SAA Boeing 747-400 Economy Class

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Background

The thought of flying to Lagos, in whatever aircraft, was enough to get my focus. This destination doesn’t feature high up on many lists except, perhaps, for one on corruption. Was it going to live up to perceptions about it? I was flying SAA; the flight’s schedule seemed to work well, I was to be collected, the accommodation was booked, everything was planned – so off I went.

Check-in

At OR Tambo this is at Terminal A, SAA’s terminal, and while new, smart and efficient, is a fair walk from the old terminal (and the rest of all the international departures) so dragging your luggage back and forth adds to the process. Check-in was two hours before departure time – which was 23h50 – and that meant I was pretty bushed by then. 

The Lounge

I used the Premier Lounge operated by Bid Air Hospitality, which is ideal when you don’t have a business class seat and you are a Diners Club cardholder. There is a fee to enter if you’re not a cardholder. It’s comfortable, there’s complimentary Wi-Fi, smokers’ section, bar, snacks and food (not that you want this at 22h30!

Boarding and the seat

We were on a Boeing 747-400, which is my favourite aircraft. The seats (I was on an aisle) were comfortable, and we got the standard SAA long-haul goodies – eye covers, etc., and I can’t say I stayed awake for the food. A quick drink and that was me.

The Flight

It is a little over five hours to Lagos, which is short enough not to feel it is a long-haul flight, but long enough to take a sleeping pill – particularly when you arrive at 04h45 their time and have a day’s work ahead of you!

Arrival

Aside from the intense heat that strikes you head-on, the airport is very old world, not at all appealing, and I had a sense of unease. Perhaps that was because I was, to quote folk I met there, a ‘Lagos virgin.’ The queues were fine for passport control. Sure, there are runners that jump the line on behalf of people that pay to avoid the hassles most have to endure in Africa – which was annoying to watch – but we all ended up the same, standing at the luggage carousel. However, one thing that I noticed was that they checked all bags against your tag as you walked out to make sure you did not have someone else’s luggage – a first that I’ve seen! Outside the terminal is where the action starts, as your driver, pickup, etc., collects you there. Fortunately, mine arrived within 10 minutes and then I was off to start the day.

Verdict.

A popular and growing destination for one reason – business. The flights are conveniently timed for maximising your time on the ground there – and it works. The destination is on the move – heaving is a word that comes to mind – with everyone trying to move forward.

Contact

flysaa.com, +27 (0) 11 978 5312

 Richard Lendrum