South African Airways introduced the Airbus A340-600 in 2003. An obsolete jet now (the world prefers two engines); it was the height of innovation 12 years ago. The interior was also state of the art with 42 angled flat seats in business class and 275 seats in coach. Every seat came with its own on demand video screen. The A340 has an impressive range and can route anywhere because it isn’t bound by ETOPS restrictions.
|Upright Business Class Seat|
Think back and recall what other airlines were flying in 2003. United’s 777 flagship aircraft featured Lazy Boy style recliners in business class and a TV with 9 channels of looping video content. First class was a flat bed with on demand video because a flight attendant brought around video tape cartridges for the system. ATA was an airline and flying L-1011’s while Northwest was going strong. SAA looked like a cool foreign carrier with a top notch product.
|Seat Fully Flat|
|Leg Room in Row 1|
The average onboard experience has progressed in the last decade and SAA’s aircraft feels antiquated. Flat beds not parallel to the floor are being removed and direct aisle access is the new norm. The seats onboard are in good shape and reasonably comfortable. Everything works as designed, TV’s were thicker and fuzzier back then, and there were no personal space issues even with a full business class cabin.
|Breakfast 10 Hours After Take Off|
|Dinner Immediately After Take Off|
I did enjoy my 11 hour flight from Perth to Johannesburg. The service and catering were great. Dinner and breakfast were both satisfying and the wine list was wonderful. I was easily able to sleep for 6+ hours and left the aircraft relaxed, rested, and excited for my wine tour the next day. The ground experience in JNB left much to be desired, but that’s a story for later.