Bad Experience with South African Airways

Ozondjahe Hunting Safaris

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Mar 29, 2008
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Earlier this year we had a client who booked his flight from the US directly through South African Airways and due to some unforeseen reason had to reschedule his flight... simple enough one would think!

Well it took about 20 painful phone calls and countless hours with SAA in South Africa over a period of several days to make the rebooking. Some calls were handle by our office but some needed to be made by the hunter himself who was less then pleased with SAA.

It took hours away from his hunt as all phone calls had to be made only during business hours as SAA does not have 24 hour support and they are not open during lunch time either. Numerous calls were dropped half way through the process and being on the phone 20 minutes or more, SAA agents would not call back and there was no way to reach the same person again. We had to call again and go through all of it from the start with the new agent.

SAA procedure to rebook a flight is just horrific and archaic, you cannot just call and rebook in one call, after the initial call is made, you have to wait for them from 3 to 24 hours to get a reply to you whether it is possible and what the cost would be as they need to have another department calculate the rebooking fee. Also you may not get in contact directly with that department that figures out the cost for the change of flight... The procedure is repeated for each flight option that one may consider. Also they don't call you back with the answer, you have to call them back after the time given and after doing this on several occasions there was still no reply. We had to call again and still nothing... by that time the office was closed and the only option was to call the next day. Each and every time we called we had to deal with another person, it was an exercise in frustration to say the least.

Also we had on a couple of occasions SAA agents unmistakably hanging up on us as I assume they did not want to deal with us and our issue!

They do not make it easy in regards to payment as well, if you do not use the same credit card that you purchased your original ticket with to pay for the rebooking fee, they need you to fax them a form for the processing of a new credit card along with a copy of your passport.

I say all of this not to bash on SAA because it is generally a good airline, it is just this process that could certainly be drastically improved upon. All of this hassle and waste of time could have been avoided if the reservation had been made through a travel agent who could have handled this much more efficiently. Also if you have another non SAA flight booked separately, one will have to contact that airline as well to make the necessary reservation changes.
I would say that is unacceptable customer service! Very bad!
Sounds like a nightmare....

I'm glad Delta offers another option....
Sounds like a good reason to use a travel agent on hunting trips.
I think all airlines have a problem of one kind or another, American Airlines with cancled or late flights, United Airlines with no leg room Or Delta Airlines which I just used round trip from Alabama to Alaska and unless someone can show me different and that Delta is much better flying overseas I'm sticking with SAA 3 trips in 4 years only 1 problem and they fixed it in Jberg no problem.
My experience with SAA has been generally good. When we missed our first United flight out of home, we ended up way late for all connections on the way to Namibia. SAA put us up in a hotel in Jo, bonded our guns that had no paperwork and got us out the next day on another flight with our guns. Now United, thats another story and it was the sister airline to SAA and the root cause of our being late. It cost us a days hunt. On that same trip when it became obvious that we would not arrive in Jo in time to catch our Windhoek flight, I informed the flight attendant who got us off the plane first, then grabbed a couple of gals on the ground right off who literally ran us all the way thru customs, to the departure area in hopes of catching our flight. Alas the bus to the tarmac was just backing away and they said once that bus backs out you're too late. I cannot really complain about SAA.
I use at Travel Express for tickets, I go Delta and I'm on the first plane out of Las Vegas in the morning for ATL
(retired airline pilot!)
I use at Travel Express for tickets, I go Delta and I'm on the first plane out of Las Vegas in the morning for ATL
(retired airline pilot!)

Cliffy, Where are you headed? Good luck and have a great hunt. Nice advertisement for Lori too.
Hi All ~ thanks for the plug, Cliffy! As one who know firsthand about dealing with the airlines, it can be very frustrating. There are times when I cannot personally fix a problem and have to contact the airlines. After logging many hours of "hold" time with various airlines, as Jerome says, I think that some agents drop the call on purpose!

Problems can occur with any airline whether it's their fault (mechanical, etc) or due to weather and you just have to roll with the adventure and make the best of it. Depending on your itinerary, I do recommend trying to get all of your flights issued with one airline on one ticket and in some cases this may cost a little more but can be well worth it (money saved) if you encounter a problem or need to change your ticket.

The rules are ever changing with the airlines, travelling with firearms and with security in the U.S., within Africa and Europe. Just when you think you have everything in order then someone throws a wrench in the equation or you get an agent at the check-in counter that has their own idea of how a matter should be handled which may not be in your favor.

There are pros/cons to all the airlines and with the number of clients that I book to Africa every year I actually hear very few major complaints.
Ditto that..I fly frequently and while I try to stay United...or at least an airline within the Star Alliance.

If you fly enough...they all will get you-call it chance/fate/karma.

The safest bet is to stick with the largest airline you can...they have more flights than smaller carriers giving more opportunities to get you where you want to be.

Personally, I found SAA to be the best airline I've flown...(this of course was based on one trip's experience, without any travel issues)
When booking for this years hunt my friends and I called Lori at Travel Express. She made it seamless even when a flight was cancelled and she had to get us on different flights. SAA treated us very well and there were no issues there and back.
I only use SAA for all my hunting and MOST of personal/ business flights and NEVER yet had a hassle... international hunting and domestic/ regional hunting included.
SAA "office back up service" can be tedious.
Sounds like a nightmare....

I'm glad Delta offers another option....

That double for me! My hunt this year will depend on SAA getting me to Zimbabwe so I'm glad someone over there is taking care of the details!
That double for me! My hunt this year will depend on SAA getting me to Zimbabwe so I'm glad someone over there is taking care of the details!

Charlie: Where in Zim are you flying to?

The only problem or hassle I can recall with SAA, is when I had a bag that was slightly overweight. I had no room in my carryon. I was checking one bag and my allowance was 3 bags. The one bag was 2 lbs oerweight and SAA in Joburg didn't cut me any slack. Even worst, I had to go over to the customer service counter, with a long, slow line, to pay my $25 overweight fee. Other than this, all my flights on SAA have been good.
Going up to Victoria Falls and then drive. Thanks for the heads up on weights!
My one experience with SAA was not good, so now I will gladly pay a few hundred more to go Delta from the US. Not that SAA was bad or lacked, it was the route and circumstances. I was going back from Joburg to Dulles, with a stop in Dakar. Not knowing what to expect or never having done it before, what happened in Dakar was a shock . Not much in the way of information from the pilots of attendants before armed guards and people spraying disinfectant through the plane boarded with the passengers having nowhere to go. Having to breathe that stuff was not fun, as well as not understanding what the guys with guns were saying. The flights and meals themselves were fine, no problems, its just one experience that will have me on Delta, or if necessary on SAA again, the route that doesn't include a stop in Senegal
I think airlines are like banks. They know that for all of the customers leaving them because of bad service, just as many are leaving the competition and coming to them.

I've flown SAA many times - on more than 8 trips to Africa in fact - and never had a problem. I've also had my travel agent change flights on more than one occasion, and again, never seemed to have an issue.

All that means is that I've been lucky - they will eventually let me down, but then, so will any other airline.

It's said that our national airline's motto is "We're not happy 'till you're not happy"!
I have found Delta provided me the best prices and most direct route. I once had to run because of a flight delay but they got both me and my luggage there. The second trip a Delta employee carried my gun case for me and showed me where TSA was.
Of my trips I really couldn't see a difference between SAA and Delta except the stop in Dakar which I don't like but usually fly on which ever is the best price, if only slightly more I'll go with Delta to avoid Dakar.

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Bill J H wrote on gearguywb's profile.
Do you still have this rifle? I'm in the KC area on business and I'm very interested.
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I didn't get drawn for Wyoming this year.

Are you planning to hunt Unit 4 this fall?

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