Burundi, a country as wide as the 44th biggest state in the USA, and with a capital Bujumbura, weighs not that much in the world nor than the East African Community balance. This is the kind of country that you won't hear from any news on the media for months or years despite it owns 2 original facts :
1) One of the most respectable pride is to provide the official southernmost Nile spring river, according to the British explorer Burton (referring to the White Nile)
2) – Unofficially – no airline carrying the flag abroad nor domestic, unfortunately due to the so called "routine" maintenance of Air Burundi solely Raython Beechcraft 1900D, since end of 2009 (which seems pretty long for a check B or C). It would be interesting to learn which other country do not temporarily nor definitely fly the flag anymore ?
Thus the world goes on and Burundians have bigger fish to fry around the Lake Tanganyika. This is the continuation of Mombasa Beckons (J): New Rwandair VS Kenya Airways (by eastafspot May 12 2011 in Trip Reports)
Pic3: Opportunist and hungry agent: a $20 picture
Pic4: Burundi – DR of Congo Border at RN5
Before all, triple kudos and special thanks to:
Who provided an excellent footage covering the sum up of the trip, it only takes less than 5 mins, for those among you in a hurry, but it worths a wee attention:
so have a look at here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQhqKq7ZfBM
Who dared to venture on those remote areas. Inspite my biggest respect and huge hats off to the explo-reporter of Airliners, time has probably come for an update . Nevertheless refreshing your memory or discovering more about his previous experiences related to this report is – strongly – advised :
The airline Fly540 : Fly 540 5H 411-a: 31/AUG/07: MYD-LAU: Y Cabin (by Abrelosojos Dec 3 2007 in Trip Reports)
The route Nairobi-Bujumbura: Kenya Airways KQ 470: 19/AUG/07: NBO-BJM: Y Cabin (by Abrelosojos Nov 22 2007 in Trip Reports)
Let's mix and shake up those 2 later together and welcome back to the 4th country covered out of 5 in East Africa. Despite the context there is not too much to describe, hence you will find more pictures than comments. Shall we go now ?
1 – Hotel Hilton Nairobi
Initially there was absolutely no intention to stay overnight, but the pleasant Airliners « mission » forced me to avoid 2 airlines, that you knew already.
Ideally located in the heart of the CDB, the hotel is one of the most famous landmark place to stay. Among the others, being the Serena hotel, the Norfolk, the Sarova Stanley vastly more expensive and judging by pictures/reviews, just significantly better and the InterContinental tried few years ago.
It features all the desires and needs for an agreement relaxing stay and/or business facilities. Its shape remarkably designed, offers an extensive 360° view of all the city centre.
1: the Kimathi Freedom Statue
4: The Nation Centre further back
Soon after clearing off a careful compulsory vehicle security checks at Mama Ngima street, the luggage was taken from me while exiting the taxi. There was no queue at check in, the local receptionist had given me a standard warm welcome. The process seemed to take a good 5 minutes or so, because he did the usual credit card/paperwork shuffle, before handing over me the room card with directions to the lifts. Soon enough, I was walking into the small-sized room Queen Guest on the 7th floor, overlooking the west towards the Nation Centre Media HQ.
The bright room was on the large side, with a comfortable king-size bed and soft chair, writing desk, a 20'' inch old TV not LCD nor plasma with a correct mix of usual internationals and local channels (16). However, the room was spotlessly clean and the fantastic view across the town more than, made up for the size and the carpet which showed its age. There were also some nice complimentary mineral waters and the provided quantity of Kenyan teas and coffees.
Old style TV
Then time came for a little wander around the property, followed a little swim in the heated pool, then some fitness at the club located underground, and for finally settling down at the classic well known « Jockey Pub » but not for long though.
Not refreshing at all
A carefulness environment bath was more than welcome after this long day, with a the bathroom in good condition, offering amenities in usual quantity.
The major downside of the room for me was the coolness, which did not seem to dissipate, despite having the heating on the highest 26 degrees setting constantly (more than the pool???).
Unfortunately the temperature of the room did not increase much, but I managed a few hours' sleep before taking a shower. The breakfast buffet has been skipped in order to check out directly at 07:15 and avoiding all queue and traffic jam at this morning time.
Booked on line for only $153 on b&b basis, it was a no brainer deal.
2 – FLY540 : Upping the LC standards
Before composing this TR, the sole low cost experience dated back to December 2009, flying on the orange and white metal on an o/w CDG-EDI route. So to cure the lack of knowledge about products on "pay as you go airlines", reading a certain author Paul Kilduff's book represented the best medicine whatsoever. It has definitely rescued on showing the trends of the market and confirmed some of the most famous « F - air » rumours.
What you should know about Fly540
Established in October 2006 and based in Kenyan capital, 5H, one of Africa's leading low cost airlines, is backed by the giant 100 years old Africa-focused investment holding company Lonrho PLC. It serves the East African market mainly, somehow excluding Rwanda.
Carrying approx. 310,000 passengers per year, the airline continues to expand in its successful network regionally, thus the company's ambition is to become a pan-African carrier, through an expansion of two additional African hubs:
ANGOLA: They commenced flying as an ICAO registered airline in January 2011 and intends to build its route network to 15 destinations by the end of 2011.
GHANA: Fly540 is working with the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority to commence operations before the end of 2011.
Despite the actual glowing success story, the picture may be partially clouded in a near future, indeed, mid August 2011 saw a potential competitor emerging from the homecountry's ogre.
Kenya Airways is considering setting up a low-cost subsidiary that would operate on domestic and regional routes. The new airline, called « Jambo Jet », will probably take on several smaller airlines that have become popular with passengers on domestic routes and to neighbouring countries. Real info or pigs will fly before? Hope it will be the first one unlike the urgently needed JKIA terminal's improvements. Meanwhile if any update comes up, you will be the first to know.
So far, representing the only so called – budget – option to travel, the move has been quickly decided.
A booking has been made through the well maintained website, despite it had requested the passport details, with the home adress followed by an immediate CC payment with obviously the same infos required. Moreover the fare was priced slightly below KQ, providing – depending on the route or the time – a non-stop service and a hot meal.
After a short stay downtown, the C/I desks at Unit 1 which have been reached at 8h, were so calm like the whole area almost deserted. No one could believed of an week-end eve.
Marsland : creative name, still serving the (newly) South Sudan?
One would guess that the cleaner mopping the floor was part of her routine task, but a repulsive odour surrounded the line due a traveller feeling faint, and whom previously threw up while check in. His relative worried about his state asked if he still wanted to fly, followed by a NBO ground team which peacefully tried to fortify him. Then a medical team joined them to verify the seriousness of the case.
A low ceiling hall
She's cleaning because of the sick traveller
In no time airside, the 3/4 duty free shop « roundabout » displayed its duty free stuffs and also a pleasant new : the departure hallway started being demolished and offered a kind of open-space in some gate. How many time people were asked to back away by leaving passport just to purchase bottle of water or to find out relatives or to use toilets before security !!! please keep going...
On time at gate 4, obviously displaying only already departed flights 35mins ago, a spare minute was used to take a rather useless picture of the 2nd security checks. When the turn came, the lovely kenyan lady, called G., firstly proceed the docs check, and questioned about the aim of the photo taken. Rather embarrassed and with no creative argument, a lousy straight forward answer appeared, albeit being the frank truth: the simple pleasure of only flying for discovering new airlines on what she vaguely nodded and then promptly handed over the travel docs and surprisingly offered me with a rare smile the P.I.L.. All right, many thanks but for which use ? (hum, your phone number would have been much more appreciated though )
As seen in some reports : luggage shop here too
B/fast: Pies are identical (but free) in the SkyTeam Premier lounge
Owing to the passenger's list, the flight would be operated on a light load with only 6 people up to Mwanza. Some departure lounges were undergoing maintenance works, not ours which was underused and in poor condition judging the appalling painting work over the wall and the tatty carpet. Removing shoes here must be a case of extreme request.
One pax was missing when boarding was called at 9h for a little walk on to the apron.
Passengers Information List
The usual traffic
While preparing the camera for a great pics, G. surprisingly decided to pose few seconds before noticing a collegue calling her with the remaining traveller walking down the pier gate. A perfect photo of her with the plane behind would have been much appropriated here. Well, the chance was taken anyhow only once.
Excitement and disappointment
Nairobi – Mwanza (tanzania)
distance: 284 miles
The maiden flight happened the 11th of January 2010 on a 3x weekly basis and up to now has been unchanged.
Photo © Felix Gottwald
Photo © Joern Hornhardt
After an invisible cabin crew greeting, the Bombardier welcomed us on board. As the official document supports, it was like every Y traveller craves to experience such as an empty plane with a such amount of different seat choices.
Only when boarding was completed, the young man crew, sporting a smartly tailored white shirt along with a 5H tie appeared. He smiled at us and carried on his chat with the cockpit pair.
Showing a good impression, the cabin had an all-leather grey clean seat, and a bright interior. All the Ex-Air – Littoral flyers are called to prove any improvement done since then.
In order to understand better some very frequent flyer A.netters, the left seat of the last row had been selected to check how better the view was.
It turned out to have a correct view but a double noisy seat, the other sound arose from the guy who has been wisely seated here next to the lavatory by the cabin crew for some basic reasons argh..!*=)-@#1/%ç#...
Soon enough, after greeting the DR of Congo Governement B727, as usual, safety annoucement, and a quick T/O runway 6 with a long straight flight path before turning left followed by a nice city overview, mostly the route to the Great Lakes turns 180° right , and then 90° right passing NBO airport.
Congolese VIPs : 9Q-CBA
Languages « spoken » on board
Complimentary breakfast, served in no time, consisted in a choice of chicken sandwich or veggie salad. Well starving at 10 am, a stuffed chicken s/w was being chosen, a definetely better choice than any other LC 1h+ trip. Honestly, a mild curry marinated chicken with juicy tomatoes added to the crunchy green pepper and salad leaves and mellow bread composed a simply gorgeous FREE[ meal. It was so good that a compulsory 40 winks happened after, lasting 20 mins only, but in order to compare the exit seat legroom a casual move was made forward.
Included: S/wich with hot drink and juice
Emergency exit door
In meantime the FA spread regularly some « Oust » or odour neutralising out all over the cabin, and kept assisting the other pax on providing serviettes and sickness bags. Fundamentally, everybody wished he would leave next stage with his unfriendly noise ending soon.
Finally the initial seat, last row, represented the best view option when approaching Tanzanian airport.
Descent over the lake Victoria to runway 12
Mwanza : main Terminal
Mwanza International Airport (Tanzania) is a major regional international airport in same named City
It serves as a principal hub for Auric Air and Precision Air. Its 10800 feet long runway has an orientation 12/30°. According to Wikipedia the passengers trafic reached 234 000 in 2007
Pic 1&3: Local airline Auric Air
Mwanza – Bujumbura
Mwanza – Bujumbura
distance: 252 miles
4 pax joined on time. Take Off on the same runway 12
Lake Victoria in the background
This part of the flight was event free until the cruising altitude was reached and once FA finished his duty. The service consisted on a drink, i've opted for a bottle of still water.
Network advertising: no onboard mag
Relieved he sat a row before mine, and started listening without earphones, on his electronic device branded Mo....la, a really nice groovy Kenyan (?) song similar to or called « Lemonade » .
Bored at 33 000 ft: enjoying his favourite tune
Then an interesting approach downwinds over the capital heading towards the south before a 180° right turn for a smooth landing on the active runway 35.
Beach hotels and airport's vicinity
Bujumbura city centre
The quiet port
Long life resting trafic: 9U "ushouldfind", BRY, BRZ and BHG
An attentive FA: thumbs up
Last in last out : a deeply sorry passenger
BXC at BJM
Luggage : faster than any other Air Club « priority »
Murakaze neza Burundi : landside
Originating from NBO and none from tanzania, 4 of us cleared passeport controls in no time. Due the low importance of the flight/carrier, no taxi was waiting at the stance, so the guy from the curios shop fastly enchanted to call his friend to pick me up.
Hilton Nairobi : certainly an address to recomand I was as snug as bug in a rug with my stay at the there – the property is styled classically with a modern twist, and has an overall good feeling about it. It’s not too businessy, not too touristy – just the right balance. Apart from the room temperature the global experience was fine.
FLY540 : which promotes itself as Africa's first low cost carrier has nothing to envy to the western stuffs. Purely based on one experienced only, the core service (price, luggage allowance, food ) rivalled with the legacies and in none of point looks like a pay as you go airline whatsoever, unlike its slogan sells it. The staff members were somewhat just well mannered with a brilliant attitude. They dealt appropriately with every personal request and appeared eager to help anytime. Well the negative side of the trip was some minor state of the plane but this aims to be tacky only !
Big up to Fly540 which is evolving into a Pan Africa airline with some plans to open up hub in Zimbabwe.”
As final word a special note for our wealthy A.net members, proving that Fly540 also offers a private jet collection for leasing (Falcon, Citation, LearJet) certainly much advanced and allegedly with a state of art onboard equipment proving once again the real picture.
Many thanks for reading, corrections and comments are valuable, so feel free.
East African Spotter ( Léonard)
If need of more adventure, check those reports :
3 A's: Airshow, AirFrance, Avro; ORY-MPL-CDG-EDI (by eastafspot Jul 9 2011 in Trip Reports)
Eastern Airways And Flybe To Paris Air Show (by eastafspot Jul 4 2011 in Trip Reports)
Mombasa Beckons (J): New Rwandair VS Kenya Airways (by eastafspot May 12 2011 in Trip Reports)
From Malawi To Scotland With Kenya Airways And BMI (by eastafspot Dec 7 2010 in Trip Reports)
The Blue Bird Amid Gorillas: KLM Inaugural KGL-AMS (by eastafspot Nov 27 2010 in Trip Reports)
Linking Other Great Lakes: Air Uganda + Rwandair (by eastafspot Nov 12 2010 in Trip Reports)
The Ride In Africa: Kenya Airways Business Class (by eastafspot Apr 28 2010 in Trip Reports)
BMI Regional To Lyon Via Man In ERJ145 (by eastafspot Apr 18 2010 in Trip Reports)
Just Plane Smart... (by eastafspot Apr 6 2010 in Trip Reports)
Rwandair And Skyteam Airlines To Scotland (by Eastafspot Dec 10 2009 in Trip Reports)
KLM And Kenya Airways To Rwanda (by Eastafspot Dec 7 2009 in Trip Reports)
3 – A quick visit around Bujumbura
The week-end stay at Buja occured at the Keza hotel – or Saga beach (Saga represents a kind of « chain » hotel there). The standard are certainly below than the neighbour country flagship store – Hotel Club Tanganyika – but still remains appropriate when electricity and water shortage do not occur. The location is ideal for family or couple break, but quiet far distance from the city centre and other few attractions.
Drumming is an important part of Burundian cultural heritage. Traditional dance often accompanies drumming performance, which is frequently seen in celebrations and family gatherings... the commonly instrument used for traditional drumming are « poetical » named amashako, ibishikiso, and ikiranya drums
One of the best example of stunning performance : http://www.youtube.com/user/snapsorfly#p/u/15/VpofImxzqD4
Dancers and drummers : watch the video above
Priority in the middle of Route National 5
Rusizi : the natural E. A. border originating from Lake Kivu
Toyota Coaster « kaput » , then choices were walking or hitching
« Boulevard de la Nation »
A certain « Déjà vu »...n'est-ce pas?
Time for a refreshment : a wicked pineapple wine
An early sunday morning routine despite no 2012 Olympics
The end: Burundi-Rwanda border at Kanyanza haut.
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