75,000 United miles secured me a business class seat on South African Airways 287 from Hong Kong (HKG) to Johannesburg (JNB). This was actually one of three legs, the first leg being a 20 hour layover in Beijing - where we stopped to see The Great Wall - and the third leg onwards to Cape Town.
Today’s post will focus on the second leg from Hong Kong to Johannesburg. While this is not the fully-flat pods SAA offers from London to Johannesburg, the Airbus A340-600 was surprisingly comfortable and offered great food and service.
- Flight: South African Airways 287
- Aircraft: Airbus A340-600
- Length: 13 hours, 35 minutes
- Route: Hong Kong HKG to Johannesburg JNB
- Seat: Nearly-flat seat
- Seat Configuration: 2-2-2
- Entertainment: Basic 12'' screen with dozens of movies and TV shows
- Lounge: United Club Hong Kong
- Miles Used: 75,000 United (Beijing > Hong Kong > Johannesburg > Cape Town)
- Grade: B
In full disclosure, we had a tight connection at Hong Kong International and didn't even get to stop at the United Club to take pictures. So the below information is pulled from the lounge website, which you can visit here.
I haven't spent as much time in United Club lounges, but the one at HKG gets rave reviews. A full bar, showers, and all the basic amenities are provided. The food is also supposed to be excellent (lounge-wise). For a full run-down, I recommend reading this post.
Once on the flight, I had a mixed experience. The entertainment screens were not on the backs of seats, but rather in the side arm rest - stowed for take off and landing. This meant that the screens were quite small and there was not a great selection of movies and TV shows. The other bummer were the amenity kits. While they offered the basic necessities - toothbrush kit, eye mask, ear plugs, etc. - the quality of the kit and products were below average.
But the downsides were overshadowed by the positives: friendly service, good sleeping arrangements and great food. Of these, the menu really shined: the wine selection in particular had three fantastic local wines from Stellenbosch, just north of Cape Town. The flight attendants kept filling up my glass before I finished - great, albeit dangerous, service.
One last note: the sleeping pad and pillow were of excellent quality. There was no compartment for your feet, however, which meant that I, at 6'3'', couldn't fully outstretch in the nearly-flat bed. This surprised me from a design perspective and it is something to consider.
The Final Word
This was about as good as an experience as you'll get in business class without a fully-flat bed or pod. I also considered 75,000 United miles to be reasonable, considering we included a trip to The Great Wall - taking advantage of a visa-free policy in China - and made it all the way to Cape Town. Africa is tough to get to, so I was happy at the end of the flight.
With that said, the seats aren't fully flat, I didn't quite fit in the bed and the flight lasted the better part of 14 hours. That is a long time on a plane. There also seemed to be a constant commotion on board, whether from flight attendants or loud passengers.
Overall, I consider this a solid redemption. If possible, however, I recommend passengers try booking the London to Johannesburg leg that is typically available more than 331 days from departure date. Requiring the same amount of miles, it would be a much better experience.