Noel Philips on his best and worst flying experiences in Tanzania

Sunday January 24 2021
By Alex Nelson Malanga

Noel Philips first caught Life&Style Magazine’s attention two weeks ago when one of his video clips went viral on social media titled ‘How can this plane still FLY?’

The clip attracted over 304,000 viewers in just a week. The in-flight video was a review of one of Tanzania’s domestic airlines, a 30-year old Embraer 120.

 The 27-minute video took us through his flying experience from the airport to the entire flight. He recorded even minute details of the aircraft and the journey which makes it interesting to watch. But: who is Noel Philips - and what was he doing in Tanzania?

Who is Noel?

Noel has been creating YouTube videos documenting his travel adventures with airlines and rail- way companies around the world since 2013.

 Based in the UK, he flies a total of over 150,000 miles a year to experience the best and the worst that the world has to offer.


The aviation and travel vlogger left his career in Information Technology (IT) to start a new career: one that he, as a child, never imagined possible.

 “I’ve been interested in aviation since a very young age. When I was growing up as a child in the 1980s and 1990s, the Internet was still a distant prospect for us and my love for aviation was gratified by reading magazines and buying video tapes on VHS,” Noel shares.

 Eventually, with the advent of the Internet came the rise of Internet forums. He started writing about them in these new Internet forums largely for his own benefit to look back upon.  When YouTube started in 2006, Noel started using it as a means of storing videos to enrich his afore- mentioned forum posts.

 “I remember logging on one day to see I had over 1,000 subscribers! People were starting to enjoy the videos on their own merits,” Noel recalls.

 In 2013, he founded his YouTube channel with the aim of bringing his flight experiences to people around the world, regardless of their ability to travel.

“I wanted to help people see the world’s airlines from the comfort of their homes - and regardless of the circumstances,” he says.

In 2018, Noel made YouTube his full-time job. His flying experience in Tanzania Noel, also a private pilot, paid a visit to Tanzania few days ago, whereby it was his first time visiting the country. For the ‘vlogger’ -  a person who regularly posts short videos on a log or blog - Tanzania had always been on his list of preferred destinations.

 “I’d wanted to visit Tanzania for a very long time. Tanzania offers travellers exciting opportunities to fly on aircraft that you wouldn’t find in other parts of the world,” he says. Noel flew with four Internal airlines within the country, including the national airline Air Tanzania under Air Tanzania Company Lim- ited (ATCL).

Here are his best and worst experiences from flying with different aircraft in Tanzania.

Air Tanzania

Noel arrived at Kilimanjaro International Airport (Kia) from Nairobi, and flew on to Dar es Salaam (JNIA) via Zanzibar on Air Tanzania (ATCL).

His first experience of Tanzanian aviation was on-board an ATCL Bombardier Q400 from KIA.

“This was a pleasant flight, and I was impressed by the services onboard. Even passengers in Economy Class were offered snacks and drinks on the short flight,” Noel marvels. Then he flew on an ATCL Airbus A220 to Mwanza.

“Air Tanzania was the first airline in Africa to operate the A220, and it was lovely to fly on such a modern, comfort- able aircraft.  Again, the onboard services were fantastic: a small breakfast on the hour-long flight to Mwanza. The large, spacious Business Class seats were comfy, compared to Business Class seats in Europe,” Noel says.

Precision Air

He then flew back to Dar es Salaam onboard Precision Air flight ATR72. “Whilst the aircraft was comfortable - and the cabin crew friendly - no onboard services were offered,” Noel recalls.

Flightlink Next, he flew with Flightlink from Dar es Salaam to Arusha, with stopovers in Zanzibar both ways. This turned out to be the most interesting flight of his entire experience while in Tanzania.

“ I took this flight as the aircraft used  an Embraer 120, which is rarely seen in Europe or the US nowadays.  Onboard, the aircraft seats were collapsed and seat pockets ripped. Parts of the aircraft’s interior were missing - including a panel on the door to the flight deck! 

However, I had a lovely time in the beautiful city of Arusha before flying back to Dar es Salaam with a stopover in Zanzibar,” Noel fondly recalls.

 It was here that things became even more curious for Noel.  He had to remain onboard the aircraft all-alone during the stopover in Zanzibar, while the flight crew left with their bags and baggage. 

After about 30 minutes later, a ground staff member came and told him that he had to leave the aircraft. In the event, he was directed to another aircraft that was preparing for lift off!

“I was ushered onboard without my boarding pass being checked, the door closed behind me - and we started taxiing down the runway! I had no idea where we were going. But, it turned out that the airline had transferred me onto a Coastal Aviation flight - and I just was not told what was going on!” Noel says. Coastal Aviation

His last flight was with Coastal Aviation to Mafia Island. He wanted to see a different side to Tanzania from what he’d seen in Mwanza and Arusha and, in this, he was not disappointed. 

“Landing in Mafia was like landing on a remote tropi- cal island - complete with palm trees and pristine beaches.  When Noel arrived back in Dar from Mafia, he experienced the new Terminal-3 at the Julius Nyerere International Airport.

“This is the most modern airport terminal I have experienced in Africa. It boasts a dedicated check-in, passport control and security area exclusively for Business Class passengers. It was an absolute pleasure to travel through it,” Noel says.

He confesses he just loved both his flights on Air Tanzania.  “The Business Class cabin on Airbus A220 far surpasses Business Class cabins in Europe,” he says.

Whilst his experience with Flightlink would probably be seen by many as the worst experience, as an aviation enthusiast, Noel found the flight ‘charming’.

“It had all the elements of a great adventure: the old aircraft and the frantic change of flight planes in Zanzibar. This might not be appealing to customers who just want to ‘get there comfortably.’ But, as an adventurer, it was one of the best flight experiences I’ve ever had,” Noel recalls.


Like the geography of Tanzania, the airports are just as varied, Noel noted. From the new terminals at JNIA and Kia to the open air waiting area at Arusha, Noel says there is something special for every trav- eller.

 “Clearly, huge investments have been made in the international airports - although domestic flights can be very different. There are huge disparities when you fly on a new, modern aircraft - and then disembark into an old terminal building,” he reasons.

Noel also found that most air- port employees - like most airline employees - were almost invariably “friendly and professional.”  

What needs to be improved

 From a consumer’s perspective, Noel says there’s a huge difference between the airlines he used.

 “For tourist arriving from Europe, for example, they might get a very different first impression of Tanzania using an Air Tanzania flight as opposed to flying with Flightlink,” he says.

Bringing all the airlines to the same standard would sadly make it a less interesting experience for him as a travel adventurer, he thinks loudly. But, it would give a much better first impression to tourists visiting Tanzania.

 He believes that Dar es Salaam is ideally situated as an aviation hub in the East African region, to rival Nairobi. He is optimistic that, with only a few more long-haul services added, Dar could easily become a busy hub connecting Europe and Asia with the rest of Africa. 

For this to materialise, Noel would love to see Air Tanzania - one of the airlines he savoured recently - expand its international/ long-haul services, flying to more airports in Europe and other parts of the world. 

“The entire world should see the quality of this national airline. A little investment in the country’s national airline can go a long way. With only a few more long-haul services added, Dar es Salaam could easily become a great hub connect- ing Europe and Asia with the rest of Africa,” Noel reiterates.

Where next?

Noel is eyeing Latin America as his next travel destination before returning to Africa later this year. As for his travel experience in Tanzania, he says that it is so incredibly varied - which is what makes it so fun.

“You can travel on a brand new aircraft through modern airports - or step straight onto an older air- craft for a real adventure,” he says.

Aviation has been - and will remain - Noel’s passion.

 “I find it fascinating to see how aviation is transforming lives around the world in so many ways: be it connecting major cities in Tanzania, or taking the mail out to remote communities in Alaska.

Aviation impacts many people in ways we don’t think about.

 “I find the variety of different airlines fascinating. In particular, I enjoy giving my viewers glimpses into the lives and cultures around the world that they otherwise might not see,” he explains.