Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

Get me to the Gautrain on time

So I need to travel to Cape Town. Just for a day, to give a talk to a school on social media. I might squeeze in a couple of other meetings to make the most of the fact that I’m there. At most, booking a flight should take me five minutes, right?

As it turns out, no. This is because, before booking, there are a number of factors to take into consideration. For instance:

1. I’m an insomniac. This means early flights are a no-no. Getting up at 4am to catch a flight at 6am leaves me a hollow-eyed wreck barely able to function. I refuse to fly before 7am if I can help it.
2. Getting back in time to catch the Gautrain. (Why oh why does the last Gautrain leave so early?) The last one leaves at 8.30pm so I can’t risk landing after 8pm. This means I can’t leave Cape Town after 6pm, which means I can’t arrive at the airport much later than 5pm, which means battling rush hour traffic. I could of course just drive myself to the airport, but driving back from the airport at night is one of my least favourite things. (Alternatively, I could of course leave from Lanseria.)
3. Allowing enough time to get from the airport to my meetings and back.
4. Price. The client is paying, but I’d still like to keep it reasonable.
5. Reliability. I’ve been seeing a lot of tweets about delayed Kulula flights, and this worries me. If my flight is delayed on the other end, I’ll miss the Gautrain. Nobody wants to miss the Gautrain.
6. Aircraft. I’m not keen on traveling on ageing aircraft and the fact that 1Time uses the MD82/83/87, all of which were discontinued in the 1990s, is a negative factor for me. Probably irrational, but that’s perception for you. (Curious fact: the plane that crashed in Pakistan on Friday used to fly around South Africa in BA livery before it was retired and sold.)
7. Brand. This would be a consideration if Velvet Sky were still around – I wouldn’t have touched them with a bargepole – but all the others are much of a muchness. Kulula, Mango and 1Time have all been around for long enough for me to be confident that they’ll still be flying in two weeks’ time. I love Kulula’s advertising (I once worked on the account, years ago), but I won’t choose them because of it.

It’s a lot to think about. Lanseria, it quickly turns out, isn’t an option. The first SAA flight leaves just before 6am, the second at 11.40am. Kulula flies at 6am and 8am, and the return leg costs a jaw-dropping R2999; at R2939 for the same leg, Mango is hardly cheaper. 1Time is the cheapest by some way, but again, flies either too early or too late. So, no.

SAA and BA out of OR Tambo were much of a muchness, offering similar times and similar prices. When two brands are neck and neck, that’s when brand does play a role: when I fly locally, I associate BA with good service, while I have my doubts about SAA (overseas, it’s the reverse; I’ve heard too many bad stories about BA).

In the end, I went with BA out of OR Tambo. 7am flight out, 5pm flight back and it comes to a total of just R2568, more than half of which is taxes and surcharges. The entire process ended up taking over over an hour but at least it’s done. Just as long as I don’t miss the Gautrain – that’s the most important thing.

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    • Khalsa Singh

      For just over twice that price you could have flown to Europe and back. Anyway, a lecture on social media is probably not worth the effort and a video conference would also have been much more useful.
      If there was no infrastructure on the other end, then ~R2600,- would have solved that.

    • AL

      Tsk tsk Sarah! I am surprised at your silly attitude re: the MD80 series. Any aircraft can be lethal if it is not maintained properly. I would rather fly in a 75 year old immaculately maintained Dakota than in a poorly maintained brand new Airbus. Even the most sophisticated aircraft can come a cropper if you do not look after them. You can only make a judgement when it comes to the maintenance of the aircraft and the reliability of the operators. I detested Phoenix and Natiionwide because I knew they were run by a bunch of monkeys – hence I avoided them. I flew on BA/Comair because I knew it was a well run operation despite their aircraft being the same age.
      For someone who has a better than average understanding it is a little bit silly to say that.

    • GarethV

      Oh God just what the world needs, another social media ‘expert’.

    • Dave Harris

      Alright alright, Sarah, I’ll volunteer to give you a ride just this time, but promise to give technology like webinars a chance next time OK? 😉

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Your client can afford the airfare but not a taxi instead of the Gautrain?

      If I were you I would take the Blue Train and make a fun holiday of the whole trip.

    • Benzo

      Sarah, I just checked Kulula.
      Book directly to the airline, do not book a return flight but two x one way.
      Found flights for R800 +/- each.
      A room at the airport hotel would be R 500.- +/-
      Taxi ???? Some hotels provide taxis into town, otherwise reasonable.

      the overnight stay gives you the space you need and the mony? Just over 2000.-

      Good luck.

    • MLH

      God, we are so backward in this country…even those who think they’re educated. What on earth can you say about social media whwn you don’t even think of a webinar? For the first (and probably last) time in my life, I agree with Dave Harris!

    • Benzo

      @Dave & MLH : “…..give technology like webinars a chance next time OK? ”

      Tell that our dear government who are keeping SAA and its inflated ticket prices alive

    • Bana

      i enjoy the comments here about using technology, but have you considered that maybe Sarah wanted to be in CT as well, just for the heck of it.

    • Joshua Awesome

      Hey Sarah,It’s a greatday!Your piece pieced so much into it I can tell you’re a good communicator since a good one should recognize one.As I plan my return to South Africa this wknd,do want to say SAA rocks overseas as I have flown them for a decade now,not to mention experienced compensation from them too when they disappointed. Daily or regularly ride the Gautrain and as much as it closes 8.30pm it only reminds me of one thing “time is the currency of the 21st century”

    • Sarah Britten

      I suggested Skype but the client wants me there, in person. And – radical thought I know – I generally do as a client requests. Besides which, all the technology in the world is not a substitute for meeting face to face.

      As for you, GarethV, I’ve never called myself an expert and wouldn’t dream of it. The client saw me speak at a schools conference last year, liked what I had to say, and asked me to speak to his staff. But don’t let me get in the way of your little axe-grinding exercise.

      Benzo, I have meetings in Johannesburg the next day – I don’t have the luxury of staying overnight.

      AL, I noted that my attitude to the MD80 was irrational (I am aware that it’s probably “silly”). Nonetheless, that’s how I feel.

    • GarethV

      Well that seemed to touch a nerve. If you don’t consider yourself an ‘expert’ Sarah, whatever did you have to say? I am curious.