7 Aug, 2021
Buckle up at Hoedspruit’s Aerotel for the smoothest flight of your life. Nowhere near the airport and parked in pristine bushveld overlooking the Northern Drakensberg mountains is a Boeing 737-200. An aeroplane that has been up-cycled to take-off as a boutique hotel. There is no doubt that its trajectory will be steep as this is one first class flight of fancy.
Six double en-suite cabins grace the length of the Boeing with each one named after a cloud formation. Every room is luxuriously designed and features a tasteful aviation theme. First class is the only class at the Aerotel and every cabin is cleverly put together to maximise comfort and style. A power shower, a Nespresso machine and a mini bar all add to the “in-flight” experience and at a price that is way more accessible than the airborne version.
Before you check-in for departure, consider arriving early for some chill-out time. A circular swimming pool mosaic’d as an aviation compass is so compelling that you might actually miss your flight. It is flanked by a bar for all complete with coffee and ex-tray tables that flip down for workaholics on their laptops as well as more interesting refreshments for serious travellers. The floor is a flight path of the area and irresistibly draws you down to trace your position in relation to the Kruger, the Blyde River Canyon, Pilgrims Rest and all that this rich region has to offer.
The “departure” lounge is a cool sundowner hotspot where the original aeroplane seats are grouped around glass-topped tables showcasing various engine parts. The drinks and food on offer are sky high above expectations and showcase some innovative local African fare. Overstuffed bobotie cigars with buttery flaky pastry, creamy peppered venison strips and air-fried camembert parcels with marula jam hit the runway with applause. As expected there is an extensive menu of wine, cocktails and iconic bushveld G&T’s with seatbelts available yet optional.
Unlike other airlines you are invited to visit the cockpit at any time and are free to use the radio, press buttons, push and pull levers and simply marvel at the plethora of retro-looking controls. Most likely this will also be your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to legally and safely do a wing walk from a Boeing. This is a low-lying aircraft fulfilling the dreams of every wanna-be aviator.
Our overnight flight on board the Aerotel 737-200 was turbulence-free and at dawn our window hatches opened to reveal a glorious bushveld sunrise. The coffee was in easy reach and we felt like gold card passengers. Breakfast is served before landing or checking out and presents an array of delectable options and very difficult choices. Turn outs there are many reasons for a return flight with Aerotel and if there is a loyalty card program, I will be first in line.
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