Flying to Entebbe and back from Nairobi, I traveled with Kenya’s flag carrier and SkyTeam member Kenya Airways (KQ). As a SkyTeam-loyal flyer, I’ve traveled to Africa about five or six times now and used KQ for all of my short-haul intra-Africa travel. 90% of the time this means that I’m flying on the airline’s Embraer E190 jets.
Space and seating
The aircraft is laid out in a 2-1 configuration for business class and 2-2 for economy. At six feet tall, I felt that there was adequate legroom for me. However, the one thing that lacks space is the overhead storage compartment. If one person brings a large enough suitcase, it can potentially take up the space that’s allotted for two or three passengers. I find this is a big issue with most regional jets… so pack accordingly!
Almost every KQ Embraer I’ve flown on has had an (old) inflight entertainment system included. However, the flight from EBB to NBO was on an E190 without this. In this case it wasn’t a big deal as the flight was only an hour; furthermore, in most cases the entertainment selection is rather lacking. These IFE systems also have a USB-A socket off to the side so you can charge your device during the flight.
Food and beverages
On these regional flights the crew come by with one round of beverage service and then hand out sandwiches. In my case I had a small can of orange fanta and had the choice between a tiny chicken or vegetable sandwich. I had the chicken sandwich…it wasn’t anything to write home about.
A poorly handled arrival
If you’re reading this and the Ebola crisis is still raging in Central/West Africa, then you may find yourself affected in the form of a mismanaged arrival process in Nairobi. Coming from Entebbe, Uganda, our aircraft was directed to park at a remote stand.
After about five minutes of standing and waiting for the door to open, everyone was directed to sit back down. After this, we were handed a health questionnaire to fill out. This was a yes/no checkbox type of form asking if passengers were experiencing certain symptoms.
Some people filled it out quickly, others took more time. Those who completed the form walked off the plane and on to a shuttle bus. Knowing that it was a choice between waiting on a spacious, comfortable plane or standing on a hot and crowded bus, I opted to sit and wait for everyone else to complete the form. All this time the cleaning crew were waiting outside in the heat – gloves and garbage bags ready to clean up the cabin. However, the last 10 people took so long that the crew told them to fill it out in the terminal.
We all boarded the bus and headed to the terminal. The chaos continued as we entered the building but found ourselves on part of a jet bridge locked out of the terminal building. A few minutes later we were let in and continued to the next line-up: a body temperature scanner. This was another anti-ebola measure. After this was another checkpoint where immunization records were checked.
The experience I’ve described above (except for the airport arrival) is what you’ll likely experience if you fly from Nairobi on Kenya Airways to cities like Dar-es-Salaam, Harare, Entebbe, and Addis Ababa. Most of the time I’ve found that the crew are pleasant to deal with – excluding one encounter where we had a disagreement about where I could put my baggage.
The arrival of my flight from Entebbe was nothing short of stupid and ridiculous and could have been prevented. The ebola epidemic is nothing new and there are numerous KQ flights between EBB and NBO. The easiest thing that would help is storing away a stack of health questionnaires in the cabin and having passengers fill them out in advance on the plane!
In summary, the one hour trip feels a bit overpriced at about US$350 (I thought flying within Canada was bad!), but it wasn’t disastrous and I will probably end up on another KQ E190 again at some point for work. However, it does make me wonder what the difference would be flying on their larger competitor – Ehtiopian.