Review of Rwandair flight Kigali Nairobi in Economy

Airline Rwandair
Flight WB402
Class Economy
Seat 6A
Aircraft Boeing 737-800
Flight time 01:25
Take-off 14 Feb 15, 13:15
Arrival at 14 Feb 15, 15:40
WB 21 reviews
Nick
By 3201
Published on 12th October 2015
This report covers the second leg of my trip on RwandAir. The report from my outbound Nairobi (NBO) to Kigali (KGL) flight and Rwanda/Uganda tourism bonus can be found here… http://flight-report.com/en/report-11799.html

My trip began with a ride from my AirBnB to the airport on the back of a motorcycle taxi, 'moto' for short. Motos are a great form of transportation in Kigali, with most rides only costing about $1. They're even easy to flag down on streets that aren't normally very busy, so you can plan around being able to find one. The driver will give you a helmet when you step on, though luckily mine never came into use. In total, I took about 4 or 5 moto rides during my stay in Kigali. We never had any seriously close calls in traffic, but whenever we weaved between cars I was glad I had bought the medical evacuation insurance from World Nomads, haha. Out of curiosity, has anyone reading this ever made a claim with World Nomads? How did it go? I usually buy a policy for every trip I make to a remote destination but thankfully have never had to make a claim.





My moto driver let me off on the street outside the airport and I walked right up this sidewalk into the terminal. The pick up / drop off process is much smoother at KGL than NBO thanks to KGL being much smaller and lacking a vehicle security search before you get close to the terminal.


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There's a security checkpoint to first get in to the actual building, then a second security checkpoint after you check-in with your airline and make your way to the boarding area. Unfortunately, the only small store and coffee shop come before the second checkpoint and there are no services in the boarding area.


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A few other Western backpackers checking in.


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Like most other small African airports, there is only a single boarding area. Someone opens the door and yells out the next flight that's departing and a bunch of people get up, have their boarding pass glanced at, and walk outside towards the plane. Due to the noise level from outside and lack of signage, there are usually a decent amount of people who get up and walk to the door who are not on that flight. The person at the door will recognize this from their boarding pass and turn them back before they go outside, but it makes the boarding process a bit more cumbersome.





Like the CRJ-900 I flew in on, this 737-800 was nearly brand new and had a nice, clean interior. It had its first flight on July 28th, 2011 and was delivered to RwandAir on August 25th, 2011. The cabin seemed not even a third full which made for a pretty comfortable ride on this short flight.


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Parked next to us was another very new aircraft operated by RwandAir. This 737-700 is leased from the International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) and was previously operated by TUIfly and Air Berlin. Its first flight was in March 2007 and RwandAir began operating it in April 2013.


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Next we had a nice preflight announcement from our American pilot who described the route we'd take to NBO.





Taxiing out to the runway.


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Takeoff





Like the outbound leg, most of this flight was pretty cloudy.


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The overhead monitors alternated between English and French.


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The catering on this flight was not nearly as good as the full meal served on my outbound leg. The wrapped bun had some sort of tan paste in the middle.


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I was able to get a shot of the landscape after we descended through the clouds on our way towards NBO.


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A view of Nairobi in the distance.


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After landing, I was happy to snag a picture of the CRJ-100ER from Fly540 (the orange plane). Fly540 is a Low Cost Carrier (LCC) based in Nairobi. They don't fly to Kigali, otherwise I may have tried them on this trip. Central/Southern Africa is in need of a budget airline so I hope they do well. Intra-Africa airfares are usually pretty expensive. My guess is that most markets probably have very inelastic supply and demand with respect to price. Has anyone flown on Fly540? What was it like?


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Everyone fit on one bus to the arrivals area in the converted parking garage. The arrivals area was set up in the ground floor of the parking garage after the fire two years ago and it's still there.


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The arrivals process involves body temperature checks before Immigration and Customs. On this flight, everything was pretty smooth as we arrived with a very light load. However, I want to point out that this isn't always the case. When I arrived on my KLM flight from Amsterdam earlier in this trip, the body temperature checks caused a huge bottleneck (pictured below). There are only two thermal imaging cameras and you're required to stand still in a specific spot for several seconds, not just walk past. With a fully loaded 747, this was an extremely time consuming process.


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I stayed at an AirBnB in this apartment block near Yaya Centre mall, west of downtown. My host was an immigrant from Eritrea who also had her newly arrived sister and nephew staying with her. If you follow the news on the European migrant crisis you know that many of them are from Eritrea. Apparently some of them are emigrating south too. I regret not asking her life story, but at the time I didn't know if she'd be comfortable talking about it. The apartment was pretty nice and felt very safe thanks to the 24 hour guards.

This marks the end of the flight portion of the report, keep reading for the Nairobi tourism bonus.


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I didn't have a full day in Nairobi before I flew back to Amsterdam on KLM, but my flight the next day was in the evening so I had time to take a tour of Kibera that morning/afternoon. Capturing the entire neighborhood in one picture is near impossible, but here's my best attempt at an overview shot.


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My guide Leonard met me at Java House in Adams Arcade, walking distance from my AirBnB, and we set out on foot. Leonard knows Kibera like the back of his hand and we met plenty of his acquaintances along the way. We took this photo while visiting his friend's place. It was a small room with a couch, chairs, a coffee table, and sheets hanging up to separate it from the neighbors. Seemed typical of most dwellings in Kibera.


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From Java House, we walked into Kibera through the market area where you can find everything from clothes to electronics to seafood.


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We then continued on deeper into the neighborhood. To answer the question you probably have right now, yes, a train does run along these tracks.


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… and here's a video of it.





We stopped at this place near the train tracks called Victorious Bones Craft where they make jewelry and other crafts out of animal bones. It had a very interesting smell inside. They wanted me to spread the word with their contact info so here it is…

Cell numbers: +254 723 172 985, +254 720 541 771
Email: victoriouskibera@yahoo.com
Twitter: @vkibera
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VYGKibera


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We continued down towards the more residential part of Kibera.


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Rain started coming down and the ground became pretty slippery. That drainage ditch with the stray dog in it eventually had water gushing through it.


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We ducked into this small shop to wait out the rain. It had all sorts of normal convenience store items, the equivalent of a 7/11.


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The view from just outside the shop. I took the overview shot from this same bluff, but farther to the left.


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We headed back up the hill and made our way to the area where I could catch a mini-bus to Yaya Centre. The rain stopped after a while and the sun made its way through the clouds.


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View out the front of the mini-bus I took to Yaya Centre. It ended up being filled with around 15 people as it made stops. The guy collecting fares charged me the same as everybody else, the equivalent of about 50 cents. Our driver ran over a stray dog in a congested intersection and pedestrians started yelling to get our driver's attention. He backed up, turned to the right around the injured dog, and continued on. No word on how the dog turned out, but when I looked back I could tell it was hurt pretty severely. His nonchalant reaction made me think that must happen all the time. After the mini-bus got to Yaya Centre, I walked back to my AirBnB, packed up, and got ready for my KLM flight back to Amsterdam.


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Verdict

Rwandair

7.0/10
Cabin9.0
Cabin crew7.0
Entertainment/wifi5.0
Meal/catering7.0

Kigali - KGL

8.5/10
Efficiency9.0
Access9.0
Services7.5
Cleanliness8.5

Nairobi - NBO

2.9/10
Efficiency2.5
Access3.0
Services3.0
Cleanliness3.0

Conclusion

Another great flight on RwandAir. Friendly staff, a brand new plane, and a whole row to myself made the quick flight very comfortable. KGL isn't a big airport and doesn't offer many services, but it accomplishes what it needs to. The check-in and boarding areas are spacious and the whole place is very clean. As I mentioned in my other RwandAir report, I don't see the need for the planned airport in Bugesera. The money could be better invested elsewhere. Last month, the Rwandan government started offering the idle Bugesera land to farmers on a short-term basis, so maybe that's a good sign. As far as NBO, they're still recovering from the fire that occurred two years ago. I look forward to the opening of the new Greenfield Terminal scheduled for completion next year.

Information on the route Kigali (KGL) Nairobi (NBO)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 6 reviews of 2 airlines on the route Kigali (KGL) → Nairobi (NBO).


Useful

The airline with the best average rating is Kenya Airways with 7.5/10.

The average flight time is 2 hours and 1 minutes.

  More information

11 Comments

  • Comment 148517 by
    socalnow GOLD 980 Comments

    Greetings Mark and thank you for posting this FR. What an amazing experience to get to tour with a local and hang out with his mates. The living standards look challenging but the folks you meet are all smiles. RwandAir looks like a great way to get around central Africa. Thanks for sharing and happy flying.

  • Comment 148547 by
    JonathanNd 27 Comments

    Thank you for sharing your FR. I think the seats are comfortable, right?. I like journeys out of luxury, when local people is involving you with their day-to-day life so, really enjoyed reading this one, hope to see more, greetings Mark.

    • Comment 326913 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Hey JonathanNd, the seats had about the same width and legroom as any other 737, but they were pretty comfortable. Much nicer than the razor thin seats you can get on some short haul European flights. Thanks for reading!

  • Comment 148681 by
    East African 1524 Comments

    Always nice to read a such exotic combo airport/airline!

    If you really want a thrilling experience on a moto you should definitely head off to Kampala (Uganda) and try out these boda boda, but before that make sure your travel insurance covers heart attack too... ;-)

    On your video i guess that you were going towards Kimihurura hill/neighbourhood, from Nyabugogo (bus station) with the Nyabugogo river on your left hand side)...

    If i recall correctly after the first security and before check - in, there is a (useless?) travel document control as they also verify this prior entering inside the terminal building... As you mentionned it's better to reach the boarding lounge at the last minute as one can't find any toilet along with what you described! and spotting wise you can be bored very quickly... lol

    Nice for you to test 2 different aircrafts on the same route, sure the 737 is better than the CRJ equipped with drop down screens showing the route map. Did you know that RwandAir will receive 2 tri class A330 planes next year? can't wait to fly onboard.
    Strange to see what you got offered for lunch (1:15 pm) compared to the outbound flight. At least you washed down everything with a refreshing Skol Lager, good man ;-) . Overall, catering in Eco looks average and fairly portioned!

    So your KLM flight was the same day during the evening?
    The Nairobi Park seems like a fun thing to do...

    Not the Bonus i was expecting but it does the trick. It looked like you enjoyed your time and discover something a bit unusual (at least for you as an American?).

    You train video reminds me a bit Lusaka where vendors had to move their stalls everytime a train was passing... lol

    Asante sana for these first FRs about RwandAir!

    • Comment 327021 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      I think you're correct on the moto route. I forgot exactly which moto ride I took that video on, but it was probably on my way back from Uganda when I was going from Nyabugogo back to my AirBnB in Kimihurura.

      I feel like the document control was before you even got in line outside the building for the initial security screening. But it's just a brief glance, I don't remember them scanning passports or anything like that.

      I read about them getting A330s, I'm assuming they'll start off on the DXB and/or BRU routes.

      My KLM flight was the day after this RwandAir flight.

      Speaking of trains and Zambia, have you ever taken the TAZARA? I took it from Dar Es Salaam to Kapiri Mposhi and it was probably the best adventure I've ever had in Africa.

    • Comment 327121 by
      East African 1524 Comments

      Indeed, they only do scan passports for SN, KL and TK flights to Europe and WB's first long haul destinations will be BOM, CAN and yet to be confirmed London via Frankfurt!

      So you travelled on the Tazara? well done, how long did this epic journey last? certainly not for the faint of heart... it was high on my bucket list. I'm glad Chineses gave a second life to the iconic TAZARA after the disruptions early this year.

      And to answer your question about Fly540 (that i forgot), it's more a reliable full service LCC than anything else, However i would choose them not for their fares but arguably more for the aircraft type, you can fly The oldest passenger jet the DC-9. You should hurry while it lasts - I missed it last year bum*er!

    • Comment 327142 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      My TAZARA trip lasted 62 hours, which is not bad relatively speaking. I've heard of the ride lasting up to a week on some occasions. The train left on schedule Friday afternoon and reached Kapiri Mposhi in the early hours of Monday morning. This was the first operation of the train after the workers' strike in 2013, so we were just happy it was running!

  • Comment 148731 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5307 Comments

    Thanks for another cool report!
    Wow, Airbnb really is everywhere, even in Kigali! Now if Uber could be everywhere too that'd be great.
    The Terminal looks nice and modern, in contrast with some of the street scenes.
    The cabin of this 737 looks pretty nice, so that seems consistent with the CR9 from the way over.
    The catering, on the other hand, seems very inconsistent. There was a full meal on the CR9 on the way over and they serve just a snack at lunch time on this flight? Weird.
    Interesting bonus on Kibera, reminds me a bit of the townships in Jo'burg.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 327119 by
      East African 1524 Comments

      Agree!
      From what i've heard a few months ago, catering at Nairobi and Mombasa is (was?) supplied, like KQ, by Servair. Now there is a 1 year old Nigerian catering company based at KGL even though i can't see the difference with when it wasn't established there yet.
      Admittedly i've not flown WB in Eco on a similar duration/sector recently...

    • Comment 327143 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Thanks for commenting KévinDC. AirBnB worked out great in Kigali. I only paid $38 per night for a room in a house of expats who knew the city really well. A hotel would've been much more expensive and less hospitable.

      Seeing the differences between Kibera and the Jo'burg townships was interesting. They have very different histories. I've only been to one township, Alexandra, but there were three different tiers of living there. The highest tier even had small houses with yards and fences. In Kibera, all the residences looked pretty similar and were comparable to the lower tier in Alexandra. Everyone I met in both places were friendly and I'd go back to either again in the future.

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