Perth to Johannesburg
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Voyager. South African Airways (SAA) codeshares with Virgin Australia, allowing the latter's Velocity Frequent Flyer members to earn and redeem miles and status credits on eligible flights. Miles can also be earned and redeemed on eligible flights with other Star Alliance member airlines.
Business, seat 1K
Officially 11 hours 15 minutes but we depart early and favourable weather shaves a further 45 minutes off the journey.
I've arrived in Perth from Sydney with several hours to spare so while away the time at a cafe until check-in opens, slightly later than expected. Check-in is brisk, though the staff are unable to issue my onward boarding pass from Johannesburg to Jamestown and spend some time trying to rectify this (I receive the pass easily enough once I arrive at OR Tambo International Airport). As a business-class traveller I'm able to access SAA's lounge.
Seats are laid out in a 2-2-2, front-facing configuration with a pitch of 185.4 centimetres (73 inches) and width of 60.1cm (23.7 inches).
Two checked pieces of luggage up to 32 kilograms each and two carry-on bags weighing no more than 8kg each.
The seats lie flat and have a five-star Skytrax rating. The padded coverlet and soft duvet enhance my comfort so I'm able to have a restful sleep. I'm in a window seat and the aisle seat beside mine is empty; if it were occupied the space would be somewhat cramped and I'd probably need to climb over the other person's legs to get to the toilet. One problem is the seat's power outlets, which are designed for two-pin European plugs and two- and three-pin American plugs. I'm travelling with a South African adaptor so am unable to charge my Australian devices.
I'm more a reader than a movie-watcher; Sawubona, the inflight magazine, is filled with interesting features that keep me occupied for a good hour or more. I flip through the entertainment schedule and find a selection of fairly new movies and older classics, along with an impressive repertoire of Afrocentric films from countries such as Ghana, Swaziland and South Africa. The music selection includes Afro-beats and a journey with legends of South Africa's music scene.
Flight attendant Felicia is a delight, checking up on me, stopping for a chat, making sure I'm well-supplied with water and placing a little box with beautifully handcrafted chocolates inside it on my table just before I go to sleep.
I practically lick the bowl after finishing my mushroom soup and Felicia offers me a refill (I decline). The roast chicken served with mashed sweet potato and roast tomato is succulent and well-proportioned for a late-night supper. The airline's wine list, which changes each month, is curated from a mix of leading and emerging South African cellars. I enjoy a glass of the 2018 Leopard's Leap Chenin Blanc. A choice of hot or cold breakfast is served a few hours before landing – yoghurt with fruit compote, omelette with chipolata sausage, grilled tomatoes and spinach, and a selection of warm breads and pastries.
ONE MORE THING
The crew's good humour continues upon landing when, as we taxi to the gate, the captain informs bemused passengers that while he'll be parking at the gate furthest from immigration, the long walk will rekindle our circulation after almost 11 hours in the air.
The business class seats on this aircraft aren't as self-contained and private as those on other carriers, but this shortcoming is mitigated by the comfort and space in which one can recline, along with the tasty food and wine, and good-natured service.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
Catherine Marshall travelled as a guest of SAA. See flysaa.com