Review of Air Zimbabwe flight Victoria Falls Harare in Economy

Airline Air Zimbabwe
Flight UM323
Class Economy
Seat --
Aircraft Boeing 737-200
Flight time 01:00
Take-off 14 Jan 15, 16:10
Arrival at 14 Jan 15, 17:10
UM 5 reviews
Bo
By 4167
Published on 11th November 2015
==============[Go towards the end for flight report]====================

Happy new year!

Can't believe it's already 2016 and I am still posting pictures from January 2015. Below is a special trip report on my travel to Zimbabwe last year with Air Zim flight from Victoria Falls to Harare.

Prior to this, I had flown to South Africa on Swiss International. You can see the flight report here:
http://flight-report.com/en/report-11911.html

Before traveling to Zimbabwe, I spent a week in Western Cape, and drove to Port Elizabeth. From there, I made an overnight trip to Addo national park before flying from PE to JNB and continue to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe on South African (Airlink). There aren't may pictures from this flight but I will try to find some and put up a trip report.

I flew to Bulawayo from JNB. Bulawayo Airport at the time only received flights from JNB, VFA, and HRE. VFA and HRE are served by UM on a triangle route. JNB is served by SA operated by Airlink. There may be a Durban flight now but that was not the case when I went.


After landing in BUQ, I first went to the UM office at the airport to purchase my flight to HRE. The cost was 115 USD and credit card was accepted. However the way the ticket was booked was funny… When I requested to purchase a flight, the only employee there whom I spoke to took my credit card and booked me a flight on a travel agent's website. He told me if he had booked using UM's own system, I'd have to pay in cash.

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I asked to see if I can upgrade to first class since the cost is only $10 more, solely for the novelty of it. However the gentleman helping me told me he did not know how to do that.

Next up I went to Bulawayo train station to book my sleeper train to Victoria Falls. A few pictures of the train station.

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Train schedule was handwritten on a chalkboard. The train to VFA is daily with a different platform used on Sundays. I had always wanted to go to Botswana by train, but could not obtain a visa easily.

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The cost of my first class sleeper was $12. I was not expecting much comfort, but it turned out to be much nicer of a ride than the Yangon-Mandalay train ride I took a few years back, which costed triple the amount. Tickets are only sold 1 day before departure and reservations of sleeping berths were taken by hand, drawn onto a diagram. I really wanted to take a photo of the poorly made diagram, but decided against it thinking taking photo of others lack of advanced technology for my own amusement is probably rude.

(And of course we had to say hi to Mr. President)
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After that we went to the Railway Museum

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Some very old cars



And apparently this is how people got from the Victoria Falls hotel to the falls half a century ago

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We met a museum worker, who was probably of retirement age and is of European descent. Most Europeans left the country in the years after independence and he was the only European local I had met throughout my week long stay in the country. Speaking with a very distinctive accent, he was more than enthusiastic and offered us a tour of all the old railway cars.

He had co-authored a book on the history of Rhodesia Railways, which we bought for $2. Very interesting book.

He did not want to pose for a photo when I requested, but signed our books and gifted us some stamped envelops from Zimbabwe's first participation in the 1984 Los Angles Olympics.



We stayed at the Bulawayo club, which was nice enough considering the location. It has a yesteryear feel. We were the only guests there.

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The sketch paper provided by the club also belonged to another era, with telegraph address listed

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Some pictures from the city. Its architecture reminded me of the Eritrean capital Asmara



We tried to go to Matobo National Park. However renting a car proved to be very difficult. We were also unsuccessful in finding a driver who wants to be hired for the day. Some minibus drivers offered to drop us off at the park entrance, but none were coming back the same day and could not tell us how we can flag a bus to come back. Having the train leaving in the evening we decided not to risk it.

First class lounge at the train station. No access on our $12 ticket.

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I was hoping the train to be delayed by several hours so that we pass through Hwange National Park during daylight. However as often as that usually happens, it did not on the day we took the train. A bit disappointing but we arrived at the lovely Victoria Falls Hotel before noon.


Some pictures from the hotel. It's a very storied hotel and we decided to stay on the Zimbabwe side so we can stay at this hotel. This place, though expensive, was totally worth the money. People who work there are true old school hoteliers, not the ones who charge you $500 a night because they can at the location (eye rolls to some NYC/LON/MIA hotels)




I'm not British so I don't feel it is a big deal. But the Cape to Cairo idea is so prevalent here that almost every landmark has this… Definitely no one cares about this nowadays in Cairo

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After dinner we returned to a nest over our beds

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Some old BOAC posters

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BOAC's route to Johannesburg during the colonial times. These were operated by seaplanes and therefore departure from Southhampton. I wonder where they landed the planes in Khartoum. In the White Nile?

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Some pictures from the falls

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Where David Livingstone first spotted the falls



The bridge connecting Zimbabwe to Zambia

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We also went rafting (not pictured). Highly recommend.

We arrived at the airport 1 hour before our departure time. Zimbabwe does not allow photography at airports for some reason. So there's no picture of the terminal inside.

This is the new domestic terminal. It's a very basic generic building, probably built by the Chinese as it very closely resembles a new county level administrative building in China.

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Boarding passes were hand written. The staff did not have computers. Our passports were taken and names checked against a hand written passenger list.

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Baggage check was handwritten also. Not sure why there's a line of German (?) translation (did I mistake Afrikaans for German?)

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The airport facility fee is payable upon check in

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There was no jet bridge, which was good since I wanted a picture of one of UM's three only aircrafts (they fly a 767 HRE-JNB and a Chinese regional jet domestically in addition to this 737 - 200

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The classic angle when boarding remote stand

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The cabin. It shows its age and probably should be refurbished if they can


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Waiting for takeoff

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We were delayed due to ATC (really? In Zimbabwe?). Probably due to this military looking aircraft also taking off.

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Taking off now


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I was surprised that inflight magazine was available. Also the security information card

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A beverage and snack was offered. Not sure if the US has sanctions against Zimbabwe so Coke products were unavailable. We were served some local nock off brand that resembles coke but a little bit off. Only had this happen to me in Cuba and Burma due to business sanctions by the US


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Legroom and seat back. This seat looks like its about to explode

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A few more cabin shots before landing

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Landing - no pictures at Harare airport either. We had to pass through security and baggage screening on arrival like in many of the middle eastern airports. I still think it's a very strange idea.




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Verdict

Air Zimbabwe

2.1/10
Cabin3.0
Cabin crew1.5
Meal/catering4.0

Victoria Falls - VFA

3.8/10
Efficiency8.0
Access2.0
Services1.0
Cleanliness4.0

Harare - HRE

3.0/10
Efficiency3.0
Access3.0
Services3.0
Cleanliness3.0

Conclusion

The flight successfully got me to Harare to catch my KQ flight to NBO the next day. Traveling in this part of the world requires a lot of time and patience. However once successfully accomplished, the rewards are worth far more than the inconvenience from time to time. It's probably unlikely that I'd go back to Zimbabwe anytime soon but recommend a visit to anyone who happens to travel to the region. If you go, be sure to spend a few days outside of Victoria Falls.

Information on the route Victoria Falls (VFA) Harare (HRE)

11 Comments

  • Comment 153894 by
    Aubin 144 Comments

    Cool report, thank you!

  • Comment 153905 by
    marathon GOLD 9489 Comments

    Very interesting introductory tourist bonus !

    I too was intrigued by the flying boat route through Khartoum, made some research and yes, they were landing on the White Nile, which is very wide just upstream from the confluence with the Blue Nile, at a location then known as Gordon's Tree. A Short Solent similar to the one on this poster was badly damaged during tests in 1949.

    I was also intrigued by UM's Chinese regional jet that you mention : it is not a jet, but a twin-prop MA-60, derived from the Russian An-40.

    The Il-67 which delayed you is not military; it is one of six operated by Zetavia of Ukraine, a cargo airline focusing on the Middle East and Africa destinations that these rugged aircraft can handle. (Another interesting research, from my point of view :)

    I doubt I'll ever fly there, but I enjoyed being there by proxy. Thanks for sharing !

  • Comment 153916 by
    cndam 10 Comments

    Thank you for a very detailed and interesting report. I enjoyed every bit of it. Very nice photos.

  • Comment 153918 by
    Wingslover 676 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this very nice report!

    As said on the safety card it's a 737-200 and nit -400 ;)

    Very interesting report on a very unique airline! :)

  • Comment 153932 by
    TheFlightEngineer 26 Comments

    Nice to see an JT-8D powered aircraft still flying today!

    This country has any International sanction but it's probably to reduce the cost of this flight...

    The train station and the signal box remind me the Old good time of British Railways and seems to be very similar.

    This IL-76 was probably her to bring aircrafts parts (like Antonov 26/24 used by African Aviation company), and relief goods for poor people...

    Only one steward for this flight?

  • Comment 153933 by
    FFlyerCDG 2796 Comments

    Thanks a million for sharing this report which is really a dream comes true for me and brings back so many memories !!!!

    Everyone going to the Falls is now staying in the the Royal Livingstone in Zambia.
    To be totally honest, service is perfect, food excellent and you get what you pay for in terms of confort.

    It's not always the case when it comes to the Victoria Falls but this is really the place where to stay !!!
    And having breakfast or a gin and tonic on the terrace just outside the restaurant facing the bridge and Mosi-oa-Tunya is probably one of the few things I'll remember till the end of my life :-))

    And this UM B-737 flight is a pure gem !

    A little bit too early to talk about 2016 but the conjunction of the FR and the bonus would have probably made the best contribution of 2015... At least for me :-)

  • Comment 153938 by
    Jett Tyler SILVER 162 Comments

    Outstanding report. Great images of Zimbabwae.

  • Comment 153964 by
    Md_Syfq 7 Comments

    Thank you for your great report. That B737-200 is very rare nowadays and you got to fly one!!

  • Comment 154007 by
    matthieugd 229 Comments

    Wow very nice report with a lot of oldies but goodies :) Thanks for sharing.

  • Comment 154011 by
    Luigispaghetti 120 Comments

    A very nice and original flight report, adding an even more original train report (loved the chalk written schedules).

    The language is definitely German, not Afrikaans, so it's really surprising to see this, probably due to second hand use most other items that can be seen in the report.

    The UM flight seemed to be VERY empty.

  • Comment 154513 by
    East African 1507 Comments

    Excellent report Bo!
    I have enjoyed every bit of it!
    We had to pass through security and baggage screening on arrival like in many of the middle eastern airports. => that must be a really new process...

    Hope more FRs have yet to come
    Thanks for sharing

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