Despite recent concerns about the financial stability and future of the airline, Air Namibia continues to fly as scheduled. Last week I flew with Air Namibia in Business Class from Cape Town to Windhoek on their Airbus A319.
|Route||Cape Town (CPT) to Windhoek (WDH)|
|Aircraft type||Airbus A319|
|Class of travel||Business|
I booked an Economy class ticket for $204, then upgraded to Business Class for an additional $32 via Optiontown. The regular Business Class airfare on this route starts at $351.
The Air Namibia check-in counters in Cape Town opened two hours before departure. There was a dedicated check-in queue for Business Class, as well as Gold and Platinum members of Air Namibia’s Reward$ frequent flyer program, but there wasn’t much of a line-up anyway. As seems to be normal in South Africa, there were a lot of security questions about my luggage. In particular, the check-in staff wanted to make absolute sure that there was nothing valuable in my suitcase.
There was an enormous queue for international security and immigration as my flight was leaving early in the evening, at the same time as many long-haul flights.
Air Namibia Business Class passengers can use the Bidvest Premier Lounge in Cape Town, located just after security. However, the normal lounge was completely full so I was sent to their overflow lounge on the ground floor, which was also crowded. The food was OK, and wifi and toilets were available.
Boarding for this flight commenced 55 minutes before departure from a bus bay. There was no priority boarding and we were herded unceremoniously onto a very hot bus with no air-conditioning. We were held inside the bus for almost half an hour before boarding, which frankly was very poor.
The Hard Product
There are four rows of Business Class on Air Namibia’s Airbus A319 in a standard 2-2 configuration. For some reason, the seats are numbered A/B and D/E, so my seat 1E was a window seat. On this flight, 9/16 seats in Business were filled but Economy was at capacity.
My seat was a bit worn and seemed a little bit broken. When I leaned back into the seat, the seat would recline back even if I wasn’t trying to recline, as if the mechanism wasn’t working properly. There was also a bizarre gap between my window seat and the window itself, as if the seats aren’t quite the right size. That said, the seat was quite comfortable and the legroom was very generous in every row of Business Class.
In-flight entertainment was available on this flight in the form of drop-down TV screens playing a variety of American TV shows. As I’ll get to shortly, streaming entertainment to your own device was also available.
The Soft Product
The Air Namibia Business Class service was nowhere near as polished as you would expect on Qantas or Virgin Australia. But it also wasn’t bad, and the crew were friendly.
After boarding, a pre-departure apple juice, orange juice or water was offered. The flight attendant then got a pile of newspapers out of the overhead locker, but didn’t distribute them.
I had a feeling that the purser was tired as he seemed disengaged. My suspicions were confirmed by the fact he audibly stated, “I am tired, I am tired” at one point!
At the start of the flight, we were told that all mobile phones and electronic devices must be switched off for the entire flight. Then, after take-off there was an announcement that we could stream in-flight entertainment content to our own devices through their AirFi system. So, mobile phones don’t have to be switched off then?
The AirFi system had around 4 movies and 16 TV shows to watch, as well as some games, magazines and music. For a 2-hour flight, it was more than sufficient.
After take-off, I was given a tablecloth and offered a drink from the bar. The wine choices were “white or red”. I elected for red wine, which ended up being a 2018 Guardian Peak cabernet sauvignon. This retails in South Africa for around $10 per bottle, but I didn’t mind it.
The dinner service was good. It started with a smoked salmon salad with feta and capers, which was delicious. This was accompanied by a bread roll.
When it was time for the main course, the flight attendant presented me with each of the three options and I was able to pick the one I wanted from the tray. The three dinner choices were all quite similar, but there was a choice of chicken, beef or seafood, all served with vegetables. I had the fish with prawns and vegetables, which was alright but not perfectly cooked. The fish was chewy and a bit dry.
The passionfruit sponge cake for dessert was very nice.
Air Namibia A319 Business Class
The Air Namibia Business Class service is not as polished as you’d expect on some other airlines, but the food was nice and the legroom in Business Class is impressive. Was it worth paying $32 to upgrade? Absolutely!
At the end of the day, I arrived at my destination safely and on-time. To be honest, given the well-publicised difficulties Air Namibia is facing, I was pleased that the flight ran at all.