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SAA still flying to/from US; safari providers; ground arrangements

SAA still flying to/from US; safari providers; ground arrangements

Old Feb 27, 2023, 2:16 pm
  #1  
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SAA still flying to/from US; safari providers; ground arrangements

Trying to plan a trip to SA, including safari. SAA used to fly to SA from IAD, but when I look online now, I don't see anything on their website or elsewhere about travel originations/destinations in US (plus phone number not connected). Have they stopped doing business in US? Who is the best carrier (preferably *A in terms of fares, schedules, comfort, service, etc? (Is Air Ethiopia OK?)

Can one do any better booking arrangements once in SA, especially safari component, than from here in US. Any recommendations as to safari companies and other ground arrangements there?

Thanks.
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Old Feb 28, 2023, 3:10 am
  #2  
 
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Originally Posted by itsme
Trying to plan a trip to SA, including safari. SAA used to fly to SA from IAD, but when I look online now, I don't see anything on their website or elsewhere about travel originations/destinations in US (plus phone number not connected). Have they stopped doing business in US? Who is the best carrier (preferably *A in terms of fares, schedules, comfort, service, etc? (Is Air Ethiopia OK?)

Can one do any better booking arrangements once in SA, especially safari component, than from here in US. Any recommendations as to safari companies and other ground arrangements there?

Thanks.
SAA went bankrupt. It has been resurrected, but it is still on life support and it does not do trans-continental routes any longer.

For Star Alliance, Ethiopian Airlines is your best bet. Its a decent airline and ADD is an okay hub to transfer through. EgyptAir is also Star Alliance, but I think they are poor, and CAJ isnt a great hub. Otherwise, if youre not married to Star Alliance and are happy to take a slightly longer routing, EK and QR are great, although presently they are pricey.

Yes, you can make safari arrangements in SA. Really depends on your budget, so hard to offer recommendation as there are probably hundreds of options.
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Old Feb 28, 2023, 7:50 pm
  #3  
 
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Originally Posted by itsme

Can one do any better booking arrangements once in SA, especially safari component, than from here in US. Any recommendations as to safari companies and other ground arrangements there?

Thanks.
I think leaving your safari bookings until you are in SA is way too late and a recipe for disappointment. You likely wont get any better deals in SA unless you are a citizen.
Hard to know what your'e looking for, but you can book the national park accommodations here:
https://www.sanparks.org/bookings/
Or for private safaris I have booked with &Beyond a few times. They can organize transfers for you etc: https://www.andbeyond.com/
Check out One Mile at a time for some review of high end safari if thats what you're looking for, &Beyond Phinda was much the same.
https://onemileatatime.com/singita-safari/
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Old Mar 1, 2023, 9:56 am
  #4  
 
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United flies non-stop to Cape Town from Washington DC (Dulles) and to Johannesburg from New York (Newark). These are by far the fastest ways to reach SA from the US. (I flew the latter routing in business a few weeks ago.)

I also had the pleasure (kind of) of flying Ethiopian in both economy and business on the trip. Business was serviceable but economy was pretty tight although survivable.

Having *G and/or flying business will make transferring in Ethiopia much more pleasant if you go in that direction .
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Old Mar 1, 2023, 12:11 pm
  #5  
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So SAA did stop flying from the US at some point? (When?) Is the carrier healthy where it does operate?

If one isn't flying non-stop on UA, but instead goes with a carrier that will take them through LHR, MUC, or FRA with a next-day continuation on to CPT or JBG, is it possible to stay longer at the stopover city without paying more for an extended stay there? The carriers don't provide any accommodations at the stopover airport (e.g., hotel voucher), do they, save perhaps the lounges?

"economy was pretty tight although survivable" - that means economy seats are barely tolerable? (I think the worst seats we ever had flying international was to IST on Turkish years ago. Miserable experience.)

Chances of award travel to SA on UA?
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Old Mar 1, 2023, 12:26 pm
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Originally Posted by itsme
So SAA did stop flying from the US at some point? (When?) Is the carrier healthy where it does operate?

If one isn't flying non-stop on UA, but instead goes with a carrier that will take them through LHR, MUC, or FRA with a next-day continuation on to CPT or JBG, is it possible to stay longer at the stopover city without paying more for an extended stay there? The carriers don't provide any accommodations at the stopover airport (e.g., hotel voucher), do they, save perhaps the lounges?

"economy was pretty tight although survivable" - that means economy seats are barely tolerable? (I think the worst seats we ever had flying international was to IST on Turkish years ago. Miserable experience.)

Chances of award travel to SA on UA?
Apologies, I forgot about UA. That is very straightforward.

SAA stopped all routes when they went bankrupt in 2020. Only domestic and infra-Africa resumed (partially). I would not describe it as a healthy airline, then or now.

I have tried to fly BA from North America to South Africa with a stop over in London. It cost a bit more, and the airline did not offer any accom or the like. That was four years ago though. Cant speak to LH.

QR and EK would make it cost neutral (same fare roughly as straight through), but EK would only cover accom if there isnt a shorter connection available (min 8 hours) and QR wont cover accom.

Ive only every flown Ethiopian business so unsure about their economy.

Last edited by IntrepidAfrican2; Mar 1, 2023 at 12:34 pm
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Old Mar 1, 2023, 1:04 pm
  #7  
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Guess news of SAA's serious decline (cessation of service beyond Africa) never appeared on my radar screen. Is this just another instance of a national carrier getting in a very bad way, or is it a bigger deal, that is a reflection on South Africa' general state of economic health? A country can't be doing too well, can it, if it's national carrier goes under? Can it just be the airline as a business proposition and not the country as a whole? If one looked at a graphical representation of the country's economic well-being over time, would things there be relatively better or worse off in 2022-23 than prior years?
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Old Mar 1, 2023, 1:46 pm
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Originally Posted by itsme
Guess news of SAA's serious decline (cessation of service beyond Africa) never appeared on my radar screen. Is this just another instance of a national carrier getting in a very bad way, or is it a bigger deal, that is a reflection on South Africa' general state of economic health? A country can't be doing too well, can it, if it's national carrier goes under? Can it just be the airline as a business proposition and not the country as a whole? If one looked at a graphical representation of the country's economic well-being over time, would things there be relatively better or worse off in 2022-23 than prior years?
SAA was not doing well before the pandemic, due to a bunch of factors, similar to other state owned airlines, so it was not in a good position to sustain the pandemic. The country has serious issue with it's electricity grid, think rolling blackouts for up to 8 hours a day or longer, permanently, due largely to government ineptitude and corruption coupled with population growth. This won't affect you too much as a tourist. If you stick to the tourist areas it's safe enough and an amazing place to visit.
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Old Mar 1, 2023, 6:19 pm
  #9  
 
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Originally Posted by itsme
Guess news of SAA's serious decline (cessation of service beyond Africa) never appeared on my radar screen. Is this just another instance of a national carrier getting in a very bad way, or is it a bigger deal, that is a reflection on South Africa' general state of economic health? A country can't be doing too well, can it, if its national carrier goes under? Can it just be the airline as a business proposition and not the country as a whole? If one looked at a graphical representation of the country's economic well-being over time, would things there be relatively better or worse off in 2022-23 than prior years?
Its been a slow slide downwards since about 2010, which was roughly the peak the of the post-apartheid economic boom, and which the ruling party has squandered. The last three years have gotten visibly worse. Electricity is the most obvious way. But crime, unemployment, corruption, inept governance, public debt are all getting worse; the ruling party is listless and focused on their own internal struggles.

But SA has always been one of the most unequal societies in the world, and the extent to which these affect you depends on your station in life. The average tourist / visitor is sheltered from the worst of it.

I wouldnt use the airline alone as a measure. I actually think national airlines are a stupid idea. SAS and Alitalia are good examples of airlines collapsing / collapsed. Losses shouldnt be socialised, and let the private sector have at it in that low margin business. Whats the national airline of the United States lol.
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Old Mar 1, 2023, 6:43 pm
  #10  
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Thanks. My daughter has SA friends in NYC and one told her at events like baseball games she cries with they play our national anthem she is so glad to be living here and not there presently. It sounded strange to me because I had imagined that if one was well-off, as they are, then they must be very comfortable in SA. (She mentioned things like daily power outages.)

So what are their collective prospects for substantial economic and social progress? Doesn't sound too promising? I have had a notion, perhaps fanciful, of Capetown as an idyllic place. (Can you get abalone in restaurants there or is it harvested out by criminal gangs?)

[National airlines - yes, I always wondered why carriers like SAS, Alitalia, Varig, etc. couldn't make it. Is it the markets they serve, involvement of governments, poor management, or what?]
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Old Mar 1, 2023, 7:56 pm
  #11  
 
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Originally Posted by itsme
Thanks. My daughter has SA friends in NYC and one told her at events like baseball games she cries with they play our national anthem she is so glad to be living here and not there presently. It sounded strange to me because I had imagined that if one was well-off, as they are, then they must be very comfortable in SA. (She mentioned things like daily power outages.)

So what are their collective prospects for substantial economic and social progress? Doesn't sound too promising? I have had a notion, perhaps fanciful, of Capetown as an idyllic place. (Can you get abalone in restaurants there or is it harvested out by criminal gangs?)

[National airlines - yes, I always wondered why carriers like SAS, Alitalia, Varig, etc. couldn't make it. Is it the markets they serve, involvement of governments, poor management, or what?]
A lot depends on perspective. Im technically a Brit who has lived in a bunch of places. For me, you cant pay me enough to go back to NYC. I hated it there. In SA, I endure, but have my limits. We all have our individual preferences and tolerance levels for different things. 2024 is definitely a crossroads for SA: the ruling party will likely lose; but at the same time its to be seen whether the opposition can govern effectively (so far, at a local government level, theyve been unable to govern as coalitions).

I wont wade into the Cape Town discussion, but I personally would not eat abalone in a restaurant there (refused to just this past weekend).

And we are now badly OT, so I shall bid you good day, and hope your trip goes well.
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Old Mar 2, 2023, 12:20 pm
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Originally Posted by itsme
Thanks. My daughter has SA friends in NYC and one told her at events like baseball games she cries with they play our national anthem she is so glad to be living here and not there presently. It sounded strange to me because I had imagined that if one was well-off, as they are, then they must be very comfortable in SA. (She mentioned things like daily power outages.)
If you feel SA is going the wrong way, some of the neighboring countries like Botswana offer great options for safari etc.

Originally Posted by IntrepidAfrican2
the ruling party will likely lose;
Is that really a possibility, I will believe it when it happens.
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Old Mar 20, 2023, 4:56 pm
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We safari'd in SA for our honeymoon 20 years ago. We stayed at Leopard Hills on the Sabi Sands private game reserve and thoroughly recommended it back then. Depending on what sort of experience you are looking for, the private game reserves should offer you a more intimate/exclusive experience as access can be limited to only those guests who are actually staying on the reserve. The reserve operated a "queueing system" which placed a limit of two vehicles at any one location which maintained the exclusivity. We opted to transfer to/from the lodge using a light aircraft from JNB, which meant that the road transfer time was about 5 minutes - I think this makes a huge difference to the overall experience. I think the lodges can help arrange this but we did everything through a travel agent.

Incidently, we are booked to safari in Botswana this summer (Okavango, Moremi, Savute) and again I think the lodges will help arrange light aircraft transfers.
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Old Jul 8, 2023, 8:55 pm
  #14  
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Why not eat abalone in a restaurant in Capetown, is it unsafe, e.g., hepatitis like with some shellfish? I thought the problem with abalone was illegal harvesting there. (I had abalone in SF years ago, when it wasn't expensive and enjoyed it.)

Anything else you would advise avoiding in Capetown or elsewhere in SA?
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Old Aug 14, 2023, 9:29 pm
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You could book flights via Sao Paulo Brazil to Cape Town or Johannesburg. That South Atlantic flight, if memory serves, is about 10 hours. If you are looking at safari options, I like Zambia (SLNP, NLNP) and Zimbabwe- especially Mana Pools. You get the opportunity to do bush walking in the parks. A very special experience. Primarily no fenced in wildlife. But that may be a bit too much for 1st time safari goers.
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