Flight check: Kenya Airways

Johannesburg-Nairobi; B787 Dreamliner Business Class


BACKGROUND: Kenya Airways is one of Africa’s ‘big four’, along with South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and EgyptAir. It offers three daily flights between Nairobi and Johannesburg, as well as 10 weekly flights between the Kenyan capital and Cape Town. KQ uses both the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the B737-800 on this route. I had experienced the latter out of Johannesburg at 12h10 a few days before, and this flight was the 07h45 out of Nairobi.

CHECK-IN: I didn’t check in online, as I knew I’d have sufficient time in the morning, ultimately arriving at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport about two hours before scheduled take-off. I first had to go through security at the entrance to the airport, which involved having to take my belt off. Thereafter, check-in was a short distance away. I didn’t initially see signs for business class check-in, so I joined the general Kenya Airways queue, although later I spotted the Sky Priority queues, which I’m assuming may have accommodated business class passengers? This wasn’t clear. I queued for about 10 minutes and after check-in took advantage of the ‘fast track’ queue at immigration.

LOUNGE & BOARDING: Another rigorous security check followed after immigration, and by then I was ready for the lounge! I was told at check-in that KQ’s Simba Lounge was next to Gate 14, my departure gate, but that didn’t prove to be the case, so I doubled back to find a small sign to the lounge just after duty free and next to the lifts. The lounge is up one level on the second floor. It’s relatively small, but comfortable, although I can see it getting full at certain busy times. I grabbed coffee, water, a couple of pastries, and connected to the wi-fi after a couple of attempts. I was informed that the flight wouldn’t be called, so duly made my way down to the gate at 07h00, which was the scheduled boarding time. We boarded at 07h05 and there was priority boarding, followed by a short wait on the bridge. Thereafter, I dived into my seat and gladly accepted the water and juice on offer. I was later offered a selection of Kenyan newspapers prior to take-off.

THE SEAT: I was in seat 3F, which was the right-hand seat in the middle pair of seats in business class, with this cabin in a 2-2-2 configuration, making up 18 seats in the class. As expected of the Dreamliner, the seat was incredibly comfortable with loads of legroom, footrest and stowage locker, where I stowed my laptop. With this being a day flight, I didn’t have the need to explore the lie-flat bed, also due to the fact that I had plenty of work to do. So, after being allowed to use my laptop right up until just a couple of minutes before take-off, I pulled it out again as soon as possible. The tray table made for a good work station and that was all I needed, along with the in-seat power (Kenyan plug needed). As I was working, I didn’t need the inflight entertainment, but I still checked it out – there was a good selection of movies and TV programmes, which would have been more than adequate on this four-hour flight. In terms of seat choice, and depending on your aisle or window preference, you may want to avoid 1C, 1 D and 1G – the aisle seats in closest proximity to the galley. My seat had a bathroom behind me, but I wasn’t bothered.

THE FLIGHT: We took off about 10 minutes’ late and it was a pretty smooth flight. Having grabbed a small bite in the lounge, I wasn’t in a hurry to eat breakfast, but still accepted the offer when the menu was brought round. After a ‘starter’ of fruit, yoghurt and cereal, I opted for the herbed omelette with spinach and corn, home fried potatoes and gratinated tomatoes. The potatoes were a little dry, but the omelette was tasty, as was the delicious Kenyan coffee, which the country is famous for.

ARRIVAL: We made good time and landed half an hour early at 10h25. I was quickly off the aircraft and very shortly at the front of the queue at immigration.

VERDICT: A very comfortable option and obviously a step up from the more than adequate 737 I had used previously. The key is making this four-hour hop seamless and comfortable, and Kenya Airways does this with ease.


W: Kenya-airways.com