There are several airlines that despite my bumpy history of delays with (ahem, American, Southwest), I still really like. Yesterday, a new favorite airline was added to the list: South African Airways.

I’ve flown SAA before. Seven years ago I jumped SAA flights from Kenya to South Africa for a holiday with some friends after my study abroad and we also used SAA internally when we arrived. I had thought at the time the airline was great, but now I think they’re really great.

When my mom and I arrived at JFK on Saturday morning, we were greeted warmly and the SAA team went out of their way to be of assistance–even running after me through the terminal (and I still have no idea how they found us in a random duty free shop) to let me know they had kindly blocked the seat next to me (my mom was travelling in a different section of the flight and I couldn’t upgrade to sit with her so they offered this as an alternative). Really too much. I was incredibly impressed by how nice each of the team members were.

Once on the plane (an Airbus 340) I was pretty blown away by how different SAA is as a carrier (and how great the Airbus 340 was). The plane had:

  • A plethora of drinks throughout the 15 hour flight
  • Two very hearty and fairly decent meals (for plane food)
  • Free packets of eye covers, socks, toothpaste/toothbrush
  • Nice blankets and pillows still in plastic wrap
  • Advice on different exercises, stretching and fluid intake
  • Your own personal screen not just with pre-running movies, but with a wide selection of movies, tv shows, free games, and much more that you could stop, start, fast forward, and pause anytime you want!

I almost didn’t know what to do with myself! It was probably the most comfortable long flight I’ve ever taken. And that is a big statement. So, today, South African Airways, I salute you. Now I’m excited to see what the internal flights have in store…

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