Mauritania Airlines is an airline I did not expect I would ever fly. But it’s one I’m very glad I did.
When the opportunity lined up perfectly to hop on a Mauritania Airlines Embraer E175 in business class, I jumped on it. The fare ended up being cheaper and quicker than competing Royal Air Maroc in economy on the same route.
I booked my flight with Mauritania Airlines despite having many questions, like:
- How safe is Mauritania Airlines?
- What is their fleet like?
- Is it worth flying business class on Mauritania? What can I expect?
- How is the on-time performance?
My only reference points were my experiences flying Air Senegal to Cape Verde last year and my aversion to Royal Air Maroc who always seems to run late.
I ended up flying an interesting route: Nouakchott (NKC) to Dakar (DSS) to Bamako (BKO) to Abidjan (ABJ), my final destination. Luckily, I did not have to get off the plane between any of these segments on Mauritania Airlines.
Is Mauritania Airlines Safe? How are their airplanes?
As 737-500s are retired and new 737 MAXs replace them, the Mauritania Airlines fleet is becoming significantly more modern. The Embraer E175 that I flew on is a relatively new, modern aircraft, and capable of many diverse missions.
They fly two E175s, several 737s, and one E145 – their oldest airplane.
Mauritania Airlines has never had any fatal accidents, and neither have any of its predecessors in Mauritania since 1994. That’s quite impressive.
Overall, even as an airline pilot, I felt very comfortable and safe flying on Mauritania Airlines.
How to book a flight with Mauritania Airlines
I booked my business class seat from NKC-ABJ for a little over $500, which was still cheaper than Royal Air Maroc for the same exact route. However, I consider it a bit expensive for the service received.
It’s worth noting that I did not have the opportunity to book economy, online or even at a ticket office. I was told it was full, but when I looked back, I definitely saw some open seats. This most likely is just a technology problem and not as a service failure.
I booked about a week out and flew in early November, so it’s possible that it actually was full at the time of booking
As Mauritania Airlines is independent and not part of any alliances, the only way to book a flight is through a few select websites, but it’s best to book your ticket directly via the Mauritania Airlines website.
Mauritania Airlines Check-in Experience at Nouakchott–Oumtounsy International Airport [NKC]: Very slow (5/10)
Though we only arrived 2 hours before our 8AM departure, the airport was still closed from the night. This meant having to wait outside about 15 minutes.
Mauritania Airlines does not offer online check-in, so we had to go to a check-in counter, even though I avoid checking in my bag at all cost. Mauritania Airlines combined the lines for two flights with different departure times into one, making things complicated. And although there was a line for business class, it didn’t seem to be in use. We had to advise personnel we were flying business class to get past the otherwise long and slow economy line.
Security and passport control did not take long at all – checking in was the slowest part of the journey. Even in business class, it took about 20 minutes after waiting for the airport to open. I’d say if flying in economy on Mauritania Airlines, you definitely should show up 2 hours prior – whether you are checking in a bag or not.
VIP Lounge Experience at Nouakchott–Oumtounsy International Airport [NKC]: Surprisingly great (9/10)
We were absolutely delighted with the VIP Lounge at NKC Airport. It far exceeded my expectations – especially when I compare it with the business class lounge offered by Ethiopian Airlines on my recent flight from Chicago.
There was warm, fresh breakfast, coffee machines, wifi, comfortable loungers, a business center for printing/faxing, a decent amount of beverages, and a very friendly receptionist. The bathrooms were clean and above average, which is absolutely a blessing at 7 in the morning.
The Mauritania Airlines Embraer E175 Business Class Seat: Standard, which means good (8/10)
Mauritania Airlines equips their Embraer E175 with standard recliner business class seats, which means you can expect the same comfort you would in business class on an E170/E175 in the United States (Delta, American, United regional carriers).
Recline is good, not great. I wouldn’t book this seat if I was hoping to sleep on a redeye flight. For a daytime flight, it’s very comfortable, offering good width, padding, a nice leg-rest, decent legroom (even in a bulkhead seat), and your own armrests.
The bulkhead seats are slightly narrower due to the tray table being attached to the seats, but this is not a deal-killer. If anything, it might be easier to enjoy the meals with the tray tables a bit closer.
I’ve read complaints about the airplanes being dirty online, but I did not notice this myself. Perhaps it’s worse in economy.
Service Quality: surprising tasty meals but surprisingly bland service
Service tends to be a struggle for airlines based out of developing countries. I experienced this on my recent Biman Airlines flight as well. I believe there’s a general lack of hospitality training available, and it is reflected in the service provided.
Though Mauritanians in general are absolutely friendly and hospitable, the service I experienced on Mauritania Airlines was nothing more than standard, especially for business class. It wasn’t unfriendly, just not remarkable in anyway. Honestly though, I wouldn’t expect anything else.
However, I was pleasantly surprised by the food. The meals were frankly quite good, the bread was fresh, the eggs were tasty, and I got to experience this not once – but twice. Even though the flight segments were short (generally 45 minutes or so), we ended up with meals on 2 of the 3 flights. To me, this is quite exceptional, especially considering how much airlines (especially in Europe) are cutting back on meals.
In terms of beverages, choices were very limited. Basically coffee, tea, water, or you can leave.
Conclusion: It’s Worth Giving Mauritania Airlines Business Class a Try
All things considered, especially how short the flight segments are, I am impressed with the hard and soft product of business class on Mauritania Airlines.
I’m not sure how often high-end business travelers fly on Mauritania Airlines, but I’m sure they would be happy with the overall experience too. I’d rate it overall at 7.5/10.
I think that next time, I’d like to try flying with them in economy, especially on flights this short (if it’s much cheaper). But I truly enjoyed this unique experience, flying on a unique airline across a very unique part of the world.
Why you should travel to Mauritania
You may have heard of this once in a lifetime experience, riding the Iron Ore train from deep in the Mauritanian Sahara to the cool, wet Atlantic coast overnight. It’s truly magical, hitchhiking across a desert as old as time itself (ok, maybe an exaggeration), watching the Milky Way glisten overhead, feeling the air brushing against your skin as it slowly shifts from hot to cool.
And yet, there’s so much more to see here. From ancient Timbuktu-caravan era libraries to sand dunes more magnificent than any you’d see in Morocco or Dubai, Mauritania is a true hidden gem.
For a short time only, Destination Chaser, the premier organizer of epic off-beaten-path group adventures around the world, is organizing a weeklong experience exploring Mauritania. And right now there’s a $100 discount on the next Mauritania adventure for March. I did this exact group trip last year and it was the most memorable of my life.