Background: Airlink’s origins are rooted in three small airlines, Magnum Airlines, Border Air and City Air, which merged to form Link Airways in the 80s. Subsequently, Link Airways was liquidated in 1992. After Rodger Foster and Barrie Webb, the two founders, had successfully bid for the business, they named the newly acquired airline Airlink. The airline has developed into South Africa’s first feeder network, specifically aimed at linking the smaller towns, the regional centres and hubs throughout South Africa. Airlink makes several daily flights to Skukuza.
Pre-Flight & Check-In: I checked in online the day before my flight and was able to choose my preferred seat. The whole process was quick and simple. The afternoon flight from OR Tambo International Airport produced no queue at the check-in and bag drop desks and the short line at the security checkpoint moved quickly. I was airside within 10 minutes.
Lounge: There was no lounge access with this ticket, although there are a number of business lounges at ORTIA that allow for walk-ins, at a cost. Instead, I made my way down to the boarding gate and purchased a cappuccino from the Vida e Café kiosk. There were a number of tables with benches and chairs, courtesy of the coffee shop, where I was able to sit and set up my laptop for a quick work task.
Boarding: The boarding gate opened on time and I was quickly on board the bus that would take me to the plane. However, the bus didn’t depart the terminal for a good 10 minutes. The other halfdozen passengers and I were extremely restless by the time we left. Turns out that we were waiting no-show passengers. Once on board, we were quickly in the air.
The Flight: Although we were slightly delayed in departing, the flight was still able to adhere to its landing time. The cabin attendant served drinks and snacks to the passengers scattered throughout the otherwise-empty cabin. I sipped a bottle of sparkling water while listening to an audiobook and before I knew it, we were descending for landing in the Kruger National Park.
Arrival: Skukuza Airport, inside the KNP, is a small airport with a runway just long enough to accommodate the ERJ. The afternoon heat created a small amount of turbulence, which the pilot handled skilfully. It was a short walk from the aircraft to the airport terminal. The ground crew was quick to unload the luggage in the hold and delivered it to the parking lot for passengers to collect.
Verdict: A convenient service that cuts travel time to the Kruger Park by a good three hours.