Kenya Airways B777-200ER Premier World

BACKGROUND From its Nairobi hub, Kenya Airways flies to 35 destinations in Africa and nine cities in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It serves the London route daily, with an extra flight Friday to Sunday, and is an associate member of the Skyteam alliance. It is also a member of Flying Blue, the frequent flyer programme of Air France/KLM. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic operate daily on the route.

CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow’s Terminal 4 at 0835 for my 1020 flight and proceeded to Zone C. There were short queues for both business and economy. Check-in was smooth and I was asked if I’d like to change my seat allocation of 1A (you can also check in online and request your preferred seat if you have an e-ticket). I was happy with it and took the fast-track lane for security. I was airside by 0850.

THE LOUNGE The Skyteam lounge at T4, open since June, is located opposite Gate 10. It’s a large, bright space over two floors, with the upper level due to open on November 9. It will be good when it does because the lounge was busy, with someone sat at every pair or group of armchairs. I took one of the bar-style seats and tucked into the tasty breakfast on offer, which included freshly made omelettes and pancakes. Other facilities included a wine bar, a gaming zone, several PCs and free wifi. The vertical garden that adorns the walls is a great touch, with 60 species of plant creating a fresh feel. I didn’t have much time to enjoy any of this, however, as at 0910 I saw on one of the screens that my flight was already boarding.

BOARDING I made my way to the gate and there was no queue to board. On taking my seat I noticed there was a mobile phone belonging to the previous incumbent still on it, which I handed in. My jacket was promptly taken and I was offered a welcome drink, a newspaper and an amenity kit. There was then a lengthy wait for the aircraft to begin taxiing, which it did at 1030, before stopping again. We took off at 1055, 35 minutes behind schedule.

THE SEAT The B777-200ER is in a two-class configuration of business and economy. Business was arranged in four rows of seven in a 2-3-2 layout (AB-DEF-HJ – see seatplan, right), while economy was arranged 3-3-3 (ABC-DEF-GHJ). It was good to see business class three-quarters full. My window seat was very comfortable and upholstered in maroon fabric. It was 79cm/31in wide, and extended to a 193cm/76in, 176-degree flat bed. My in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen was attached to the bulkhead in front, with the magazine rack underneath providing the only space for storing small items (seats in the other rows had a built-in storage box at ground level). A good-sized table folded out of the left armrest.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? My row had marginally more legroom than the others and was the first to get served, but was next to the galley, which could be a little noisy. Row four is in front of the toilets and the economy galley, so avoid it if you can.

THE FLIGHT Shortly after take-off I was offered nuts and a drink. The meal service began two and a half hours in. I had beef pastrami to start, which was very flavoursome, followed by baked coconut chicken – fine, if a little too sweet. For dessert I chose the delicious summer fruit slice, which I polished off with ease. The friendly flight attendant offered me seconds, which I declined, and also recommended a tasty South African red wine – the service was excellent throughout. The on-demand IFE system had a decent selection of films. The flight was smooth, and just over an hour before landing, afternoon tea was served.

ARRIVAL We were quickly off the aircraft after landing but the lengthy visa queue took almost an hour to clear, by which time Kenya Airways staff had located my case and kept it for me.

VERDICT A comfortable, enjoyable flight with a good seat offering. Kenya Airways really differentiates itself with its great service.

Fact file

  • Configuration 2-3-2 in business, 3-3-3 in economy
  • Seat width 79cm/31in
  • Seat pitch 75cm/29.5in
  • Seat recline 176 degrees
  • Price Internet rates for a return business class flight from London to Nairobi in October started from £2,405.
  • Contact kenya-airways.com

Michelle Mannion


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Kenya Airways B777-200ER Premier World

BACKGROUND From its Nairobi hub, Kenya Airways flies to 28 countries in Africa as well as seven cities in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It flies daily to London with an extra flight on Friday to Sunday, and is an associate member of the Skyteam alliance. It is also a member of Flying Blue, the frequent flyer programme of Air France KLM. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways also operate daily on the route.

CHECK-IN Having taken almost an hour to pass immigration on my arrival into Nairobi two days earlier, I made sure to get to the airport in good time for my return flight KQ102, arriving at 2055 for the 2345 departure. There is more than one entrance to departures at Jomo Kenyatta International airport, depending on who you are flying with, so make sure you go to the right one – I unwittingly went to the Emirates entrance and was brusquely turned away. I was glad I wasn’t travelling economy with the Middle East carrier because the queue was horrendous, stretching way out past the front door.

I proceeded to the Kenya Airways entrance, where there was a brief queue to put my luggage through a scanner inside the door. There was no queue at the Premier World check-in desk – queues were also short at the economy counters – and I was told I had been allocated seat 1A but I could change it if I liked. Having sat in this seat on my outbound flight and found it very agreeable, I opted to keep it. You can also check in online and request your preferred seat if you have an e-ticket.

I then joined the lengthy line for immigration – there was no fast-track option for business class travellers – and bemusingly had to fill in an “entry declaration form” even though I was leaving the country. I was airside by 2135 and made my way to the lounge, about five minutes away (up the escalator from immigration, then a right and a right again, past people sleeping in the corridor).

THE LOUNGE The Simba lounge was a peaceful spot and I was greeted warmly at the desk (a little confusingly, the London time on the clock above was an hour out). The décor was modern with African sculptures and artwork, wooden floors and furniture, and a red, yellow and blue colour scheme. There were a few different seating areas, including a space with comfy armchairs, a dining section and bar-style seating. The bar was stocked with wines and spirits and there were soft drinks in a fridge, as well as a modest selection of salads, filled rolls, cakes and pastries. Wifi access was free via a password available at reception, and there were also two PCs, a limited range of newspapers, and shower facilities. I was invited to board at 2300.

BOARDING I walked back up the way I came and turned right to reach Gate 5, a few minutes’ walk past some souvenir shops. The queue for another security check was about 15-strong – my passport was photocopied and I passed my hand luggage through another scanner. There was a short line to board the aircraft and congestion had built up on the sole air bridge, so I shuffled my way down past a sniffer dog and was in my seat by 2325. I was greeted immediately with a choice of champagne, juice or water, an amenity kit and a small selection of newspapers. I asked if my jacket could be hung up and this revealed I was flying on exactly the same aircraft as my outbound flight – you leave your boarding card stub with your jacket to identify it, and the flight attendant found my old stub from the outbound journey in the cabinet.  

THE SEAT The B777-200ER is in a two-class configuration of business and economy, with 28 and 294 seats respectively. Business class was arranged in four rows of seven in a 2-3-2 layout (rows one to four, AB-DEF-HJ). Economy was arranged 3-3-3 (ABC-DEF-GHJ). Business class was about half full and economy was busy, this being peak tourist season in Kenya.

My window seat 1A was very comfortable and upholstered in maroon fabric with maroon leather armrests. It was 31in/79cm wide and a 6.4in/16cm in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen was attached to the bulkhead in front, with the magazine rack underneath providing the only space for storing small items (seats in the other rows had a built-in storage box at ground level). My right armrest was shared with my neighbour with a joint space for placing drinks and another smaller drink tray that folded out. A good-sized table folded out of my left armrest, and concealed in the right arm was a non-removable control panel for the on-demand IFE system. A reading light came out of the seat by my shoulder and the seat could be adjusted via buttons in the left armrest, extending to a 76in/193cm flat bed with a 176-degree recline. All the rows had access to the overhead lockers and there was in-seat power.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? My row had marginally more legroom than the others – although there wasn’t much to choose between them – and was also the first to get served. However, it’s next to the galley, which might disturb you a little. The back row is in front of the toilets and the economy galley, so avoid those if you can. I also spent some time in seat 3D as my neighbour was snoring, and found this good too – it was nice to have direct access to the aisle during the night and as there was no one in the middle seat, I wasn’t disturbed by anyone climbing over me.

THE FLIGHT We started taxiing at 2345 and took off bang on midnight, 15 minutes late, although the captain told us we were still likely to arrive early at our destination. We had been asked for our meal choice before take-off and as I had eaten a big meal en route to the airport and wanted to rest, I declined. Had I eaten, the appetiser was cream cheese wrapped with smoked salmon and a mixed green salad with olives, followed by a main of either marinated shrimps with an Arabic mezze with pitta bread and a mixed vegetable salad; beef fillet with green peppercorn sauce, spicy potatoes, courgette balls, sugar snaps and carrots; or Chinese noodles with vegetables. The dessert was fresh fruit or a chocolate and walnut mousse with whipped cream.

The IFE system had a decent selection of films and a small range of TV and audio options, and I liked the 3D flight map. Service was friendly and helpful, and I was given a bottle of water to keep hydrated through the night. Other than a few brief bouts of turbulence, the flight was smooth, and shortly before landing breakfast was served. This consisted of tea or coffee, fruit salad, cereal, a croissant and a choice of yogurt, and either poached egg Florentine with chicken sausage, potato maxim and tomato; grilled chicken sausage with bean ragout, sautéed spinach, hash brown and tomato; or a vol au vent filled with creamy spinach, served with a hash brown and Mexican beans.

ARRIVAL We landed 40 minutes early at 0605 and were off the plane 15 minutes later. I took the fast-track immigration queue, which was minimal, and my priority-tagged case was one of the first on the carousel.

VERDICT A comfortable, enjoyable flight with a good seat offering and excellent service.

PRICE Rates for a midweek business class return from London to Nairobi in August started from £2,086 online.

CONTACT kenya-airways.com

Michelle Mannion


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