Flyafrica.com launched in July, with three weekly flights between Johannesburg (South Africa) and Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe). It currently operates four weekly return flights to Vic Falls and, from 3 November, daily flights between Johannesburg and Harare (Zimbabwe). In February 2015, Namibia Flyafrica will launch flights between Johannesburg and Windhoek (Namibia), with routes to Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe expected to follow shortly thereafter. The airline’s low-cost model allows passengers to tailor their experience to suit their needs and budget. Aside from the seat, customers can book online for checked luggage, extra carry-on bags, pre-assigned seating, onboard refreshments and entertainment, and even lounge access at certain airports.
The check-in desk at O.R. Tambo International Airport opened two hours before the flight was scheduled to take off. I had to purchase a weight allowance for my check-in suitcase and was slightly nervous that I had over-packed and would need to pay for additional luggage. Thankfully, however, I was just under the weight limit of 15 kilograms. My carry-on bag was also weighed, to ensure I wasn’t taking too much on board. My laptop bag, essentially a second carry-on, wasn’t an issue.
Lounge & Boarding
Although it is possible to purchase lounge access on Flyafrica’s website, I opted against this as the cost of R300 each way didn’t justify the benefits for me personally. Instead, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before making my way down to the boarding gate. The gate opened on time and a single bus ferried passengers to the waiting aircraft.
The B737-500 has 120 seats – 20 rows in a 3-3 configuration. The no-frills seats are upholstered in grey leather. There is a simple button to activate the backrest, and a tray folds down from the seatback in front of you. There is no built-in entertainment, although you can rent an iPad with movies and games. The one clever addition to the seat is the width-adjustable armrest, allowing fuller figured passengers more comfort during take-off and landing when it’s mandatory for the armrest to be lowered. If legroom is an issue, I strongly suggest spending the extra R60 to pre-book an exit row seat.
The flight took off on time for the 1h40 minute journey and once we reached cruising altitude, the flight attendants, dressed in jeans, golf shirts and sneakers, made their way through the cabin with refreshments. There was an assortment of drinks – tea, coffee, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages – and snacks – crisps, chocolates, biltong and savoury biscuits – on offer, which can be paid for in cash if not already paid for when booking your ticket. Both US dollars and rands are acceptable, but items work out slightly cheaper if you pay in rands – it’s a simple 10-to-one exchange rate on board. I highly recommend pre-booking your refreshments, as it does work out cheaper than buying on board, even if you’re paying in rands.
We touched down smoothly and it was a short taxi to the international arrivals terminal. Before entering the building, all passengers were offered a bottle of chilled water to help combat the blistering heat. Once inside, I joined the queue to have my passport stamped by a friendly customs official, who was happy to welcome neighbours into his country. There is no visa or entry tax payable for South African passport holders. Half a dozen steps past passport control, I watched my bag being off-loaded from the aircraft before being wheeled to the terminal for collection. I was stopped by a customs official on my way out who asked me a couple of quick questions before waving me on my way.
It might seem like the low-cost model can get complicated, what with all the different things you can choose to add to your seat booking, but the website makes it easy to include all the things you’ll need for a comfortable flight. I was worried about the luggage weight limit and next time will opt for the 20 kilogram option, for peace of mind, as 15 kilograms was a bit of a squeeze for this anxious packer.