This is a review of a return flight. To read the review of the outbound flight, click here.
CHECK IN I checked in online and printed off my boarding passes at the hotel and left three hours before the flight took off to take into account the traffic in Dar es Salaam. The flight was at 1500 and I arrived at the airport at 1300. You have to go through security before you check in – to get into the terminal building. There was no queue at the check-in desk and so I checked my bag through and went straight to the immigration hall to fill out my departure form, and then through passport control.
THE LOUNGE The airport departure lounge is small but there are a few shops and cafes and a seating area but no screens or any information around. Gates are through another security check behind glass screens. I went downstairs to the Tanzanian lounge, which was a sea of leather chairs and sofas and a waterfall running down a rocky wall feature. There was food such as vegetable samosas and doughnuts, and drinks in a fridge. Staff were on hand to give out hot wet towels. Wifi is also available here but I read my book.
BOARDING There are no announcements made in the lounge so I went back up to the main departure area at 1430 and through more security to the gate area. There was a lot of confusion as people joined queues hoping it was for their flight. I waited until the queues went down and then asked the man on the door and he checked my boarding pass and directed me down a corridor to the plane.
THE SEAT The flight between Dar es Salaam and Nairobi is operated by Precision Air B767-300, which has a business class configuration of four rows of 2-2 and large blue leather seats, which recline to a comfortable lounging position. There is also a footrest attached to the seat in front. There is a curtain separating the business class cabin from economy, which was configured 3-3.
To see the seatplan, click here.
THE FLIGHT We were delayed taking off because there was a bird dead on the runway, which had to be removed by a fire engine. We took off to lovely views - sit on the right if you want to see Zanzibar and Pemba. The flight time is only one hour and we were served drinks and offered newspapers and a hot towel after take-off, and then a meal was served (there was no choice) which was a tray with three empty bowels and a plate with vegetable samosa, a fried fish stick and fried chicken piece. It was hot and tasty but just a snack. After the meal was cleared we started the descent.
THE TRANSFER We disembarked and walked to terminal building and I headed straight to Gate 6 and then onwards to Kenya Airways premium passenger Simba lounge. I arrived in lounge at 1730 but my flight was not boarding until 2230. The lounge was very busy and I perched on a stool at a high table with about ten other people, and plugged in my laptop to check my emails. There was a decent range of hot and cold food and the staff kept bringing out new offerings throughout the time I was there. A few flights were called and I spotted a comfortable armchair near another power point so I moved my belongings there and plugged in my laptop. I sat there for the rest of the time.
You can leave the airport but you will need a visa. There are two computers in the lounge and tables with chairs as well as the more comfortable seating area I based myself in. The flight was called for boarding at about 2245 and I headed to Gate 4 and went through security. We only had to wait a short time before boarding.
THE SEAT The seat is an angled lie-flat, deep red material seat in a hard cream shell. It looked a little worn and there were only four controls in the armrest. Two controlling the main seat to go back and forward and two for the footrest to be extended and retracted. The seat is 79cm (31in) wide, and extended to a 193cm (76in), 176-degree flat bed. A good-sized table folded out of the left armrest and the AVOD control was under the inside armrest. My seat was 3J - there was someone sitting in it but I said I didn’t mind having the aisle seat instead.
To see the seatplans, click here.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? The galley can be noisy and the staff talked quite loudly during the flight when we were trying to sleep so best to go for the middle rows 2 and 3 (the last row is near the galley for economy class). If you prefer stepping over someone to them stepping over you then opt for window seat A or J.
THE FLIGHT The business class cabin has 28 seats configured 2-3-2 in four rows and it was busy – there were only five empty seats. We pushed away from the gate at 1215. Hot towels were given out and menus and newspapers. I was tired but had the meal – the main was a choice of roast chicken salad or beef medallion horseradish and sweet potato or vegetable cutlets, dahl curry and spinach. Dinner was good and I settled back to watch a film but fell asleep for around four hours – I found it more comfortable to sleep without the pillow. There was quite a lot of turbulence during the flight, which the captain had warned off before take off. I asked to be woken for breakfast, which was served two hours before landing – a choice of omelette with sausage or sausages and hash browns, all accompanied by tea or coffee.
ARRIVAL We arrived around half an hour late and there was only a small queue at immigration. My bag came out very speedily and I was on the tube into London by 0730.
VERDICT Attentive service and the cabin and seat were comfortable. The stop over time in Nairobi airport is a long time to spend in an airport lounge although once I had found my seat I found it comfortable and the wifi was good. One option would be getting a visa and heading to a restaurant or hotel near the airport as some of my fellow passengers did to while away the 5 hour wait.
PRICE A mid-week return in January from Kenya Airways' website starts at US$2,457 (£1,588).