SA 3172 - operated by SA Express?

Old Sep 28, 15, 1:35 am
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SA 3172 - operated by SA Express?

My wife is flying on SA 3172 this morning from JNB-BLZ. She is *G and has just connected off SA 279 from AUH.

However, she has been denied access to the SAA Lounge in Johannesburg on the basis that JNB-BLZ is operated by SA Express rather than SAA and *G is not entitled to lounge access on SA Express operated flights. 30 minutes of arguments and escalation to supervisors all insisted on this point.

There is nothing in the flight notes either at time of sale, or in the flight information online, or indeed on the boarding pass, that the flight is operated by SA Express. The aircraft for the flight is an Airbus 320 (ZS-SZF), which is registered and operated by SAA and not by SA Express. The e-ticket receipt says "Flight operated by SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS".

Is there something I am missing here? SA Express doesn't fly A320s and doesn't fly to Malawi. I've flown this flight multiple times myself and it has always been SAA metal and I have received *G benefits.

Last edited by B747-437B; Sep 28, 15 at 2:37 am
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Old Sep 28, 15, 2:41 am
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It's certainly not a SAX flight. I am guessing there is an error somewhere.
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Old Sep 28, 15, 6:12 pm
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That's quite strange, wonder why the flight number is in the 3,000's on that route? I see from Experflyer that it's a Monday only flight and the other days it operates, it uses a normal flight number (SA 172).

Even in the case it was a SA Express flight (which I understand it wasn't... just for the sake of argument), I thought that SA still extended *G benefits to SA Express and Airlink flights that are connected to a SA flight (AUH-JNB in her case)? I've personally only done it the the other direction, started on an Airlink flight and connected to SA in JNB, that was an airport without a lounge so couldn't test that but I'm sure they gave us the full *G luggage allowance when checking in.
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Old Sep 29, 15, 12:43 am
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That's quite strange, wonder why the flight number is in the 3,000's on that route? I see from Experflyer that it's a Monday only flight and the other days it operates, it uses a normal flight number (SA 172).
The reason that the Monday flight is numbered 3172 is due to the bilateral agreement between SA and Malawi. It used to be that only 7 weekly flights were permitted between Malawi and SA by each country's designated airline. These were operated by SAA as SA 172/173 to Blantyre on Wed/Sat and SA 170/171 to Lilongwe on Mon/Tue/Thu/Fri/Sun.

When Air Malawi shut down a few years ago, there was a shortage of capacity in the market so SAA was permitted to add an additional service to Blantyre on Mondays. Since this was extra-bilateral, the service was designated as SA 3172 rather than the SA 172 that the legacy services were flown under.

Now that Malawian Airlines is up and running, they are also flying reciprocal extra-bilateral services (9x weekly flights to a mix of BLZ/LLW), so the SA 3172 flight has effectively become a permanent fixture for around 2 years now.

I thought that SA still extended *G benefits to SA Express and Airlink flights that are connected to a SA flight (AUH-JNB in her case)?
She was told by the lounge staff and lounge supervisor that only Voyager Gold (and not *G) would be permitted to access the lounge on SA Express operated flights and that she should speak to SA Express about lounge access. The SA Express staff told her (correctly) that the flight was not operated by them, so they couldn't do anything. This went on for almost 45 minutes by which time the flight was boarding so she had to proceed to the gate anyway.
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Old Sep 29, 15, 1:27 am
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Generally, a 3 added to the front of a regular SAA flight number means that it was added to the schedule after the published schedule. I this case it's semi permanent.

A 9 means that the flight has been rescheduled, e.g. SA 234 cancelled today and operated tomorrow as SA 9234.

1000s are SA Express, 2000s Mango, 8000s Airlink. SAA operated flights from all less than 1000.
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Old Sep 30, 15, 3:51 am
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Submitted this to SA Customer Service today. Let's see what transpires.

I was a passenger on your SA 3172 flight on Monday 28SEP15 from Johannesburg to Blantyre, after connecting off SA 279 from Abu Dhabi. My ticket number was 1234567890 and my Amadeus PNR was SAASUX.

As a Star Alliance Gold tier member (TK*G 123456789), I am supposed to be granted access to your lounge at OR Tambo Airport when flying with SAA. I was however denied entry by your staff on duty at 825am on 28SEP15 on the basis that "we don't accept Star Alliance Gold for flights to Malawi as these are operated by SA Express".

The above information is outright incorrect. Flight SA 3172 is not operated by SA Express. Indeed, none of your flights to Malawi are operated by SA Express. I flew on an Airbus 320 registered ZS-SZF, which is operated by South African Airways and therefore was entitled to lounge access as per Star Alliance regulations. It is unacceptable that SAA staff assigned to a Premium Lounge at your primary hub are not even aware of the operating carriers and access rules for your own flights. As a very regular customer of Star Alliance airlines, I have never experienced this kind of ignorance at a carrier's own hub airport.

As a lawyer who travels frequently both within and outside Africa, I choose to fly with Star Alliance Airlines as the benefits promised to Star Gold members, notably that of priority services and lounge access, allow me to best utilise my time at airports and on layovers. The inability to use the lounge that morning to access my emails and respond, resulted in a delay responding to an urgent client query which fortunately did not escalate into something more serious. The negligence of your staff to deny me access that I was entitled to is the primary reason that such an incident arose in the first place.

Please investigate and advise what compensation you will provide for the services due to me that you did not provide as a result of your staff error or lack of training. A further clarification as to the cause of this incident would also be appreciated.
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Old Sep 30, 15, 12:06 pm
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Originally Posted by B747-437B View Post
Amadeus PNR was SAASUX.


Johan
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Old Sep 30, 15, 6:27 pm
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No South African SIM card with Internet access? If I were a lawyer and needed to be on call everwhere in the world whenever a client wanted, I would not depend solely on a lounge at JNB to conduct my business.

Aside from that, the OP does not what kind of compensation is requested. This makes the long email very unlikely to achieve positive results
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Old Sep 30, 15, 9:49 pm
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Originally Posted by Sabasi View Post
No South African SIM card with Internet access? If I were a lawyer and needed to be on call everwhere in the world whenever a client wanted, I would not depend solely on a lounge at JNB to conduct my business.

Aside from that, the OP does not what kind of compensation is requested. This makes the long email very unlikely to achieve positive results
Not after cash compensation as much as to get SAA to clarify the situation, admit fault if applicable, and fix the problem. That is compensation and restitution enough.

As for your suggestion of a South African SIM with Internet access, that's not really feasible for someone on a 2-hour transit. She has roaming internet access on her smartphone anyway, but that isn't ideal when she needs to send or review files. The point isn't that no other option was available (it obviously was as the situation was dealt with), but rather that the primary option that she was entitled to was wrongly denied to her and that caused inconvenience.
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Old Oct 1, 15, 1:36 am
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Well, mere "inconvenience" is a lot less severe than your email implies. And you did ask for "compensation."

I don't understand why she could not carry a pre-purchased South African SIM card just in case something unpredictable happens, particularly because her clients apparently demand near instantaneous service. Takes about 30 seconds to switch them out.
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Old Oct 1, 15, 2:41 am
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Originally Posted by B747-437B View Post
Not after cash compensation as much as to get SAA to clarify the situation, admit fault if applicable, and fix the problem. That is compensation and restitution enough.

As for your suggestion of a South African SIM with Internet access, that's not really feasible for someone on a 2-hour transit. She has roaming internet access on her smartphone anyway, but that isn't ideal when she needs to send or review files. The point isn't that no other option was available (it obviously was as the situation was dealt with), but rather that the primary option that she was entitled to was wrongly denied to her and that caused inconvenience.
By the way, the airport does have free internet, so I am not sure how the lounge internet is somehow a deal breaker.
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Old Oct 1, 15, 3:42 am
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Originally Posted by Sabasi View Post
I don't understand why she could not carry a pre-purchased South African SIM card just in case something unpredictable happens, particularly because her clients apparently demand near instantaneous service. Takes about 30 seconds to switch them out.
She does not live in South Africa, nor does she visit South Africa regularly. She was simply transiting through JNB airport for 2 hours en route from Abu Dhabi to Blantyre. Where exactly should she purchase a "pre-purchased South African SIM card" and what use would it serve when she already has a phone that has international data roaming?

The issue is not about her clients demanding anything. She had to respond to an email and would prefer to do that from her laptop sitting at a desk in the lounge as she was entitled to do, rather than tapping a response out on a phone from a common waiting area as she eventually had to.

None of this is relevant though. There is no reason that needs to be provided for *G to be granted lounge access. It is an advertised and published entitlement when flying on a Star Alliance carrier. It was not provided due to the fault of the carrier. Therefore an explanation and compensation are due. Whether she wanted to access the lounge to send emails, take a nap, eat stale biscuits or keep up with the Kardashians is not the issue.
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Old Oct 1, 15, 1:30 pm
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Given how apocalyptic and strident her/your email is in contrast to your subsequently noting a mere "inconvenience" and not actually insisting on "compensation, " this whole affair is puzzling. You appear to get to South Africa often, so maybe you could pick up a data-appropriate SIM card for her to use next time you're in JNB - just in case SA has another widespread instance of suckiness.
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Old Oct 1, 15, 6:14 pm
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I completely side with B747-437B here, SA put incompetent staff at the lounge who are ignorant of their own airlines' flight numbering system. If it's something that is grounds for lounge access denial then that knowledge is relevant to their job duties. Sure perhaps the dire nature of the missed email is exaggerated, but that's not the point and it does push the point of how important lounge access can be to some passengers who are counting on it.

As for those saying "just get a SA SIM card", that's not something easily accomplished from outside the country. Thanks to SA's ridiculous RICA law, you can't just go to eBay and pick one up from overseas to use on landing like you can for most of the developed world. I could be mistaken but I'm not aware of anywhere airside to get one. If someone is an infrequent visitor then even a SIM purchased legally on a previous trip could already be well expired by that point. Obviously International Roaming for urgent matters is a possibility in SA, but it's not always an option in every country. When I was in Ethiopia recently, international roaming would not register on my phone (home carrier is Japan's DoCoMo).
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Old Oct 1, 15, 6:54 pm
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Originally Posted by dvs7310 View Post
As for those saying "just get a SA SIM card", that's not something easily accomplished from outside the country. Thanks to SA's ridiculous RICA law, you can't just go to eBay and pick one up from overseas to use on landing like you can for most of the developed world. I could be mistaken but I'm not aware of anywhere airside to get one.
No RICA if you are on a foreign passport, just need to show your passport.

Try CNA or Vodacom for a sim card ... both airside international.
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