BOOKED: Kenya Airways, RwandAir, And British Airways!

Boy am I excited! Earlier I shared my desire to fly Kenya Airways’ new flight between New York and Nairobi, though I struggled to redeem miles on it, since Kenya Airways seems to have some quirks with award availability. Well, I finally managed to ticket something, and it’s an itinerary I’m pretty proud of.

So, here’s what I booked:

Kenya Airways from New York to Nairobi

I finally managed to redeem Delta SkyMiles for the flight from New York to Nairobi. Or perhaps more accurately, Tiffany was kind enough to call and work her phone magic on the phone with the people at Delta SkyMiles, since I had no luck on my tries. What did the trick was what Steve also mentioned in the comments section of the previous post:

You need ask Delta to ‘longsell’ the flight in O Class…you are right they don’t
see the availability but ask them to long or direct sell it and it’s gets confirmed…..just had to do this for flight SEZ/NBO. The Delta agents should know this but it took me 3 calls and telling them what to d9 to get my seats confirmed!

The ticket cost 95,000 SkyMiles plus $400 in carrier imposed surcharges and taxes, but that worked best for my schedule, so I figure it’s not that unreasonable. I’m can’t wait to experience Kenya Airways… I think?

RwandAir from Nairobi to London via Kigali and Brussels

I’ve been wanting to review RwandAir for a couple of years now, and it’s finally happening. I managed to book an ~$1,100 one-way business class ticket from Nairobi to London, which routes via Kigali and Brussels, including two segments on RwandAir’s A330.

RwandAir is a fascinating airline with A330s that have staggered seats in business class, and the airline also has ambitions to fly to New York as of next year. We’ll see if that comes to fruition.

Even more fun is that this isn’t even my return from Nairobi back to the US.

I’m actually nesting a whole additional trip in there, as I’m flying from Nairobi to New York and back on British Airways, so this will be my return from that second trip.

British Airways from Nairobi to New York

British Airways has excellent business class fares out of Nairobi, of around $1,900 roundtrip to New York. I’ve complained about British Airways often enough, so why would I want to review them again?

  • I can fly all the way from Nairobi to London to New York on the 747 upper deck, and I wonder if I may have a different impression of their business class there, given the privacy and side bins at these seats
  • British Airways has an improved soft product with new catering, bedding, etc., and the JFK route is their flagship route for this being tested
  • I can fly in one direction on British Airways’ A318 Club World London City service between New York and London City, which adds some variety
  • I upgraded the London to Nairobi flight to British Airways first class for just 22,500 Avios one-way, and it has been a while since I’ve reviewed their 747 first class

I also have some mileage motivations with this trip. If I credit this flight to Alaska Mileage Plan I’d earn 150% elite qualifying miles and 350% redeemable miles as an Alaska MVP Gold member. So I’m looking at over 23,000 elite qualifying miles and almost 54,000 redeemable miles. This trip will also earn me MVP Gold 75K status, which will earn me a further 50,000 redeemable miles (which I wouldn’t otherwise earn). So I’ll earn over 100,000 miles for this trip when all is said and done, which I value at about $2,000.

Bottom line

I’m so excited about this trip — two trips, actually — that will have me flying Kenya Airways, RwandAir, and some British Airways flights that really interest me.

I still need to figure out how to get back to the US (specifically, I need to get to Miami on these dates). Norwegian has great Premium fares to Fort Lauderdale, but the flight is operated by a Wamos Air A330. I’m not sure if that makes this more or less interesting.

Any predictions for what my experiences on Kenya Airways and RwandAir (heck, or even British Airways) will be like? 😉

Comments

  1. @lucky-looks like you put in the wrong picture from great circle mapper. The route you put in is from your previous trip with your dad.

  2. I am also flying to Rwanda on Rwandair this autumn. Perhaps we’ll be on the same flight. When will you be in Rwanda? Would be great to meet you!

  3. This is very INTERESTING!!!!
    CAN YOU REVIEWS THEIR LOUNGES ALSO??? I would be curious about the FOOD SELECTION!!!!!

  4. Lucky go for Air Europa please!! I’m sure an award ticket won’t cost much and that would be another “significant” airline you’d have a review of

  5. You will be thrilled with BA1!!!!

    I flew BA2 a few years back, the crew was much friendlier than your avg BA crew (their base is Gatwick). Also, no other plane on BA has that specific Biz class seat. Boarding should take all of 10 minutes and the steep landing/takeoff is quite the experience. Never gets old when I fly into LCY

  6. Welcome to Nairobi, Kenya…hope you’ll like your flight with KQ…as we call it here…happy you’re finally getting here!!!

  7. Virgin atlantic upper class london to miami. Usually fly A330/787 on that route, therefore flying most updated product.

  8. Given the cheap Dubai to JFK through Nairobi fare you mentioned, which also gives you a trip through their Nairobi lounge, why didn’t you choose to fly in that direction, given that you’re originating near there anyway?

  9. Do Iberia MAD-MIA since so many people will be flying Iberia Business after the promotion. An updated review would be nice!

  10. Hi Ben –

    I know that reviewing airlines is your passion, your job, and your main goal for this trip, but I need to echo @LAXJeff: Don’t just connect in Rwanda…spend a couple of days and go on at least one (two really is better) gorilla treks. It is the most life-changing, life-affirming experience of my life. In their eyes, you get to see the essence of humanity, without all of the goop we tend put on top of it. It was seven years ago that my wife and I did it, and it’s still fresh in my mind and deep in my soul.

  11. It’s funny, Kenya Airways is almost always the cheapest J option out of Bangkok to anywhere in Africa, but to me their business class looks hideous. Plus, I must say that one experience at NBO was enough for a lifetime.

  12. I used to fly KQ business class regularly between AMS and NBO until about 2 years ago. Their seats are pretty standard 2-2-2 787 configuration, however their catering left something to be desired. I’d be curious how things have improved. They did, however, have wonderful service.

    Looking forward to your review.

  13. KE 787 business class is kind of meh… its not bad but nothing really stands out. And the seats are especially susceptible to cell phones / passports falling through the sides and getting stuck below the seat.

  14. For the return, try the tuifly 787 from BRU to MIA, there are flights on Tuesday and Saturday, with one way fares from €149. Add another €150 for “Premium” (during booking) and an extra €50 for the “bigger seats” (during seat selection). For a day flight this is a very comfortable way to cross the Atlantic.

  15. I’ve had several pleasant flights with KQ business Class on 777, 787, 737 and the small ones. It is a decent product and the food and service ranges from OK to good.

  16. You should stay for a couple of days in Kenya and Rwanda and explore the wildlife. You could also hop on a flight to Mt.Kilimanjaro airport and review Four Seasons, Serengiti and &beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.

  17. Depends whether or not the BA 747 is one of the “refreshed” ones: the old unrefurbed ones are now dreadful – tiny IFE screens many of which are blurred so badly you can’t read the writing on the moving map; frayed carpets; ingrained dirt. Depressing. The refurbed ones have fixed all that, but still have the same old CW seat. The new Do&Co catering is pleasant (better than it was), but nothing remarkable.

    I dunno. It just feels likely that the report (and all the comments) will consist mainly of the same tired complaints about what BA isn’t. Wouldn’t it be more interesting to do the new KLM planes trans-Atlantic, and to leave BA until the new “all J seats with direct aisle access” CW appears on their first A350 delivery, later this year or sometime next?

    Though the LCY-JFK review will be useful.

    Have fun!

  18. While the KQ/WB flights may seem exotic due to their unfamiliarity in the West, they are not anything particularly special once you actually experience them. KQ is an ok experience, but the passenger experience is easily the worst of the “big 3” sub-Saharan carriers (ET/SA/KQ in that order).

    Nairobi airport has improved by leaps and bounds, but I still prefer getting breakfast at Javas rather than the very inadequate KQ lounge. As for Kigali airport and lounge, the less said the better.

    Enjoy the trip! 🙂

  19. Hey Ben I’m a big confused by your routing.

    You said you’re flying from New York to Nairobi (Kenya), then Nairobi to London (Rwandair),
    then BA from Nairobi to London/New York/US (BA).

    But how are you getting back to Nairobi from London after the Rwandair flight? Or do I have the order of flights wrong?

  20. I flew on klm/kq last year from Ord to Nairobi and back. Chose the leg on ams to Nairobi on kq specifically to give them a go. I actually don’t mind that 2-2-2 style of seating when with the wife. A lot less compact than reverse herringbone etc.

    Food and service was pretty good. Lounge in Nairobi pretty dismal.

  21. Looks like a fab trip. Particularly looking forward to your review of BA1, I very nearly booked this redemption once and have always wondered what it would have been like.

  22. @ James – He said he had that second trip nested, which means he’s flying JFK – NBO on Kenya, NBO – JFK and back on British Airways, then Rwandair.

    Looking forward to this report (and I second doing the gorilla trek that LAXJeff and Tom mentioned)!

  23. Hi Lucky

    Look forward to reading your trip reports, as always.

    Not sure any flight on a well-known carrier such as British Airways qualifies as “interesting”, and I would well advise you to manage your expectations of them for all the reasons you and most of your readers will be aware of. Their product is average in all cabins and their service, very inconsistent.

    Having said that, I wish you a safe and enjoyable trip and look forward to reading your report.

  24. Ebola is making a comeback in the Congo next door.

    Once you are in the Rwanda and Kenya avoid as many people as you can, stay in your hotel room, do not go out and wear one of those face masks all the time. Even on the planes.

    If you get sick, even a sniffle get to the nearest US embassy immediately and ask to be evacuated.

    Take care benny. This will be a great story to tell your kids one day, how you cheated death.

  25. How about Primera Air? They fly from London to many places on the East Coast. Or LEVEL from Barcelona to Oakland

  26. FYI for those recommending the gorilla trek in Rwanda, I did a lot of research recently because I am headed there next year (and will also fly Rwandair business class, so I’m excited!). Rwanda just DOUBLED the price to see gorillas, it’s now USD1500 per person for one hour with the gorillas, vs $750 one or 2 years ago. I would have done it for the old fee but the new one is really hard to digest. Apparently, it’s possible to do it for cheaper next door in Uganda (but visiting Uganda as a LGBT individual is out of the question).

  27. I recently flew both Kenyan and RwandAir within Africa – Kenyan from Lagos to Tanzania via Nairobi and RwandAir from Nairobi to Lagos. Kenyan had a better on board product and their staff were at least more professional, while RwandAir had a bad onboard product and had poor customer service both in the air and on the ground. You can find both full reviews here: Kenya (https://0504traveller.blogspot.com/2018/07/trip-report-kenya-airways-lagos-to-dar.html) and RwandAir (https://0504traveller.blogspot.com/2018/05/trip-report-rwandair-nairobi-to-kigali.html)

  28. Let me be honest there are a couple of large carriers that serve Africa and that is about it. Many countries have small regional carriers. Then there are airlines like the ones you will be trying which operate just some of the time and to a few destinations. They do not really compete for people that often travel to Africa because of limited options and many other reasons.

  29. I flew Kenya Airways a few years ago, redeye round trips between London and Nairobi. I remember thinking that it must have been an older plane, because the coach seats seemed noticeably bigger than the ones I’d been flying in the previous several years.

    But what I remember most, and will probably never forget, is how freaking hot it was on the plane. It made such an impression on me that I was very careful to layer my clothes on the return trip so that I could strip down to a tank top and cropped leggings. And I was *still* hot.

    I don’t know if the premium cabins had better ac, but those two 8 hour flights were among the most uncomfortable I’ve ever taken, regardless of the bigger seats.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *