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Going to Cape Town - should I fly BA or SAA?

edited May 2012 in - Southern Africa
I am a regular visitor to Cape Town (from London) and would be interested in people's thoughts on flying there any airline preferences - BA or SAA or another airline? Here's mine.

British Airways
One of the advantages of BA is that Terminal 5 at Heathrow is great, excellent shopping and good restaurants. They also usually have a couple of flights a day/ night and are fairly efficient but they seem to put their oldest planes on this route and the headsets etc often don't work. I am British and have always had a loyalty to BA and also thought they would be the safest. There prices were always similar to SAA but I recently started flying there for a shorter time – Monday to Friday – and their prices escalated so I thought I try SAA.

South African Airways
SAA charge almost half the price for a Monday to Friday trip and as I discovered Terminal 1 is fine, although the SAA boarding gate is the very furthest and you need to allow a good 20 minutes to walk there. The SAA planes are much newer and the cabin staff are more charming. The plane also leaves a bit later and seems to take a bit longer which means that unlike on BA you are not woken up at 5 in the morning to be presented with an inedible breakfast. The SAA frequent flyer club (Voyager) is also miles better than BA Miles – you are much more likely to be rewarded with an upgrade than using BA miles.

The supper on both BAA and SAA are fine but I always try to eat in the terminal, watch a short movie on the plane and then get my head down. I always avoid breakfast.

Other airlines
Virgin fly to Cape Town, I have never gone with them but I hear they are good, but they fly irregularly. For the cheapest deals you need to fly indirectly, usually via the Middle East.

look forward to other comments.
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  • edited 3:56PM
    Hi Mathieu,

    From your comment, I'm guessing you're flying to Cape Town from London? I've never made that trip directly, as most airlines route flights to Cape Town via Joburg. However, I just booked a direct flight from Cape Town to Amsterdam via KLM, who I've always had good experiences with. We'll see how it goes!
  • Since I wrote the note above, both SAA and Virgin Atlantic have stopped flying to Cape Town from London. I find it amazing that this route is not profitable as the flights are always packed in all classes, and an economy ticket costs almost GPB1000. If you search online you'll find loads of results offering "cheap flights to Cape Town from London" but in reality none are available. You can get marginally cheaper flights to Cape Town if you fly via the Middle East, but this takes much longer. If you don't fly over a weekend, BA charges you £1700 for an economy return ticket LHR to CPT - fifty percent more than a flight from London to Sydney.
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  • SAA has gone through some rather serious financial troubles in the last few years, so in a bid to raise some quick cash they sold one of their berths at Heathrow and discontinued the CPT-LHR route. They use their remaining berth for flights to Johannesburg OR Tambo (JNB), which is a common stopover on flights to Cape Town.

    It is a pity that there aren't more flights available, as there is high demand.
  • It is easier than you think to fly to Cape Town from London via another route. I went Lufthansa, via Munich, and the whole trip was 15 hours, including the stop, against 11 direct - and the cost was half the BA direct flight. The flights are also quite civilised, you leave Munich at around 11pm and get to Cape Town at around 10am.
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