Which airline from Europe to South Africa?

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Jun 19th, 2005, 12:41 PM
  #1
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Which airline from Europe to South Africa?

It looks like our next trip to southern Africa will be in February 2006. We're planning to buy coach tickets from the US to Europe, then use FF miles to fly business class from there to Jo'burg. These FF miles are on American Airlines; the three partner airlines we could use from Europe to SA are SWISS, Iberia, and British Airways. We expect to spend a couple of days in Europe, at least on the way over, sightseeing and getting over jet lag.

Does anyone have experience with any of these three airlines on their Africa flights?

In thinking of reasons for choosing one over the others, I'm trying to consider which city would be the best for our Europe layover, and which airline will be nicest. I've been to Switzerland, but not to Zurich. My husband was there lots & lotsa years ago. We've been to Spain, but not to Madrid except to drive from the airport to Toledo. We've both been in London many times. We've never had a really good experience on BA's Africa flights, despite the fact that it's always getting voted Best Airline to Africa, but all our flights with them have been in coach, not business class, so that might make a difference.

If it were you, would you go for wintry weather and the highly-regarded service of the Swiss, or warmer weather and the Mediteranean ambiance of the Spanish? Or is there some compelling reason to disregard my experience and go with BA?

Is there anything about one of the three stopover cities that would make it a better "preface" to an Africa trip than the others? What about the planes? Any more comfortable than the other two? Or in business class, is that even a question?

And as a practical matter, for those of you who've used FF miles to SA, how early should I try to book? Am I 4 months behind already?
Celia is offline  
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Jun 19th, 2005, 01:20 PM
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If I were in your shoes I would pick Madrid. It will have the most tolerable weather and offer the most direct routing.

Plus, I do think it will be more economical to stay in Madrid than London or Zurich.
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Jun 19th, 2005, 02:57 PM
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I would start checking award availability now. You might find that your stopover choice is decided for you based on which of the 3 carriers have award space available. Good luck!
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Jun 19th, 2005, 03:44 PM
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Iberia is rolling out a new business class product but it's not on all planes and if you get the older one it may be less comfortable than BA's flatbed seats in New Club World. Posters on flyertalk.com have commented negatively on Iberia business class experiences. I would probably go for BA.

Swiss International's recent acquisition by Lufthansa and its subsequent announcement that it's joining the Star Alliance (the opposition alliance to Oneworld - AA, Iberia, BA) means - I'm guessing here - that Swiss may not be a long-term partner for AA, so if you can get Swiss seats (by all accounts an excellent product) you might rank them equally with BA. Personally, though I'd go BA. It's a popular route, however, so availability might be a question.
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Jun 19th, 2005, 05:34 PM
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I've used BA many times with no problem except an instance of delayed luggage both in Africa and coming home.

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Jun 20th, 2005, 08:40 AM
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Thank you all for these replies!

Gardyloo, is there a search function on flyertalk.com? I can't seem to find it. I'd like to take a look at the comments you mention. And is New Club World the name of BA's business class? Thanks.
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Jun 20th, 2005, 10:42 AM
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The search function is on the top directory bar on the forums main page. Try "Iberia business." Here's a recent trip report covering a flight in business class from Spain to South America: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showt...ferrerid=19985

Yes, New Club World is BA's business class on longhaul; Club Europe on shorthaul. You'll also see business class referred to as "J" or "C" (the fare codes) in many discussions.
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Jun 20th, 2005, 11:43 AM
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Celia,
You might have to be registered and logged into flyertalk to be able to use the search function.
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Jun 20th, 2005, 12:45 PM
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I was able to get to the thread mentioned by Gardyloo without registering, but I've registered now so as to use the site more completely.

That thread was VERY helpful, thank you! Based on that info, I'm ruling out Iberia.
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Jun 21st, 2005, 06:36 AM
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I think there is a HUGE difference between coach and business class on BA. Business class service is superb. And BA has lots of flights to Capetown & Joburg-- more than anyone else. That may be useful if there are any problems with your flight-- they are most likely to have another flight that gets you there closest to your scheduled time.

However since you've also said that you've been to London many times, that may be reason enough to go with Swiss.
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Jun 21st, 2005, 12:08 PM
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I've looked at the BA website's description of their business class, and it looks superb. If they aren't kidding about the seat pitch and the floor plan and the airport amenities and so forth, then BA would be hard to beat. And as you point out, Tashak, the fact that there's more than 1 flight a day means a better chance of getting seats, and a backup in case of problems.

With SWISS about to switch its alliance to go with United, I'm thinking there might be problems trying to go that route.

I love London, and always find something new and interesting to see and do there, so that's not much of a consideration.

Now, does anyone know whether BA uses the flat bed configuration or the cradle configuration on the Africa routes? And is there somewhere on line where I can see pictures of the cradle thing? The website is reticent on this topic.
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Jun 21st, 2005, 12:25 PM
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The NCW seats are installed in all 747s and most 777s. The only remaining aircraft with the old cradles are a few 777s out of Gatwick, and a few 767s that serve cities like Nairobi, Dar and some others. I believe all BA flights between the UK and South Africa are fitted out with the beds.

Here's an older picture of the cradles: http://www.airliners.net/open.file/046447/M/

And the newly refurbished NCW seats: http://www.airliners.net/open.file/823579/M/
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Jun 21st, 2005, 01:35 PM
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Thank you again, Gardyloo! No question, BA wins hands down.

Now to figure out my dates and get it nailed down!
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Jun 21st, 2005, 03:56 PM
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Actually, I just flew Nairobi-London on a BA 767, and it was with flatbeds. But they are still using the old seats on "secondary" routes like London-Lusaka...sigh...
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Jun 24th, 2005, 12:22 PM
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Oh, Wow! I've just got the tickets -- BA business class, AND in the top deck where there are only 20 passengers. We'll have a couple days in London to get over jet lag, see a play, take in the Tate or the Imperial War Museum, then head out to Jo'burg sitting in the pricey seats with the quality!

(I hope you can all hear my tongue-in-cheek attitude!!)

Thanks for the advice, all!
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Jun 24th, 2005, 01:34 PM
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Celia,
BA are ok but I wouldn't get too excited about the flight. I took them in Club on the upper deck from PHX last year and the food was very poor and the seats ok but nothing great. No comparison to the Virgin Upper Class Suite and I would never pay for BA club but certainly beats coach!
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