FINALLY: South African Airways Schedules A350 On New York (JFK) – Joburg (JNB) Route

If you’ve logged on to social media in the past few weeks, I trust you’ve seen your Twitter friends, Facebook friends, Instagram friends (and practically everyone you sort of know) in Ghana for the Year of Return.

You may have also seen additional posts from Johannesburg (aka Jozi or Joburg) highlighting Afropunk and other various festivals.

Although the festivities have concluded, I’ve received quite a few messages inquiring about best ways to use points to arrive in numerous African countries – blog post coming soon.


If you’ve searched for round trip airline tickets from the USA to any city in Africa, you probably experienced ‘sticker shock’ as it can be extremely expensive.

Fortunately, many of the US-based airlines are beginning to see the folly in ignoring a whole continent and are scheduling non-stop flights (like THIS, and THIS). This is when points become extremely valuable and you can redeem them for phenomenal value!


This past summer, we learned that South African Airways (SAA) would be getting four Airbus A350-900s. Similar to most airlines, South African Airways is attempting to make their fleet more efficient by purchasing more fuel-efficient planes.

SAA received its first A359 a few months ago and began operating it primarily on the domestic route between Joburg and Capetown. I presume this was in an effort to familiarize the crew with the plane although there was quite a bit of controversy concerning fast-tracking the pilots.

A350: No Longer Domestic But International

Well, it appears there has been some movement as South African Airways has scheduled the A350-900 to operate the Johannesburg (JNB) to New York (JFK) route as of 7 February 2020.

The flight will operate with the following schedule:

JNB – JFK (SA203) Departing 09:40PM arriving 6:40AM (+1 day)
JFK – JNB (SA204) Departing 10:40AM arriving 8:15AM (+1 day)

And it’s a looonggg flight, blocked for 16 hours westbound and 14 hours and 30 minutes eastbound.


As always, there’s some “good” news and “not-so-good” news. Let’s start with:


  • the seat map shows business class is transitioning from the older 2-2-2 configuration on the A346 to a more impressive 1-2-1- configuration with all seats having direct aisle access on the A359…
  • Additionally, economy class award availability is wide open.

And the Not-So-Good News:

You may have guessed this already by looking at the photo above, but Business class award availability is non-existent at the moment. Hopefully this changes as SSA is in (and has been for several years) serious financial troubles.


While South Africa should be a big aviation market, SAA has an inefficient fleet and route network, and has been losing money for nearly a decade as there are many reports of corruption and mismanagement. In fact, the airline has gone through five CEO’s in the past 8 years.

Despite the drama, I’ve been waiting for this announcement for a long time because I’m excited for SAA and want to review this product.

This update in aircraft and configuration should make the passenger experience more pleasurable and is definitely a step in the right direction.

I would be the first passenger to give them money miles but if they don’t open award availability, how do they plan to make money?

Anyone else excited about this upgraded route? Who’s going to South Africa on the A350?

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