Review: Air Namibia ERJ135, Windhoek – Maun – Victoria Falls


Air Namibia was the national airline of Namibia and operated a small but interesting route network across the southern saharan African belt. Instead of routing ourselves through South Africa at time and expense, we opted for their direct service on their Embraer 135 regional jet, hopscotching across through Botswana to Zimbabwe.

This post is one chapter on our trip to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mauritius and the United Arab Emirates. This trip was redeemed through American Airlines AAdvantage & Alaska Mileage Plan. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Air Namibia ERJ135, Windhoek – Maun – Victoria Falls

“Air Namibia, the flag carrier of Namibia, offered convenient regional jet service across South Africa in one of the most unique fifth freedom flights between Botswana and Zimbabwe”

We continued on from Namibia to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwae with the national flag air carrier Air Namibia. We had the flight option of getting to Victoria Falls via British Airways or South African Airways with a connection in Johannesburg. It was really out of the way for us to take the South African Airways or British Airways route and would have been about a 7 hour trip. It made much more sense for us to go direct on the 4x weekly flight from Windhoek – Maun – Victoria Falls, in about a 3 hour trip. It also put us into Victoria Falls just before lunch, allowing us to get more out of the rest of the day. As we had purchased a ticket from Cape Town to Victoria Falls (with a Windhoek stopvoer) the ticket was also reasonably priced.

Checking Into Air Namibia:

The Windhoek International Airport is approximately 40 km from the town of Windhoek. I don’t know what the rationale was behind putting the airport way out there, as there is heaps of available real estate around Windhoek proper. It took us about 30 minutes to drive out there from the Hilton Windhoek.

When we got there to return the rental car, Hertz did a close check over of the car. They loved the cleaning job (they didn’t say anything), and actually asked to see proof of the gas receipts despite the fuel gauge showing as full. Since we had received the car as full, but not super full, I had the assumption that filling up in Windhoek and driving the 40 km out to the airport was okay. The lot attendant didn’t tell us anything, other than indicate that everything was “OK” and we went inside to check in.

Returning our car at the Hertz counter, we asked for our contract to be officially closed out so that we could get our 127,241 NAD$ ($8,946.36 USD) First Amount Payable deposit refunded to our card. The manager indicated that the car wasn’t full of diesel and that another 55.17 NAD$ ($3.88 USD) in fuel had to be added to the tank to the contract being closed out. We ended up waiting another 10 minutes at the counter allowing for this to be completed. I challenged them about the car not being completely full, but they didn’t really have anything to say about it – nor did they budge from their position. Thankfully, there was no labor or administrative charge for the fuel.

We headed over to Air Namibia’s check in desks where there were huge lines. They had 3 flights departing, and only 3 staffed counter agents working including business class. At the time of this report, they didn’t offer online check in and it was a really slow process in comparison to our Cape Town quick and easy check in experience. There were no self service kiosks available. It took us approximately 30 minutes in line, in addition to the 10 minutes at the Hertz counter to get us shorted out. If you find yourselves departing from here, make sure you leave yourselves lots of extra time.

Lining Up at Air Namibia Check In
Queuing for Air Namibia

Our Embraer 135 flights advertised and included only one piece of checked baggage and only one carry on due to the small size of the aircraft. Despite being a few pounds over, and traveling with a carry on rolling suitcase, Air Namibia was not concerned about the bag weight or the rollies.

We headed through security and into the small holding area. The Windhoek airport does not have any gates and the boarding is all through walking across the apron onto your plane.

Windhoek International Airport – International Departures Concourse

We ended up walking out to our Air Namibia Embraer 135, passing by a South African Airways Airlink Embraer 135 along with an Air Namibia A330 parked on the apron.

Apron Views: South African Airways Airlink Embraer 135 & Air Namibia Airbus 330
Air Namibia
Economy Class
WDH-MUB-VFA (Windhoek International Airport – Muan – Victoria Falls)
April 25, 2016
Booked: Embruaer 135
Flown: Embruaer 135
Departure: 8:15 AM
Arrival: 11:35 AM

On Board an Air Namibia Embraer 135:

We got on board the Air Namibia Embraer 135 . The cabin is a single class of service with no separate business class seating. We managed to get the rolliing suitcases under our seats after we thinned them out. They didn’t fit in the overheads as with other ERJ135’s of this type, which offer a compact slim briefcase storage capacity only.

Air Namibia Economy Class

Thankfully, there were only about 20 on board today out of 36 seat capacity and as a result, there were a lot of empty seats. The seat configuration was 1-2, similar to other ERJ135’s I have been on. It was quite a relief that we were able to get our bags onboard as we had 70 lbs baggage allowance and two bags on all our other flights on this trip except for our Air Namibia flights; making this the biggest baggage weight worry of the trip.

Air Namibia Economy Class
Compact Seating

Unusual for old fashioned Africa, our pilots today were both women. We had a quick and straight departure eastwards towards Maun, Botswana. I still can’t get over how interesting the bush scenery is in this part of the world. There are miles and miles to be flown without much to look at on the ground.

Rural Departures

The Meal: A Bunwich Breakfast

A bunwich breakfast was served, along with a tea and coffee service.

Air Namibia Breakfast Box
Enjoy Your Meal: Breakfast in a Box

Our flight time was only a little over an hour with a +1 hour time change. There wasn’t much to look at along the way, with some pretty flat topography.

A Stopover in Maun, Botswana

We came in for a straight approach into Maun, Botswana. On the final approach, I had the opportunity to see some of the local square housing that residents lived in under the landing flight path.

Resident Housing in Maun, Botswana

Most of the plane’s passengers got off in Maun, Botswana leaving only 7 passengers (including ourselves) continuing onto Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I was relieved a bit that there wasn’t a flight cancellation due to low passenger numbers. The pilot announced a 35 minute technical stop period. We happened to arrive early, and not a lot happened during that technical stop. We didn’t take on any fuel, although the captian did proceed to do a walk around of the plane. The sole flight attendant also cleaned every single unoccupied seat and table with an alcohol spray. I’d never see that on United Airlines! I thought that we were waiting for additional passengers, although none ever showed up. We eventually got underway for a 35 minute flight to Victoria Falls.

Views of the Maun Airport
Welcome to Maun

After the stopover, we got underway for our second leg to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.


The Second Service: A Biltong Snack

There was a snack service between Maun and Victoria Falls. It was the first time I’d ever been served Biltong (cured meat) on board an aircraft as a snack. Biltong is a common cured meat snack found in South Africa and is a great tasty snack.

Arriving to Victoria Falls International Airport:

As we landed, those on the left side of the aircraft had a view of the Victoria Falls waterfall mist. It wasn’t a view worth writing home about, as it was quite a ways away. Yes that’s it with the faint horizon.

Mist View of the Victoria Falls on the horizon

Arriving into Victoria Falls International Airport in Zimbabwe, there were some interesting aircraft on the ground. I was pretty sure Air Zimbabwe was insolvent after they stopped flying internationally to the United Kingdom but their air frames still appear to be still around. You can see one of their planes parked in front of the old Victoria Falls terminal building.

Air Zimbabwe B737-5
Arriving to Victoria Falls
The New Victoria Falls International Airport
Welcome to Zimbabwe

We got off the slick looking Air Namibia Embraer 135 and entered into the Victoria Falls International Airport.

Air Namibia Embraer 135 on the ground at VFA

The Victoria Falls Airport has under gone a vast improvement since the last time I had passed through there some 19 years ago. The airport has actual jet bridges now, although our plane was too short to use them. All seven of us unloaded on to the tarmac and headed for International Arrivals where our visas where processed. The US cash dollars for the Zimbabwe Visa’s were received and placed loosely into a drawer at the immigration booth. It was the first time I had ever traveled internationally and only had another 5 passengers to deal with at the immigration counters, similar to flying private.

My Thoughts on Air Namibia:

Air Namibia was generally great to deal with. There were no hassles and everyone that we dealt with, from check in, to the crew, to the pilots were pleasant and enthusiastic. The only minus was the lack of online check in and the queues at Windhoek airport that were quite long and slow. I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to fly them again in the future.

Unfortunately, as reported earlier, Air Namibia suffered as a result of years of government debt and insolvency. It ceased operations in February 2021. It’s service regionally is now filled by South African Airways Airlink and British Airways Comair.

If you have flown this oddball connecting flight from Namibia through Botswana to Zimbabwe, did you find it to be a neat experience?

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