View Full Version : Trip Report - JNB-DKR-ATL-PBI - Delta

2008-03-23, 07:28 PM
Delta DL35 –JNB-DKR-ATL – B767-400ER – N845MH

Lets me just start by saying that the return trip was different in many ways from the outbound trip. First of all, when we booked this trip, we forgot that the day we would be departing South Africa happens to be one of the busiest travel days in South Africa – the day before Easter weekend – schools are out that Thursday, everyone that is travelling for Easter is trying to get out of Johannesburg as soon as they can and a lot of them are travelling overseas on that day – the schools are out for three weeks – perfect time to take an overseas vacation. So, all that said, we left my parents house in what we thought would be plenty of time – 4 hours before departure for a normal 30 minute drive to ORT (as it is known – OR Tambo Johannesburg International Airport is it’s full name). Well, the drive to the airport could have been worse - it only took 55 minutes – could have been a whole lot worse. Now, bearing in mind that we have been there for 3 weeks and we have accumulated a couple of gifts for the family as well as ourselves. For 4 of us travelling, we had 5 bags to check – one of which was our sons car seat and we shrink wrapped a cast iron pot into the seat – that was still in the weight limit. First thing you get at ORT when you check in is that you have to go through the ticket check and baggage screening questions before you get to the check in counter. Delta don’t have actual employees to do most of the whole check in process – it is sub-contracted to a local company and there is a Delta supervisor that oversees everything. This includes the ticket sales counter. After going through the ticket check and baggage screening process, we got to the check in counter. This is where the first unpleasantness of the trip occurs – the check in person has a real attitude (yes – Delta is going to get a letter from me on all of this as well). She tells me to put the bags on the weigh in – and – two of them are over the individual weight – according to this lady. I point out to her the sign behinds her head indicating that they are in the limits of that – she tells me – Johannesburg is an airport – that applies to the airport – Delta is an airline – their limit is different. I want to say why not post the limit for Delta, but I’m starting to get a little upset at this point. Going back to that we have 5 bags, two are over-weight and the other 3 are under. After travelling from the US to South Africa and then around South Africa and the total weight is applied to the number of passengers (yes – Delta did that on the outbound trip for us), we are now in the position where we have to pay excess baggage for 2 bags. The check in agent, looking at the very well packed cases says that we have to distribute the load between the bags or pay the excess. Of course, they are all loaded to the limit, so there is no redistribution – so, she gives me a piece of paper to take over to the ticket counter to pay the excess - $80 per bag – totaling $160. Off I go to the counter and I’m waiting at the counter when our friend that is travelling with us brings the passports over and has been told to bring them – the check in person has told her that they might be needed. I hand over the credit card to pay and get the receipt to sign and I see $300 in charges. When I question this, the ticketing agent says – she wrote excess bags instead of excess baggage and excess bags are $150 each! I wonder how many poor people have been hit like that. Pay the amended amount of the charge and head back to the ticket counter and collect the boarding passes. We get a very curt thank you from the agent and we head for the next stage – immigration. This is now beyond the control of Delta – more a South African thing. When you arrive in South Africa, every visitor is issued a temporary resident permit for 3 months – their visitor’s visa. Well, when you leave, you have to go through outbound immigration so that they can cancel the residents permit and ldet you out of the country – the same as arriving in the country – just in reverse. Of course, this is now around 5:15pm and all the international flights from ORT depart from 6:00pm onwards – there is a HUGE line to get to the agents and of course, tourists left right and center are jumping the line claiming “No English” when the end of the line is pointed out to them. Finally we get through there and then it’s the final line – security to get to air-side. This is another maze – but we got through there without too much more hassle. Ahhhh…all the duty free shops – all the liquor – oh – wait – we can’t buy liquor – no – Delta, when you check in says, boarding agents will confiscate anything over 3 fl oz – no purchasing duty free liquor – and this we found out later applied to purchasing liquor on the plane too – because we had to go through security in Atlanta again as well. SAA passengers travelling to the US do not have the same restriction – Delta applies this. I wish I’d bought the liquor I wanted before and put it in my checked baggage – ahhh – wait – that would have put one of the other cases over the limit too – anyone sense a little frustration???? We finally manage to get to the restaurant to get some food before the flight – the sun is setting – the windows are heavily tinted so no photo op there as well – which was areal pity – in the setting sun, the Mango B738’s and the SA Express Q400’s looked really nice! After eating out meal (and the last SA beers), we got to the gate. Again a Delta idiosyncrasy – as I mentioned in the other reports on travelling in SA, the flight is called and everyone gets on -
Delta still does the zones. So, you are left in the passage waiting for your zone to be called and then you go through the door to the boarding desks. All the hand baggage is checked for any liquids in containers over 3 fl oz (5 desks with people checking every piece of hand baggage) and we finally get on the plane. As soon as I sit down, I realize that N845MH is different to our out-bound N825MH – the seating gap is a little different – I was a little cramped. Oh well – my seat for the next 18+ hours would be ok – we have the great entertainment – and – that would not disappoint this time – none of the issues with the IFE that we had on the outbound. Push back was 5 minutes after schedule and after the taxi out, we were number 2 for take off – line up on 21R and power (a very long roll) into the night SA sky.

After take off, it was the beverage service and the dinner service. The food out of SA on Delta was really good – Choice of 3 entrιe’s – Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Breast or Fish. I chose the Beef while others in the family chose other entrιe’s and all agreed that the food was pretty good. It was going to be a long night and after dinner, we settled into sleep mode – even my 3 year old was ready for it – he was out pretty quickly, but it was on his sleep schedule. I couldn’t sleep, so it was catch up on a movie I’d wanted to see – American Gangster. Soon after the movie started, the captain announced that we had really favorable winds and would be in Dakar 30 minutes early – a flight time of 8hr 5 minutes. After the movie, I managed to get some sleep before being woken up with the midnight snack and the decent into Dakar. Landing was a very smooth one and the taxi into the Dakar terminal yielded some more interesting sights – a departing SAA A346 to IAD and on the ramp, and Alitalia A321, and Air Senegal B737, two Royal Air Maroc B738’s and a TAP A319. The 30 minutes ahead of schedule correct and we were on the ground for just over an hour while we refueled and the Senegalese security authorities did the same seat and hand baggage check that we had to endure on the outbound trip. Finally, we were ready for the ongoing trip and everything as closed up and push back and taxi was out to the active runway again – the same back track down the active and a long powerful roll into the African night. On taxi out, the captain said this was going to be a long leg – 9hr 49min to Atlanta and as we headed out over the Atlantic Ocean, it was evident why – head winds that got into the 110mph range.

Again, sleep eluded me, and it was again time to catch up with a movie I’d been wanting to see – No Country for Old Men. I really have to compliment Delta on the IFE on these long trips – they really are organized and give great movies, TV, HBO and games. The night flight to Atlanta was a long one at 34,000’. But, the cabin crew were around frequently with water and soda – they did take care of us. When it came time for breakfast, it was again a reminder of where we had stopped for gas and catering – the same really terrible Dakar food. I really think the airlines should try and find an alternative to the catering there – the number of people on the flight that refused the food and I did hear a few times “Not that Dakar food”.

Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean was a spectacular one and it signaled the beginning of the end of the long haul. Soon enough, it was time for descent into Atlanta and a very smooth landing on runway 8C. The taxi time into terminal E was decent and soon enough, we were out of the plane, through immigration and collecting our baggage, through the random bag check at customs and heading towards security for the final flight of the trip. Of course, having control of our checked bags for a while, we had to go through the whole security check to get to the transfer area and off to terminal B for the final flight to PBI.

Delta DL1453 – ATL-PBI – B757-200 – N675DL

There is really not a lot to say for this final leg. We were all very tired from the long international flight and were ready to get home. This was the standard domestic flight – not too long a taxi, a quick take-off, the climb out of Atlanta, the smooth flight down to Lake Okeechobee and a standard approach into PBI for a very smooth landing. One thing was interesting – of the 4 cabin crew that were on the flight, 3 were pretty new with Delta and were all foreign language speakers getting their domestic time before joining the routes that would benefit their language skills – Tel Aviv, Moscow and Shanghai. We deplaned pretty quickly and all of a sudden, the whole trip was at an end – time to get the baggage (and TSA did a really good job on the car seat when they insisted on tearing up the shrink wrapping to inspect the cast iron pot – yes – the email to TSA is the next thing I am going to do)! Not bad Delta – not bad at all for a long trip!

Photos will follow over the next few days as well as my link to our web site where the non-aviation pictures will be located.

2008-03-24, 12:49 PM
Another good read Mark. Almost makes me want to try Delta.....LIES! ;)

Matt Molnar
2008-03-24, 02:03 PM
I like these reports, Mark. That stinks about the duty free. I haven't done a whole lot of duty free shopping, so I'm not sure how many airports do it like this, but when I visited Cancun last year I bought some liquor at their very nice duty free shop and someone delivered it to the gate to ensure I didn't spill it out and replace it with liquid explosive. :)

2008-03-26, 09:19 PM
I liked your TR as well. I really know what to expent on the SA end! Suunds like such a hassle to fly out of Africa.....makes our TSA seem nice . ;)

I dont know if you've ever mentioned it, but have you ever tried SAA over to S Africa? Any reason you chose DL over SAA?


2008-03-26, 10:00 PM

We've done SAA twice over there and back. Both times, the crew was fantastic going from the US to SA, absolutely terrible from SA to the US - I don't know why that was, but, we had that both times. The reason for choosing DL this time was simply a financial one - 4 of us flew and the difference between the tickets on DL and SA was that SA was about $400 more expensive per ticket - total of $1,600 which was more than one ticket. Regarding the complaints at DL, my father has some contacts in the industry in SA and he found out an email address for the manager for DL in SA and the appropriate correspondence has been addressed to that person.

What to expect in SA - that's an easy one to answer. It is a beautiful country - there is really so much to see - there are a couple of tules - stay out of areas that people warn you about (and I can give you a list for sure!), do the touristy things - they keep you in the good areas, and, enjoy yourself. I coupld spend probably a whole weekend telling you what to see, where to go, etc and I'll gladly do that. Drop me a PM and we could talk on the phone, email. It is such a cheap visit as well - exchange rate at the moment is R8/$1 - entertaining there is sooo cheap - for example, we took my brother, his wife and family out for dinner - 8 people, steaks, beers, wine, everything - $73 when we got the credit card statement yesterday.

Feel free to drop me a line anytime - I'll gladly give you the low down!


2008-03-27, 01:33 PM
wow the exchange rate reminds me of the Czech Republic. NICe!

Well, when the time comes, I'll check it out. Invariably my choice of carrier will prob lie with OneWorld Options ;)

2008-03-27, 02:08 PM
Well - rumor in the SA market is that AA are exploring MIA-CPT-JNB with a 777-200ER - not sure how close to the truth that is though...

2008-06-18, 08:47 PM
Thanks for the report, Mark.

I flew out of JNB in June and August of 2005. The June departure was great because it was a morning flight and the terminal was very, very empty. The August departure was a red-eye BA flight to LHR and the airport was much more chaotic. Check-in was very smooth and without any wait. I can't remember, though, if the agents were hired by BA or contracted out.

As you've noted, security and outgoing immigration is a mess. One South African woman remarked to me it was an "embarrassment" to her country.

BA made no effort to board in any order--it was a free for all. On top of that, we had to take a bus to reach the hard stand. Mark, did your DL flight depart from a jetway? Also, does JNB still prohibit boarding announcements?

Regarding the stop over in DKR, was searching everyone's hand luggage for liquids really necessary? Also, what was the "seat check" you mentioned?

2008-06-27, 09:23 PM
Mark, did your DL flight depart from a jetway? Also, does JNB still prohibit boarding announcements?

Regarding the stop over in DKR, was searching everyone's hand luggage for liquids really necessary? Also, what was the "seat check" you mentioned?

Yes - we were lucky - we had a jetway - actually the first one right next to the huge new restaurant - thank goodness - as we just finished our meal when the boarding call was made, so you can guess - no JNB doesn't prohibit boarding announcements any more - however - there is one general announcement and then there are individual announcements at each gate. DL handles those at the gate.

The search for liquids wasn't at DKR - it was a JNB - after your boarding pass and passport had been checked and just before you went through the door into the plane - right at the boarding door! And - yes - EVERYONE's is checked - my 4yr old son had his backpack checked as well! - even though it was one of those little kiddie roll-ons!

Ahhhh...DKR seat check - I think I went into more detail on the outbound trip report - but - basically - all carriers going US to SA and return have to stop at DKR - or some other North African airport due to fuel minimums (except the IAD-JNB - that A346 flight to SA is direct!). So, it is just the Senegalese way of imposing their own security checks that they would not normally be able to do and p***ing the passengers off immensely. Ever hand luggage has to be identified by it's own and then they lift up ever seat cushion and seat back to check it. All this at 2am!