South Africa Airways

Jun 21st, 2011, 03:17 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 1
South Africa Airways

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.
janinekrook is offline  
Jun 21st, 2011, 04:45 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 9,595
I am sorry to hear of your ordeal. Can you tell me what "few small groups of passengers" were the lucky ones to be informed? Were they 1st and or business class travelers or did it seem to be random, like whoever was around. I am surprised there was not a near riot on the plane, esp. if the passengers were left alone for 4.5 hrs. Unbelievable. I know SAA is part of Star Alliance and we were considering them next yr. for a trip to Capetown but after hearing this I'll have to investigate quite a bit.
jacketwatch is online now  
Jun 21st, 2011, 01:01 PM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 12,269
Sorry for your trouble have had wonderful experience with SAA out of IAD

Awesome safari packages from $1600 on best I have ever seen SAA has been fine for me always light years

Better than most you are touting if you will check rviews on link above

Ash clouds rarely occur always wise happened to me with also last year

Seems very unfair to toatally indict an airline based on your one negative experience

I will rely on honest reviews not grudge posters and continue to fly SAA
qwovadis is offline  
Jun 21st, 2011, 02:12 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 9,595
I think the review was honest, albeit atypical overall. I too checked out SAA and their ratings are pretty good.
jacketwatch is online now  
Jun 22nd, 2011, 03:22 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 738
I've flown them a number of times from the US to Africa, and I think they're as good as most of the others. For every airline, there are bad days - and it sure does sound like the OP hit one of those, but I think they are a decent value for the flight. I would not hesitate to book them again, if they had a good route and price. I have similar stories about other airlines (Jet Blue, Luftansa) - but I still fly them....
Debi is offline  
Jun 28th, 2011, 06:52 AM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 409
I'd avoid Air Kenya and Air Namibia under similar circumstances. The flights/aircrafts themselves are fine but if a flight is delayed or cancelled then it's a total shambles, with staff disappearing, lack of communication and no organisation. I've had a couple of nightmare journeys with both.
Lynneb is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 06:03 AM
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 1
Dear Ms. Krook,

I’m contacting you about your recent travel, which I read about through your posting. On behalf of everyone here at South African Airways, I sincerely apologize for the unexpected inclement weather cancellation and poor agent handling.

We regret that you were among the many passengers who were inconvenienced by operational difficulties due to the recent volcanic ash clouds. We extend our sincere apologies to you for the severe disruption of your travel plans.

The ash had a rippling effect over our entire route system, resulting in many delays, cancellations, and diversions to alternate airports. When these circumstances occur, there is always a degree of uncertainty regarding the time we can resume normal operations.

Our goal is to do everything possible to minimize the impact on our customers whenever these circumstances occur. We are sorry to hear about the poor service, discomfort, and delays you encountered. We have established a special task force charged with improving our handling of adverse weather operations with emphasis on customer safety, security, and service.

Again, I would like to thank you for taking the time to share your concerns. We truly value your business and look forward to seeing you on board again soon.


Tyler Adams | Support Services | North America
tyleradams is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 05:50 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 2,138
Nice to see the response from SAA.
Femi is offline  
Aug 11th, 2011, 03:13 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,306
I've flown them many times and overall they are head and shoulders above most U.S. airlines although frankly I think most U.S. airlines set a pretty low bar these days. Their flat-bed seats are extremely comfy -- not quite up to the level of Air New Zealand but way better than Delta -- and their in-flight food, service, and entertainment are excellent. Even on a short flight of less than two hours you still get a complimentary meal or snack and beverage, like you used to in the U.S. in the good old days. Sorry you had a bad experience though! All of mine have been great.
lisa is offline  
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