As part of its turnaround strategy to realign as a focused player internationally, SAA has launched a boutique service on its Johannesburg-London route.

The airline’s strategy is to compete on selected international routes on the basis of service, explains SAA CEO, Vuyani Jarana.

“For example, if my competitor has four daily flights on a particular route and I only have one daily flight I want to ensure that my flight fills up first because of the service and value that it offers passengers,” says Jarana.

He says SAA has spent a lot of time looking at the customer journey, from the initial engagement of purchasing a ticket to when they touched down on the ground. The airline aims to improve service at each of these touch points. The focus of the enhancements on board has been initiated in the Premium Class cabin while Voyager Platinum and Lifetime Platinum customers are also enjoying a number of additional value-adds, whether travelling in economy or business class.

Vuyani says SAA hopes the boutique service, together with the newer A330-300 aircraft operating on the Johannesburg-London route will endear them to customers on this route.

The boutique experience is currently in a trial phase on the London route with a view to possibly expanding it to other international routes. Additional service elements will be added over the coming months.

Zuks Ramasia, General Manager – Operations, adds that, based on customer feedback, the airline received the majority of complaints from touchpoints on the ground rather than the experience in the air and that improvements in this area will be a key focus.

Some boutique service offerings at ground level touchpoints include:

  • Dedicated premium- and economy-class check-in counters with red carpets and flower arrangements at premium check-in counters.
  • Priority boarding offered to premium-class customers at the boarding gates.
  • Children’s packs are handed out to families at boarding gates.
  • In London SAA staff members are available to escort premium customers to arrival and departure fast track lanes.
  • On-board the boutique service for premium-class passengers has a focus on personalised service, with trolley-less service in premium class (customer tray tables are set rather than cabin crew bringing meals on trays).
  • On arrival from domestic coastal stations (such as Cape Town, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth) premium customers transiting to London are met at the aircraft door and fast-tracked through immigration and security to the SAA Cycad Lounge.