LHR-FRA with Air Namibia
On my trip wish list, flying Air Namibia's Boeing 747-400 between London-Heathrow and Frankfurt has always featured high. This weekend I finally made it a reality. Air Namibia's only European destinations are LHR, FRA and MUC and the airline combines FRA with either one of the others on its routings. Moreover, the airline has local traffic rights between LHR and FRA and a convenient Saturday night service. After flying on a BA B737-436 up from FRA and spending a couple of hours at LHR, we (a friend/colleague and I) checked in at T3 for flight SW286. Checkin was at United counters with ground services provided by Swissport. We checked in some 75 minutes before departure and were the only one passengers at checkin. As some time was still left before departure, we wandered around the long concourses of T3, which is actually discouraged. Because of the small holding rooms at the gates, passengers are supposed to wait in the central departure lounge until called to their gates for immediate boarding. Not really like a world class airport, if you ask me... When we finally arrived at the gate, only some 40-50 passengers were waiting to board the flight. The plane would only fill up later in FRA, as Namibia is a popular tourist destination for Germans. At least a considerable amount of cargo was being loaded through the side cargo door of the 744 Combi. (The aircraft had been built for Asiana, who didn't pick it up and Air Namibia bought is as a white tail, thus the correct designation of V5-NMA is Boeing 747-48E SCD). After a 30 minute delay, supposedly to ATC, boarding finally commenced and naturally didn't take very long. After a rainy day, the sun had finally won over the clouds, and we took off into a beautiful evening from runway 27R. Unfortunately, my window seat was on the right side, otherwise the short take off roll, strong climb and left turn would have allowed a great view of Heathrow and London City, so all I saw was Windsor Castle.
During the flight we took some photos of the cabin, which was decorated very nicely in beige with accents of yellow, red and blue, and the friendly cabin crew noticed and asked if we also wanted to see First and Business Class and the cockpit! No need to say we accepted the kind invitation! First is in the nose, Business in the upper deck. The aircraft appeared to be well kept, with a nice interior design, comfy seats and a generous seat pitch in coach. A small snack was served in a box along with beverages, of course the 10+ crew had little to do on this 70 minute flight. It was really fun to fly such a big, empty aircraft on a short hop. Every aspect, including safety instructions, attentiveness and professionalism of the crew was on world class level. Most of the cabin crew was African, as was the First Officer, while the pilot was white. Flying into the night, we arrived at FRA only with a short delay, touching down very smoothly. Most of the passengers continued to Windhoek and were asked to stay onboard during refuelling. Upon disembarking, we saw a much larger crowd waiting to board.
Air Namibia truly lives up to its claim "First Class World Class" and I wish the airline and beautiful country of Namibia (which I had the pleasure to visit some years ago) all the best, and I hope to be back on board one day!
I hope some photos come out well and I can upload them to a.net.
Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been...