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HOT AIR BALLOONING

Comair/Kulula's share price hit a low for the year last week, and for the first time ever I paid nothing for my Kulula flight - I trust the 2 events aren't related!

Cruise news: R20,780 for 4 adults sharing a cabin on MV12, the 29 Jan 2013 Melody cruise to Madagascar, Reunion & Mauritius.

My free Kulula flight

I've got a Kulula credit card and had built up more Kulula moolah than the cost of the flight. This got me in such a good mood that I donated R20 to Kulula's casual day charity. Without taking the Kulula Moolah into account, the actual cost of the flight was only R499 each and R75 for our infant, thanks to the Kulula online sale that was running.

I tell you this not to show off at how cheaply I'm flying, but to show you what's possible - read our tips for cheap flights to get an idea what else you can do to minimise your flight costs.

Kulula Boeing 737-800 at Lanseria Airport sunset

After an hour spent reminding myself that next time I must leave more than an hour for packing, we caught a lift to the airport with EZ-Shuttle, who we use most of the time as they're reasonably priced, vehicles are clean & relatively modern, and they've always been on time. EZ-Shuttle also picked us up from Lanseria Airport, and even though the flight was early they were there - I asked our EZ shuttle driver where we should avoid in Joburg - top of his list is Alexandra.

The check-in queue was just a couple of people, but there was a flight hiccup at boarding, as they changed the gate from A10 to C10, and we boarded just in the nick of time.

I had a snack-attack on the plane - ordered crisps & chocolate & grapetiser (soothed my conscience by telling myself I'm on holiday) - which didn't turn into a heart-attack, as the air hostess apologised for forgetting to bring the chocolate, and all ended well.

Our 1-year-old amused himself by walking up and down the aisle saying hello to everybody - who I'm happy to say were friendly back, especially the cabin crew. Our 4-year-old picked 2 books at Exclusive Books at Cape Town International Airport, which kept her entertained (she also tested whether the pilots would open their door if you knocked on it...they don't).

Murphy's law - our little one cried the whole way down, and once we were landed he fell asleep...but was awake again by the time we were ready to go to sleep :) Luckily nobody moaned on the flight, and somebody even empathised with us :)

We were at the beginnings of a highveld sunset, which darkened as the plane descended, and our pilot landed the Kulula wagon relatively smoothly. It was a silent night at Lanseria International Airport, which is still my favourite airport.

Kulula golf cart at Cape Town International Airport

We caught a shuttle to the Garden Court Oliver Tambo (it would have been shorter to fly to O.R. Tambo, but we wanted to review the Lanseria flight - our driver told us that this was a common request), where we overnighted before our next flight - Federal Air to Vilanculos.

I've got a terrible memory, and I love it that Kulula sends me a reminder email 2 days before about our flight, to check-in online 24 hours before (I still forgot to do this!) and details of what the weather is likely to be like.

Garden Court Johannesburg Airport

(you might want to compare this to our review of the Garden Court South Beach, a most pleasant visit)

Our stay at the Garden Court O.R. Tambo kicked off badly - we got there in the late evening, their systems were down so it took ages to check in, they gave us room 119 which is a long walk from reception, on arrival at which we discovered that the electronic key wouldn't work. Our kids started falling asleep in the corridor outside the door (I stayed awake - the last time I'd been sleeping outside a hotel room was after a late night's gambling in Las Vegas, but that's a story for another day). The concierge arrived back with the wrong key, and our daughter moaned that "Now we have to wait again". I did a bit of investigating and it seems that there are 2 systems of electronic keys and locks for the doors - a recipe for disaster - there's a lot to be said for old fashioned non-electonic keys.

That evening we ordered toasted sarmies & cooldrinks from room service, and a waitress arrived with a bucket of ice...confusion!

Southern Sun Garden Court Johannesburg Airport

The room could do with more 2-point plugs - with only 1 we had to line up our electronic equipment to recharge batteries and left without getting it all done (2 cellphones, 2 laptops, 1 camera).

The next morning I went to the concierge to get a copy of the Sunday Times at 8am - alas, there wasn't one - something to do with this being an industrial area. The breakfast was average, although our 1-year-old enjoyed the grapes.

The hotel is about a 5 minute drive from O.R Tambo International Airport, and the airport shuttle was free, which I appreciated, the driver asked which airline, and on replying Federal Air he was a bit confused - I explained to him that this was an international flight to Vilanculos, Mozambique, and to take us to international departures.

On the plus side, the room was clean and tidy, and the beds were comfortable - but it takes more than that to keep me coming back - I will visit other Garden Courts as I had a far better experience at the Garden Court South Beach in Durban, but Garden Court O.R. Tambo, I'm not going to be back at in a hurry.

 

Hotels

Cape Town's annual switching on of the festive lights takes place on the 4th December. Alderman Patricia de Lille will do the official switching, there'll be a carnival parade with floats, live performances & appearances by leading TV & radio personalities.

Note that Air Namibia no longer operate direct flights between Accra and Johannesburg. They have adopted Windhoek (Namibia) as their regional hub, meaning all flights land there first.

The Shosholoza Meyl train does not go to King Williams Town, only to East London and Queenstown.

To make road travel safer, we fully support the campaign to ban the blue light cowboys from our roads. Being late for meetings is not an excuse - they must manage their time just like everybody else.

The Purple shall rule! "I have just returned from Durban via Velvet Sky. When it came to booking I obviously started with the usual suspects and as it was just going to be a weekend away and a bit of fun cost was obviously going to be a huge factor. After I picked myself up off the floor I remembered an ad I'd seen for Velvet Sky so thought nothing lost.....fares were great so went ahead and booked. When I told everyone I was flying Velvet Sky, most burst out laughing, some had never heard of it and others thought it would be flown by
rogue taxi drivers and we'd end up been packed in like sardines.

Well, it was one of the best experiences I've had. The staff at check in were absolutely great and the crew a pleasure. The plane was clean and there was loads of leg room with no nonsense cold drink service. We left on time, both ways, and were in fact early landing in Jo'burg. There are no extras, but for an hour you don't need them.

I would like to keep them a secret but unfortunately I think that they should be praised for having such a great alternative to the other so called cheaper airlines which unfortunately have turned out to be just the same as all the major players.

Well done Velvet Sky" Jane

                 
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The Bottom Line: Eish, Comair's share price has dropped to its lowest level since September 2009 (Comair runs Kulula and British Airways branded flights in Southern Africa)