Out of Africa: It’s Closer Than You Think

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For those of us who travel a lot, we usually look forward to long haul flights in First or Business. In fact it’s the ultra-long haul experiences that excite us the most.  Long flights offer busy travelers a chance to unwind, have a nice meal, watch a movie or just catch up on some sleep. Frankly a NY to London flight just seems too short. And so our crew was excited to once again fly Delta’s Non-stop Johannesburg to Atlanta route on board their lovely B777-200LR. This is one of the longest commercial routes in the world and so Delta’s BusinessElite® product has been carefully tailored to make the most of your time in the air. And there’s a lot of time in the air.

This is a long flight. On the evening we flew back the scheduled flight time was just shy of 15:30. The flight path is almost as innovative as the aircraft. Cutting across Africa and the Atlantic Ocean the total route is just shy of 8,500 miles. Quite a feat.

Despite a slight delay leaving JNB due to a completely full aircraft and lots of cargo, we arrived in ATL a few minutes early. Getting into Atlanta at around 6:30 AM is a treat as Customs and Immigration is very quiet and unlike other US airports (yes JFK we are looking at you) many Officers were already on duty. This meant that we were processed, picked up our bags and exited to the Arrivals Hall in about 15 mins. After a long day’s travels this was really appreciated.

On board, Delta’s Triple 7 is equipped with pod style seating which offers fully flat beds laid out in a herringbone configuration with your feet pointing towards the aisles. Every seat has direct aisle access which means no climbing over seat mates, and each seat has a significant amount of privacy.  We tend to be fans of this configuration. On the downside it makes it a little less social if you’re traveling with a companion, but on these long flights, this layout offers a great balance of space, comfort, privacy and flexibility.

This flight offered the new Westin Heavenly In-Flight bedding product which is frankly excellent. On this route since it is over 12 hours each passenger received a Westin Heavenly sleeping pillow and a comforter along with a lumbar pillow.   Small details really matter on long travel days and so we thought this was a great touch.

The in-flight amenity kit was also top drawer. Provided by luxury luggage brand Tumi, the kit had a great selection of high quality products with a couple nice surprises thrown in. We liked the shoe polish and know the FAs are pleased that the kit included a pen. One of the most frequent comments we hear from in-flight crews is how surprised they are that passengers will travel thousands of miles and not think to bring a pen. Who doesn’t think they’ll need a pen on a trip?

One of the joys of long haul travel is the food and wine. Here again we think Delta’s product was really excellent. The menu had a very nice selection with some nods to South African cuisine as well as an innovative selection of wines. Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson is responsible for Delta’s in-flight wine program and on this flight did an excellent job of pairing the drinks to the menu. Again, on long flights, having a great wine is a true luxury that most of us time-pressed travelers really enjoy.

I think ultimately the best way to judge any flight is by how you feel when you land. Are you refreshed, invigorated or tired and grumpy?  This is especially important for ultra-long haul destinations. In this case, our team arrived feeling great and ready to get to work (which we did, filming the busy take offs and landings at Atlanta Airport within an hour of touching down). On board the service was great, there were ample choices on the IFE, the food and wine was lovely and we slept well. The combination of hard and soft product really works.

Africa is a long way away but with this non-stop flight it has become surprisingly close.

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