Review: British Airways Comair Club Business Class B737-4, Victoria Falls – Johannesburg


British Airways operates a franchise in Comair in South Africa. Flights with Comair allow people to gain access to reward points through the distance based British Airways Avios program. With this strategy in mind, we redeemed British Avios Airways rewards points for our international flight from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to Johannesburg, South Africa. Our Business Class experience was simple and a little bit easier than flying in economy.

This post is one chapter on our trip to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mauritius and the United Arab Emirates. This trip was redeemed through American Airlines AAdvantage & Alaska Mileage Plan. 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: British Airways Comair Club Business Class B737-4, Victoria Falls International Airport – O.R. Tambo International Airport Johannesburg

“British Airways Club Business Class is easily accessible through British Airways Avios and, thanks to it’s distance based reward chart, is a great value way of getting International Business Class around Southern Africa”

British Airways
Business Class
VFA-JNB (Victoria Falls International Airport – OR Tambo International Airport Johannesburg)
BA 6282
April 27, 2016
Booked: Boeing 737-400
Flown: Boeing 737-400
Departure: 1:55 PM
Arrival: 3:35 PM

I booked this ticket using British Airways Avios. At the time, I was underwater with work assignments and missed the reward availability in the early booking window at about 4 months prior to the departure date. There were previously 7 BA Avios Award seats available but they all disappeared by the time I was able to get my act together. I was able to find availability from neighbouring Livingstone, Zambia and marked that as “Plan B”. However, I kept my eyes on the flight and at about the 2 month mark, two additional reward seats opened up (when there were none before). I moved on them quick and booked us into Business for the terrific off peak rate of “7,500 British Airways Avios points and $50 USD” per passenger.

British Airways has decided not to offer seat assignments until 24 hours before the flight, even for business class passengers. In efforts to secure a better seat, I attempted on line check in. I received a message indicating that it was not possible and that I should “proceed to the airport” to check in for seat assignment.

We booked our transfer through the Victoria Falls Hotel to the Victoria Falls airport that was 20 kilometers out of town. We departed the next day for the airport and arrived at about T-160.

Heading to Victoria Falls International Airport
The Road Out of Town
The Victoria Falls International Airport

Checking Into British Airways Club:

As it seems with most of our experiences throughout Africa, it was a disaster at the airport. Although the Victoria Falls Airport is brand new, the logistics organization is at a melt down point. It’s almost amazing considering it’s an airport with only one other small flight leaving this hour. We joined an unmarked queue of about 150 persons; all waiting to be checked in. There was no marking or indications as to which carrier the line was for, and there were ground cosmetics indicating that it was for, at one time, Air Zimbabwe.

British Airways Check In Queues
Expect a Meandering Line for your Flight

I held a place in line and sent MrsWT73 up to speak to a ground agent, who later identified an unmarked business class line up of 5 people towards the front of the large queue. Thankfully, we were able to scoot around and avoid a several hour wait.

Since British Airways Comair offers a 2-3 business class configuration, I attempted to get us assigned to the 2 side in seats A & C. The check in agent feigned the inability to change these; “We are working with a new computer system and it will not let me change them”. He pointed towards a cardboard sign on the counter that pled for patience as BA worked to “enhance customer service”. Meanwhile, at the nearby economy counters, the ground staff proceeded to soak the passengers for overweight bag charge fees, despite much protests from those travelling.

There was no announcement of a lounge invitation but I started to get excited once we got airside.

On the Secure Side: Victoria Falls International Airport
Locating the Lounges: This Might Look Promising
Or maybe not – totally locked up with no attendant.

We ended up having beer at the local café instead. Perhaps there is no surprise that the Air Zimbabwe flight was cancelled.

A Limited Flight Screen of Departures from VFA
Gate Departure Zone

The Victoria Falls Airport has improved itself considerably compared to the last time I was through here. It was a nicer than expected facility clearly designed to attract and increase tourism. It was nice and bright with enough to keep you entertained while awaiting your flight. If they would only fix their logistics issues on check in, it would be a better traveling experience.


On Board British Airways Club Business Class:

As was the usual African boarding experience, there was no priority boarding announcement, or any announcement at all for that matter as the crush to get on board began. We got slightly run over by a few elderly Germans who pushed their way past us.

Our British Airways B737-4 Parked at Victoria Falls
Views of the Plane as we Boarded Today’s Victoria Falls – Johannesburg Flight

On board, despite only two reward seats available, surprisingly there were only 4 persons travelling in Club Business Class; one being a dead heading second officer (that means another first officer in addition to the one flying the plane) and the other a passenger traveling onto Amsterdam and then to Seattle.

We ended up moving over to our preferred seats 2A and 2C. There was not a lot of room the the BA Club product and I can’t really see why you would fly BA Comair if given the choice between South African Airways and BA Comair.

British Airways Club Business Class B737-4

The equipment is quite worn well past its due date and looks tired and saggy. This time, we were in leather seating as compared to our last flight which had fabric covered seats.

British Airways Club Cabin
Some Pretty Worn Seats on the BA 737-4 in Club Class

Pre-Departure Services:

We ended up waiting for about twenty minutes past the regular departure time for a poor couple who was stuck in the check in line and counter for what would have been about 3 hours. They were apologetic as they walked past to their seats, saying that their delays weren’t their fault. While we waited, a pre-departure beverage of sparkling was offered during this time.

Pre-Departure Sparkling

As we eventually departed Victoria Falls on the climb to altitude, there were always interesting bush views of the landscape. I always find it completely amazing in contrast to Europe (which is highly dense and populated) and North America (which is usually covered in freeways).

Views of the African Bush Landscape on the Climb to Altitude
African Landscape Views on the Climb to Altitude

The Meal: A Full Lunch

A lunch option was presented. The food was not that great and wasn’t all that interesting in its presentation.

British Airways “Club” Pretzels

The starter was a green salad with feta, cherry tomatoes and a multi grain bun.

A Green Salad with Feta and Cherry Tomatoes and a Multi Grain Bun

This was followed by a similar dish to our British Airways Club Johannesburg – Cape Town flight earlier in the month.

There was pleasant service from the crew of one serving Club today, in addition to regular top ops of wine.

We had a quick landing to a non gate position in Johannesburg next to one of the more expensive rentals out there… =)

How Much Does it Cost to Rent This?
Landing at O.R. Tambo at a Non Gate Position

My Thoughts on British Airways Club:

The British Airways Comair Club Business Class, in my opinion, doesn’t measure up to the South African Airways Business Class equivalent. It does appear to be substantially cheaper (about 25% cheaper on paid fares compared to SAA) and much cheaper on reward miles. Aside from that, I doubt I would fly them again if price were no object as the whole process in our case seemed massively disorganized.

If you had the choice between the old South African Airways and British Airways Comair, which one was your preferred carrier?

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