FLIGHT REVIEW: Dana Air: Lagos-Owerri
Interestingly, this was my first ever flight with Dana Air. I had always known or at least read that Dana Air had innovative online products, world-class in-flight service and unrivaled on-time performance. So when the opportunity came for me to experience all of that, I grabbed it with both hands. With all the ‘good things’ and praises I had heard and read about Dana Air, I was naturally full of expectations. You might want to stick around to see if my expectations were met or not.
DATE: 2 January, 2018
SCHEDULED DEPARTURE: 7:20am
ACTUAL DEPARTURE: 7:45am
CHECK-IN AND BOARDING
24 hours before the flight, I had attempted to check in online on the airline’s website but discovered that the airline had automatically assigned a seat to me. On the MD-83, 10B is a middle seat, I do not like middle seats, so I tried to change the seat to a window seat but all attempts proved abortive. Airlines do not usually assign seats to passengers except where the passenger is a frequent flyer with the airline in which case the check-in software recognizes the passenger and automatically assigns them a seat. And even at that, the passenger has the option of selecting a different seat if they didn’t like the one originally assigned to them. But this wasn’t the case with me as this was my very first flight with Dana Air. Anyway, I accepted seat 10B with the hope of changing it at the airport.
I arrived the Murtala Muhammed Airport2 a few minutes before 7am, which was rather late for a 7:20am flight. I wasn’t too bothered by the lateness though, since I had already checked in online. Usually, passengers who have checked in online do not need to join the check-in queue at the airport, which is the whole idea of online check-in anyway.
I didn’t print my boarding pass after checking in online (I couldn’t since it was on a Sunday) and so I was made to join the check-in queue. The two customer service agents I spoke to couldn’t be of any help, one of them attempted to print my boarding pass from the self service check-in kioks at the airport but didn’t succeed.
I joined the queue and finally got my boarding pass at the check-in counter but couldn’t change my seat, and so I was 'stuck' with seat 10B. A possible software glitch on the airline’s website and my inability to print my boarded pass conspired to hand me a not-so-good check-in experience.
Boarding announcement was made at about 7am while I was actually still on the check-in queue. After getting my boarding pass, I hurriedly went through security and eventually boarded by 7:15am. Boarding took a little longer than expected but it was smooth. The only problem with boarding however, was the aircraft’s overhead stowage space which wasn’t enough since it was a full flight and people were still travelling for Christmas and New Year. In fact, I and a few other passengers had to place our bags under our seats as directed by the Flight Attendants.
THE AIRCRAFT AND THE SEAT
Before now, I had done all my domestic flights on narrow-body aircraft like the Boeing 737 (by far the most popular narrow-body in Nigeria), Airbus A320, Embraer, Bombardier CRJ and Fokker. So you can understand my expectations and excitement as I stepped into the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft for the very first time. Dana Air is the only airline in Nigeria that (exclusively) uses this American-built narrow-body aircraft.
This particular aircraft had economy and business class cabins with the economy cabin having 5-abreast seating configuration instead of the more ‘popular’ 6-abreast configuration found on the Boeing 737 and the A320. I wasn’t particularly surprised by this type of seating configuration because I had already experienced such a configuration on Embraer aircraft. I located my seat on the right hand side of the aircraft and settled in.
My seat was 10B, a middle seat in the economy cabin towards the forward section of the fuselage. I don’t like middle seats (I already explained how I ended up in one).
I didn’t get to measure the seat width and the seat pitch, but both the seat width and the leg room were very generous. In fact, the seat is arguably, one of the widest economy class seats I have ever sat on any flight, both domestic and international.
Another very interesting thing about the Douglas MD-83 aircraft is that, because the engines are mounted at the rear, there is significantly reduced cabin noise making it quieter than most other aircraft. Although passengers seated towards the back of the aircraft may not agree with me. In my opinion, the aircraft wasn’t exactly tidy and could have used a little more thorough cleaning since it was performing its first flight of the day.
THE FLIGHT AND THE CREW
We pushed back by 7:37am and after a few minutes of taxing to the runway, we took off by 7:45 am from runway 18L following a beautiful takeoff roll. The takeoff was gentle, noiseless and at a nice angle, we made a left turn and gently climbed to a cruising altitude of 29,000 ft above sea level. Probably due to favorable weather or very experienced crew, the aircraft was very stable in the air and handled the flight very well. The flight was generally uneventful and remains one of the smoothest I have ever had.
The flight was commanded by Captain Ibrahim and assisted by Senior First Officer Adewale. The captain's briefing was like a lady's underwear - short enough to be interesting and long enough to cover the subject matter. The flight attendants were extremely friendly and professional both on ground and throughout the flight.
In-flight refreshments commenced less than 10 mins after takeoff and there was something really different about it. These days, there are no ‘proper’ onboard meal services on Nigerian domestic flights and passengers don’t get offered tea or coffee any more. Pioneered and made popular by Aero Contractors Airline, Nigerian airlines now distribute what I call ‘Snack Packs’ to passengers.
We got the snack pack on this Dana Air flight but to my pleasant surprise, we also got something more. There was coffee-or-tea option in addition to the snack pack which contained doughnut, biscuit, candy and water. Yes, we got that original feeling of being served onboard. Other Nigerian airlines would serve just water in addition to the snack pack.
Following a 45-minute flight, we touched down at the Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri on schedule at exactly 8:30am. Even with the low visibility being experienced at that time, the landing was as smooth as silk. I waited till every other passenger had disembarked so I would have time to chat with the crew and the wait was worth it. The cockpit crew was very friendly and warm.
THE AIRCRAFT: 80%
THE CREW: 95%
THE FLIGHT: 98%
THE SEAT: 95%
ONBOARD REFRESHMENT: 90%
VERDICT: In more ways than one, this flight was like a regular domestic flight in Nigeria but there was something different which set Dana Air apart. Besides the online check-in which gave me a little tough time, every other thing including boarding, departure, onboard refreshment and arrival was on point. The ground crew was helpful while the flight crew was very friendly and professional. As far as onboard refreshment is concerned, passengers on Dana Air flights still get that original feeling of being served onboard. I took this Dana Air’s flight with mixed feelings and mixed expectation but it turned out to be one of the best domestic flights I have ever taken. I would say Dana Air met my expectations and I will totally fly Dana Air again.
DANA AIR CONTACT:
Instagram: Dana Air
NB: Dana Air provided the ticket for this flight but the opinions are strictly mine and are without bias.
Chidozie Uzoezie is a travel blogger, a frequent flyer and a freelance writer. He is the editor and the publisher of The Afritraveller. He blogs mostly about air travel especially with respect to passenger experience (#PaxEx). Follow The Afritraveller on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.