Airlink, South Africa's privately owned airline, recently launched a route between Johannesburg and Nairobi. The airline now flies to over 45 destinations in 15 countries, and last week I got to fly on one of its latest routes.

The flight was operated on an Embraer 190 and was extremely smooth, considering the excellent weather conditions in Southern Africa. Johannesburg to Nairobi is also the airline's second-longest route in mainland Africa after Entebbe.

Traveling through the airport

Johannesburg OR Tambo (JNB) is Africa's largest and busiest airport, so it can be confusing for first-time travelers. However, it can be straightforward to travel through for frequent flyers and anyone who carefully follows the signs. Airlink has several check-in counters, which can easily be found in Terminal B.

My flight was scheduled to take off at 09:40, and although I checked in online 24 hours before, I arrived at the airport around 07:00 local time. The queue at the counter was not long, and once I presented my passport, I was able to check in my luggage and proceed to customs. Airlink economy has a 20 kg baggage allowance per customer, so as long as you don't exceed the limit, the process will be smooth.

Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport terminal
Photo: maurodopereira / Shutterstock

I proceeded to customs to get my passport stamped and carry-on luggage inspected. There was quite a long queue here, but fortunately, it was the only security checkpoint at JNB, so after getting my items scanned, I made my way to the gate.

Although the gate was about ten minutes away, it was pretty simple to find by following the signs. As an economy class ticket holder, I did not get to visit Airlink's lounge at the airport. The waiting area at the gate was quite spacious, so it could accommodate all the other passengers waiting for their regional flights. When boarding time arrived, I received my boarding pass, entered the airport bus, and proceeded to the aircraft.

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Boarding and seating

We arrived at the apron about thirty minutes before takeoff, where the E190 was getting prepared for the flight. Boarding was also smooth as few people were on this early morning flight. However, I was the last one to board as I had to get some images of the aircraft.

Photo: Tatenda Karuwa | Simple Flying

Upon entering, I was welcomed by a friendly crew, who showed me to my seat. Airlink's economy class has a 2+2 configuration, while business class has a 2+1 configuration. The seats are about 50 cm wide, 10 cm apart, and have navy blue covers, matching the crew's uniform.

Airlink economy class seats
Photo: Tatenda Karuwa | Simple Flying

Passengers have a choice between a window and an aisle seat, and I chose to sit by the window as I do on every flight. The cabin floor is also lined with a clean navy blue carpet, with enough legroom to enjoy a regional flight. We taxied to the runway and took off at precisely 09:40, showing why Airlink has been ranked as South Africa's most punctual airline year to date.

Onboard service

The JNB-NBO route is not the most demanded, so the cabin was not full, and I had the freedom to move around once the seatbelt signs were off. A few minutes later, the crew began its food service, which I expected at a later stage of the flight.

The service began with a complimentary beverage, with a choice of water, juice, or a soft drink. I got some mango juice, and a few minutes later, they began to serve the food. They offered passengers Fusilli pasta with beef, chicken, or vegetarian options. On the JNB-NBO flight, I tried the chicken option, and on the return, I had the beef strips.

The meal was served with a complimentary hot beverage, with white coffee being my choice, as always. Although food sometimes loses taste at high altitudes, the meal was excellent and flavorful. Other snacks and beverages were served throughout the flight, including potato chips, nuts, dried fruit, Appletizers, and wines.

The tray tables were big enough to accommodate the food and beverages, and they maintained a 90-degree angle even when the seats were fully reclined. They also had enough space to accommodate a laptop, so I managed to do some work and prepare for my conference.

Unfortunately, the carrier does not offer WiFi onboard, and there are no powerpoints to plug in your devices. However, passengers get a free copy of Airlink's Skyways Magazine, containing the latest industry updates and information about their destinations.

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Arriving in Nairobi

Most of Southern Africa is going through winter, so the clear skies offered us a turbulence-free flight. However, Nairobi is in summer, so it was a bit cloudy and turbulent as we approached for landing. The flight was about four hours, and we also arrived on time.

Airlink passengers disembarking at Nairobi Airport
Photo: Airlink

Deplaning was simple, and an Airlink team on the ground took us straight to the terminal. The arrival terminal at Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta (NBO) is relatively small, so there was a very long line of people waiting to go through immigration. Luckily we did not land after an A350 or a B777 because we would have spent a great deal of time in the queue.

I spent three days in Nairobi, attending the AviaDev Africa event. I returned to Johannesburg on Airlink's Saturday flight, and although the cabin had many more people, the service was just as good. We flew past Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, and arrived at JNB on time.

What do you think of my recent flight between Johannesburg and Nairobi? Have you flown on this route since it was launched? Let us know in the comments!