Tried & Tested

Flight review: South African Airways A320-200 economy class

10 Feb 2015 by Jenny Southan
South African Airways A330

CHECK-IN

I arrived at Durban’s King Shaka international airport at 1700, with plenty of time until my flight to Jo’burg at 1840 with SAA. There is one terminal, with South African Airways desks for this service being one to 18 (although only four were staffed).

The facility was almost empty of passengers, so very quiet. As I was connecting onwards to London on SAA’s 2140 flight in Johannesburg, my suitcase was through-checked to my final destination and I was issued with two boarding cards. (I had already selected my seats for both flights when checking in online for my outbound journey.)

Domestic security was not far away and also empty – laptops but not liquids had to come out. I was airside by 1710 (there was no passport control).

BOARDING

The boarding process began at 1810 from Gate A9, a minute or two away from the departure lounge – a long line of people had formed when I got there at 1815 but it didn’t take long until my documents were checked and I was able to cross the airbridge to the plane.

THE SEAT

The two-class A320-200 is configured 3-3 (A-B-C, D-E-F) from rows 11 to 30. I was sitting in 21K (there was no row 13). Exit rows were 14 and 15. Business class went from rows one to six. Luckily for me, no one was sitting in the middle seat next to me so I had a bit more space.

The economy product is upholstered in beige and brown leather with tray tables that fold down from the seat-backs and pockets for magazines. Legroom (at 31 inches) was decent, especially for a short flight such as this (Easyjet is 29 inches).

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?

There were metal IFE boxes to the side under seats E and F, where I was sitting, and was presumably the same on the other side of the plane. However, the only entertainment screens on board were shared ones overhead that were used to play the safety demo.

Rows 12 to 19 are over the wing so if you like a window seat be aware that your view may be restricted. I’d sit as near to the front of the economy cabin as possible though so you can disembark quicker, and avoid middle seats B and F.

THE FLIGHT

The A320 pushed back on time and took off at 1850. The crew performed a very efficient refreshment service, with two trolleys coming down the aisle from the front to first hand out sandwiches (chicken or cheese) and then soft drinks. I chose the cheese, which also came with a soggy slice of tomato and some unpleasant cold fried onions in it.

For dessert was a bright pink macaroon, which I didn’t touch as it looked synthetic. Drinks included cartons of lychee juice, Coke and water. There was no tea or coffee as this would have taken too long to serve. Rubbish was collected at 1910.

ARRIVAL

The captain came on to announce the aircraft’s descent into Jo’burg at 1920, with landing about 20 minutes later. Disembarkation via an airbridge at the front was speedy, and I was into domestic Terminal B by 1945, following signs to international transfers in Terminal A.

It was about ten minutes on foot to security and passport control, both of which were very quick as there weren’t many people there.

VERDICT

An efficient, one-hour short-haul flight. I didn’t like the food, though – in fact I’d rather pay for better quality sandwiches than be given a virtually inedible free one.


FACT FILE

  • SEAT PITCH 31 inches
  • SEAT WIDTH 17-18 inches
  • SEAT RECLINE 3.6 inches
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return midweek economy class flight from London to Durban via Johannesburg in March ranged between £1,126 and £1,187 depending on flexibility.
  • CONTACT flysaa.com 
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