This is the eighth report in a series covering my trip to Europe and Africa around New Year's. The trip involved three nested itineraries (which turned into four). A OneWorld roundtrip itinerary from the US to Milan, a Tunisair roundtrip itinerary from Milan to Tunis, Tunisia, and a Star Alliance roundtrip itinerary from Tunis to Windhoek, Namibia. The return portion of the Star Alliance itinerary would turn into a one-way itinerary on Qatar Airways due to South African Airways delays (hot weather), horrible customer service by South African Airways and United Airlines, and a cancellation of the remainder of the Star Alliance itinerary. I submitted a claim to World Nomads travel insurance for the Qatar Airways ticket I had to buy because I had faced a 24 hour delay by Star Alliance. World Nomads rejected the claim (as well as my appeal). According to them, they're off the hook unless the "common carrier" is completely shut down for 24 hours due to weather or a labor strike. The verbiage in the policy doesn't include "common carrier" though. It's ridiculous to think that if your airline operated any flight anywhere in the world during your 24 hour delay, World Nomads wouldn't have to honor the contract. I submitted a complaint to the California Department of Insurance, but they don't actually do anything besides forward the information to the insurance company, who had already ruled on it anyway. I filed a small claims lawsuit against Trip Mate, which administered the plan, and the trial date is set for October 24th; so stay tuned for that. I can't recommend using World Nomads travel insurance. I've bought five travel insurance policies through them. This is the first time I made a claim and it has not been a smooth process.
The OneWorld itinerary was an open jaw from Chicago to Milan in Economy, and Milan to San Diego in Business. The total cost was 63,000 AAdvantage miles and $84.10. Normal cost would be 70,000 miles (20,000 for the outbound in Economy and 50,000 for the inbound in Business). However, I was able to get 10% back thanks to my Citi AAdvantage MasterCard.
The roundtrip cost for the Tunisair ticket was $182.48, bought through Vayama.
The roundtrip cost for the business class Star Alliance ticket was 70,000 United MileagePlus miles and $135.00. On the surface, this is an incredible value. However, as I'll explain later, my faith in Star Alliance has been completely shattered and I don't think I'll ever take advantage of this intra-Africa MileagePlus fare again.
———- Tunis to Milan Malpensa (Tunisair Economy): No Show
——————– Johannesburg to Doha (Qatar Airways Business) ——————– Doha to Milan Malpensa (Qatar Airways Business)
—– Milan Malpensa to Miami (American Airlines Business) —– Miami to Chicago O'Hare (American Airlines First) —– Chicago O'Hare to San Diego (American Airlines First)
I was actually supposed to take this flight on the morning of January 7th, but that flight got cancelled. United's reservation system automatically put me on a different flight, but it was in the wrong direction. It booked me on a flight going from JNB to WDH, even though I was traveling the opposite way. Dealing with United customer service to rectify this problem was brutal. They would not change my routing so that I could leave Windhoek at a similar time. The only option they gave me was to leave Windhoek the night before and maintain the rest of the flights in my itinerary. So I lost a day in Namibia (which I had never been to before) and was forced to waste a night in Jo'burg. It was bad enough that they wouldn't make things right, but they were often downright rude on the phone and gave me contradictory information on different calls.
The day before this flight, I took Town Hoppers from Walvis Bay back to Windhoek. Props to the driver, Michael, who held on to the stuff I forgot in the van on my outbound trip like my headphones and sleeping mask. He earned a pretty big tip for that one. At one of the checkpoints on the way back, the Transport Inspector discovered we didn't have the correct type of registration. Apparently there are different registration requirements for whether you're running a tourist operation or actually providing transportation. Whichever one we were supposed to have, we didn't have it and got stuck at this checkpoint for 30-45 minutes. Unlikely it was Michael's fault, probably a management screw up. Michael's the one with the red shirt and glasses on his head, standing behind the guy with the bright vest.
I stayed at the Hilton in Windhoek as my flight to JNB was the following afternoon. This was probably the nicest Hilton property I've stayed at, and certainly the newest. I checked in online and chose my room, but when I arrived they said it wasn't available, upgraded me to the executive floor and gave me lounge access! I put the strong dollar to good use at the restaurant, which was fantastic.
A couple shots of the view from my room and a night shot from the pool deck.
I took these pics while walking from the hotel to Joe's Beerhouse for dinner. Windhoek was a pretty nondescript city by African standards and I felt totally safe the whole time.
I used Town Hoppers to get from the Hilton to the airport. Drop off was very easy as this is a pretty small airport.
Pretty big check in line. Thankfully I could bypass the whole thing and cruise down the left side for the business class check in.
I stopped to check out the gate area real quick before heading to the lounge.
The normal lounge is undergoing renovations, so they have this makeshift lounge set up. It actually wasn't bad. They had free WiFi and a helpful attendant who was happy to get drink, sandwiches, or snacks for everyone.
From there it was time to get in line for boarding and head out onto the tarmac, up the stairs, and into my seat. This was probably the best non-jetbridge experience you could hope for. Didn't have to wait for a bus, but instead got a nice walk out to the plane with views of some Airbus aircraft in their Air Namibia livery. The A330-200 is one of two in their fleet, which are their only widebody aircraft and serve the Windhoek to Frankfurt route.
The business cabin on this aircraft (2-aisle-3) was not nearly as sharp as the newer hard product I had on the Kinshasa to Jo'burg and Jo'burg to Windhoek legs.
Food was average, but I can't complain when getting a full meal on such a short flight.
View out the window during the middle of the flight.
Shot of an open pit mine as we descended.
Great view of downtown Jo'burg on our way in.
Shot of the surrounding neighborhood as we approach JNB.
Got a jetbridge for our arrival and parked next to this nice looking 747-800.
The airport wasn't crowded and getting through Immigration and Customs was a breeze.
I booked an AirBnB near JNB since I was only staying one night here. I stayed with this host, Chantelle, the year before and had a good experience. However, things weren't so smooth this time. They took me to a different property they had (completely different from the one I booked) and the place just rubbed me the wrong way. The property was huge (which made me feel less secure), was undergoing renovations, and there were a few different staff members there but I appeared to be the only guest. Plus, there were some amenities like WiFi and and a washing machine promised in their listing that this alternate property didn't have. I ended up telling them I wanted to stay in a hotel instead and asked them to bring me back to the airport, which they did without any hassle. When I requested a refund the next day through AirBnB, Chantelle said she was going to deduct the cost of gas and time they spent picking me up from the airport. I refused to accept this because I knew if AirBnB got involved to mediate, they'd side with me. Chantelle relented and gave me the full amount back (though AirBnB keeps their service fee no matter what).
After getting to the airport, I walked over to City Lodge and grabbed a room there. There were cheaper rooms at other nearby hotels, but at that point I didn't feel like dealing with a shuttle or getting a cab. The convenience to stay literally right in the airport was worth it to me. City Lodge isn't anything special, but it's comfortable and clean which is all you can ask for from an airport hotel. Plus, my room had a legit view of the remote aircraft parking area.
Air Namibia Oshoto Lounge
Windhoek - WDH
Johannesburg - JNB
This flight operated smoothly. I wasn't disappointed with the lounge because I wasn't expecting to see one anyway. It was actually a better experience than some US lounges. The 2-aisle-3 layout on this aircraft wasn't very comfortable, but it wasn't a long flight. The real disappointment with this experience was the fact that I was forced to take it instead of leaving the next morning like I originally planned, thanks to United's atrocious customer service .
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