In between some nomadic globetrotting I had some professional work to do in East Africa. I found a fairly amazing deal flying out of Milan Malpensa heading to Nairobi, Kenya. The itinerary was a good mix of flights which would allow me to review a few different airlines and aircraft (Air France on the return journey). This review will cover the journey from Amsterdam to Nairobi on the Kenya Airways 787-8.
The boarding time for this flight was 8:05am. Apparently, the aircraft had arrived late and so I witnessed many passengers walking up to the gate desk and asking if boarding had started yet. After about 20 minutes we were finally able to board and I headed to my seat at 31J.
According to FlightRadar24, I was onboard a 787-8 with registration 5Y-KZJ. This jet is four years old. FOUR YEARS!? The IFE feels like it’s at least seven years old; maybe my perception of old/new IFEs and their age is a little off.
Boarding the aircraft, I was warmly greeted by the Kenya Airways (KQ) crew. Due to everything being delayed, I had to pass two crew members while they were placing headsets on the seats. One ran out of headsets but was pulled away to do other pre-flight procedures.
Seating and IFE
The economy cabin is a 3-3-3 layout. Arriving at my seat, I found the seat to offer decent legroom… bonus points for not having a bulky IFE box under my seat taking up my foot space (I like to stash my backpack under there for easy access to my computer and documents). As is standard with all Dreamliners, the window shades dim electronically. I love watching or hearing people behind or in front of me realizing this for the first time – there’s such a sense of confusion mixed with wonder!
I had the window seat and was joined by two young french teenagers who seemingly were quite new to the flying experience – unfamiliar with the function of the silver knob on the seat back (coat hook) and how a two-pronged IFE audio system works. I always have to remind myself that I fly a whole lot more than the majority of people and things that I assume are obvious may not be so for everybody.
As stated above, the IFE audio system used two-prong headsets. I feel like this is a sign of an older aircraft as newer ones just go with the single so people can use their own earbuds and headphones. The IFE seemed fairly old and the touchscreen was rather slow and was more responsive using the remote control on the retractable cable.
The movie offerings seemed okay to me. Not amazing, but not too bad either. It’s a very subjective opinion and I’m aware that my high frequency of flying means that I might be harder to please. There were certainly some Hollywood blockbusters available. I also feel like TV comedies “Fresh off the Boat” and “Big Bang Theory” are quite prevalent on the various airlines I’ve flown – maybe it’s just me.
Food and beverage
We took off about 30 minutes behind schedule and once we reached cruising altitude we were given “breakfast”. This consisted of a box with two packaged pastries inside: A mini croissant and a lemon frangipani square. That was the first disappointment of the flight. It also came with a selection of beverages (juices, sodas, alcohol).
About two hours later, the beverage cart came through again and offered another round of beverages. After that, it was another hour and a half and we received a small pack of peanuts (lunch?) – and another offering of beverages.
At this point, we had three hours left in the flight and I was starting to wonder if this incredible deal I received was some kind of extra-basic fare that didn’t include a hot meal. I was flying a legacy carrier intercontinental – surely there would be something, right? It definitely made me rethink my assumptions about what I should expect.
But finally, near the end of the flight, with just over two hours remaining, a “real meal” was served. However, as I was seated near the back of the cabin it took an extra half hour for me. I’m definitely more accustomed to getting the big meal upfront with the mini, pre-packaged foods served as the second meal. However, seeing as our flight was landing around dinner time, this also makes sense.
The food was surprisingly good. I really enjoyed the main course which was chicken, pureed spinach and rice. The chicken had just a little bit of spice which was quite enjoyable.
Wrapping up the flight
After meal service was finished and our trays cleared there was about an hour left to go in the flight. We landed 15 minutes late but without incident. However, I was fairly surprised that there was no jet bridge connecting our plane to the terminal…. even though our aircraft was parked right beside one. Rather, all the passengers exited via stairs and poured out onto the tarmac in a disorganized mess wondering what was going on.
After about five minutes, a bus arrived to collect most of the passengers. It took another five minutes for another bus to get the rest of us.
The overall feeling I’m left with after this flight is one of confusion:
- I’m confused as to why a four-year-old plane has such an old IFE (I flew an Air Canada 787 (economy) four years ago and their IFE was fast and responsive).
- I was confused why the full meal service would be scheduled so close to landing.
- Finally, I was confused about our use of stairs to exit the plane. I know Nairobi’s airport is capable of better.
However, the flight had some great points as well:
- The environmental comfort of the 787 (quieter cabin, increased humidity).
- Friendly service by KQ crew, with frequent beverage service.
- Tasty dinner (perhaps the credit goes to KLM’s catering service in Amsterdam though?).
- Great price and a reasonable (scheduled) arrival time that isn’t too late.
I’ve only flown one other airline to Nairobi: KLM. It’s a tough decision as to which I prefer. This is because my experience with KLM up to this point has been on their aging 747s. However, KLMs service is always of a high standard on long-haul routes.
In my opinion, flying Amsterdam to Nairobi on KLM vs Kenya Airways comes out about equal. I think one airline has slightly better service on an older and more worn-down aircraft.
On the other hand, KQ’s service wasn’t bad and you get the nice environment of the 787… with an ever so slightly newer IFE. Therefore, if these two airlines were options for me then it would come down to price or schedule.
Have you ever flown Kenya Airways before? What was your experience like?