South Africa Airways Braces for the World Cup

by  Anja Mutic | Apr 23, 2010
South African Airways
South African Airways / joeravi/iStock

All eyes are set to turn towards South Africa this summer, a dazzling destination where the first-ever FIFA World Cup on the African continent will be held from June 11 to July 11. Some 400,00 visitors are expected to storm South Africa for this major sporting event. In response, South African Airways (SAA) – South Africa's national carrier – has set up a special division for the planning and handling of the tournament. For one, SAA is bolstering their domestic service within South Africa with an enhanced schedule that will span 24 hours daily. This will enable visitors to fly between match cities in one day, even after evening games. In North America, SAA is working closely with four MATCH-approved (the official hospitality provider for FIFA) tour operators that are offering game tickets with packages: Sportsmark, Great Atlantic Travel, Cartan Tours, and Destination Southern Africa.

What's more, SAA has moved into a new, state-of-the-art terminal in Johannesburg, operating all flights – domestic or international – from one terminal. Also in Johannesburg, final touches are now being put on a brand-new, luxurious lounge for SAA Premium Business Class customers, scheduled to open in April. Cape Town International Airport (CPT) has recently been remodeled, offering up-to-date amenities. Lastly, Durban (DUR) is slated to debut an entirely new airport prior to the World Cup.

South African Airways is a great choice for flights to the tip of the African continent, particularly because it's the only carrier that offers direct flights from New York to Johannesburg. En route back to New York there is a stop in Dakar, Senegal, but at least the outward portion of the journey is nonstop. A word of advice: For this long 14-hour flight, it is worth splurging on business class (from $4,999 round-trip). On our recent journey to Johannesburg, we loved the lie-flat seat (with a 73-inch pitch) and the 2-2-2 seat configuration (translating to easy access to the aisle and no middle seats). Other perks we appreciated include a personal reading light with four variable settings; lumbar massage; three preset modes of the seat – sitting, cradle and bed, all very comfortable; large tray table and individual cocktail tables; and the latest of blockbuster movies on a large touch screen. Did we forget to mention the great feather pillow and duvet that made sleep to South Africa sweeter than ever?

Most importantly, how can U.S. travelers make it down to South Africa for the World Cup, which takes place during what is normally South Africa’s high season? We checked a variety of dates during the event and found economy seats from New York to Johannesburg starting at $1,480 roundtrip. After the games, mid- to late August fares will be dropping even further, to as low as $1,045 roundtrip.

For more trip-planning information, see our South Africa Travel Guide.

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