I never fly on SAA. Unless there’s no other option I will not fly with them.
I’m in no way a regular traveller, and probably only take flights every two or three years. But even with that little experience I have been completely turned off from using my home country’s airline.
Between South Africa and Taiwan there are only two choices: Cathay Pacific and SAA. I’ve had a chance to fly both. On Cathay Pacific I was very happy with the service I received and everything was hunky dory. Unfortunately I got put on SAA on a return leg and boy did I get a shock at the difference in quality between the two.
There’s not too much between the airlines in the quality of their planes and and the like, and in fact SAA had better and newer equipment and the leg spacing was better. The Cathay Pacific plane was clearly aging and showed its age by simply not being very modern.
But that wasn’t the deciding factor.
Not by a long shot.
On a long haul flight you can really see how well the cabin staff handle themselves and even the least friendly Cathay Pacific crew member still had a smile on their face and would help when asked. On SAA it’s a whole different story. The cabin staff arguing with passengers and just giving attitude. Staff dealing with non-English passengers and getting annoyed with them for not understanding. From my perspective it was just rude. I tried to put this down to the other passengers being Chinese. There is a vast cultural difference there, but even my own stereotypes of how annoying Chinese tourists can be will not allow me to excuse those attitudes to them. I wouldn’t excuse myself either.
There are probably good staff, too. But one rotten apple spoils the bunch.
Of course there are annoying passengers. But giving lip doesn’t help anything and interrogating them or questioning their motives on any matter is just not on. Don’t look at someone who’s command of English is not fantastic and get annoyed. Deal with it. If you are on an international flight, isn’t that part of basics?
I was reading the Sawubona magazine that is on offer on SAA airlines and saw an article about how proud they are of being awarded The Best Airline in Africa part of the Skyways award program (or something along those lines). I would liken this to having the shiniest turd in the shit contest. Be proud, but don’t be content. You’ve won because your airline was formerly government owned and benefits as part of the wealthiest country in Africa. The odds are stacked in your favor. Instead, compare to small airlines elsewhere in the world. There are small airlines around the world who could mop the floor when it comes to customer service.
So, on my next journey, Cathay Pacific was sold out on the day I wanted, so I just extended my holiday, rather than take SAA. It’s just not worth it.
SAA, you can do so much better. Over and out.