Langabi.name is proud to present, based on the recent experiences of our illustrious site’s main author, some tips on:
Flying South African Airways out of New York JFK, in the Star Alliance era
As those of you who have been paying attention will know (hi, Bert), South African Airways joined Star Alliance in April 2006. Besides having a huge frequent flyer programme impact, it has also meant a re-adjustment of terminals in the US. Or at least at JFK in New York. Here follow some tips about how to make the most of SAA’s fancy new location.
SAA used to use the Delta terminal (terminal 3) at JFK. This terminal is a benighted hellhole. Or worse. It’s at the end of a long trek through dingy roads; is old, rundown, confusing and small.
SAA now uses (notwithstanding claims to the contrary on SAA’s rather-far-from-perfect website) terminal 4. This is a bright, airy, happy terminal. It is also poorly signposted, so it’s worth noting that SAA checkin is in aisle 3, to the right when entering from the JFK skytrain. The SAA checkin area is much enlarged. When I was there it was obvious that the move had just happened, as about half the staff were busy training the other half. Luckily, this meant there was no queue at all, as every desk was staffed.
Thereafter is a reasonable mall with a number of restaurants and shops and seats. The best part, however, is the free wireless access, as discovered the last time I was there (and hopefully still working). Sit next to the frequent flyer airline lounges (which run alongside the shops), and partake of the generosity of (or, uh, shamelessly leach off) an airline of your choice.
Unfortunately, this mall is before security. Security was quick for me, but there is little in the way of shops after it, so you’ll have to make a hard choice of when to go through. Then be ready for the multiple levels of security while you board!
A few tips for the flight itself: SAA provides the usual freebies (toothbrush and toothpaste, socks, eye shade, earphones, etc.), but my pack did NOT include earplugs. Bring your own if you need them. And the provided earphones are not iPod compatible. That said, you may not need too much iPod action, as the touchscreen TV’s have a reasonably good selection of movies and TV shows. There is no limit on drinks, so I normally stock up with a few Appletisers the first time the drinks come round — though you can of course get more at any stage. The food (three meals) was great for my flight. And a last tip: remember to bring a pen on board, to complete the customs forms.
Oh, and lastly: if you’re flying from Los Angeles, JetBlue has an excellently-timed direct flight from Burbank leaving at 7am — so you can skip the red-eye followed by a day at JFK. It’s cheap too.