Just in case anyone has planned to go to South Africa with British Airways let me tell you of my recent experience.
The ONLY reason I used BA was because I had to go to Cape Town to meet my friends before we drove up to the Eastern Cape. Had South African Airways not stopped the direct London to Cape Town flight last September then I would have flown with SAA as I have before.
The final dates for the hunting took a little while to sort out so by the time I booked about three months ago the flight alone cost me £1,058. Take it or leave it. I have about 50,000 Avios from years ago but you try and spend them to upgrade or even to pay part of your flight...almost impossible!
I did inform BA weeks ago that I would be taking a firearm and ammunition. I also notified them again the week before...just to be sure. I was told that there was a record of that fact 'on my file'.
On Monday the 1st of July I called the BA Customer Services number and eventually, after the obligatory wait, spoke to 'Fraser in Newcastle'. Now Fraser in Newcastle was very helpful and by the end of our conversation I was assured that when I got to Heathrow, the £50 handling charge for my firearm and the ammunition (which has to be in a separate box for South Africa) would be the only additional charge I would have to pay. Wrong!
At check in I was told that I had to pay for an extra bag to cover the rifle case and the ammunition box. I argued, mentioned Fraser in Newcastle but that was to no avail so I stumped up £90, fifty for the 'handling by Security' and forty for the bag. What choice do you have at that stage??
The trip was good the hunting was good I ate too much meat and drank too much alcohol but that is a sign of a good trip! Job done.
Last Sunday evening I went to check in at Cape Town International. The lady on check in seemed a little confused and eventually had to call the Supervisor. The issue was bags. Now being aware that the rifle case constituted an extra bag I pre-paid for it when I checked-in on-line. (It was £33.60 instead of £40.00). However, the problem then was that (unlike London) the 'system' would not let the check-in desk issue and extra luggage label for my ammo box without the 'system' recognising that as an extra bag and insisting I pay for yet another bag! The Supervisor called the Manager.
How could it be that in London the rifle and the ammo box are 'lumped' together whilst in South Africa they are not? Who knows, certainly the BA people don't seem to know, they seem to make the rules up as they go!
The final solution? Put the ammo in my check in bag with my personal belongings. Cannot do it on the outward journey but OK on the return...or so it seemed in my case.
So the problem of cost (for the second 'additional' bag) was solved and it now meant that my personal belongings (containing my ammo) now had to have a 'Firearms' label on it like my gun case. The upside to this is that Security had to handle both my rifle case and my personal belongings so that when I arrived at Heathrow my rifle and my personal bag were already waiting for me with the Security handler when I went to the carousel. No waiting for bags.
I hate BA.
Would it have been better to fly to Jo'burg and then take Kalula or Mango to Cape Town or Port Elizabeth, or should I have flown Lufthansa or whoever?
Any suggestions welcome!