BACKGROUND: The national flag carrier of South Africa, SAA services 56 local and international destinations from O.R. Tambo International Airport, its hub. SAA flights to Tanzania depart from Johannesburg every day, at different times and arrive at Dar es Salaam three hours and 20 minutes later. Return flights depart Dar es Salaam mid-afternoon and arrive in Johannesburg in the evening.
CHECK-IN: At ORTIA there was a short queue at the SAA business class counter in Terminal B. Check-in can be done online, but I prefer to do it in person. You may take two pieces of luggage, at a maximum of 32 kilograms each, and a maximum dimension of 158 centimetres.
LOUNGE & BOARDING: Passport control was busy, but with a steady flow, so I was through in a few minutes. Voyager members and business class passengers have access to the SAA lounges, depending on your status. (Note: for your return journey in Dar es Salaam, there is only one business class lounge, with comfortable leather seats but simple, canteen-like food and box wine). Boarding – in Terminal A – was on time, with all passengers taking a short bus trip to the aircraft. The boarding stairs are at the front of the plane.
THE SEAT: In business class there are 24 padded, 50.8 centimetres tan coloured leather recliner seats. Configuration is four seats per row, with a central aisle. Storage is ample, with generous overhead compartments on both sides of the plane. I found my window seat, 6A, with its 100-centimetre recline, to be perfectly comfortable. Legroom is more than adequate, even for a tall person like myself, plus stowage space under the seat is big enough for my camera bags. The food tray folds out from the seat arm – well designed for easy dining. All seats are comfortable, with easily-adjustable headrests with adaptable ears. None are too close to the galley. Amenities include quality headphones for the audio and video, AC power, individual USB and laptop charging point, and a PC/tablet holder. Only one video is shown during the flight, on overhead screens shared between two rows of seats.
THE FLIGHT: I was offered a flute of champagne once I was settled. Departure was relaxed and taxiing onto the runway was on time. After a short wait, the plane took off comfortably. Soon after take-off, I was offered a steaming hot hand towel by the flight attendant, who was articulate, polite and efficient. Fifteen minutes into the flight I was handed a menu, neatly printed in French and English, comprising appetisers – smoked salmon rose, Caprese stack and seasonal salad – main course options – venison loin, chicken breast, Kingklip fillet or vegetarian pancake – followed by dessert and cheese and crackers. Each course was neatly served on a china plate, on a tray with a linen cloth. An array of alcoholic beverages, including fine South African red and white wine, was available throughout the flight. Tea and coffee were served, plus additional water or juice. The tray was cleared away immediately after I was finished my meal. A range of South African newspapers and magazines was obtainable. The South African captain communicated height and speed of the plane, also informing us when the plane had begun its descent to Dar es Salaam.
ARRIVAL: The plane touched down on time, with a flawless landing. Exit was immediate and I took a short stroll to the airport building ahead of other passengers, where I had a brief wait in passport control. No visa is required for South African passport holders, so make sure you don’t join the long queue for visas. Walk to the left of this queue and straight to passport control.
VERDICT: This journey was a luxurious and relaxing experience for me. I enjoyed departing at the unpressured time of 10h30, after a leisurely morning trip to ORTIA. For business and leisure travellers, SAA is excellent for a reliable, on-time flight direct to Dar es Salaam.