Question re booking flights on SAA

May 23rd, 2008, 12:17 PM
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Question re booking flights on SAA

Hope I'm not asking too many questions. You guys are incredibly helpful. This is a practical one; maybe the travel agents can answer.

As part of our itinerary, we are flying from Cape Town to Mala Mala, and from Mala Mala to Gaborone. Each of those routes involves connections in Johannesburg. Our travel agent has booked us on SAA, but she's booked separate tickets for each leg, e.g., four separate tickets (Cape Town to Johannesburg, JB to MM, MM to JB, MM to Gaborone) instead of two (CT to MM, MM to Gaborone). She's built in long layovers in JB airport of approximately 3 hours, because she says we'll have to collect our bags and check in and go through security again. Does this make sense?

I'd love to be able to check in once at Cape Town on the way to MM, and once at MM on the way to Gaborone, and have our bags checked all the way through. Wouldn't having a single ticket for each of those routes make it easier for that to happen? Our travel agent keeps saying we can't do that -- and that even if we could, she wouldn't recommend it --but I don't know why not. All flights are on the same airline -- South African Airways/ Airlink.

And what's a reasonable layover in JB on each of those routes?
isabel25 is offline  
May 23rd, 2008, 12:23 PM
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When you land in JNB from Capetown or Mala Mala you are shuttled from the plane to a drop off area for baggage claim that ends up outside of security. There is no drop-off for onward passengers that remains in the security area. There is no way to do it without going back through security. So even if there was a way to check your bag through there is no way to avoid the security situation that I am aware of.
aowens is offline  
May 23rd, 2008, 12:34 PM
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3 hours is excessive, that is more of an international legal connection time slot. 1 hour between arriving from Cape Town and continuing on to MM should be sufficient. your agent is protecting you from lengthy delays.

I have never flown to Mala, so cannot advise on the baggage situation, however I agree that as it is one airline that you should be able to check your bags. The technicality is that it is not one airline even though the flight code(SA) is the same, airlink , express and SAA are "sister" companies under different management, so my guess is again, your agent is protecting you and your bags... they might end up in Madrid while you wait three hours in JNB!

As for the Gabs sector: That is an international flight, which requires that you check your bag in in JNB. Again three hours is a long wait and you could have done it all in 90 minutes, so your agent is ensuring that nothing goes wrong.
mkhonzo is offline  
May 23rd, 2008, 12:43 PM
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You don't have to have a single ticket to be able to through check bags. Just show the agent your onward ticket and ask them to tag the bag to your destination.

When we flew Comair CPT-JNB-WDH, our bags were checked to WDH which allowed us to use the passport control and security checkpoint on the domestic terminal departures level behind the domestic check-in counters where there was no line at all. This checkpoint dumped us directly into the intl terminal as opposed to having to exit the domestic terminal, enter the intl terminal and go through the main passport control and security checkpoint at the intl terminal. This checkpoint on the domestic terminal departures level could only be used by passengers who already had onward boarding passes and luggage through checked (or carry on only). This was in Sep 2007 so you may want to confirm with someone with more recent experience that the procedure is still the same as there was ongoing terminal construction.

I'm speaking in general terms. I haven't flown to Mala Mala, so perhaps there's some specific issue with these flights that don't allow through check.
Patty is offline  
May 23rd, 2008, 02:03 PM
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I'll preface this by saying that I haven't any information about your specific case, or the reasons for your travel agent booking flights as she/he did.

In my experience, travel agents who specialize in souther Africa safari planning tend to be far better informed about charter flights and ground operations than in commercial flights.

To get from Cape Town to Mala Mala, you might ask your TA about the relative cost of taking the scheduled non-stop flight on SAA from Cape Town to Kruger Mpumalanga Airport (MQP), then a short charter (or even ground transfer) to Mala Mala. The SAA flight operates daily, leaving Cape Town at 10.00am and arriving at MQP at 12.35pm. You'd arrive at Mala Mala at a perfect time to freshen up or take a quick nap, then head out for your afternoon game drive.
DonTopaz is offline  
May 23rd, 2008, 02:33 PM
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Thanks, everyone! This is helpful information.
isabel25 is offline  
May 23rd, 2008, 11:40 PM
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This thread is proof that most TA's have no idea of what they are doing. Check flight connections for yourself it is easier than posting a query here.

Patty who suggested you should fly from CPT to WDH via Joburg when there are direct flights?
May 24th, 2008, 06:07 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,999
Where did I suggest that the OP fly CPT-JNB-WDH? The OP isn't even going to WDH! I said we flew CPT-JNB-WDH (because we redeemed miles and Comair doesn't fly nonstop) to illustrate that yes you can through check on a domestic to intl connection and thus utilize the passport control/security checkpoint within the domestic terminal.
Patty is offline  
May 24th, 2008, 07:06 AM
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As a general rule I'm not crazy about through-checking my bags via JNB if I have enough time to make a landside connection with re-check. (I have the same rule about LHR.) Possession is 9/10ths of the law IMO and I'm happier with them in my custody than sitting on a bag cart somewhere in the bowels of an airport.

Domestic <> international at JNB is a little time consuming but seldom as annoying as at other large airports.
Gardyloo is offline  
May 24th, 2008, 07:46 AM
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I look at it from a different angle. I through check whenever possible as extra insurance that I make my connection. My bags can catch up with me later. I've had too many connections that looked fine for a landside transfer on paper only to be shortened by inbound delays or cancellations. Had I not through checked, I wouldn't have made some of those connections (a few of which were on separate tickets which would've further complicated things), so the baggage delays didn't bother me. I was just glad to be on the plane.
Patty is offline  
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