Flight-Report

Review of Rwandair flight Dar es Salaam Kigali in Economy

Airline Rwandair
Flight WB443
Class Economy
Seat 11D
Flight time 01:45
Take-off 16 Apr 15, 16:55
Arrival at 16 Apr 15, 17:40
WB   #98 out of 128 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 21 reviews
East African
Published on 22nd February 2016
Just imagine,

After the customary preflight steps at the newly built T3 at Dar Es Salaam, a top notch Thompson Vantage XL flat seat ( like American, ANA, Delta, Qantas. Swiss and Brussels Airlines to mention but a few) awaits your bum, promising a large work station along with a relaxing drink served by an astute Rwandan F/A. And why not catching up on one of the latest Nollywood or Hillywood movies on the state-of-the-art IFE after an intense working day at the East Africa's 2nd port ?


Just imagine,

Nope, you're simply dreaming … that's it !
First of all, the trip booked should just have been a mere 1h direct Mwanza/Tanzania (MWZ) – Kigali/Rwanda (KGL) and then in cattle class even if WB (= RwandAir, the fledgling national airline of Rwanda) managed to fit a distinctive 1-2 configuration business cabin on its Dash 8 for the unique domestic route that lasts no more than 40 minutes, and other nearby regional links as the aforesaid Mwanza – Kigali. Finally T3 at DAR is nowhere near the completion requirement.

However in less than 8 months from now - fingers crossed, anyone right in his mind would definitely opt for the direct route reported now on the brand new RwandAir A330s, named in translated Kinyarwanda Inheritance and Unity, that will initially connect India and Rwanda via Tanzania, with 5th freedom rights on DAR – BOM sectors, instead of enduring a detour via ADD or the appealing NBO but for the latter forcing 2 short E90 rides all along the way.
Obviously if everything goes by the book, i'm quite excited about it… :-)

More info here :
http://www.thompsonaero.com/news-and-events/72/rwandair-selects-thompson-vantage-xl-for-new-a330-aircraft


********



Just imagine now,

Nightmares almost ruined the journey after i had taken a couple of pictures landside at MWZ ; indeed an airport gardener yelled at me in kiswahili (with a strong kichaga accent), as i could not him understand properly, he called the airport security to scrutinize my carry on bag and the Sony compact camera during a flat 40 minutes (hence no picture outside the aircraft at each airport afterwards) !

To add a bit fun, let's put an irrop in the middle of Africa, when the final destination would not lead to Kigali but to the capital city of war-torn Burundi where violent demonstrations prior presidential election only generated more chaos after presidential election from this ill-governed fragile country.


photo initialtrip_zpso9mfmfsx


Shake everything up and this report suddenly became a slightly longer Mwanza – Dar es Salaam – Kigali (to Burundi) routing since, despite the short distances in (East) Africa, air travel options remain scarse as the industry seemingly carries on with the ancient notion of the flights being for the elite with high airport taxes and nonexistent yield management.

This great website suggests 2 awesome reports (plus various bonuses) about RwandAir, both provided by Nick :

1) Nairobi – Kigali, CRJ900, Economy, click here
2) Kigali – Nairobi, B738, Economy, click here

After 2 short days spent in Tanzania's second busiest city, time to go to my second homecountry and like most TZ cities such as Kigoma and Dar Es Salaam for instance (at the opposite of Arusha and Stone Town nonetheless) the cheapest way, not for the faint of heart and heavy loaded travellers though is to grab the multi stop and overcrowded airport matatu (the classic 18 seat Toyata Hiace) for less than €0,5 – a 20-25 min journey ;

Mwanza city centre – taken from my room at The Pigeon Hotel
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MV Victoria ferry plying between Mwanza and Bukuba
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Bismarck Rock
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The shuttle nears the airport at 200 meters so the inconvenience shows a bit of walk – but it doesn't take more than 10 min before the basic terminal in front of you !

The day before during the free afternoon, the usual training of the Tanzanian Air Force jets appeared somewhat exciting to add in to the memory card and/or this report even if I snapped them from the highest point of Mwanza Bay thus at a safe distance from the base.

My negociation skills pretty limited in Kiswahili, they embarked me in a tricky situation knowing that in Tanzania, if you've got power you try to exploit it at every opportunity. So most officials are corrupt as hell. When they saw my great (well, for them suspicious… lol !) pictures during the casual conversation, at the end a photocopy of my Rwandan passeport was kept. The most important, NO tip/Fanta-Sprite monies was paid out, as I suggested them to simply delete the fighter plane pics over the stunning bay !

Freed from the policemen, 1h prior STD, an airport staff pointed the WB house (read = check in « desk ») location. Franck told me straight away that flight was cancelled due to a check C inspection and if i wanted he could put me on the next flight 2 days later ( WB operated only a 3/week service)… no way dude ! (Because of the trip to Bujumbura the following day).

Confident, he mentioned that the Customer Service tried to contact me and added that i was the only one not answering which, presumably, resonated as a common alibi since calls from Rwanda were answered in the morning. Moreover a similar situation occured to a friend of mine who got stranded abroad with WB a few weeks prior this experience.

FIDS at Malaika Beach Resort and Spa
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So the 7 pax (a disastrous load even for a turboprop) received free transfers and full board at the Malaika Beach Hotel and Spa, owned by Tanzania's former President Jakaya Kikwete and managed by the Indian hotel chain Royal Orchid. Sounded like a good place to stay.

In all honesty, surroundings, equipments, comfort,and staff were great but jeez, for a high-end hotel even at local standards, the lake flies sploit the stay. Thank god i did not pay any Shilling, otherwise i would have been furious to swallow flies almost every minute at the public areas, the worst probably being inside the lift to the rooms. (Surely, April isn't the best season around East Africa's Great Lakes). It would have been better in the city centre as initially thought but fully booked from what i've overheard during check in at the airport !


From the pointy end of the private beach
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A grim sign, despite being the cleanest and most beautiful beach around, guaranteed !
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Looks nice, right ?
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Anyone for a dive ?… in the infested-by-flies pool, yikes !!!
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OMG, the corridor full of these insects too.
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View from my room
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Not bad
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While bathing you can both watch TV and observe the boats on the lake – very enjoyable:-D
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Original TV channel : Surveillance cameras on every corner of Mwanza (remember that the resort belongs to a former president…. ;-))
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A deceiving cold starter (priced at TZS 10 000) : Shrimps with cucumber salad
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A flavorless and uninspiring lamb steak with mushroom sauce (TZS 16 000); i was allowed to get a delicious sundae mango ice cream along with a coffee latte !
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Floating flags of the East African Community members (Jumuiya ya Afrika Mashariki) : Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi.
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The following day, instead of 9:00 am, agents holding new tickets showed up at 9 :45 am at the hotel reception to pick up 3 pax, JNB and DXB bound unfortunate travelers could enjoy an extended stay near the lovely swimming pool raided by millions of friends. On the way to the airport, I discussed a bit with a US-based Australian lady (corroborating that no news/call/mail were received from WB before facing the CI counter) who intended to visit every country in the World stipulating that Rwanda would represent her 94th stamp. Well done (Myself, I have hard time planning a trip to the USA even with family members there lol) !

New itinerary
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The terminal building never ceases to amaze me – in better shape than in 2013 – because of the local travellers carrying their buckets full of stinky fish, the moldy low ceiling in the crammed boarding lounge with insects sticking to windows and – most important – its VIP lounge available, but not for you even though you are booked in a premium cabin, as it's only reserved to Officials!

For those unaware, Precision Air is partially owned by Kenya Airways – so you can earn/redeem Flying Blue miles on some sectors. I've always commended PW for their incredible services especially in remote areas in Africa. Sadly over the years, it downsized ops and subsequently cut down little by litle comfort, probably taking example on parent company. I suspect Fastjet, after teething troubles, is now hurting considerably their bread and butter business.
Flight was full, arrived late and departed 1h late (cause : rain) it originated from Dar via Bukoba.

It takes approx. 2h in a fast turboprop compared to the 1:30 in a jet.

The remote parking for the jet with A320 Fastjet, an ATR42 to Kilimanjaro and an Astral Cargo DC9
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The seat pocket contents, no more KQ's duty free catalogue. PAA magazine focuses mainly on KQ related news
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Beef sandwich and mango juice ( peanuts and veggie sandwich among the other choices)
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Zoom in
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A movie with Denzel Washington against Russian rogues, IIRC
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Landing on runway 5 behind schedule under higher t°c, as our tickets had to be confirmed, following a security check at the international departure terminal, we were pushed aside at the CI counter the time she dealt with problem free travellers.


Phase I of the modernisation will not come too early !
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Terminal 3 should be hopefully ready by end of next year
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Fastjet and QR busses
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Initially, the agent handed over the BPs and wished us the customary « safe journey » before i reminded her that our stomachs expected some food & drink since our last meal at 9:00 am breakfast at the hotel.
Intrigued by the nature of this request (well, it was 2 :30 pm so why???) we gained another waiting time near the desk until she had found a real solution instead of just promises – 15min later !

The travel doc on hand, an agent escorted us to the immigration booths and then the departure lounge to a carefully chosen (fast) food outlet. we could grab whatever we wanted apart from alcoholic drinks in a Pakistani run shop !


Fair late lunch generously paid by Rwandair – a not so greasy fish & chip
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Stuffed and bored to roam one more time the depressing airside shops/terminal, i was surprised to see that free wifi was still fast and unlimited after my last visit a couple of months ago.

Another delay after we walked on to the apron to get on the CRJ – pretty disapointed in comparison with the 737 with dropped down screen or the forthcoming ETOPS 240 twin jet upping the game of WB.


The other UAE giant operates 2 daily rotations
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The National Stadium,
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Behind the wing, the pretty nice « Coco Beach »
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WB offering inflight is somewhat puzzling with different and unfair level. Because the flight was scheduled in the late afternoon, expectations were low. For instance, we got served a generous full meal with hot main in Y on a JRO – KGL (1h30 duration) or an absolutely lousy J lunch with 2 hot samossas gotten on the KGL – MBA (1h40) route a few years ago ! I do wonder if there is any rational logic behind.


Unlike the color, this is a beef sandwich that remained untouched due to the chippy visit at the airport
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FYI, the very same wine is served in business class even on longer routes
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Most important, F/A Fiston (which could be translated « son ») a well groomed male made sure to see smiles on every passenger faces no matter the request ! 3 business mamas going to Uganda together were worried about their connecting flight once at Kigali, but he assured them that they would be part of the next flight, one asked why ? Because his next sector would lead him to Entebbe/kampala too, he replied! The ladies chuckled and chatted up a bit with the cool man, eventually slowing down the refill of drink for the rest of the cabin.

Definitely up to date.
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I was very surprised to discover that RwandAir Social Media Team published in the inflight mag one of my comments!
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60% at best
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As usual landing runway 28, a Cobus 3000 drove us to the arrival building.
Because the APCS ( Automated Passenger Clearance System available for enrolled Nationals and Residents) was down due to the refurbishment of the new terminal, so no way to skip and beat the light queue at the immigration desks. Anyway, landside in 15 min, i reached home only 45 minutes after disembarking and shopping at Nakumatt City Tower.

Lots of lakes and hilly landscapes ? Welcome to Rwanda
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9XR-WH at Kigali airport
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See more

Verdict

Rwandair

6.0/10
Cabin6.0
Cabin crew6.0
In-flight Entertainment6.0
Meal/catering6.0

Dar es Salaam - DAR

6.0/10
Efficiency6.0
Access6.0
Services6.0
Cleanliness6.0

Kigali - KGL

6.0/10
Efficiency6.0
Access6.0
Services6.0
Cleanliness6.0

Conclusion

WB handled the situation pretty well, thumbs up.
Up to now i have yet to fly their Dash8 Next Gen, the only type and regs missing on my log of their young fleet, thumbs down... lol
The air link between KGL-MWZ was axed at the end of last year, due to the reopening of the domestic route to Kamembe ( south west of the country) at the border with the DRCongo. It might be resumed again in the near future though !
If you want to travel to/from Mwanza to/from Kigali, it takes roughly 7h30 – 8h30 with a private car and 10h to 11h on public transports, depending on the route taken !

For sure, you are strongly advised to stay away from the Lake Victoria from the end of February until mid June...

Before you drop or not a comment, late last year, John Mirenge, the RwandAir chief executive, said the airline will open new routes to Abidjan in Côte d'Ivoire, Harare in Zimbabwe, Lilongwe in Malawi, Cotonou in Benin, Khartoum in Sudan and Bamako in Mali this year.

Thanks for reading

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4 Comments

  • Comment 158264 by
    nechus SILVER 616 Comments

    Your introduction made me laugh like crazy! I thought you were serious about the XL seats and stuff! So sorry things are still so difficult to deal with in Africa. I wonder if things will improve in time.

    But let me tell you, that little beef sandwich they gave you at Precission Air is far better than the pitiable peanut bag you are given in other airlines.

    Thanks for sharing! =)

    • Comment 335232 by
      East African AUTHOR 1446 Comments

      Thank you for your comment Nechus,

      I'm glad you liked the intro part :-)
      From next September and November, RwandAir first A330s (msn 1741 & 1754) with 3 class config will be deployed to China, India and Europe.

      Unfortunately, that's part of the daily life. from a country to another mentality can vary a lot. Only strong institutions can change this attitude and i'm very optimistic that many governments work effectively to that reform! Time will tell.

      I totally agree with you for the sandwich, that's one of the advantages of African airlines - but related to the cost of the ticket, it's the bare minimum... ;-)

  • Comment 158550 by
    757Fan 487 Comments

    Nice report. I'm amazed that they had drop down TV screens on the Precision Air flight. What kind of aircraft were you on then, an ATR-42?

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Comment 158579 by
    East African AUTHOR 1446 Comments

    Hi 757Fan,
    Thanks for the comment, a few other airlines (that i cease to recall) provide IFE screens in ATR42. I flew onboard 5H-PWH this time and 3 different Precision Air regs beforehand and all were equipped with this nice feature!

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