investment of new, lower fuel efficiency aircraft. By focusing on African expansion, it is forging ahead with a strategy to service “key African destinations” as the airline feels that low levels of competition have ensured that profit margins on ticket sales are larger than those offered on premium destination routes and it’s long haul service. SAA has recently announced the cancellation of its Johannesburg to Buenos Aries service as it attempts to manage a R1.2 billion rand loss over it’s network in the last calendar year. This would end up being one of many turn around strategies as the carrier struggles to find its footing.

South African Airways
Business Class
JNB-MRU (O.R Tambo Johannesburg International – Mauritius)
SA 190 – Business Class (V)
9:40 AM – 3:45 PM
November 15, 2013
Booked: Boeing 737-300
Flown: Airbus 320-200

Another part of this strategy is the shift to more fuel efficient aircraft. SAA is in the process of acquiring new Airbus 320-200 aircraft, currently being used on the Nairobi and Mauritius destinations. We would end up enjoying one of their newest aircraft on today’s flight.

Boarding the Flight:

Flight boarding was announced in the South African Airways Baobab Premium International Lounge and we proceeded to gate A21, which was approximately a 7 minute walk from the lounge. Boarding today was from a non gate position. Although there was a dedicated priority boarding line, it only got you onto the bus quicker where we waited until the bus filled up with all the other passengers.

Down the Escalators to Gate A21
Boarding at a Non Gate Position at JNB

On Board South African Airways Business Class:

On board the new short to medium haul South African Airways business class, the Seats are fitted in leather equivalent materials and look really sharp. The configuration is 2-2 in a narrow body Airbus 320.

Brand New A320 Business Class Seating

As one of their newest planes, there was no personal Advanced Video on Demand screens but instead USB plug in’s and laptop power between the seat. I was surprised that there was no AVOD as they will likely be operating this equipment type for 7-10 years from now on routes as long as 5 hours duration. Instead, they have opted for an I-Pad / tablet solution where there is a spot for an I-Pad in the chair ahead, but SAA has cheaped out and hasn’t purchased them or isn’t bothering to.

Conveniently located Empower plugs

Pre-Departure Beverage Service:

After most of the passengers were on board, a pre-departure beverage was offered of bottled water. The captain announced a delay for the baggage removal of 6 passengers’ luggage from the hold who decided not to join us. At this point, sparkling (Simonsig Brut) and orange juice were brought around on a tray.

Pre-Departure Beverage of Water
Pre Departure Beverage of Simonsig Brut Sparkling

Landing cards and health immigration forms were also distributed. The Mauritus Landing Card has a unique dodo bird on the front side. The Dodo bird originated in Mauritius and is now extinct.

Mauritius Arrival Card

The Meal: A Full Lunch by Reuben Riffel

After take off, menus and wine list were presented. Menus were slightly different in that this time a South African celebrity chef “Reubens’ were offered. Not all menu items were by the celebrity chef, but rather select items on the list. 

Lunch Menus featuring Reuben Riffel

The wine list contained the same wines as on our international segments and included Taittinger Champagne.

SAA Business Class Wine Card – Whites
SAA Business Class Wine Card – Reds

Service started with an Amuse bouche of goat cheese, shrimp and light curry on toast, paired with Taittinger champagne. 

SAA Amuse Bouche – goat cheese, shrimp and light curry on toast

I started with the Reuben Kingklip fish, which was nicely presented along with a bread basket.

Reuben Kingklip fish
Reuben Kingklip Fish

For the main course, I went with the Reuben Steak, which was a nice change from the usual presentation of steak on an airplane. I just had to watch the drips from the sauce. Today’s serving paired with the South African Alto Shiraz.

Reuben Steak

To close, I enjoyed a glass of South African Western Cape Port, which was very tasty along with coffee cake dessert. 

KWB Cape Tawny Port
Dessert – Coffee Cake

The In Flight Entertainment:

After the wonderful three course meal, I sacked out for balance of flight as did most everyone else and enjoyed the overhead monitor for entertainment. Today’s movie was Shanghai Calling.

Entertainment by overhead screens

As the movie eventually drew to a close, the entertainment switched to the moving map. The moving map was the next generation style with multi dimensional displays.

Colourful moving maps
Arriving into Mauritius

As our flight drew to a close, we had some very beautiful scenery on the descent in to Mauritius. There were many small jagged lush mountains similar to the Pacific North West, except covered with lush greenery, similar to Hawaii. The taxi from the runway to the terminal was pretty.

Mountains on the approach into Mauritius

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

Overall the “regional” service as SAA describes it’s medium haul service was very pleasant and nicely appointed. Full meals were served and wines were identical to the SAA long haul routes which were a nice touch. The only real disadvantage was the lack of AVOD, which we didn’t miss all too much. Considering all this, I would fly them again if given the choice.

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