BA v Virgin in Economy. Advice Please

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This topic contains 18 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  LuganoPirate 17 May 2011
at 20:38

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 19 total)

  • Anonymous


    My sister, her husband and their daughter will be flying from London to Cape Town in December in Economy Class. Can anyone advise which is the more comfortable on this 11 hour night flight.

    The fares are about the same if booked now, so that is not really the issue, it is the comfort factor.

    Thanks in advance.


    I haven’t flown either in the back for about 6-7 years, but they used to be quite similar on the 747.

    If VS use the 346, that might be a little better, as I think it has 2-4-2 seating, as opposed to 3-4-3.

    But having done SA, can they scrape the difference for Y+ – it’s really worth it on this long haul.


    I can’t be sure about economy, but certainly SAA have more motivated crew and, I would be confident, would provide a better experience than BA or VS, which have really cut back its offering in recent years.


    Thanks Disgusted, actually it’s me paying for the three of them! However, perhaps they are willing to pay a bit for the extra comfort?

    Great idea Alex, thanks. I never thought of SAA although I fly them quite a lot internally. I flew CPT – JNB on the A340-600 in Y a few months ago, and while only a 90 minute flight it was quite comfortable. I shall investigate further!


    On this route I think it’s about:

    – cost (above all, this can be a pricey route!)
    – timing of flights
    – availability of seatback AVOD (does SAA offer that?)
    – seat pitch
    – type of aircraft
    – miles earning potential

    Also, it would be wise to consider airlines such as Swiss as they could be considerably less expensive, although would necessitate a stopover.

    Also, I would suggest checking out Premium Economy and sometimes even Business Class; it can often be less expensive than you imagine to trade up from a peak December economy fare (when leisure demand is high) to a Business Class fare (when business demand is lower).

    While it’s best not to be overly wedded to one carrier, you should consider whether your in laws can earn miles in a programme with which they will have a chance of adding to in the future, and redeeming on routes which would also be of interest to them.

    The ITA Tool is a good place to start.


    Thanks VK, cost is about the same +- a few £’s and timings are not so far apart. SAA does have a good entertainment system, not sure if it’s AVOD. In fact not sure what AVOD is really as I never bother with the IFE preferring to read and watch the route map.

    Seat pitch seems more or less the same and SAA and VS both use the 340-600 while BA has the 747. Miles are also irrelevant as they have no status with any airline as they very rarely travel by air. Their last fight was almost two years ago from LCY – GVA!

    I have checked the PE and C fares and both are considerably more expensive. A lot of well off holiday makers and retirees go down at this time of year and prefer the premium cabins.

    I would love to fly them Swiss, but it means two changes, in Zurich and JNB, with a 3 hour stopover, You also have to collect your bags and then check them in again (though on the return you can through check right the way home, so in this case direct is really more convenient.

    I’m veering towards Virgin at the moment but only because my 18 year old niece tells me she is more likely to see a famous pop star on board. I’ve not yet had the courage to tell her she’s unlikely to see them in Economy!!!


    In November Air France are starting a thrice weekly service from CDG to CPT. You might want to have a look at what fares they are offering. No idea how comfortable it would be in economy however. They will be flying B777s and are likely to feature 10 across seating in economy.


    Go Virgin for economy & PE is my advice, they have better seating, less things that are broken, and a better attitude when things aren’t smooth. Also inflight entertainment tends to be better and works.

    But BA is better for the higher classes if it can be afforded.

    Indeed SAA are indeed motivated to keep the traveller happy.

    Finally definintely consider if your relatives are already members of an airmiles loyalty programme. Not a reason to stay loyal, but could be the final tipping point.

    ps. I’m with you on a no stop-over for such a long haul flight and risk of not getting your luggage or connection.

    Enjoy !


    Many thanks to all of you with some good advice and hints. However, a small but for me pleasurable, complication has set in.

    My 87 year old mother has just decided she would like to come as well. She is able to walk but would need wheelchair assistance with boarding. She also likes to get up to stretch her legs when sitting to help circulation and will need help with any AVOD / IFE system.

    Clearly I will put her in Business with my sister etc in the back, but this changes the equation. Any more hints and help on airline choice would be most gratefully received.


    I disagree with Alexlondon entirely! DO NOT fly SAA! I live in Cape Town and I moved away from SAA to BA 3 years ago and never look back. SAA crew is NOT motivated at all. They chat and ignore PAX and if you want anything you are treated with that look – ‘Don’t you know I am busy? Go back to your seat and if I feel like it I will come to help you!’ Also SAA cut costs everywhere including closure of their last lounge in London. On board, I find BA staff very professional. No drama; just getting on with their job. Food is OK even in economy. The seating may be an issue so one needs to probably pay to chose a better seat if one is not Silver or above. I’d most certainly choose BA.


    Sorry I forgot to mention that SAA DOES NOT HAVE any VOD system on their LHR – CPT – LHR route. All their new planes are allocated to the Government controlled hub in Johannesburg. I flew reluctantly (using up all my Voyager miles) on SAA last week, and it was DISGUSTING! SAA uses an ancient A340-200 which still has the old TV monitor hanging from the first row, then in the middle of the cabin. There were 2 films on rotation every 2 hours. No music channels. No kids’ programmes. In fact, most of the kids on board (Easter) cried and made a nuisance of themselves because there was simply nothing to keep them entertained! DO NOT even bother with SAA.


    Last thursday flew BA Y CPT-LHR. This is the first time in years that I have had to use BA economy. First, Club and WTP were totally full so had to.

    I was very surprised. The seat was comfortable. Legroom was very acceptable to me a six footer. The food was ok. The crew were excellent. I got some sleep. My bag was one of the first on the carousel in T5. Very impressive…might do it again! Well done BA.


    Hi LuganoPirate, avoid SAA at all cost! As one of the posters has already pointed out you are never sure if you get the old Lufthansa Airbus which they use on this route. I am surprised someone says they are more motivated, the whole business is a shambles and it is reflected from the aircraft right to the top. I travel this route regularly and in economy there is little to differentiate between the two airlines. Pricing is similar albeit an expensive route! I think VK mentioned going through Europe as an alternative. Depending where they live this can certainly be an option and save a few pennies.


    Lugano, as Virgin pilots will be balloting imminently on whether to strike, BA may be the safer bet until the situation clarifies.

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