La Paz to Cape Town: South African Airlines Business Class and Premium Lounge at O.R. Tambo Airport

This a four part series covering our Business class trip from La Paz, Bolivia to Cape Town, South Africa.

  1. La Paz- The Lounge VIP
  2. Avianca Business Class to Lima and Sumaq VIP Lounge
  3. Avianca Business Class to Sao Paolo and Star Alliance Lounge
  4. South African Business Class to Johannesburg and SA Premium Lounge

The sun was setting an angry red eye as we made our way from the Star Alliance Lounge to our flight to Johannesburg.

South African Airlines Business Class Sao Paolo to Johannesburg Sky

Our South African Airlines flight was again an A340 with lie flat seats in a 2X2X2 formation. 

South African Airlines Business Class Sao Paolo to Johannesburg Seats
South African Airlines Business Class Sao Paolo to Johannesburg Seat Controls

South African airlines provides you with a decent amenity kit in a faux leather bag.

South African Airlines Business Class Sao Paolo to Johannesburg Amenity Kit
South African Airlines Business Class Sao Paolo to Johannesburg Amenity kit contents

Several items were immediately useful. Jess had been looking for lip balm, we were almost out of tooth paste, our shared hairbrush was breaking apart. Jess was excited for a new case for her earplugs and I immediately began using the amenity bag itself as a case for my daily chargers – cell phone and laptop. It was truly a pauper’s Christmas.

We each had a glass of  Methode Cap Classique before takeoff. This is a sparkling wine produced in South Africa using the same method as Champagne. 

South African Airlines Business Class Sao Paolo to Johannesburg Champagne
South African Airlines Business Class Sao Paolo to Johannesburg Drink Menu

Wine choices were all South African which was fine by me. We had excellent wine both white and red throughout our time in the country and I was happy to enjoy it one final time. That said, only one of these wines retails for more than $10USD. Wine is inexpensive in South Africa compared to the states, but given the overall price point of the seats, I was surprised that the wines were so cheap.

Limelight Chardonnay 2015

Nederburg 56Hundred Chenin Blanc 2015

Intulo Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2014

Glenelly The Glass Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 

KWV Classic Collection Cape Tawny

South African Airlines Business Class Sao Paolo to Johannesburg Dinner Menu

Dinner was preceded by a selection of canapes: fig with an avocado mousse and a cashew, smoked salmon on toast with crème fraiche, caper and chive and finally mozzarella with sun dried tomato, basil pesto and prosciutto. They were surprisingly good, especially the fig, avocado, cashew.

South African Airlines Business Class Sao Paolo to Johannesburg canapes

For an appetizer, jess and I both opted for the fish cakes with smoked salmon, a choice I regretted when they ran out of filet and I instead had the poached salmon for dinner. I like fish but I generally try to avoid it on airlines and three courses in a row was too much.

The appetizer itself was a weirdly composed dish. The fish balls weren't warmed all the way through and were sitting in a hollowed out cucumber with a really thick and strongly flavored skin. Hard to eat and not easy to enjoy the components together. Mine was largely unfinished.

South African Airlines Business Class Sao Paolo to Johannesburg Fish Appetizer

Jess opted for the pasta for dinner. Both entrees were good. The fettucine accompanying my salmon was surprisingly al dente. I’m generally not partial to chardonnay so I opted for the Chenin Blanc with my appetizer and – despite being forced to switch to fish – still had a glass of the Glenelly Cabernet with my entrée.

South African Airlines Business Class Sao Paolo to Johannesburg Salmon

For dessert I had the guava and mousse cake and a glass of port. It was light and not overly sweet.

South African Airlines Business Class Sao Paolo to Johannesburg Dessert

After dinner we both settled in to watch a movie. I received two pairs of broken headphones in a row and was frustrated by how hard it was to get the cabin staff’s attention. Overall, it was characteristic of my experience throughout the flight. The staff seemed annoyed or confused each time we interacted with us. I felt unwelcome on the flight, as though we were imposing by ordering from the menu they had provided or needing a bottle of water. In retrospect, this kind of service seemed common throughout our time in South Africa. 

That said the overall facilities and food on the flight were very good. We were provided with down mattress pads and duvets at bed time which made the lay flat seats very comfortable for sleeping.

South African Airlines Business Class Sao Paolo to Johannesburg Duvet
South African Airlines Business Class Sao Paolo to Johannesburg Jess Sleep

 

In the morning we declined breakfast knowing that our ongoing ticket to Cape Town meant access to South African airline’s excellent lounge in Johannesberg.

South African Airlines Premium Lounge at OR Tambo Entrance
South African Airlines Premium Lounge at OR Tambo sign
South African Airlines Premium Lounge at OR Tambo Airplane

Johannesberg is South African Airlines primary hub and their lounge there is quite comfortable. After we passed through immigration we proceeded to the domestic terminal and up to the lounge.

The lounge has a nice view of the tarmac and a variety of seating options.

South African Airlines Premium Lounge at OR Tambo Seating
South African Airlines Premium Lounge at OR Tambo Seating
South African Airlines Premium Lounge at OR Tambo Seating 3
South African Airlines Premium Lounge at OR Tambo Seating 4

There is a barista available to make espresso drinks. In the afternoon, the space becomes a full service bar complete with self-service beer tap.

South African Airlines Premium Lounge at OR Tambo Espresso bar
South African Airlines Premium Lounge at OR Tambo espresso 2
South African Airlines Premium Lounge at OR Tambo beer tap

The breakfast bar including pastries, eggs and bacon, yogurt, cereal and fruit and a cold cuts and veggies table.

South African Airlines Premium Lounge at OR Tambo Food bar
South African Airlines Premium Lounge at OR Tambo Food 2
South African Airlines Premium Lounge at OR Tambo Airport Food 3

The croissants were warm and flakely and I made myself a pair of egg sandwiches with bacon, cheese and cucumber. We drank coffee and watched the planes land until it was time for our flight to Cape Town.

Surprisingly our short flight to Cape Town was also aboard an A340. There wasn't much time to enjoy it: the flight to our final destination was less than an hour.

South African Airlines Business Class Johannesburg to Cape Town

We enjoyed a light sandwich wrap served with fresh fruit on board.

South African Airlines Business Class Johannesburg to Cape Town food

Overall, the trip was exhausting but really a lot of fun. Though the food and amenities on South African airlines was much better, we enjoyed the great service and attention of the cabin staff on Avianca more.

In the end, you are still on a plane and the food and comfort will never be so great that the people cease to matter. It was great to see so many new airports and lounges and to experience premium class and service on Avianca and South African. 

For more information on how we racked up over 850,000 points and miles in a single year, check out my post here.