Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Flying to South Africa

There are no non stop flights to South Africa anymore from Malaysia. Malaysia Airlines cancelled the Johannesburg and Cape Town flights some time ago.

The next best choice would be Singapore Airlines but you need to fly an hour to Changi and transit there.

The best deals are the middle eastern airlines. It's cheap to fly these airlines to Europe, America or Africa these days. The 3 best airlines operating from KL are Emirates, Etihad and Qatar. However, one needs to transit either in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha. For the wide leg room, generous recline and state of the art entertainment system, it's hard to beat these airlines.

Frank, Francis and Wong flew Emirates. The advantage is Emirates has more than one departure a day, so you can choose the choice of day or night flights. Emirates operates non stop flights to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban (the Comrades city) from Dubai. However, the transit in Dubai is at least 5 hours.

Roy, Cham and I flew Qatar. We had a good deal in Jan 2013. Roy and Cham paid less than RM3000 for a return flight to Joburg. I paid RM3200 because I flew home from Cape Town via Joburg. This airlines attracts its customers by offering very short transit.  1 hour 15min going and 1 hour coming back. However, the airport is in construction and the aircraft is parked at remote bays. The airport resembles our KL bus station Puduraya.

I met a Malaysian crew in Qatar Airways on the way to Joburg. She aspires to be a marathoner and has done shorter distances. She spotted my Standard Chartered KL Marathon finisher T the moment I stepped into the aircraft. We had great rapport and now she's my facebook friend.

I arrived at Johannesburg airport at 2:30pm.  There were officers at the gate checking our boarding passes as we stepped out of the plane. So don't lose your boarding pass.

I sat at the end of the aircraft and was the last to disembark. That's why it was 4 pm by the time I cleared immigration and collected my baggage. There was a big Pakistani group of handphone dealers on my flight.

There are many unofficial taxi drivers and porters wanting to carry our baggage for a fee at Joburg airport. So, hang on to those luggages!

In fact, there's a another short cut at the arrivals. Once you see the glass doors , DO NOT EXIT. Turn left and you will the check in counters for the South African domestic flights. If you are flying SA, you can check-in here. Look on your left, you will see a set of escalators going up. Take those escalators and there's a smaller exit door. There are no one waiting at this door.

I am glad that I booked the 6pm Kulula flight to Durban. So there was no pressure of rushing. The budget airlines in South Africa is Kulula and Mango. I flew to Durban for about RM200.

The Kulula and Mango check in at the end of a long stretch at the OR Tambo Airport in Joburg.

There's a Standard Bank behind the check in counters. It's very safe to withdraw money there. I got my first rands, the exchange was very good RM312 for R1000.

The boarding gates are crowded but fast. You can bring in your bottle water here. The first I noticed are the shoe shine boys when I entered. Yes, one can still get the shoe shined manually here.

There are Wimpy (a local fast food), Bean and Mugg (coffee joint) and a pub at the domestic gates. If you don't have a Infinite credit card that entitles you for the airport lounges worldwide, the next best choice is to the Standard Bank promotion counters. You just have to give them your email and they will give you a password for the wifi and a free coffee too.

Kulula Airline is fun, the aircraft is painted in livery that shows where the captain and co pilot is seated among other things. The crew are really fun. The safety demonstration is hilarious. They say something like we squeezed all of you coming in one door. In case of emergency, you can leave in any of the 8 doors. or in case of water landing; for those who can swim please exit to the left, those who can't ...thank you for flying Kulula.

I noticed that the beer sold on board is less than RM5, the same price as a Coke. The choice is obvious.

My first introduction to a South African national treasure.. Castle Beer.

They also encourage the passengers to take home their in flight magazine.
Swipe Me If You Like Me
The flight is to Durban is only an hour and it ended earlier than I wanted it to. The baggages came out quickly. The cabs or shuttle bus is on the right exit next to the bank. Just look out for the signage Public Transportation.

I found my airport shuttle with a nice Indian uncle driver...

Stay tuned....

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