Airlink Jetstream 41 Economy Class

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Background

Airlink was founded in 1995 and is a privately-owned Johannesburg-based airline that specialises in less-travelled routes in Southern Africa. In South Africa the airline flies to Nelspruit, Polokwane, Pietermaritzburg, Phalaborwa, Upington, Umtata, Kimberley and George, along with servicing the bigger cities, as well. Beyond the South African borders, the destinations are Maseru (Lesotho), Antananarivo (Madagascar), Beira, Maputo, Pemba, Nampula and Tete (Mozambique), Manzini (Swaziland), Livingstone, Lusaka and Ndola (Zambia), and Bulawayo and Harare (Zimbabwe). In 1997 Airlink joined South African Airways and South African Express in a strategic alliance, and today, the airline operates over 3000 flights a month and services over 25 Southern African destinations.

Check-in

Friendly staff greeted us and there was little in the way of a queue. It was a quick and painless process.

Boarding

We arrived at our gate about five minutes early, but staff were already letting passengers through. However, their eagerness was perhaps a bit premature, as we sat on the bus for some time, before making our way to our aircraft. There we were informed that the technical staff were working on the plane, which we were able to see for ourselves, as it was taking place just a few metres away. Not the best PR for the airline and not the best for those more nervous flyers, with visions of technical defects and failing engines! I, though, appreciated the honesty of the airline staff and the problem was quickly resolved, with us boarding a few minutes later.

The Seat

We flew on a Jetstream 41 – Airlink’s regional turboprop airliner, which seats 29 passengers in a 2-2 configuration. If you’re comfortably over six foot in height, as I am, I would recommend requesting an aisle seat, or you could have an uncomfortable journey. Put simply, the J41 is not a big plane and if you’re tall, you’ll also find yourself stooping, from the moment you board. That being said, I was happy to endure that for the 70 minutes to Phalaborwa. From what I can gather, the longest J41 Airlink flight is the Nelspruit-Livingstone route, at two hours and 15 minutes, which may be a bit of a ‘stretch’ for those taller folk. Otherwise, Airlink uses the bigger Avro RJ85 and the ERJ 135-LR for their longer routes.

The Flight

The flight was fairly uneventful and comfortable, despite the lack of leg-room for this long-legged flyer! The flight staff were quickly into their stride and very attentive. Further to that, I rather enjoyed the lunchtime snack option, which was made available, along with a standard drinks offering. The chicken-and-cheese sandwich was actually very tasty and thoroughly enjoyable.

Arrival

We landed on time in Phalaborwa and I found it a rather unique experience to see our aircraft come to a standstill just metres from the entrance to the Phalaborwa airport – also known as Kruger Park Gateway Airport. But, you have to see the airport for yourself to appreciate that description. It really is a quaint structure, with animal statues adorning the interior and exterior of the building, and simulated animal tracks worked into the cement of the flooring beside the baggage carousel. A nice touch for a town more well-known for its proximity to the Kruger National Park. Incidentally, our luggage arrived promptly and we were soon on our way.

Verdict

A slick and efficient service, particularly if it’s just a short hop you need to make. However, just a word of warning – at the time of writing, the Airlink website was advertising the JHB-Phalaborwa flight for R1,615 (all inclusive, but one way), making it a fairly steep price for a 70-minute domestic flight.

Contact

flyairlink.com