Review of Air Sénégal flight Banjul Freetown in Economy

Airline Air Sénégal
Flight HC213
Class Economy
Seat 26F
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 01:20
Take-off 06 Jan 23, 18:05
Arrival at 06 Jan 23, 19:25
HC 12 reviews
bldavid
By GOLD 382
Published on 21st January 2023

I went on a 30-day trip in December 2022 and January 2023 to leave the Icelandic winter behind me for some time. The trip had four main parts: visiting Sudan and Kenya; visiting friends, colleagues and relatives in Hungary and the Czech Republic; a family holiday in Tenerife and a business trip to Senegal, The Gambia and Sierra Leone.

I had a total of 18 flights, booked mostly as one-ways and one double open-jaw. Here’s my final list of flights after many cancellations, changes of departure time and aircraft type:

Keflavík to Paris CDG, Icelandair, economy class, B757 (no flight report)
Paris to Istanbul, Turkish, business class, A321
Istanbul to Khartoum, Turkish, business class, B737
Khartoum to Addis, Ethiopian, economy class upgraded to business class, B737
Addis to Nairobi NBO, Ethiopian, economy class upgraded to business class, B777
Nairobi WIL to Mombasa to Lamu, Skyward Express, economy class, Q300
Lamu to Malindi to Nairobi WIL, Safarilink, economy class, Q200
Nairobi NBO to Istanbul, Turkish, business class, A330
Istanbul to Budapest, Turkish, business class, B737
Vienna to Tenerife South, Wizzair, economy class, A321
Tenerife North to Gran Canaria, Binter Canarias, economy class, ATR42
Grand Canaria to Dakar, Binter Canarias, economy class, E195
Dakar to Banjul, Air Sénégal, economy class, A320
Banjul to Freetown, Air Sénégal, economy class, A320
Freetown to Banjul, Air Sénégal, economy class, A320
Banjul to Casablanca, Royal Air Maroc, business class, B737
Casablanca to Paris ORY, Royal Air Maroc, business class, B787
Paris CDG to Keflavík, Play, economy class, A321 (no flight report).

I was supposed to fly ASKY in the morning but the flight was cancelled. My only other option was to fly Air Sénégal in the evening.

The road to the airport.  


photo 01

Banjul Airport is small. Departures that evening included my flight to Freetown, five flights to Europe (to Brussels, Paris and Barcelona and two to London) and two flights to Dakar.


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First you have to pay 1,000 dalasi or 20 £/€/$ in cash as a sort of exit tax. Waiting time to pay was zero. Time to pay was one minute.

The next step was document check by Air Sénégal a few meters from the check-in desk. No questions were asked: I was not asked if I had a visa, a covid vaccination certificate or a yellow fever certificate. Waiting time was zero. Time to be checked was one minute.

The next step was check-in. There was nobody in front of me and the only question I was asked was if I had luggage to check in. Waiting time was zero. Time to be checked in was one minute.   


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It’s an understatement that the airport was not crowded.


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Passport control was next. Not surprisingly there was nobody in front of me. I had to fill out a form. The officer asked if my destination was Senegal or France (it was Sierra Leone). He then asked me about my job:

"I'm a travel agent."
"A travelling agent?"
"No. A travel agent."
"A travelling agent?"
"No. I'm a travel professional."

That was OK for him and he stamped me out of the Gambia. Passport control took about four minutes.

Then came the usual security check. Once again, there was nobody in front of me and I was through in a minute.

There's one large waiting area airside. Facilities include a seating area, toilets, a TV screen showing Al Jazeera, a watch and jewellery shop, two small clothing shops, a duty free shop, a bar and a terrace (not sure if it's open to passengers).  



There are lounges and a prayer room upstairs.


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The inbound flight from Dakar landed at 17.00 - a good sign for an on-time departure. 


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Boarding started at 17.20. Only 22 passengers boarded here. Boarding was by bus despite the very short distance. The plane was being refuelled so we had to wait between the bus and the plane for about 20 minutes.
 
We boarded the plane at 17.45. There were already a few passengers onboard - those who vere travelling from Dakar to Freetown.

This was the same Airhub Airlines plane as I had taken two days earlier. This is a single class aircraft with a 3+3 configuration. There are 30 rows, so the total number of seats is 180. Load was only about 45/180. The four cabin crew were from Portugal, Spain, Poland and Lithuania. 


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My seat was supposed to be 6F but I was asked to move to the back as much as possible. I moved to 26F. Legroom was OK.


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The view from my seat:


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Brakes were released and we started to taxi at 18.01 for a scheduled departure time of 18.05. We took off at 18.08.

The airport as seen shortly after take-off: 


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Banjul, the small capital city of the Gambia could be seen in the distance and the much larger agglomeration of Serrakunda nearby. 


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We flew over a beautiful river delta about 10 minutes after take-off and over another large river five minutes after that.


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A simple meal was served: a sandwich with a sort of chicken curry and a muffin. The sandwich was not very appetising. 


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I had a Fanta. Other options included Pepsi, 7up, water and several types of fruit juice.


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Tea and coffee were also available.


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Start of descent was at 18.47, only 39 minutes after take-off. Sunset was around this time. 


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We landed at Lungi Airport at 19.12 and we were at our parking position at 19.16 for a scheduled arrival time of 19.25.

I paid US$ 80 at a booth to get my visa on arrival (on-line visa arranged before departure is also available). I was directed to passport control which took about two minutes.

Neither my yellow fever nor my covid vaccination certificates were checked.

The airport had a strong 80s feeling. Currency exchange and local sim cards were available on the way out.

I had prepaid an airport security fee of $25 before departure. It was checked before I left the terminal building.

Freetown Airport, also called Lungi Airport has a quite unique location in a way that it’s separated from the city by a large bay. The best option is take a bus from the airport to the port (5 minutes) and then take a boat to Freetown. It costs $45 including the transfer between the airport and the port. The crossing takes 25 to 40 minutes. The boat I took had a capacity of about 20 seats but there are also some larger boats. It was completely dark by that time and the lights inside the boat were sometimes on, sometimes off. A man was sitting in the back of the boat trying to prevent the luggage from falling into the water (he succeeded). The entire crossing experience was surreal.

There's also a road between the airport and the city that makes a long detour. Driving time is abouth three hours.
 
I stayed at the Home Suites Boutique Hotel. It’s a five star hotel at a reasonable rate. The room is more comfortable than at some of the five-star hotels in London or Paris. There’s an excellent restaurant and overall service is very good. 

Some typical streets in Freetown: 


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There are a few historical buildings:



Tuk-tuks are a popular way of getting around.


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View of the city from the hills:


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Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, only a short drive from Freetown, is one of the highlights of a visit to Sierra Leone.


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The sanctuary is surrounded by lush tropical forests.


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Sierra Leone is famous for its beaches. There’s no or very little infrastructure on most of these.


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River no. 2 beach is the most popular.


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Verdict

Air Sénégal

5.8/10
Cabin5.0
Cabin crew8.0
Entertainment/wifi5.0
Meal/catering5.0

Banjul - BJL

7.0/10
Efficiency8.0
Access6.0
Services5.0
Cleanliness9.0

Freetown - FNA

6.0/10
Efficiency9.0
Access2.0
Services5.0
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

Departure was very easy at Banjul Airport. The terminal does not have many services but it was not crowded. The flight was not operated by Air Sénégal but by Airhub Airlines. The plane had a standard configuration and there were only a few passengers. Catering was very simple. The crew was very professional. Arrival to Sierra Leone was more simple than I expected but getting from the airport to the city is quite complicated as it includes a boat crossing.

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