I just arrived home after a magnificent 16 day luxury safari/beach holiday in Kenya. there were a few hitches but apart from them it was brilliant. I started my trip some 2 weeks ago...
Sunday 28th July
767-36N(ER) - 5Y-KQX
Seat 30H (probably)
Scheduled departure time: 20:00.
Myself and my family arrived at London's Heathrow airport at about 3pm, we chose to get there early to give us plenty of time to park the car (NEVER use 'park4less' at LHR, its like 10 miles away and takes a good 50 minutes to get to T4). We were dropped off by the courtesy bus at T1, which despite being no help to us at all, gave me a chance to get some spotting in on the roof of terminal 2, whilst my parents delved into a much needed coffee (lets say our journey to LHR wasn't the most pleasant nor stress free).
Just my luck that, that day was to be the hottest day of the year in London (topped 31C whilst I was out there), which made photography almost impossible because of the heat haze, netherless(eh? spelt that wrong..) it was great to see so many widebodies, and it is great when all you see is the odd charter at your home airport. But it was soon time to head over to terminal 4, taking advantage of the complimentary Heathrow express service between terminals. I'm pretty sure that, the particular line that we took seem to take us half way to London and back, considering Terminal 4 was at most, a kilometre away. Still, it wiled away another couple of minutes, and by the time we'd arrived at Terminal 4 to check in it was 16:30 (3:30 hours before departure).
We were told by our travel agents that we should arrive at 17:00 (as that was when the desks opened for our flight) to avoid the que's, and were rather surprised that at 20 minutes before the gates opened, it seemed that EVERYONE was already in the que, which tailed back quite a distance down the length of the building. So much for beating the rush . Still, we managed to get 3 seats together, on row 30 (although the aisle separated one seat).
We then proceeded through to the departure lounge, where we basically milled around for the next two and a half hours. One thing I hadn't noticed before was that you can see right down runway 27L from terminal 4, which kept me entertained for the best part of our wait. KQ101 was finally called at 19:50, which got me worried because I know full well that this is rush hour for Heathrow, and if we miss our slot we might have a long wait before ATC can fit us in.
When I saw our aircraft arriving, I caught the registration (5Y-KQX) which told me this aircraft was a tad over 1 year old. Inside, we were greated by 3 smiling flight attendents, all in perfect matching maroon outfits and maroon hats (if it were blue, I bet they'd look like something out of the Thunderbirds heh). The cabin itself was great, very modern with 777 style interiors, which made the aircraft alot bigger. The seating was 2-3-2, as with most scheduled carrier 767's, each seat has a seatback PTV and approx 32 inches of legroom, which isn't the best but certainly not the worst (compared to my last 767 flight, on Airtours, with just 28 inches). The seat covers were a mix of blue and maroon (although they were, in blocks, like 10 rows of maroon and then 6 rows of blue). The whole cabin looked very presentable, modern and light (plus the lighting, which did a good job of replicating natural daylight).
After a long wait by our gate (gate 14), we finally pushed back, which gave me a good view of some very very shiny looking BA 777's, and a BA 744 (G-CIVS) which coincidentally was my ride to Singapore in 2000. the taxi out to 27L (which was in use for t/o all day that day because of the installation of a new ILS system... apparently), was short, but we held for some 7(8?) aircraft before finally gaining clearance to proceed with our takeoff. I didn't have a watch on but I believe our time of departure to be around 20:35. A long takeoff roll ensued, and I was given a good view of most of Heathrow immediately after rotation, along with the old sewage works where T5 is to be built (SOON!).
After one long turn (I think, about 120 degrees) we levelled off over the english channel at 32,500ft, and passengers on the right could witness a beautiful red sunset (although, it paled in comparison to the ones I encountered on safari). The evening meal was served about 1h 30mins after rotation, which coincided with the start of the inflight entertainment (not very clever!!). There weren't many good films on the IFE's 24 channels, and I think 90% of the aircraft sat down to watch Monsters Inc over dinner (which, IMO is a highly overrated film). I think the choice of meal was either Chicken with pasta or fish. The pasta, was probably the smallest bowl of pasta you will ever see (about 3 spirals I think, woah!!), and the chicken wasn't too great either. Not particularly inspiring .
After the trays had been collected, everything stopped. What surprised me so much about this flight was that, unlike most long hauls I've been on, virtually no-one got out of their seat, or spoke a word or went to the toilet or anything, it was unbelievable!!! What amazed me was, how many aircraft (3 or 4, although after my return journey I found this to be diddly squat) we passed, but moreso, the amount of lightning we saw! At least 5 or 6 gigantic storms raged over the shores of tripoli, much of central africa and even (where I didn't think it rained much), the eastern sahara. This was rather interesting for me as I can't sleep (insomnia) and I haven't seen a thunderstorm for nearly 2 years.
Not long after, and about 1 hour before arrival (which, after a 30 minute delay at LHR, was back on schedule). A magnificant orange glow filled the windows on the left of the cabin, which was quite incredible (didn't look real). A breakfast was subsequently served, which I have absolutely recollection of, so it can't have been memorable (I believe, it was just a box of cerial or something). Anyways, we soon began our descent, and for the first time in history, us brits hadn't brought the weather with us. Only problem for us was, it was bloody hot and sunny when we left!!! Nairobi was covered in a thick layer of cloud, which we spent most of the last 30 minutes of our flight swimming in. Eventually, the cloud broke, and we were amazed by the sight of.... nothing. Just baron desert/scrubland land... :P. As the ground neared there was more sign of life, but i'm pretty sure that most of Nairobi was on the left of the aircraft. Touchdown was smooth, and the spoilers were deployed and reverse thrust activated, and I caught a fleeting glimpse of an Il76 and numerous other old birds over the far side of the airport. Most of the land that the airport was situated on reminded me of pictures i'd seen of the serengeti, funny huh? The grass was so long that, we couldn't actually see the runways or taxiways so it almost felt as if we were already in the masai mara . Thus began our brilliant 8 day safari!!!
5th August 2002
KQ612 (I think!) NBO-MBA
Scheduled departure time: 14:30.
This flight was marred by a couple of incidents, which soured the experience. For a start, we'd gotten up at 6am that morning to get to the airport, followed by a 7 hour journey on... well, non-existent roads (at times). And then, on the final road to the airport (which coincidentally, is the most dangerous road in the world), we saw ..... a rather bad car crash that had only just happened (and thus, was not covered up and there were a couple of fatalities that were... well, visible.). Anyways, we arrived 30 minutes before departure, were the last to check in but still got good seats, and only had to wait 10 minutes in the tiny departure lounge (where others who had been there for over 2 hours had to listen to the most horrendous noise, like a pneumatic drill just outside), before boarding. Our aircraft, 5Y-KQJ (23 years old), was directly outside the terminal, which reminded me of home . I was amazed by how shiny this grand old bird was, in fact, just like our 1 year old 767 it was completely spotless. We boarded through the rear as only first class get to board through the front.
Inside, the aircraft was clean, well furnished and well kept, not something you'd expect that has to make 14 takeoffs and landings a day. What amazed me the most was the seat pitch, there was at least 36 inches there, it was quite unbelievable. We took off about 20 minutes late, and our takeoff roll was (not as loud as you'd expect), but very long. We climbed quickly to 30,000ft, where we'd stay for about 10 minutes. Patchy cloud covered the area, and surprisingly this harboured quite a bit of turbulence.
20 minutes into the flight the f/a's started to hand out snacks. Being at the back we didn't recieve ours until 10 minutes before touchdown, and I was very surprised to find that a flight that was scheduled for 1 hour, but only took 40 minutes, we'd get a giant back of crisps (very big!!), a very nice shortbread biscuit and a 340ml can of coke. Not bad for a short flight, however we had to rush it just to get the rubbish cleaned up on time.
To make up for the delay, our pilot (who was very good I must say!!) effectively slam dunked our 732 onto the tarmac, which was much to the surprise of my fellow passengers!! however I enjoyed in immensly, and you really couldn't tell that he was hand flying the approach (which he was, as you could tell by the excessive aileron movements that the autopilot doesn't do!). Taxi was quick and we arrived at a very smart looking moi international airport, another great Kenya Airways flight!!! Now for 7 days toasting in the sun .
12th August 2002
5Y-KQB - B737-3U8
Scheduled departure time: 21:00
After 7 days getting burnt in the sun, it was time to return home. We were the first to arrive at the airport, and subsequently had a relatively painless passage through check-in, security etc.. We also checked-in for our flight to Heathrow, where we were assigned 21 C, D and F. We were told that these were together on the middle row but I doubted that (the aisle woud seperate us). We passed the 2 hours in the departure lounge talking to friends, and I bought a tusker t-shirt which just about everyone else in the airport seemed to own (Kenyans are proud of their country, and their beer, and i think the beer rules!!!). One thing I disliked about this airport was, despite the fact that it was clean was that a)the lights went on........... then off. AND, its open at the front, so its VERY NOISY!!! just imagine a 737-200 starting up just outside your living room, nobody could hear nobody while that racket was going on!!
Anyway, we boarded on time, whilst our first class foes boarded through the jetway onto the aircraft, we were ushered out of a side exit down into the rear exit again, ha ha!! I will get revenge! This aircraft seemed identical interior wise, and exterior (except the noticeable differences in engine types and length.). The seat pitch was large again, and the aircraft was very clean and well maintained. The sky was clear and everything was nice!!
We departed on time, and the flight was much the same as our inbound flight except it was at night. The snack was a little less elaborate, with macademia nuts instead of crisps, and only a small cup of coke. Still, I wasn't complaining. During approach I got a good view of the whole of Nairobi, plus the whole of Kenyatta airport, the PAPI showed three reds and one white which was the last I saw of it, and approach was smooth, as was touchdown.
Another great flight!!!
August 12th 2002
5Y-KQY - B767-36N(ER)
Scheduled departure time: 23:55
After being walked airside from the domestic to international terminal, we were all lined up for some unknown reason.. inside the terminal. What I found was, we were being half-checked in, as we already had our boarding passes they were just being checked by staff, and then we were sent through security. Passport control was already done in Mombasa. The idea was we were to spend the 2 hours in the gate area, which was very reminiscent of an 80's canteine-esque type thing hehe. As soon as we'd passed through security we walked out, where we were subsequently asked to leave our boarding passes with Kenya airways staff at the gate (so they could keep track of us).
So we set off looking for a KLM lounge, which took us down a corridor lined with armed guards. Now under normal circumstances this should have been reassuring, but let me tell you these guys looked more like freedom fighting militia than armed security guards. I just hope those were toy AK47's they were holding . After a long trek, we finally found the KLM lounge, however it wasn't looking very promising when we arrived. Most of the airport is in a severe state of disrepair, not very nice at all. We glanced through at a lounge from beside the desk, and it looked even more canteine-esque than the gate area!!! My Father flashed his royal wing card at the lady at the desk, and she nodded and pointed over to some frosted-glass doors with walnet veneer(sp?) and the words 'Premier Lounge' embossed in the glass.
Bliss! A very nice lounge for Kenya Airways and KLM frequent fliers. Inside were some very very comfortable seats, along with a fully stocked bar (self service heh), which I immediately treated myself to a tusker, and some vegetable simosas and finger sandwhiches that were arranged along the sideboard. We resided here for about an hour, reading the news of how the whole of Europe was covered in cloud and rain etc. great fun. Eventually the fun was over as our flight was called, and we had a 9 hour slog in a rather cramped (by KQ standards) economy class.
Upon asking for our boarding passes back, we were told that our seats had been changed, and greeted with a giant smile from all of the staff. I merely assumed that they had put as by the window like I had requested (which is my only hope of getting any sleep.) however when I glanced down onto my ticket I was in for a big surprise. My seat number was now 03A, which immediately sprung to my mind to be in buisness class. My parents were seated in 03B and 03C respectively, and atop of our boarding cards were the proud gold lettering 'KENYA AIRWAYS PREMIER CLASS'. Now that brought a smile to my face!! Especially after, when booking our holiday we decided not to upgrade even on one leg as it was so expensive.
We immediately began boarding, and were once again greated with a smile and pointed through towards the nose of the aircraft. Inside were 5 rows, in a 2-1-2 configuration. The seats were large, with a 60 inch pitch and generous recline, plus about every gadget you can fit in a chair (folding tray table, folding PTV, one of them snake light things, electronic seat recline). This, I could get used to.
Despite boarding early, we spent a long time on the ground. The Flight Attendents brought around Orange Juice, water and champagne. Of course, when you get a chance like this you don't take the orange juice!!! After 35 minutes, we began to push back. Buisness class was full and i'm pretty sure 60% of the people there were already asleep. We taxied out for departure behind a cargolux 747, but somehow managed to get on the runway before it. What surprised me was just how damn quite the 767 was, I could hardly hear the engines, but merely feel the acceleration. Especially when engine power was reduced to 60%, it was just like a low whine, but when everything came on and the wind noise became more apparent it got a little noisier. Looking behind I could see the cargolux 744F depart from NBO in the dark, just a speck of light leaving the ground in the distance.
More drinks were served, before a menu was handed out. Our choice of meal was either Salmon fillet, Chicken Korma or Penne Pasta. I chose the Korma whilst my parents both took the salmon. For Buisness class, I would expect better food. Everything was served on china, including the salt and pepper pots, however only plastic knives and forks were given, and the food was pretty bland. After this, I just settled down to watch the main movie (Big Fat Liar) and take full advantage of my inflight bag (leather bag containing shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, mints, earplugs etc etc etc).
It wasn't until we reached the coast of france that things got interesting. For a start, the sun rose, with another beautiful sunrise (brilliant colours, predominantely red but with orange and brown highlights, plus the a-customary cloud highlights). Plus, a great view of Nice Cote de-zure (sp?) all lit up, but with daylight falling, and something i've never seen in the air before... A shooting star!! Not just one, but 3. What amazed me was the perspective you get from 10 miles up, it was so fast but only about 20-25 miles away from our aircraft and roughly our altitude. I wonder if any aircraft have been hit by meotorites/asteroids??? I saw more aircraft whilst flying over France, and got a good view of Paris Charles De Gaulle airport, and a Virgin A340 which was racing us (and beating us, who says A340's are underpowered?) across the channel.
By now, the sun was up, and breakfast was being served. To start, we had cereal and a roll which wasn't particularly interesting, but then the hot part was chicken kebab, spinach, tomato and sausage. How odd! but quite nice, I hasten to add!
Then came the most spectacular part of our wonderful journey, the holding pattern at LHR. Now I was quite pleased to have seen a couple of aircraft on the way, but I was totally unprepared for what I was about to see!! For a start, it was quite a clear day, as clear days go. We got a very good view of LGW, and an Air 2000 A321 came so close I could define the type, and read the titles. Then, came the holding point, we were asked to hold in a circle over central london, along with about 45 other aircraft hoping to land in the next 30 minutes. This led to an amazing game of ... well, I bet ATC have fun at that time!! At any one time, I could see 3 widebodies within 10 miles of us. Whilst turning towards Gatwick on our second loop, I could see 2 United 777's, one above us flying his first loop and one below at 90 degrees to our own aircraft and 2 BA 777's (one chelsea rose, one BA ..normal) ahead of the United in the first loop, all following each other. Plus, 5 aircraft on final for 27R, plus 3 aircraft in a holding pattern north of london (and one near collision, I saw two aircraft at the same altitude as our own aircraft fly straight towards each other at right angles, at the last minute both turned in opposite directions JUST). Then in our third loop we levelled out heading out towards Holland, before making a 180 degree turn to slot in VERY close up an Virgin A340's butt. Watching this is just unbelievable, I mean in most situations when you are flying about you just got you, your window and alot of ground, but here we had the centre of london and all of these aircraft flying at different levels flying in different directions and weaving in and out of each other. Absolutely stunning!!! Add to this a beautiful sunrise, and constant condensation forming over the wings.
Final approach didn't disappoint either, upon passing the perimeter fence we were treated to a view of 3 concordes and 2 BA 744's sunning themselves outside the maintenence hangars, one VS 744 and one A340 over by the VS hangars and one CX 744 sunning itself too!!! Touchdown was smooth, and we turned out behind the dirtiest VS A340 you'll see (the one I think Ben Pritchard commented on before... :P). Taxying past Terminal 3 was pretty cool, seeing 6 or 7 examples of UA/AA widebodies, very stunning in the early morning light. We then crossed 27L in front of a BMI A320 taking off, and finally ending up sandwhiched between two BA 744's heading for T4, which just about ended my journey!!
As I said, this was a long trip report, and I hope you read till the end caus that was the best bit . Hope you enjoyed it and any comments appreciated. I appologize if it was a bit obscure at times but I haven't had any sleep for 40 hours so i'm a bit... odd.