Review of Rwandair flight London Kigali in Business

Airline Rwandair
Flight WB701
Class Business
Seat 2A
Aircraft Airbus A330-300
Flight time 08:40
Take-off 03 Oct 17, 21:50
Arrival at 04 Oct 17, 07:30
WB 18 reviews
East African
By 1511
Published on 13th November 2017
Mwiriwe fellow Flight Reporters,


INTRODUCTION


Every aviation nerd seeks for interesting experiences to add on his/her log book or to share at the end-of-year stats. Having 3 spare day, it was solved quickly, by booking a long haul routing on a whim, with WB's flagships.

***Hint for the many Star Alliance member fans here***, Brussels city to/from Entebbe does suggest the cheapest fares combining, of your choice outbound or inbound, one flight with this African airline and the other with SN Brussels Airlines where you can accrue miles, thanks to their codeshare with this European sister. For not more than eur 80 you can also get to/from Nairobi, Mombasa, Dar Es Salam, Kilimanjaro, Jubba, Lusaka – Zambia and Harare – Zimbabwe to name but a few.

The final decision selected a basic one way ticket LGW to Bujumbura (2nd sector regional, not flown obviously…) even though it was only 100€ less expensive than the return ticket. Having being thrice this year in the now quiet and peaceful Burundi, I could not figure out whether or not my holidays will entitle for a trip at a random date within the next 6 month.


A misleading cabin map for couple, during OLCI.
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Only 29 seats to pax
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AT GATWICK

The first and only trip till now from LGW dated back from December 2012, when BA was still operating from there. I flew BA2772 to JER on an outdated B734 to catch the toy like Aurigny Trislander… (FRs in French here)

Conveniently deplaned at the North Terminal after a problem free positioning flight with the orange LCC, there are not yet any signpost that RwandAir operate here (route launched in May 2017) but a Polish staff confirmed that counters were opened and merely 30 secondes away from their info desk.

I did the OLCI the eve, but WB system could not add the frequent flyer number.

At 7.30 pm, a group of eight African people (English accent but Nigerian attitude… lol) queued in middle but had an issue as one of the leader kept questioning the station manager!
I snaped a picture of the check in area but one of them asked me to delete it, fair enough, so I complied to his injunction. Then I asked him to move away while I could take another clear picture. In the meantime, two Brits plus a couple of American showed interest in flying RwandAir, not sure if they were going non stop or connecting…

With the previous LCC restrictions, it was a good opportunity to hit the duty free shops much better priced than what RwandAir sell inflight. For instance, I bought 1L of Amarula liquor for 13 quid instead of 0,7 L for usd22 … WB should seriously revise their prices and/or contract with their duty free provider if they want to remain appealling to savvy travellers…

The real downside is the absence of smoking room, unlike T4 at LHR. Plenty of space available could be arranged to please departing customers and the sales too… Same country but different rules?

Bang on time landside ! 7.20 pm
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None of the counters busy 2.5h before the flight
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Travel documents + lounge pass (did not use Gatwick Premium Security as regular lanes were deserted)
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Airside low ceiling :(
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The thrice weekly dark blue box !
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N°1 LOUNGE - NORTH

As the gate had yet to be displayed on the FIDS at 7.30, the logical option led me to the third party N°1 Lounge. The British touch feels obvious and decoration quite cosy, the area I chose to relax allowed a limited view to the apron. Better than nothing though :)

Upon entering, the receptionist hands you over the hot food menu.That seems a great idea but choice is dull, check the pictures… Many sections of this lounge were closed due to cleaning! The self serve buffet offers light snacks (peanuts, olives and the likes), fruits and bread, soups and juices.
For the so called hot meals, one must give back the menu to the bar attendant and place the order from there, where everything (incl. Some tempting vintage scotch whiskies) except champagne is free of charge.

The Pino Grigio wine (other option: Sauvignon blanc) and the Moroccan chicken tasted not too bad and not hot/spicy. From what I can understand this lounge caters mostly pay-in guests of leisure airlines to bucket and spade resorts with a heavy majority of Britons willing to get hammered before their Thomas Cook / TUI flights, so the lounge remained quiet during the evening. Can't complain!

Here is my ranking about RwandAir destination lounges visited:

1/ Dubai
2/ Gatwick
3/ Mombasa
4/ Kigali (a brand new one, dedicated to only RwandAir's permium pax should be inaugurated before Q2 2018)

Two of them – DXB & MBA – do offer a smoking section area airside.

Luckily at 9.10pm the lounge receptionist advised me the time to reach the correct gate would not exceed a 5 min walk, since FIDS inside the lounge were not strategically located (read near my comfy armchair… lol ) .

BA Galleries style entrance, classy !
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Self serve buffet (snacks and juices only)
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The only seating area welcoming people tonight – thank god quiet, I chose the table and armchairs located in the corner facing the traffic.
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Something to nibble along with a glass of wine !
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The menu given at the reception, which items can not be put on a hot/cold buffet ? Seriously ?
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My choice for the sake of reporting :)
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A real crowd pleaser !!! no spice, no flavour :(
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Overhearing a discussion between the gate agent and the station manager at gate 54, while looking for my documents, revealed a disastrous load factor of eight pax in J, one in W and sixty three in Y for this 281 seater. Statistically standard to other RwandAir A330 flight boarded, on their A330s.

Whilst we were hold a few more minutes at the gate; a small step for man a giant step for this website showed a new aircraft through the window panes! The latest delivered A330, nicknamed Umurage, would transport us to the Heart of Africa… how cool!!


Gate 54, near the closing time ; including (BRU) Brussels passengers, too bad no 5th freedom rights on this European leg !
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Unlike the moderate scrum you can live in its hub at Kigali airport, WB has learnt a lesson and now follows the usual order of disabled pax/families with infant/business-frequent flyers/random passengers – wish it could be like that for every WB flight in Africa too!


THE FLIGHT

At door 2L, we were greeted in English by 2 smiling female attendants and the Massamba Intore song "Araje" (= I'm coming) aired in the background. Very pleased for once to turn left, I settled in to my seat 2A promptly in an immaculate cabin, no suggestion of cloakroom though!

This 3 class A330-300 is configured with 30 seats in business (29 while checking online, 1 for the crew maybe?), 21 in premium Economy and 223 in economy (C20,W21,Y203 for the -200 version). The green and beige coloured seat evokes a sense of wellbeing, with the imigongo design and the country's highest summits themed on the bulkheads it creates a good feng shui, not like some other African carriers.

Mwirirwe Umurage  (9WR-WP) ! Meaning « heritage » ; Obviously first time with her, a 1 year old beauty !
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One of the Thompson Vantage XL seat (like SAA ) close to the window – for more privacy
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The flight originates from Brussels, due to severe regulations, all passengers are required to get off in London (and must have a valid transit visa to UK even though they fly BRU-KGL). This main issue has caused huge headaches at airline's HQ and forced them to fly almost empty during 2 weeks when they launched the service to Brussels back in July.

If you are wondering how long they will survive, here are the published datas of pax number by the UK CAA for the first 3 months (http://www.caa.co.uk/Data-and-analysis/UK-aviation-market/Airports/Datasets/UK-Airport-data/Airport-data-2017-09/):

- June 17: (1680 passengers) translating into 27% LF
- July 17: (2930) 47%
- August 17: (3457) 56%
- September 17: not available

Soon after, crew followed with pipping hot towel, PDB and the newspaper trolley.

PDB (yeah a 2h LCC flight makes you extremely dehydrated, LOL)
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Pouches (male version here) given once airborne, Newtimes paper before! photo DSC02831_zpsoao1ttlk

(Taken on a previous Kigali – Dubai flight)
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First time under a bridge :)
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Air Ukraine at LGW
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Take off video :

 

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Paris
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At cruising altitude, bar was opened and snack was brought over on a nice cart instead of the usual aluminum drink/food trolley. In the past, if I liked the honey crumbs nuts (and biscuit), serving them at dinner time was not the right choice imho. Those crips, even basic, paired better with a pre dinner drink. Now, the rant goes on where are the delicious macadamia nuts offered on every East African sectors (prior the lunch/service)??? It clearly boggles my mind how at the head office, they make these decisions… but then so be it!

Do you fancy a drink, Mr E A?
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A « Moet & Chandon » glass would be perfect now !
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Service wise, Claire and Sarah were an awesome bunch, well synchronized and always eager to assist. I inquired Sarah why, unlike to/from DXB, there are not any amenity kit provided on this night long haul sector? She replied that they got some and will bring me one. To be honest, only one for my partner was needed, but then with a sincere smile, she gave me one for both sex, Murakoze cyane (= thank you very much)!

About the dinner, quality is clearly nothing extraordinary – such as food in Rwanda, but served so much faster than any restaurant outhere lol. Surely, no one expect the fledging carrier to reach the Michelin star level provided by AF, SQ or SAA. The highlight was the gorgeous dessert ( though I don't have the sweet tooth), starter and main course were fine. KQ from CDG or LHR give a choice of 2 starters + salad and, 3 mains + a veggie option !

To sleep soundly, an original Rwandan brewed coffee with an Amarula and then, while chating on Whatsapp, a too sweet for my liking - Cointreau on ice, did the job. :)

A typical British starter or a healthy green salad ?
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Let's go for the chicken paté then ! Very original sweet and savoury starter combining coleslaw and orange quarters. Thumbs up !
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Warm bread rolls
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To start with !
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Salvador Dali's town in this picture.
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Wine cellar
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The cart did not include this new South African white wine, thank you Claire for this great discovery ( « Chardonay Reserve ») !
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Chicken or beef ?
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Beef a tad fat, and standard mash potato and vegs
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And the delicious dessert :)
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Coffee and Cointreau time
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Internet worked perfectly, well for the wee little minutes I could use it only, as (un)fortunately the lovely crew (Claire) met on a previous flight engaged a nice discussion. I'm pretty sure the pause button on the screen/remote were hit hard when her smile lightened up the darkness surrounding seat 2A, however when I tried to reconnect half an hour later of so, the bundle was all gone – and nobody could do anything as, if I understand correctly, crew have no power to control the free Internet ONAIR coupons. Oh well, the opportunity to prevent relatives from definitely flying ET and persuade them to give RwandAir a try to Europe will wait the morning or another WB flight. LOL!

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Fast an reliable internet, you have to use all the bundle in one go ; no pause allowed
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After perusing through the IFE menu, the weak selection forced me to settle for the movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, thinking it would be the latest released in 2017 which was not the case unfortunately (War for the Planet of the Apes).
So I called it a night and went to bed with the SkyDream radio on that brought back good memories when listening the awesome unofficial anthem Flower Of Scotland!

Movies
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Series
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Music channels
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With excellent noise cancelling headphones
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Good night !
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Following a great night's sleep, I toured the aircraft 2 hr before arrival when entering the DRC airspace. Interestingly, the crew performed the duty free run 1h prior landing when the cabin was well lit by the sun and then started the breakfast service, exactly 33 min prior touching down. I did not know what to expect, but it seemed hearty enough to start a long day. No hot option, like on KQ AMS/LHR – Africa flights.

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No hand/body lotion or perfume
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Don't ever book Premium Economy :D . With an average of 50% load factors on their A330s, you can make yourself comfortable for free with a 3 seat row without much problem ( starting from EUR 479/return to Uganda/Kenya) in economy.
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Traditional Rwandan design supposedly made from cow dungs… !
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Funny fact, the tray contained butter and preserve although the crew had never offered any (hot?) bread roll or croissant! Admittedly, I did not do my homework professionnally as not sure if it was pork meat or not. WB's network taps in so many Muslim populated countries that beef and chicken cold cuts seem a much more cautious bet. For a French palate? … Tray undoubtely lacked of any kind of bread (read the national baguette), thus impossible to finish the main plate on its own. The lukewarm pastry was decent.

DR of Congo
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No hot option, cold cuts should have a nicer presentation ( underneath the black olive it really looks like 2 slices of Italian mortadella) !
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Seat pocket contents
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Completing the amusing survey
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Picking up a seat on row H could have allow you hazy views of the fast developping Kigali city from above during this clear sky blue approach. Surely you will get them one day, probably during the next trip in Y or W…. :)


Awesome landing video in 4K :



Mount Muhabura, also visible on one of the pics of the bulkhead above !
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Lake Muhazi
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ARRIVAL AT KIGALI

Smooth landing and easy peasy lemon squeezy immigration since I'm enrolled in the excellent APCS - Automated Passenger Clearance System - , the ultra-modern electronic gates; so no kidding, only 4 minutes after door 2L got opened I exited the terminal – well only temporary because my LGW duty free plastic bags got confiscated. Officials obliged me to buy a more environment friendly bag for 1000 FRW/ 2 USD near the luggage reclaim. Lacking of Rwandan Francs/small USD bill, I left my duty free items (plus the bags of course) to the lady and went to change money at the commonly rip off airport rate then back again clearing the security controls at the arrival hall to finally collected my stuffs with my nice new reusable bag.


A330-200 christened Ubumwe (Unity)
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See more

Verdict

Rwandair

7.5/10
Cabin9.0
Cabin crew8.0
Entertainment7.0
Meal/catering6.0

No.1 Traveller No.1 Gatwick

4.8/10
Comfort7.0
Meal/catering4.0
Entertainment4.0
Services4.0

London - LGW

6.5/10
Efficiency7.5
Access7.5
Services5.0
Cleanliness6.0

Kigali - KGL

7.5/10
Efficiency10.0
Access8.0
Services4.0
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

***Strengths: good schedule, confortable and private seat in business class, charming crew, light loads mean that when you book an Y seat, you are almost guaranteed a 3 seater couch direct to Africa for a bargain!

***Weaknesses: limited IFE selection, no menu for a long flight, may I add... fares? Sadly for the new kid on the block, except a few city pairs, fares are often on par with major airlines, with extensive network and more attractive FFP.

Thank you for reading, comments and corrections always valuable!

The next trip (FR) will feature Air France, finally, resuming East Africa, on board their latest toy...
Until then, safe flights and happy landings :-)

Related

19 Comments

  • Comment 419181 by
    jhess95 3 Comments

    I've read this report on A.net. Rwandair looks like a decent enough airline with good potential that appears to be going through "growing pains". However, within time, i'm sure they will be on par with South African Airways or Ethiopian but they need to join an alliance (ether OneWorld or Star), switch to LHR (if they can) and before adding anymore long haul Rwandair needs to build up their African network and finish up the new airport.

    • Comment 419349 by
      East African AUTHOR 1326 Comments

      First of all, thank you for readin and commenting, then sorry for half of the work - not sure what happened between posting it and modifying/editing some typos yesterday!
      To me now it seems fine now, but then sorry for the delay in adding the second part of the report due to some extra flying yesterday/today!

      Hope you will like it anyway! cheers

    • Comment 419618 by
      East African AUTHOR 1326 Comments

      Glad you are part of this community Jhess95 (and welcome)
      Agree with you , ( though It would be better for them to look like ET than SAA due to financial result of the latter ;-))
      For LHR, there are not slots available unfortunately!
      Oneworld would make more sense as, apart from Comair in South Africa, there is a huge gap to be filled.
      Construction works of the new airport have started last August, and phase 1 should be inaugurated in 2019 (I don't know why but it will more likely be 2020 ...)
      As you can see one the seat pocket contents picture, RwandAir have teamed up with Benin Government to set up a base in Cotonou with 2 B737 there and 3 cities (Conakry, Dakar and BAmako)
      Thanks for your comments that sum up pretty well their current situation!

  • Comment 419216 by
    KévinDC TEAM 3948 Comments

    Hi East African! Nice to see another one of your lovely FRs. It looks like the report might have gotten cut off somehow, as it ends int he middle of a sentence after the (beautiful) nighttime pic of Paris and the inflight part is mostly missing. I will comment on what's there however...

    Every report I've seen on the new Rwandair J product, I'm very impressed. Sure, they still have a ways to go, but they're starting off with a top notch hard product. Good info about the codeshare flights with SN for earning *A miles. Although I'm not a *A flyer, I'm curious to know if booking the SN codeshare also gets you status points and not just redeemable miles?

    Wow, that seatmap really is deceiving. If you didn't know that the seats were actually in a 1x2x1 configuration, a couple may mistakenly choose seats across the aisle based on that bad seat map.

    "The real downside is the absence of smoking room, unlike T4 at LHR. Plenty of space available could be arranged to please departing customers and the sales too… Same country but different rules?"
    - Same airport different rules even! At LHR, I'm always either at T5 (and rarely T3) as a BA/oneworld flyer, and neither one of those Terminals has a smoking lounge, as far as I know. Each time I connect at T5, if I have enough time, I go through immigration to go all the way out to the curbside for "fresh air".

    I had no idea that Rwandair had a Premium Economy cabin. Good to know! Wow, I hope those load factors get better on this route. I guess theoretically, if they can make enough revenue in J and W, they can support the flight, but with such low LFs it might not last long.

    • Comment 419351 by
      East African AUTHOR 1326 Comments

      Thanks KevinDC for the comment, and truly sorry about the posting issue. It should be fixed now :)

      Just a question also, how do you get the nice photo slideshow when one doesn't put comment above 2 and more pix? To get this feature, photos must only be uploaded on this website? Any help is more than welcomed as I still fail to do it :(

      Will go through a more appropriate answer asap

      • Comment 419354 by
        KévinDC TEAM 3948 Comments

        Yay! The whole report shows up now. Ooh and there’s a photo of the Premium Economy cabin, which I was curious about. Looks to be the same seat model as CX’s W seat.

        Yes, for the slide show you just need to have 3 or more pics without comments in between the pics. Not sure if it works for pics uploaded on other sites (imageshack, Flickr...) . But you can test it by seeing if the slideshow shows up when you click the preview button.

  • Comment 419347 by
    Razza_Pr 171 Comments

    I'm sorry, but this FR appears to be unfinished?

  • Comment 419353 by
    East African AUTHOR 1326 Comments

    Nothing is more fustrating than an incomplete report, so once again my sincere apologies for that glitch and the time to fix it :(

    • Comment 419357 by
      KévinDC TEAM 3948 Comments

      It was worth the wait ;)

      • Comment 419622 by
        East African AUTHOR 1326 Comments

        (Answer to the first - and great - comments ;-) )

        Yes they can certainly improve, as soon as funding is there, because so far there is little hope they are profitable, though that's not an immediate priority for the current President.

        "Although I'm not a *A flyer, I'm curious to know if booking the SN codeshare also gets you status points and not just redeemable miles?"
        => You have a valid question here, thanks for raising this concern. Me too not flying too much with *A, I will ask around to get the correct answer!

        "Wow, that seatmap really is deceiving."
        => ... and its so easy to modify it.

        " Each time I connect at T5, if I have enough time, I go through immigration to go all the way out to the curbside for "fresh air"."
        => This is ridiculous and I was not aware about that. As travelling can be quite stressfull, LHR should enhance passenger experience. According to you, what is the min connecting time at T5 to allow some fresh air ;) ?

        "Wow, I hope those load factors get better on this route"
        Usually during the festive season and northen summer holidays, LFs are good due to the fact that other airlines are expensive/full, now need to fill up the planes between these two periods ;-)

  • Comment 419422 by
    airlineflyer 5 Comments

    Can you let us know if the seat was truly fully flat, or was angle flat?

  • Comment 419487 by
    Razza_Pr 171 Comments

    Greetings, East African, and thank you for your (now complete :D) FR covering this unique airline!

    Huge fan of WB's seat finishes for their J seat! I think it's a good colour scheme with taste and a hint of heritage, and it looks very clean!

    "A « Moet & Chandon » glass would be perfect now !"
    -Accompanied by cassava crisps? I have got to try that!

    "Fast an reliable internet, you have to use all the bundle in one go ; no pause allowed"
    -That's.. odd, to say the least. Maybe the antenna had accidentally reset itself?

    The IFE looks relatively sharp! Granted, it is a new seat. Good pick, WB. Good pick indeed.

    Cold cuts + warm bread = sandwich? Maybe that was their idea..

    "Officials obliged me to buy a more environment friendly bag for 1000 FRW/ 2 USD near the luggage reclaim."
    -It's for a good cause :D

    Thanks again for this rare FR. Cheers!

    • Comment 419624 by
      East African AUTHOR 1326 Comments

      Many thanks Razza_Pr for coming back!

      "Huge fan of WB's seat finishes for their J seat! I think it's a good colour scheme with taste and a hint of heritage, and it looks very clean!"
      => They did a really good job, at the opposite of the render when shown 2 years ago!

      "-Accompanied by cassava crisps? I have got to try that!"
      => Unfortunately no, just potato crips, but actually you know what? you have a genius idea, let me submit it to them if you don't mind :)

      "-That's.. odd, to say the least. Maybe the antenna had accidentally reset itself?"
      => On the internet leaflet, when flying over many African countries (incl. DRC and Ethiopia for instance), it stipulates that roaming coverage does work!

      "Cold cuts + warm bread = sandwich? Maybe that was their idea.."
      => you read my mind LOL

      "-It's for a good cause :D"
      => Exactly, and for the future generations

      "Thanks again for this rare FR. Cheers!"
      => You are very welcome!

  • Comment 419525 by
    hometoyyz 265 Comments

    Great flight report -- thanks for sharing. Once again, I find RwandAir's cabin quite lovely, with a nice hard product and beautiful colours.

    Interesting comment on the Poor Man's J available because there's nobody in the back. Good for (the very few) passengers, I suppose... but it's hard to make money when you're flying an A330 with a CRJ-700 full of pax on board....

    Also interesting that plastic bags are all but outlawed.

    Thanks again for sharing... I look forward to your next adventures!

    • Comment 419626 by
      East African AUTHOR 1326 Comments

      Thanks for stopping by and glad to read your feedbacks Hometoyyz, much appreciated :)

      "Once again, I find RwandAir's cabin quite lovely, with a nice hard product and beautiful colours."
      => Hope you will have a chance to try them sometimes in the near future!

      "but it's hard to make money when you're flying an A330 with a CRJ-700 full of pax on board...."
      => I heard that there are quite a good cargo loads between BRU (via LGW) and KGL, but not sure if it can make up for the almost empty cabins though!

      "Also interesting that plastic bags are all but outlawed."
      Ok, theoretically, carrying illegal plastic are liable to be fined, jailed or forced to make public confessions. But so far this law has not been enforced - Thank God ;-)

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