Review: RwandAir Business Class A330 Kigali To Brussels

Filed Under: Other Airlines

RwandAir 700
Kigali (KGL) – Brussels (BRU)
Saturday, November 10
Depart: 8:00AM
Arrive: 3:50PM
Duration: 8hr50min
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 6A (Business Class)

RwandAir’s long haul service has been on my radar for a long time, so I couldn’t wait to experience their business class on my flight to London via Brussels.

I boarded through the second set of doors, and then turned left into the business class cabin. While I always do everything in my power to be the first onboard to snap pictures of an empty cabin, on this flight another bus arrived at the plane before us, and business class was already almost completely full when I arrived.

So the first pictures below were taken at the very end of the flight, when the cabin was empty.

RwandAir has two A330s — one is an A330-200, and one is an A330-300. This flight was operated by the latter, which has a total of 30 business class seats.

RwandAir has Vantage XL seats in business class on their A330s, which is very similar to what you’ll find in SAS business class, for example.

Seats are in a 1-2-1 configuration, with eight rows along the sides of the cabin, and then seven rows along the center of the cabin. I like the green finishes they used for the cabin, as well as the patterns on the bulkhead.

RwandAir business class cabin A330

RwandAir A330 business class cabin

Vantage XL seats are staggered, meaning that the location of the seats alternates with each row, so that the footwell for seats is to the side of the seats in front.

RwandAir business class seats A330

As far as the window seats go, the odd numbered rows have seats that are closer to the aisle than the window. If sitting by the window I would try to avoid these seats, since they’re more exposed, and it’s also difficult to look out the window.

RwandAir A330 business class seats

The much better seats are the seats in even numbered rows. Not only do these seats have significantly more privacy, but they also allow you to easily look out the window.

RwandAir A330 business class seats

I had assigned myself seat 6A, the window seat on the left side in the third to last row. Usually I like to be in the very last row, but on RwandAir seat 8A is reserved for the air marshal.

Speaking of the air marshal, I find the whole RwandAir air marshal system a bit odd. They’re in uniform and they just sit there, but they also didn’t take any issue with me taking pictures, etc. Does anyone know if they’re armed, if they’re there to stop inflight disturbances, if RwandAir is concerned about terrorism, or what?

My RwandAir business class seat

My RwandAir business class seat

My RwandAir business class seat

One thing I like about these Vantage XL seats over other staggered seats is how much privacy they have. There’s a console along the aisle that has storage as well as many of the seat’s features.

RwandAir business class seat storage & controls

This includes a handheld controller that can be used in conjunction with the entertainment. Personally I’m not a huge fan of these types of controllers, since you have to scroll with your finger along the top square area.

RwandAir business class seat entertainment controls

Then there were the seat controls, which were easy to use.

RwandAir business class seat controls

There were also 110v and USB outlets, as well as a headphone jack.

RwandAir business class headphone jack & power outlet

The tray table slid out from the right console.

RwandAir business class tray table

My one issue with staggered seats is that the footwell where you have to place your feet is typically pretty tight.

RwandAir business class footwell

While I wouldn’t call this footwell spacious, I will say that the Vantage XL seats have larger footwells than some other seats, so I didn’t find it to be too tight.

RwandAir business class footwell

Then in front of the seat and to the right was a literature pocket, as well as a coat hook.

RwandAir business class literature pocket

The one real downside to these seats is that they didn’t have individual air nozzles, which is an amenity I value greatly.

Waiting at my seat upon boarding were a pillow and blanket, which I found to be pretty disappointing. The blanket was comfortable enough (though unmemorable), but the pillow was way too flat for my liking.

RwandAir business class blanket & pillow

There were also a pair of headphones, which were alright.

RwandAir business class headphones

Also waiting at each seat was a bottle of water.

RwandAir business class bottled water

Anyway, much to my surprise the business class cabin was completely full. The cabin showed as being wide open a couple of days before departure, so I’m not sure if this was due to last minute upgrades, employees, or what. In contrast, premium economy was almost empty, as I’ll discuss more below.

RwandAir business class cabin

10 minutes after boarding I was offered a warm towel — RwandAir has big towels, and they were nicely scented.

RwandAir business class warm towel

A few minutes later I was offered a pre-departure drink, with the choice between champagne, water, and orange juice. RwandAir has Moet champagne in business class, which is respectable.

RwandAir business class pre-departure champagne

At around 7:55AM, five minutes before departure, the captain added his welcome aboard. Interestingly the entire flight deck crew was foreign, and the pilots all seemed to be Hispanic (I would guess the captain was Mexican based on his accent). I’m always fascinated by ex-pat pilots, so I found that to be pretty cool.

He informed us that our flight time was 8hr12min, and that we’d be cruising at 38,000 feet. The captain also apologized that they were sorting out some paperwork, and warned that we may be a few minutes late departing.

At around 8:10AM the crew passed through the cabin with magazines, newspapers, and amenity kits. It’s interesting that they have separate amenity kits for men and women. I found the kit to be well stocked, with lotion, lip balm, earplugs, eye shades, socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a brush, and a pen.

RwandAir business class amenity kit

At 8:15AM the captain once again apologized for the delay and said that the paperwork was almost sorted, and that we should be underway soon.

Finally at 8:25AM the door closed and the stairs were pushed away from the plane.

Remote stand Kigali Airport

At 8:35AM we began our very quick taxi. We passed the other planes on the ground at Kigali Airport, which included three RwandAir 737s.

RwandAir 737 Kigali Airport

RwandAir 737 Kigali Airport

By 8:45AM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 10, after doing some back taxiing.

Taxiing Kigali Airport

We had a powerful takeoff roll, and a gradual climb out of Kigali, with some really cool views.

View after takeoff from Kigali

View after takeoff from Kigali

View after takeoff from Kigali

The seatbelt sign was turned off just about five minutes after takeoff. As we continued our climb out I browsed the entertainment selection. RwandAir has entertainment screens at every seat, with on-demand entertainment.

RwandAir entertainment selection

Unfortunately the selection is underwhelming. There were a total of just 29 movies and 21 TV shows. So while it’s better than nothing, I’d say that’s one of the more limited entertainment selections in the sky.

RwandAir entertainment selection

RwandAir entertainment selection

RwandAir entertainment selection

One of the cool things about RwandAir is that they have Wi-Fi on their A330s. The bad news is that it’s provided by OnAir, which in my experience is the worst and slowest provider of inflight internet.

As far as the pricing goes, you could get:

  • 15MB for free
  • 40MB for $10
  • 100MB for $20
  • 300MB for $30

RwandAir Wi-Fi pricing

RwandAir Wi-Fi pricing

RwandAir Wi-Fi pricing

300MB will more than last you the whole flight given how slow OnAir speeds are. So I purchased the maximum data. It was better than nothing, but unfortunately it’s not nearly as good as the inflight Wi-Fi offering of other airlines.

The inflight service began about 30 minutes after takeoff, with tablecloths being distributed. Then a drink cart was rolled down the aisle, so about 15 minutes later I had my first drink, which was a cup of coffee.

RwandAir drink service

RwandAir business class breakfast — coffee

RwandAir doesn’t have printed menus, unfortunately, so when there’s a choice they’ll tell you what it is.

40 minutes after takeoff I was brought a tray with the appetizer, which consisted of a small portion of fruit. To go along with that was the choice of either a croissant or brown bread. I chose the croissant.

RwandAir business class breakfast — appetizer and croissant

70 minutes after takeoff a trolley was rolled down the aisle with main course choices, with the option of either an omelet or poached eggs. I chose the omelet, which was perfectly fine, but bland. I wish it had come with some sort of salsa, or anything, on the side.

RwandAir business class breakfast — main course

After the main courses were brought out the trolley was once again brought through the cabin for another drink service. After that the trays were cleared, just about 90 minutes after takeoff.

I thought the meal service was disappointing — there were no menus, and the meal was quite small. I realize breakfast isn’t typically an exciting airplane meal, but they could have at least had some yogurt, cereal, etc.

On the plus side, the crew was extremely friendly. The flight attendants working business class were doing everything they could to make the flight pleasant. They weren’t the most polished or formal, but they seemed to be genuinely friendly.

When the meal was done I decided to check out the lavatories — there were lavatories both in front of and behind the cabin, and they were in fairly decent condition but had no extra amenities.

RwandAir business class lavatory

I also took a glance at the premium economy cabin, which had a total of 21 seats in a 2-3-2 configuration. There were just two passengers in premium economy, which is another reason that I found it odd that business class was so full yet premium economy was so empty.

RwandAir A330 premium economy

RwandAir premium economy A330

RwandAir premium economy seat

RwandAir premium economy seat

By the time I was back at my seat we were just under 6hr20min from our arrival in Brussels, and we were crossing from South Sudan to Sudan.

Moving map enroute to Brussels

Moving map enroute to Brussels

At this point I decided to try and get some sleep, so I reclined my seat and got comfortable.

RwandAir business class fully flat bed

The footwell was definitely tight, though not nearly as tight as on a Delta Boeing 767, for example.

RwandAir business class bed

I wasn’t especially tired, given that I got a decent night of sleep prior to boarding, but I managed to doze off for just under two hours, and woke up with 4hr20min remaining to Brussels. At this point we were over Egypt.

Moving map enroute to Brussels

Airshow enroute to Brussels

I was quite hungry at this point, since the breakfast wasn’t very big, so I asked if they had any snacks. The only snacks they had were macadamia nuts.

While they were good, this is the same snack they served before lunch… and the same snack they served on the Brussels to London flight. You’d think on a daytime flight of over eight hours they’d have some sort of other snacks in business class.

RwandAir business class snack — water and macadamia nuts

I spent a bit of time working and figured lunch would only be served 90 minutes (or so) before arrival, but nope. The cabin lights were turned on 3.5 hours before landing, at which point a (slow) lunch service began.

At this point a drink cart was rolled down the aisle.

RwandAir business class drink cart

I ordered a glass of sauvignon blanc, and they were serving a Deetlefs Estate 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, which I quite enjoyed.

RwandAir business class lunch — white wine and nuts

Then about 30 minutes later tablecloths were brought out, and that was followed by the appetizer tray. Again, there were no choices for the appetizer, and it was quite small. The appetizer consisted of some smoked salmon with cream cheese. There was no soup or salad or anything else, other than a piece of bread.

RwandAir business class lunch — appetizer & bread

After the starters were served the drink cart was rolled down the aisle again. Then about 15 minutes later main courses were brought out. The choices were between chicken with rice and beef with brown rice. I chose the chicken, which was alright.

RwandAir business class lunch — main course

About 20 minutes later a dessert trolley was rolled down the aisle, with the choice between fruit, a strawberry cake, or a cheese plate. I asked if I could have both the cake and cheese, and the flight attendant said I could if they had enough. I was first given the dessert, and a few minutes later she returned with the cheese as well.

RwandAir business class lunch — dessert

RwandAir business class lunch — cheese

RwandAir’s meal service is seriously underwhelming, in my opinion. While the service is friendly, the selection is limited. While not a huge deal, I also find it strange that they give you a single fork and knife for the entire meal, with no real option for it to be replaced.

The meal service was done just over 90 minutes from arrival in Brussels, so I decided to work on my laptop until landing.

Moving map enroute to Brussels

Just over 40 minutes before landing the captain announced that we’d be landing at 3:55PM local time. He explained that we’d only be on the ground in Brussels for 30-40 minutes before continuing to London, and that the same crew would be flying us the entire way.

Moving map enroute to Brussels

A few minutes later we began our descent, and at that point the cabin was sprayed for landing. About 20 minutes before landing warm towels were once again distributed.

View approaching Brussels

The views on the descent were beautiful, despite it being a cloudy day, and about 20 minutes before landing the seatbelt sign was turned on.

View approaching Brussels

View approaching Brussels

Landing at Brussels Airport

We had a smooth touchdown in Brussels at 3:55PM, and from there a five minute taxi to our arrival gate at an empty terminal.

Taxiing Brussels Airport

Arrival gate Brussels Airport

At this point many passengers deplaned. In the next installment I’ll share what the rest of the (short) journey was like to London.

RwandAir business class bottom line

I was really excited to fly RwandAir’s longhaul business class, though unfortunately I was left mildly disappointed.

On the plus side, the cabin is beautiful, the Vantage XL seats are solid, and the crew was friendly.

Unfortunately the soft product otherwise left a lot to be desired. The meal service was limited, both in terms of the quantity of food and selection, and the quality wasn’t amazing either. The entertainment selection was also quite limited, and I wish they’d have better bedding.

I realize this is a small African airline with big dreams, so this isn’t meant to be that negative of a review, but I do think they have some opportunities here to significantly improve their product without investing that much. I hope that they improve service before they launch flights to New York later this year.

In fairness, the airline does have consistently excellent business class fares, so maybe I should cut them some slack.

If you’ve flown RwandAir business class, what was your experience like?

  1. Cabin looks great but man that food leaves a lot to be desired. Those carrot sticks on the cheese plate looks dry AF lol.

  2. Why can’t airlines just have a toasted sandwich snack. Most things toasted taste better ha! I just flew chin eastern long haul with the family. Same thing. Cold old croissant as the “snack”. Everything else they were out of. Nonprinted menus to look at.

    Cheese plate very ordinary as well.

  3. “It’s interesting that they have separate amenity kits for men and women” for business class you mean. You should know better than anyone that LH and CX have the same in F

  4. Thanks for the review, which comes as a bit of surprise. African airlines usually are quite strong in terms of food service …

    But obviously, they treated lunch as the main meal, which does make some sense given the schedule.

  5. @Lucky, I’m confused. A few weeks ago you published an article about wanting LESS service in business class, especially on the soft product side of things. It looks like RwandAir delivered that in spades. And you’re still complaining.

  6. @ derek — You might want to read that post again. That was largely about redeyes (not daytime flights where most people are awake), and it was about the speed of service, not the quantity served. They could have put more food on each tray. C’mon…

  7. @Lucky @Anon

    I’m pretty sure Qatar Airways has male and female amenity kits in business class. I clearly remember my mother getting a different perfume scent bottle than me.

  8. was it actually an Air Marshall or perhaps an immigration officer for the flight back to Rwanda? I’ve been on a flight to Bali and they stamped passports in the air prior to arrival…just a thought.

  9. @Phize

    yeah, but QR is considered by many to be the epitome of Business Class, whereas Rwandair is a much smaller player. You don’t see separate kits on other very good airlines like CX or SQ. For that matter, SQ doesn’t even supply kits in the traditional sense.

  10. @rayray
    They do these days. Not sure if it’s gendered necessarily but there is both a black and brown one.

  11. Complaining about the quality of food on a Third World airline seems kind of, umm, First World. I mean, come on, the food looked edible. What do you expect in Rwanda?

    As for the champagne. How can you write this, “RwandAir has Moet champagne in business class, which is respectable.”

    Moet is more than “respectable” for business-class. I don’t know of any North American, First World airline serving it in business-class. Delta has been caught serving $4 Andre sparkling wine. Other times they serve cheap cava or prosecco, if catering doesn’t give them Lanson champagne.

  12. Lucky, you wrote “Usually I like to be in the very last row” – I see this quite often. Just got off a flight with an empty business class cabin, but did notice on the seat map hours before the flight, that one passenger had seated herself in the second to last row. Why do you like to sit In the back of business class? Is it to be far from the noise and light of the galley, or to view the business class service since you’re reviewing it?

  13. Plenty of airlines offer different amenity kits to men and women in business class…KLM, AF, QR, Kenyan, etc…

    On a separate topic, I was offered an amenity kit on a 2-hour KLM flight from Amsterdam to Madrid recently. Though I’m guessing this was just because they happened to have one lying around and I was the only passenger in business class. It was kind of random and strange…

  14. Interesting that Rwandair served you bottled water considering single-use plastics are banned in Rwanda…

  15. When I used to fly Emirates business class a lot a few years ago I remember they had separate amenity kids for males and females. I fly Air France and Delta more nowadays and those airlines don’t differentiate gender specific amenity kits.
    Anyway, thank you for this review. I first flew Rwandair back in 2010 and I remember I could make a reservation online on its website but I had to pay in USD cash at their office in Kigali airport. Odd I know but it worked.
    It does look like they can improve in the food department but I am impressed they served macadamia nuts in business class.
    For me, business class is all about the seat so the lackluster soft product would not have bothered me (unless I was flying in First Class.) 😉

  16. What does it mean that the cabin was sprayed for landing? I’ve never flown out of Africa. Is this some sort of disinfectant?

  17. @Ross,
    It also happens when you fly into or out of Brazil. Anytime, for years. It is indeed an disinfectant who is used by many Airliners.

  18. @Ross

    Many countries require the spraying of a bactericide and pesticide before allowing the aircraft to park at a gate. Aircraft from certain countries landing in the US, Europe, India and the Far East require the cabin to be sprayed before allowing entry to the gates. This is a common practice for many airlines originating from regions with Zika, so as to kill any infection carrying mosquitoes.

  19. I’d be starving after 8 hours and only getting those teeny tiny portions.

    I also agree that Moët is a very good champagne to be serving in business class.

  20. Your review of Rwandair is one review I have been waiting for; sorry that the food is underwhelming yet, the special Rwandair glassware and Salt and Pepper shakers are v cool

  21. Though I haven’t flown with them yet, my daughter and family have several times, she was extremely impressed with them, they flew economy. I’m flying with them myself next week from Gatwick, I cannot wait. This’ll be my third visit to the beautiful country.

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