Since the 3rd of june 2009, day where the Skyteam partner Delta Airlines were supposed to launch its transatlantic and transafrica route ATL-DKR-NBO, the Kenya Airways Headquarter undergoes tough times: during the previous days a Boeing's dispatch announced the delays extension of the B787 program, holding up the modernization of the 767 in the KQ fleet. Followed later an harsh KQ staff strike during the summer period, which stranded thousand of customers around Asia, Africa and Europe. Also the fast growing list of edgy customers who clearly expressed themselves about the regular late and the poor customer service, first on the many websites and then by flying the eternal competitor Ethiopian, make Kenya Airways muddling through this year. Expected to be release this week the final report of the KQ507 disaster will also remind a dark event on KQ history.
According to the latest customer reviews, its slogan does not match with the reality, with some appalling comments such as: “Standards have fallen dramatically” or “the entertainment console fixed into the armrest was hanging out, with wires dangling down” and the worst ever “the crew made clear that you were not welcome (no smile, rude and impolite)”
Since the middle of the 90's, the airline is supplying a fair quality performance that conforms to its slogan and meet its customer expectation in term of fare, security and reliability. Despite KQ has been granted of many awards such like “African Airline of the year” for 3 years in a row, is one of the rarely African's profitable airline, and still keep extending the network, the picture is nowadays clouded by diverse misfortunes.
Nevertheless how Kq which wears firmly “the Pride of Africa” can clearly manage a showing off at equal category with BMI, or American owning far more means?
I did not found any trace of recent report for this reason it was time for A.net fans to go trough on the Kenya Airways Business product: the Premier World
After a gloomy year, highlighted by the endless crisis, long and freezing winter in Europe, time came to chill out and sunbath in Africa. The whole journey consisted in an homemade puzzling mileage run deal:
operated by BMI, Lufthansa, Kenya Airways, Proflight Zambia and Air France.
Kenya Airways marketing published in September 09 a cracking bargain for flexible ticket from London to selected destinations including its base Nairobi and few eastern and southern countries.
They seduced and incited to enter in the early bird category, even if the routing was not really sure yet. The travel class of the long hauls segments would logically influence to enjoy this continental journey in Economy too, but:
First of all it was two separate and different bookings
the travel agent mentioned straight that 2 fares only were available on this route. The choice offered consisted of economy class, with a rather but so common intimidating price within Africa, or the business class for an extra peanut's handful.
When you consider most of EU, US and Asian mayors, are unable to offer a same price every day in the same class. The atomicity of the demand blows away the yield management principles on some circumstances...
It was time to jump at the KQ medium haul service in their Premier World class, and to compare 2 continental services on board its B737 and its second biggest aircraft B767 before the gradually substitution by the B787 Dreamliner planned for 2011.
Welcome to this journey with Kenya Airways
Following the official visit of the French President Mr Sarkozy in February this year, I've been visiting Rwanda only 3 days after him for longer than 1 days. Part of my family and some friends reside here and it's a real joy to maximize the KQ weight allowance and bring them 2*23 kg (or more) of goods from the France's living part of the family.
Kigali had welcomed some of the most prominent VIP of this planet during the last decade, and still remains a regional vibrant city. It regenerates every day thanks to the numerous expatriates, the countless NGO's, and his dynamic Excellence President Paul Kagamé, and his 2020 program, which aim to win the Rwanda's fame on the « Swiss » model during the next few years: High buildings, 24/7 shopping centers, zero plastic bag, and maximum safety...
Since then it's interesting to see the huge development made which attracts more and more visitors. Airlines understood this quickly and increases their visibility in town. The competition has become fierce to provide the best service to Kigali.
Scheduled at 9H30, i woke up with difficulty at 5 am, due to a long farewell drink the eve with my friends in town. After few minutes of drowsiness and a long shower, the motivation arise, to pack quickly my remaining luggage, and to set off towards Kigali Airport. The Taxi driver arrived in advance, and it took us less than 15 min to reach the airport at the sunrise, before the morning traffic jam.
Kigali International consists of a 70's design architecture building. Very functional and convenient, it offers to passenger on 2 natural floor levels (airside upstairs, landside at the lower level) Forex, bank, limited duty free shops, coffee shop, T.O., VIP lounges, and a Rwanda Tourism computer. Rather small, it eases all the process. Hub of the locally known Rwandair which plans to connect soon Kinshasa (DR Congo), the platform is served daily by Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Air Uganda which is the last born here by recently opened flight to Entebbe, and three times weekly see the only Europe direct flight with Brussels Airlines. Hence Kigali relies also on charter flight, with a co branded Thomson/Starquest Expeditions B757 parked early March.
After a long search i was deeply disappointed, when a screen or FIDS could not be found anywhere. It's probably the only international airport in this case...
the figures of KGL are pretty encouraging, last year, Kigali International Airport registered 15 percent growth in passenger volume whilst this year Rwanda’s CAA has handled over 270,000 passengers for 2009 and expect over 300 000 before the opening of the new airport ( NBIA) at the dawn of 2015. on middle term RCAA target to implement a steady growing regional hub. Here are 2 traffic equivalent close to you (for British and French):
- Scatsta Airport in the Shetland Island handled around 255 000 passenger and is ranked 35 by the BAA
- Nîmes airport (south of France), a Ryanair destination, with a decline traffic, stagnates around 245 000.
Arrival at KGL
Entered 2H40 prior the departure, the hall has already a great natural brightness but is rather quiet. Few workers and the usual airport staff occupy the still sleepy departure hall. On my right, the Security Check protects the airline check-in counters, and all entry is definitive. On my left hand, the only 3 in 1 place in the public area: coffee shop, bar restaurant and everlasting goodbye can be found at Bourbon Coffee. This is the place to be in Kigali town to have an informal meeting, to show off or to wait ... Here this is the only ting to do; with this option i took a seat, for a light bite, and enjoy a Kizi Rift Cappuccino and an almond croissant. Slowly but steady travellers turned up, among them 3 cheerful Asians, worst than me about pictures. Today Rwanda Police considered this activity as normal. Around 7H20 it was time to go forward to Security for check-in.
With only one lane opened, i was number 2, and it's also exactly the time it took me. The guard just asked “ Hello sir, are you travelling?” and checked the identification.
Sent back a first time by the ground staff, because they were only checked-in the Rwandair flight to Entebbe, i was among the first passenger at the counter, specially to request a seat with extra legroom at the front row. As it would be impossible during the Online check-in.
After the security i can found maybe half dozen counters, all with WB stickers, few with SN and on the left side two reserved for Kenya Airways occupied by a wisely seated lady waiting for a traveller. The queue seems being for any airline counters, i avoided sneaking out straight to the empty counter. When my turn come to move forward, the KQ lady told me dryly to wait , as she was busy, setting up the lane Eco/Premier world. Well she should have placed this before, but it did not slow down the process. After the first contact pretty cold, the rest of the exchange, was much better, even if she failed to give satisfaction for the seating for both flight and will kept 2A on KGL-NBO section. After greeting and wishing me a good flight, she forgot the lounge access explanation or location.
Stepped up to the departure level, i've cleared the so quiet immigration desk. The officer, talking in Kinyarwanda, got quickly confused and edgy when he asked a non routine question. My lack in this language, gave him suspicion about the genuineness of the document. Then his attitude reversed when he read the class of traveling, thanked me for visiting Rwanda and wished me a memorable trip. Hard to comment this behaviour, anyway my stomach felt hungry as i was about to reach the Lounge.
Last year, the time of departure, would not allow a full appreciation of the lounge, And glad to nibble a bite before flying, i've rushed to this place.
Also called the CIP, since march 09 it has been partially refurbished, with additional seats which have replaced the deeply comfy brown leather armchairs, a DSTV flat screen, and the lighting is nicer and less hospital neon style.
Once registered the attendant, she also took the order and brought the hot beverage and a pastry. Luckily, she had only two customers to look after. Basically the expectations in Africa are far behind the product found in Europe or elsewhere, Kigali is not an exception. A couple of pastry available (probably from Bourbon Coffee downstairs), a sample of cold sandwich, and peanuts. For refreshment, fridges worked perfectly and seemed well stocked up. Unfortunately no newspaper was available (even in town it a big pain to find), oppositely to the right of holding the remote control TV.
new version smarter and cleaner.
Because I did not want to miss out the landing of my Boeing, i've swallowed promptly this honey and chocolate whirl, burnt my throat with the Kitabi Rwandan tea and quit for the departure Lounge next door after the security X-ray gate.
Despite my hurry step to attend the landing, the last x-ray scanner has been forgotten and slowed down my walk to the show. But just the engine's sound, added with the reverser, produced a remarkable arrival, for the pretended narrow body. Whilst the security agent religiously taught me the lighter is part of the forbidden item, my attention focused on the departure lounge windows where the huge bird tried to park on this tiny apron. Effectively, KQ has upgraded from a 737 to a wide body 767. That was a pleasant news.
Boeing 767 300ER 5Y-KYY
C - Flight summary
KQ services up to 4 daily flights between the Rwandan capital and its hub (Kigali is KQ's 3rd destination by the frequencies offered) Only the evening rotation is direct, otherwise and according to the days of the week it is originated or via Bujumbura in Burundi operated with a brand new regional jet Embraer 170 or by B733/738. Today you will enjoy an exotic stop-over in the neighbour country.
1.The Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Photo © Jeffrey L Phinney
Photo © Enrico Pierobon SpotIT
1.General Information :
Sometimes Kenya Airways rosters wide bodies on selected routes, not as US, EU or Asia to absorb the high demand, but to provide a bigger cargo capacity, it was formerly the case for Kigali on Saturday, still on for Brazzaville (not sure), Lusaka and Lilongwe 3 times weekly.
Finally the boarding started 15 min later than expected, just after the domestic flight to Kanombe. The ground staff invited directly the passengers to embarked through gate 1. The muzungu who arrived first outside, noticed an opened door “Kigali Airport Bus” at the stairway and hoped in, before the smiley driver pointed out with his finger the plane, for a short walking exercise.
Once noticed the 5Y-KYY, of our Kenya Airways the words of Msafiri (KQ magazine) resounded in my mind:
“ due to further delay for the delivery of the Boeing 787 Kenya Airway modernizes its fleet by the introduction of a new 767. with the registration KYY, it will be leased from ILFC for a period of 18 months”.
I was honoured to try the latest KQ wide body, on this short haul segment.
KGL hosts including B747SP "Star Triple Seven"
2.5Y-KYY: Cabin and the Seat
At the front a canopy boarding ramps allowed Business passengers to step up into the aircraft,
for the first time in my KQ life, i was not sure to enter on a Kenya Airways plane. The traditional burgundy and ritzy comfy seat have been substituted by a modern Blue and white seat. All the cabin seems new but appalling, a big screen for the central row, and 2 * 15' tv's a the front of each side. This cabin did not released the truly Kenyan Atmosphere as on each an every KQ aircraft the signs are translated in Swahili. Convinced i was lucky before, getting inside turned up as a sullen journey began. This old Alitalia aircraft (EI CRO) is a huge disappointment, even the toilet once i tried to pull dryer paper the in-wall cover came out with the rest.
When the cabin officer checked the stub, to point out the Seat 2A, she felt shame because of the yellow tap incorrectly sticked on it: DO NOT OCCUPY, lucky for me, the flight was far to be full on both segment(3 pax and 12 pax). I've finally chosen 4A to BUJ, and 1A on the way to NBO as a gentleman, kindly moved to another seat.
the "latest" aircraft in KQ fleet
the KQ 767 Business cabin is configured 2-1-2 across, with a cradle style seat offering a generous 76' pitch for a 31' width. The recline may reach 90° For those two measure it's much better than the 737 originally expected and the 5Y-KYY do not provide any power source.
the seat pocket in front of me showed also its age, as the seat, overall it's all the aircraft interior which showed a lack of attention.
2.Kenya Airways In Flight Service
Taxiing roughly on time, the unusual heavy, lifted off from runway 28 at 9H45, for my shortest international flight. It has lasted only 20 min for this reason the cruising altitude was only 17000 ft. The approach on BUJ, enables to see the Lake Tanganyika, before flying over the airport, and intercepting the glide for a landing on the really bumpy runway 17. the airport on itself is funny with a African style architecture, and some shantytowns on its side.
Rwanda Air Force
Take of from Kigali
Landing at Bujumbura:
What is that?
nice caravelle overthere
After a shorter stop, it was time to head for Nairobi with a take off facing the lake and the capital on the right. The milky sky, except over the lake, did not allow to see so much, before f the south bank of the Victoria's Lake and the Serengeti National Park. The surprise and interrogation arose when we flew over NBO at an High Altitude, and when the Mount Kilimanjaro appeared on my window.
Flying over our destination
At this moment the cockpit crew announced that a light plane burst its tyre at JKIA, and would prevent any landing within the next hour. After two circle over NBO, the F/O running out of kerosene, stated we will be diverted to Mombasa as the rescue take a while. This unforeseen event, though disturbing a little my schedule, made me smile, as going and back to the east coast will add another 2h30 on the flight time. In a meantime my camera ran out of batteries, it will be only mobile phone picture.
Daily Nation: 12/03/10
heading to MBA
The plane touched down Moi's runway at 14H40, parked for 35 min, boarded edgy travellers , none in business, and took off at 15H25. They should have appreciated a domestic flight in 767, not very common here... This segment was fast with only 40 min flight time.
Parked at MBA
Scene of tarmac
Our trip ended up safely but late at 16h25 with a majority of the passengers overexcited and overstressed to get information from the cabin crew. On arrival, they did not hold the economy class passengers back, so it was a scrum to get off.
QR also at NBO
Business cabin Flight attendants, all female, welcomed all the passengers with and authentic smile, sadly, it was also the last time they showed a pretty face, They were really professional, nice, efficient but did not share enough their enthusiasm whilst they worked. I've not being offered to hang my jacked, although i was the only one to stepping in at Kigali among the 3 travellers. At stopover the F/A kindly provided this service to all new passengers but on arrival they handed back the jacket once the door opened. Stewardesses seemed nonchalant, but anticipating customer requests: about the connection issues for the delays, water service whilst grounded at BUJ without GPU, and for my seat broken. Good point but not exceptional. Duty free has to be order preferably before the meals.
2.Meals and drinks
KGL-BUJ: I was being delivered a welcome drink within 5 min after seating, with a choice of apple juice, orange juice or water, for a 30 min total length no snack or drink have been offered en route.
BUJ-MBA(*): a stingy choice of the same welcome drink was given by the hostess, then she distributed the Hot Snacks menu. Just after the safety announcement she came back for the order taken clockwise before take off. Unfortunately my choice not available, had to back up on an tasteless beef with inedible crispy spaghetti, which not even suit in economy menu. At least the red wine and hot bread were decent. Food quality was poor - even for plane food standards - and the portions are small, but she refilled the glass of wine.
MBA-NBO: welcome drink and peanut in a porcelain saucer and drink service i drunk sparkling water
the bar menu has one weakness not champagne or sparkling wine, the choice of welcome drink is ridiculous.
Hot Snack menu
There was no PTV's but a in-wall screen, displaying KQ seven in Dubai while we were grounded at KGL, a tracker when we took off then nothing, until the pilot said we will be diverted on MBA, it started working but only showed one program with fuzzy image. On the way back, the screen shows images in white and red, like the old 3-D movies which you had to watch with special glasses.
3.1.Disembarkation and custom :
16h40 represents the second KQ arrival wave, even though we should had landed at 14h, the crowded was unavoidable, besides this Kenya Immigration provided only 2 Visa lanes. An Ivory coast group slowed down even further the queue due to incorrect informations filled in the form. They pretended to speak French only and do not understand anything. I felt oblige to help them even if 2 of those guys were rude and aggressive. It took an extra half an hour.
The blue immigration Card given in the plane is useless simply because the officer asked to fill the white one, and not the blue ( ???)
The bag was already here, on the side as an other flight has been on the same bag reclaim.
Pretty upset i was out of the terminal at 17H05, instead a maybe 14H15.
JKIA main building
Landside at NBO
While I want to support Kenya Airways, the facts speak differently if you fly a long haul segment and have a 767 KYY you will be disappointed.
To be continued