Last November, I enjoyed a fabulous holiday in Namibia. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Concorde Room at London Heathrow Airport
- Review: British Airways Boeing 777 First Class from London to Johannesburg
- Review: South African Airlink E190 Business Class from Johannesburg to Windhoek (today)
- Review: &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge
- Review: Zannier Hotels Omaanda
- Review: Zannier Hotels Sonop
- Review: Little Kulala Camp by Wilderness Safaris
- Review: Damaraland Camp by Wilderness Safaris
- Review: Hoanib Skeleton Coast by Wilderness Safaris
- Review: Onguma The Fort (Etosha National Park)
Today: Review – Airlink E190 Business Class from Johannesburg to Windhoek
After I arrived with British Airways in Johannesburg, I connected to a Business Class flight with Airlink to Windhoek (the last leg of my journey to Namibia). I was shocked by the surreal scene at Johannesburg O.R. Tambo: the major airport was completely deserted, all shops were closed, and only a handful of flights were operating. Unfortunately, South Africa is hit very badly by the pandemic, and my stopover at Jo’burg was even before the Omnicron variant emerged in the country. The latter lead to blanket travel bans which – we all know now – prooved senseless and caused further economic and social havoc. I do hope the tourism industry in South Africa – my favorite country in the world – will soon recover.
British Airways used to codeshare with its franchise partner Comair on the Johannesburg to Windhoek route, but shifted its codeshare agreement to Airlink after Comair entered into voluntary business due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Airlink is currently Southern Africa’s largest airline. The privately owned carrier has a fleet of over 50 commercial jetliners and operates to more than 45 destinations in 13 African countries and to St Helena Island. Contrary to other companies in the aviation industry, Airlink has grown significantly during the pandemic, partly in response to the problems encountered by other airlines in the region: Namibia’s national carrier Air Namibia ceased operations, and South Africa’s flag carrier South African Airways did not fly a single scheduled flight for 18 months (the carrier restarted operations though in September 2021).
The flight from Johannesburg to Windhoek – operated by Airlink’s largest aicraft type, an Embraer E190 – was uneventful. And although the carrier’s Business Class product is nothing to write home about (as expected), there was one standout: a simple yet surprisingly delicious meal, which ranks among the best plane food I’ve ever been served (more on that below).
I made a YouTube video with my impressions onboard, which you can watch here:
- Trip: Johannesburg O.R. Tambo Airport (JNB) to Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH)
- Airline: Airlink
- Aircraft type: Embraer E190
- Aircraft registration number: ZA-YAA (previously a Virgin Australia aircraft)
- On time departure: yes (10:30 am)
- On time arrival: yes (12:30 pm)
- Miles: 724
- Flight time: 2 hours
- Seat: 2A
- Class: Business Class
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Facts about Airlink
- Facts about Embraer
- Business Class cabin + seat
- Other inflight experiences
- My verdict (score)
Here are some facts & figures about Airlink:
- Airlink is currently Africa’s second largest carrier measured by number of flights (behind Ethiopian Airlines) and the continent’s third largest carrier measured by seats offered (behind Ethiopian Airlines and EgyptAir) .
- Airlink collaborates with many of the largest international airlines globally, including Emirates, British Airways, Lufthansa, Qatar and United Airlines, through interline and codeshare agreements. This offers international travelers more choice and connectivity on the widest network of destinations throughout Southern Africa.
- Airlink is a member of IATA (the International Air Transport Association) and is IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit program) accredited since 2006. IATA is the trade association for airlines across the globe, which supports many areas of aviation activity and help formulate industry policy on critical aviation issues. IATA assists airlines to operate safely, securely, efficiently, and economically under clearly defined rules.
- Besides its regular destinations, Airlink also offers “Lodge Link” service: it flies to popular safari lodge airstrips located at Arathusa, Londolozi, and Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa.
- Airlink’s most iconic destinations is St Helena, one of the remotest islands in the world, lying in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean between Brazil and Angola. The British Overseas Territory of St. Helena is best known as the place where Napoleon died. Airlink’s flight from Johannesburg to Windhoek is operated by an E190 and takes approximately 6 hours, with a refueling stopover at Windhoek en route.
Here are some facts & figures about Embraer:
- Founded in 1969, Embraer is a Brazilian multinational aerospace manufacturer and the third largest producer of civil aircraft, after Boeing and Airbus.
- The main production facilities and headquarters of Embraer are in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but the company also has facilities outside of Brazil, including a factory in Evora, Portugal, and a production facility in Orlando, Florida.
- Embraer’s most famous aircraft is the E-Jet. The model was introduced at the Paris Air Show in 1999 and made its first commercial flight in 2004 with Polish LOT airlines from Warsaw to Vienna.
- The Embraer E-Jet family has been a huge commercial success primarily, primarily because of the plane’s ability to efficiently serve lower-demand routes. More than 1,700 E-Jets have been delivered so far. The E190/195 models are larger stretches of the original E170/175 models fitted with a larger wing, larger horizontal stabilizer, and new engine.
- Compared to many of their competitors, Embraer commercial aircraft are significantly more fuel efficient and this is one of the reasons why major airline companies are eager to buy aircraft form this manufacturer.
- About every 10 seconds an aircraft manufactured by Embraer takes off somewhere in the world, transporting over 145 million passengers a year.
3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN + SEATS
Airlink’s E190 features a small Business Class cabin. There are only 6 Business Class seats in a 2-1 layout, located in front of the 92 seat Economy Class cabin. There’s no divider between the Business and Economy Class cabin (although a curtain is closed once up in the air).
The Business Class seats are upholstered in high-quality blue leather. With a pitch of 94 cm (37 inches) and a width of 46 cm (18 cm), the seat feels relatively comfortable. One of the seat’s arm rests holds a bi-fold tray table, which is small but adequate enough for dining. The seat can be reclined but – unfortunately – lacks a leg rest.
The highlight of the flight was a delicious meal, served approximately 20 min after takeoff. The main course consisted of ostrich fillet with sweet chilli herbed polenta, and was served on one tray with potato salad as starter and carrot cake as a desert. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in Business Class (the ostrich tasted terrific).
Airlink does not provide (private) entertainment screens on its aircraft, not even in Business Class, so make sure to bring your own entertainment when flying with the carrier.
6. ONBOARD INTERNET
Airlink has not installed WiFi on its aircrfaft.
7. MY VERDICT
- Seat comfort (upright): 7
- Seat comfort (bed position): N/A
- Food (quality): 9
- Food (quantity): 8
- Inflight entertainment : 0/10 (not available)
- WiFi: 0/10 (not available)
- Service: 8/10
- Cabin design: 5/10
- Overall experience: mediocre (except for the great meal)