British Airways brought together the best of Britain and South Africa at 30 000 feet on 6 February over Johannesburg to showcase how its £5 billion investment is benefitting customers.
Some 200 guests including top Springbok try scorer Bryan Habana, lock Flip van der Merwe, Freshlyground singer Zolani Mahola and a host of others were treated to two hours of non-stop entertainment and extravagance on board British Airways’ new A380, the airline’s largest and most modern aircraft.
Guests enjoyed a very special Champagne high tea at take off created specially by The Saxon and South Africa’s top chef, David Higgs featuring a raspberry union jack macaroon and vanilla biscuit dress.
The A380 became the longest runway in the sky for a fashion show of British Designer collections for the summer season presented by Harrods, the world’s most famous luxury department store. Looks were shown from Stella McCartney, Jenny Packham, Alexander Mcqueen, Victoria Beckham, Mathew Williamson, Ralph & Russo and Temperley and teamed with Jimmy Choo shoes and jewellery by Astley Clarke, Monica Vinader, Shaun Leane + Lara Bohinc.
It then doubled as a 30 000 foot-high stage for a live performance by multi-award winning Afro-fusion band Freshlyground, who’s lead singer Zolani opened the 2010 World Cup singing Waka Waka with Shikira. Freshlyground performed a unique rendition of Shake it and Flower Duet Lakme, British Airways’ iconic theme tune.
During the past fortnight the aircraft has visited three major cities in South Africa. Since 27 January it has been based at King Shaka International Airport for flight crew training. During this time winner s of the #Man vs Plane online challenge got to try and emulate Bryan Habana’s 2013 race against the A380, which became a YouTube sensation. Then the superjumbo paid a fleeting visit to Cape Town for a world first fly past over Table Mountain, before arriving in Johannesburg for the launch event.
Modern, fuel-efficient aircraft are the mainstay of British Airways’ five-year investment programme in products and the A380 is the third of 12, all of which will be in daily service by 2017. It has also ordered 24 Boeing 787 Dreamliners and is the first airline in Europe to operate both aircraft types.
The aircraft will begin operating between London and Johannesburg on 12 February. This is only the third route to be confirmed after Los Angeles and Hong Kong. Initially it will operate three times a week, with the other 11 Boeing 747-400 weekly frequencies. The A380 service will increase to six weekly services by 6 March, resulting in a net capacity increase on the route.
British Airways operated by Comair, which operates domestic and regional flights in southern Africa, is also currently enhancing its fleet and recently took delivery of its first 737-800, next generation Boeing. Comair is investing R3.5 billion to replace its current fleet of 737-300 and -400 aircraft, with the more modern, fuel-efficient aircraft. A second 737-800 is due to be delivered in the half of 2014.
British Airways has a history of innovation in South Africa.
Speaking on at two-hour launch flight, Frank van der Post, British Airways’ managing director brands and customer experience, and Erik Venter, Comair chief executive outlined the enhancements being introduced for domestic, regional and international customers.
It has worked with top chefs to improve the quality and choice of food on board with the A380 First service includes a five-course tasting menu. Locally Comair runs its own in-flight catering operation, Food Directions, to provide customers with top-quality, fresh, tasty meals including hot, cold and snack meal options.
On the ground a new international departures lounge, modelled on the Galleries Lounges in Terminal 5, has just opened at Cape Town International Airport. The departures lounge at OR Tambo, which has been reconfigured to accommodate the A380, will be refurbished toward the end of the year.
British Airways operated by Comair’ lounges, known as the SLOW Lounges, have proved popular with travellers and have set new standards for South African airport lounges, winning numerous local and international awards. Owing to high demand, the Cape Town facility will be expanded later this month, providing more space and comfort.
A new British Airways credit card, launched this week in partnership with Barclays, offers priority check in and other benefits, and the best Avios earn rate in South Africa.
“We’ve long been clear about how important South Africa is on our route network. Over the past 82 years we’ve grown our schedules, established and developed local partnerships and invested in our customers. We’ve just announced that we’re increasing our Cape Town schedule by three a week this winter. This and the introduction of the A380 to Johannesburg is a further, unambiguous demonstration of our confidence,” said Keith Williams.
Erik Venter, said that over the past 18 years many South Africans first experience of British Airways had been on a flight operated by Comair. Its new aircraft, improved on-board catering, more opportunities to earn frequent flyer benefits and privileges and seamless connections with international flights gives customers even more reason to fly British Airways.