Trip Review: SAA Airbus A320 Business Class Johannesburg To Nairobi

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After a wonderful two months in Cape Town, it was time to go on to my next adventure. This included an excursion on a South African Airways A320 from Johannesburg to Nairobi in business class. The flight turned out to be a bit more pleasant than my previous A320 flight with Cape Town.

South African Airways A320
South African Airways uses their A320 on a variety of routes, including from Johannesburg to Nairobi. Photo: Bob Adams via Flickr

Booking

I redeemed 40,000 Aeroplan miles and paid a small fee to book flights in business class from Cape Town to Nairobi via Johannesburg. I did not want to pay cash for this flight and there was plenty of award availability on the dates I needed through Aeroplan.

Airport experience

Check-in at Cape Town International Airport was easy and I had dropped my bags and cleared security within 15 minutes of arriving. I had 45 minutes before boarding and spent some time in the lounge. However, I was there quite early and the lounge was not set up for much.

In Johannesburg, I visited the SAA Premium lounge. Unfortunately, through this journey, I had a horrible head cold so I left the lounge early to pick up some medication and hobble towards my gate. The one thing missing from the lounge is power access. The same is true in Cape Town. South African Airways really needs to upgrade this since business travelers tend to value this amenity highly. But, I did get to spot an Air Zimbabwe A320!

Air Zimbabwe A320 in Johannesburg. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

For boarding, we were bussed to the aircraft stand. I headed on board and was met with the familiar sight of SAA’s A320 business class cabin.

Onboard

I selected seat 2A in the mostly empty cabin. This was a window seat that offered under-the-seat storage for my backpack, which bulkhead, row one, seats do not offer.

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SAA A320 Business Class
South African Airways Business Class on an A320. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

The rest of the onboard experience was similar to my last flight with South African Airways. There were no personal seatback entertainment screens. In addition, the seat sorely lacked padding. However, thanks to my medication, I was able to get the sleep I needed, but I had to readjust several times since the seat was very uncomfortable. However, I was glad to have a pillow this time!

SAA business class pillow. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

Inflight entertainment

South African Airways played two different movies on this three hour and forty-five-minute flight. The first was live-action Dumbo. However, I couldn’t identify the second film since I missed the title credits.

SAA J Entertainment
SAA entertainment in business class. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

Thankfully, SAA offered headphones on this flight. They were not the best in the world, but I was glad to at least get them after not receiving them on my previous flight. This seems to be an amenity reserved for international business class flights.

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SAA business class headphones. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

South African Airways again had their inflight device policy. All devices must be powered off during takeoff and landing. I’m still not sure what exactly the reasoning is. However, SAA seems to believe devices in airplane mode can interfere with aircraft operation. I haven’t seen this policy in action on any other airlines.

Meals

I’m not sure if there was pre-departure service since I dozed off soon after settling in. I only woke up just after takeoff when I was presented with a hot towel from a friendly flight attendant. Compared to my previous flight, this meal service was more drawn out. Service started with an amuse-bouche.

Amuse bouche
SAA business class amuse-bouche. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

My only complaint with the amuse-bouche is that it was very cold. Perhaps this was a result of my cold, but it hurt my teeth to eat them. To drink, I went with a glass fo Coca Cola, which was significantly warmer than the amuse-bouche.

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SAA coca cola
The Coca Cola was much warmer than the amuse-bouche, which was a bit surprising. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

I dozed off again before I was presented with the starter. I thought the beef starter was a bit overdone for my liking. I also noticed that the presentation of my dish was less well put together than others.

Starter
The SAA starter in business class. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

Surprisingly, I was able to stay awake through the presentation of the main course. After seeing both courses, the beef option looked much better than the chicken. Thankfully, I made the right choice. I absolutely enjoyed the flavor and temperature of the dish.

Beef main course
The beef main course option was fantastic. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

To finish off the meal, I received some lovely chocolates.

SAA chocolates
The chocolates were a nice end to the meal. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

I dozed off several times during the service, however, I did notice that there were a few drink services. Overall, however, the meal was much better than my previous one. I enjoyed the more drawn-out presentation and I still had just over an hour to sleep at the end of the flight.

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Cabin crew

The crew could tell that I was a bit under the weather. However, that didn’t stop them from helping me out. They were very kind when it came to my meal service and worked with my speed of eating. And, when I was done, they quickly cleared my tray and seat area so I could get some shut-eye. At the end of the flight, they bid farewell to me with the same smile they had when I got on the plane.

Overall

Would I fly SAA on this route again? If the price was right, yes. From Cape Town and Johannesburg, Kenya Airways does offer some competition including with Boeing 787 aircraft to Nairobi. These aircraft offer a much better experience in business class compared to SAA. However, SAA did do pretty well on this flight and exceeded my expectations.

Have you flown SAA on this route? Let us know in the comments!

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