Johannesburg to Mauritius on South African Airlines Business Class

Wow! What a long journey it had been so far… We left Los Angeles on Friday afternoon, flew overnight to London, and then we flew all the way to Johannesburg. After a quick stop in the lounge to shower, now we were off to Mauritius! It was Sunday morning now, and by the time we landed, it would be Sunday afternoon - and we left on a Friday afternoon! Going in the direction that we did, we lost time, and it was just a LOT of time to spend on airplane. While I was still like a pig in … poo…, my wife was getting a bit more tired of the constant flying. Good thing this was our last segment before getting to rest!

We were booked on South African Airlines for the final leg of our destination to Mauritius, and it was a 737-800. After experiencing South African's long haul service, I was curious to check out the short haul service.

Well, to get it all started, we had to take a bus to our plane. I know this is common internationally, but I really hate loading onto a bus to board! Waiting for our bus to arrive, I spent some time looking at the flight board. I love looking at flight boards at foreign airports. I'm so used to seeing the same cities on flightboards in the USA for my weekly business travel, and it's neat to see cities up there like Victoria Falls and Nairobi!

They eventually started the boarding process, and we got on the bus.

The bus soon arrived at the plane, and I did what I always do - take pictures of everything! The ground crew informed me that pictures were not permitted there. Hah - weird. I wonder if it's just a rule to get people to board quicker instead of spending time taking pictures, but I don't see what harm a few pictures can do. Of course, i was able to get a couple before they caught me!

As we got on the plane, I was surprised to see a configuration of 2-3, rather than 2-2, on a 737. This was a big surprise to me. I was only familiar with two kinds of narrow body premium cabin configs. I figured an airline could either go 2-2 like the US airlines or they could go 3-3 with standard economy seating and block the middle seat for a table.  In any case, it was refreshing to see this new take on the cabin config, and I think it worked out quite well! The seats were wider than economy seats, came with pillows, and had a decent amount of legroom.

There were no in-flight entertainment options, but I planned on playing videogames the whole way there anyways ;-). The seat configuration really got me thinking. Would I prefer it if my US carrier of choice (United) moved to this configuration? The seat was just fine, and as a 1K, while I get upgraded pretty often, adding 25% more seats by moving to this config would surely increase the likelihood of upgrades even more, and keep more elites happy. Us elites are easy to please - give us some warm nuts, a decent seat, and a crappy meal, and we'll be happy ;-).

As I got settled in, the flight attendant came by to offer pre-departure beverages of our choice and pass out menus. I think printed menus are classy, and I wish more US carriers put these on their standard domestic first class flights. As always, I won't waste the screen real estate with the menus, but you can find my pics of the menu here: page 1, page 2, and page 3. For whatever reason, the airline used the cover of the menu to spotlight peas… I don't think any of the dishes served had peas in them, though. I started on my sparkling wine, continuing on my full weekend of non-stop airplane drinking, and dozed off for a bit.

I woke up shortly after takeoff, and meal service was about to begin. As I mentioned earlier, I really felt like playing some videogames so I fired up GTA on my PS Vita and played for a bit.

My meal was started off with some canapés and a bit more sparkling wine - I mean c'mon… it's a vacation - let the alcohol flow! It was nice to see them use a white tablecloth as well.

At this point, the flight attendant came through and also passed out a menu supplement, as he mentioned the first menu was wrong. Okay whatever. The supplement is here. After eating the canapés, I got my tray with a starter of cold, grilled veggies with warm bread and a bit of a salad.

Quite good! Although, this does bring me to the one major downside with having the cabin in a 3-2 configuration. Because the flight attendants need to serve 25% more passengers than if they were to do a 2-2 configuration, service is a bit slower…. Part of the reason it's slower is the configuration and the other is how South African likes to stage out the meal. I don't think the service speed on United would be a problem, since they just rush to get the meal out, drop it off, and then go to the galley to play Solitaire on their netbooks anyways ;-). In any case, the service was slow enough that it prompted a co-passenger to take matters into his own hands!

Haha he just grabbed that bottle of wine straight off the cart and started pouring for himself and his neighbord. Not gonna lie. Pretty hilarious. Eventually, lunch was served. My wife and I got different things. I got the chicken. She got the pasta. She didn't like her pasta. She said it was really bland. I had a couple bites, and while it wasn't like going to Italy (or even Little Italy), I thought the pasta was decent. My chicken was decent as well.

Neither meal was amazing, but airplane meals rarely are. It definitely hit the spot, and at this point, I slowed down and went with Diet Coke instead. Dessert was a New York style cheesecake, according to the menu. It didn't taste very much like cheesecake, but I suppose it had a resemblance. Not that I'm complaining… I ate every bite!

After finishing up the meal, I went back to my PS Vita for a while. After having a frustrating experience in GTA trying to get all the boomshine, I finally got it all, and this coincided nicely with our landing time. We were passed out our arrival cards, which had dodo birds on them. This extinct animal was a native of Mauritius!

Landing in Mauritius was quite beautiful. It somewhat reminded me of St. Kitts, as there were large, tall mountains scattered throughout the island. The water color was beautiful, and it looked like there was a reef or some kind of natural breakwater around the island; the waves were breaking some distance away from the island. Our two days of travel were finally about to end, and it was time to relax in Mauritius!!!!


Haven't seen this product before. Looks nice.

Most of European J is 2+3. The middle seat on the port side is a six inch seat, not actually useable... The other side has three seats.

Rob November 3, 2012 at 05:34 am

Love the review, it's great to get the viewpoint from a regular US traveller, especially about the seat config. I run South Africa Travel Online, and as soon as this came on my radar screen I knew it was one to showcase to our readers. I've linked to it from our page. Enjoy the rest of your stay, Rob

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.