As part of a recent trip to Africa, I had to take a commercial flight from Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) to Nairobi (Kenya). There are essentially two options for this route; either the direct flight with Kenya Airways or via Zanzibar with Precision Air. Normally, I would take the more adventurous option, but as my trip was time-critical, I chose the direct Kenya Airways flight.
As Kenya Airways is part of the SkyTeam alliance, I was able to take advantage of my elite status on the flight. This not only included an additional baggage allowance, but also access to the local lounge (Tanzanite Lounge) in Dar Es Salaam. The lounge access was well worth it, as it was the only room in the whole terminal to be air-conditioned.
Boarding was on-time and, as expected in true African fashion, was chaotic with no priority boarding enforced. Upon boarding the Embraer E190, I was surprised to find an actual business class cabin in a 1-2 layout. My second surprise came in the form of individual in-seat IFE at every seat, including economy. Whilst the size of the screen was relatively small, the selection of TV programs and movies was more than sufficient for the 90-minute flight.
My only criticism is that there were no headphones provided (the jack, however, is compatible with standard single-plug headphones), nor was there any airshow map on the IFE, something I always enjoy viewing on shorter flights where there is no time to see a full movie. A USB power port was a welcomed feature.
In terms of in-flight service, I was not expecting much on this short flight given my prior experiences with flights of similar length in Europe. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised when the crew distributed a warm chicken panini sandwich.
In addition to the standard beverages, there was a wide selection of premium brand spirits available which were complimentary, even in economy class. Duty free was also offered; it was interesting to see that nearly every passenger was buying something. I had never seen so many duty free sales on a flight before.
The arrival experience in Nairobi is probably the weakest point of the Kenya Airways experience. Upon disembarkation from the aircraft, a 15-minute bus ride ensued.
Eventually the bus came to a building resembling a carpark. This carpark is actually the international arrivals hall. According to staff, this is only a temporary measure until the main arrival hall gets rebuilt following a fire in 2014. It took no less than 20 minutes to process all passengers on our (regional jet) flight.
I would hate to imagine what this hall looks like with the arrival of multiple long-haul flights at a time. Baggage delivery also took a further 20 minutes, so it was almost an hour from the time the aircraft arrived until I was outside the arrival hall.
Having never flown on an African airline, I was not quite sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by the service offering on board Kenya Airways, despite the lengthy arrival procedure in Nairobi.
Kenya Airways gives many European “full-service” airlines a run for their money, in particular with their cabin product. Furthermore, given their extensive network of fifth-freedom flights within Africa, they are a solid and reliable option for intra-African travel which can look intimidating and dysfunctional at times.