This year my son, Damian, decided that instead of a birthday party, he wanted to visit our family in East London who we haven’t seen in quite some time, and so we planned a quick 2-night trip. When searching for budget flights, we came across FlySafair, a flight service we had not yet tried before.
The booking process was simple, although I must mention that even though the basic flight costs are reasonable, make allowance for other expenses that are usually included in airfare on other carriers. For example, you are allowed to have 7kg hand luggage in the cabin, but if you want to check a bag into the cargo, there is an additional charge. You also pay extra if you want to be able to choose your own seats, and these prices vary according to where you want to sit. As we were only going for 2 nights, I decided I could manage just with 7kg of hand luggage between myself and Damian, but I chose to pay to be able to select our seats to make sure that we were sitting together, close to the front of the plane to make boarding easier, and so that Damian could have a window seat – flying really is a highlight for him and he loves to look out of the window.
When booking our flights, I tried to book wheelchair assistance, but FlySafair have a maximum number of wheelchair passengers they can accommodate on a flight, so there was no availability. As these were the only dates I had available to fly, I phoned customer support for assistance. They advised that as long as I was able to assist Damian myself, then I could still book the flights, but wouldn’t be able to book Passenger Assistance. This was fine with me, as I am able to carry Damian myself onto the plane, so I went ahead and booked our tickets which was a simple online process, with varying payment options which made it easy to do within minutes.
The day before our flights, I received an email to check-in online which I did, and our boarding passes were made available to download to my phone, or email. On arriving at the airport, I was able to skip the check-in queue as I also didn’t have any bags to check-in, and go straight through to boarding. The downloaded boarding passes were scanned at security, and I was directed to our boarding gates. On checking in at the boarding gates, I was advised that I should have booked the Passenger Assist Unit, and it dawned on me that even though I was advised that I didn’t need to if I could carry Damian myself, I would still need for him to be transported on the truck that transports wheelchair users to the plane and elevates the truck platform to allow boarding. They were very accommodating and added us to the list of passengers using the truck and provided assistance to the door of the plane, where I carried Damian on, and his wheelchair was taken to the cargo hold. The air hostess visited us at our seat to personally explain the safety procedures before others boarded and the general safety briefing was given to the rest of the passengers.
The flight was smooth, with on board service providing snacks available for purchase. We had an incident that I must mention was expertly handled by the crew. On approaching East London, as we were about to land, adverse weather conditions resulted in the airport being closed and our plane, and the one just ahead of us, being diverted and unable to land. The swift acceleration and ascent was a little alarming, but the captain quickly came on to advise us that we were being diverted to Port Elizabeth where we could land, and they would keep us informed on what would happen next. We landed in Port Elizabeth and were told they would wait it out for half an hour, and then make a decision on whether we:
a) attempt East London again;
b) take the option of disembarking in Port Elizabeth; or
c) return to Cape Town
After half an hour, we were told the weather had cleared somewhat in East London and we would try again, however they couldn’t guarantee it would still be clear on arrival, on which we would immediately head back to Cape Town. Fortunately, we were able to land… to cheers from passengers in the cabin! Damian insisted on high-fiving the hosts and captain! Our wheelchair was brought to us on the wheelchair truck and disembarking was effortless. Our return flight experienced similar hospitality (without the excitement of a diverted plane).
All in all, we had a pleasant and professional experience with FlySafair, and wouldn’t hesitate to use their services again for domestic flights.