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South Africa Airways

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I have frequently travelled on South African Airways only due to the fact that they are the only airline that offers certain domestic routes within South Africa, and certain international and regional routes outbound from South Africa. While the airline is okay if all goes according to plan, if something goes wrong with your flight - cancellation, time change, engine failure before take off - they are probably the worst airline I have ever come accross in terms of communicating and assisting travellers with solutions. Their solution - ignore people where possible, and keep as much information from them as possible.

On Saturday evening, I was due to fly on SAA to Cape Town and I was unfortunate enough to be stranded in Johannesburg - all flights to Cape Town were cancelled due to the volcanic dust cloud from Chile. While this was an act of god and no fault of the airlines, South African Airways (SAA) handled the siutation very poorly (which was no surprise). Communication as to alternatives were only given to a few small groups of passengers and the others had no idea what was going on. And when approaching their ground staff to ask, they were rude and defensive. There was nobody with authority anywhere to be found. SAA did arrange hotels for all the passengers finally, and then booked clients on a flight the next morning to Cape Town at 6am. But they did not mention at anyone when they checked in the next day that the flight was cancelled until 15mins before the flight was supposed to depart. Thereafter no communication was given to any customers about whether there would be another flight or not for more than 2 hours. At 8am we boarded another flight only to be told once we had boarded that there was an issue with the engine and they would have to find another plane. After 4 1/2 hrs of sitting on the plane with no offer of water, no food and hardly any communication from the pilot or the one remaining stewardess (who stayed in the cockpit to avoid the passengers - the other stewardesses all left the plane without a word), we were moved to another plane only to sit on that plane with no communication (or water) until we took off over an hour later. Once again SAA has lived up to their reputation of offering terrible service - all the passengers were left uninformed and when questions were asked, they were greeted with staff either ignoring them, or walking away. I have never in my life come accross so many blatantly rude and disinterested people in one company. Very embarrassing that this is our national airline.

So to all travellers out there, if you can fly another airline on certain routes, then do so before choosing SAA. I can assure you that all the other airlines handled the volanic could situation far better than SAA and none of their passengers were left complaining and in the dark (as far as I am aware). There are plenty of domestic and regional routes in Africa flown by BA Comair, Kulula (part of BA), Air Namibia, Air Kenya etc. so its often possible to avoid flying SAA.

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