I went on a short holiday to Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. None of these countries have direct flights from Europe. There are three main options to get there. You can fly with any major European airline (Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, Swiss, Turkish) to Johannesburg and connect there. You can also fly to Lusaka in Zambia or Harare in Zimbabwe with Emirates or Qatar. Or you can choose the shortest route and fly with one of the major African airlines: Ethiopian or Kenya Airways. Ethiopian flies to Gaborone in Botswana, Ndola and Lusaka in Zambia and Harare and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Kenya Airways flies to Livingstone, Ndola and Lusaka in Zambia and Harare and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
Kenya Airways flies to four airports in Kenya, 38 airports in other African countries, four in Europe (Amsterdam, London, Paris, Rome), one in the US (New York) and four in the Middle East. The airline has 32 passenger planes including seven B78-800 Dreamliners, eight B737-800s, two B737-700s and 15 E190s. All planes offer two classes: economy and business called Premier. Kenya Airways is a member of SkyTeam.
My itinerary was:
Paris to Nairobi, Kenya Airways
Nairobi to Livingstone, Kenya Airways
Victoria Falls to Harare, Air Zimbabwe
Harare to Lusaka to Nairobi, Kenya Airways
Nairobi to Amsterdam, Kenya Airways
Kenya Airways flies from Harare to Nairobi via Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. Harare has relatively few flights despite being the capital city of a quite large country with a total population of over 15 million people. The largest airlines to serve Harare are Emirates, Ethiopian, Kenya Airways and Qatar Airways; most of their flights from Harare have a stopover (usually Lusaka) before reaching their respective hubs. Air Zimbabwe only serves Johannesburg and Dar es Salaam as international destinations. Other regional airlines include Air Tanzania, Airlink, Fastjet, Malawian Airlines, Proflight Zambia, Rwandair, South African and TAAG Angola. There are no direct flights to Europe, the Americas or Asia outside of the Middle-East. Harare Airport was built in the 1950s and looks very much like that. The lights are not very strong in the terminal and it is therefore not good to take photos.
Kenya Airways offers priority check-in for business class passengers. There was only one person in front of me in the line; he gave a USD banknote to the agent after his check-in had been completed. I was then checked in in two minutes, got all my boarding passes all the way to Paris. I didn’t have to pay anything to the check-in agent or to anybody else.
There were two document checks before the official passport control and the security check; all these looked a bit chaotic but the whole process was completed in about ten minutes and was completely hassle-free.
The lounges are downstairs. The escalators were broken; I took the steps with my hand luggage. I noticed the elevator only on my way back.
The first lounge, called The Lounge was not for me.
Dzimbahwe Executive Lounge serves Kenya Airways’ business class passengers.
TV screens were broadcasting the Poland vs Saudi Arabia game of the FIFA World Cup. The lounge has sufficient seating.
Soft drinks, beer, wine and liquor are available at the lounge free of charge.
It was almost 3pm and I hadn’t had lunch yet. I had some chicken with rice. It was what you would get in the cheapest Chinese restaurant but I was hungry and it was better than nothing.
The departures of the afternoon.
Boarding started at 15.40 with a small delay. Priority boarding was supposed to be available but it was just on a first came, first boarded basis. Not a big deal and this flight didn’t have a lot of passengers.
This big bird was to fly home to Ethiopia.
The new terminal is expected to open in 2023.
Boarding was by jet bridge. The cabin crew was very welcoming.
The configuration was 2+2 in four rows in business class with a load of 14/16. The seats are US Domestic First Class type with ample legroom – very comfortable for a regional flight. Seat pitch is 47’’.
The usual Kenya Airways welcome drinks were offered: champagne or water or orange juice or apple juice. I had some orange juice.
Push-back was almost on time at 16.08 for a scheduled departure time of 16.05. An expected flight time of 45 minutes to Lusaka was announced.
Bye-bye Harare Airport and its characteristic tower.
We took off at 16.20. Views over Harare shortly after take-off:
Sunshine above the clouds.
A hot towel was offered 12 minutes after take-off. Two packs of nuts were offered a short time later with a drink – I had some champagne.
The Zambezi river is the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Approaching Lusaka Airport.
We landed at Lusaka Airport at 17.05 for a scheduled arrival time of 17.10.
Most passengers disembarked in Lusaka. Those who continued to Nairobi (including me) stayed onboard. The plane was well cleaned by the ground crew.
Lusaka Airport is nice and modern. We were the only arriving or departing aircraft that time and all jetbridges were available but deplaning and boarding was through stairs. Priority boarding seemed to be available as the first passengers boarding were those in business class.
Zambia Airways is the flag carrier of Zambia yet this Dash 8-400 is their only aircraft. It flies mostly to domestic destinations such as Ndola or Livingstone.
The flight was full in business class and seemed to be quite full in economy as well.
Welcome drinks were offered after boarding had been completed.
Departure from our parking position was at 18.04 after almost exactly one hour on the ground for a scheduled departure time of 18.00. We took off at 18.10 from runway 10.
An expected flight time of 2 hours and 20 minutes was announced.
A printed menu was distributed 15 minutes after take-off and orders were taken shortly after. A choice of three hot mains on a flight shorter than three hours – very good.
A hot towel was offered five minutes later and white napkins were put on the tables another 20 minutes later.
Dinner was served 45 minutes after take-off.
Beef provencal served with herbed mashed potatoes, carrots barton and sugar snaps peas. The beef was very tender so I would rate it as 5 star; the sugar peas were also very good; the carrots were OK; I didn’t like the mashed potatoes.
Almond cake and strawberry coulis. The cake was good.The strawberry was a raspberry but it was exceptionally fresh.
The rest of the flight went uneventful.
We landed at Nairobi Airport at 21.26 and we reached our parking position at 21.37 for a scheduled arrival time of 21.40.
It took me about 20 minutes to pass immigration at Nairobi Airport. I spent the night at the Four Points by Sheraton Nairobi Airport. It's not walking distance from the terminal but complimentary airport transfers are available - send an e-mail to the hotel a couple of days before your arrival and they'll pick you up.
Harare Airport is certainly not the most modern in Africa but the overall experience was hassle-free. Kenya Airways has professional cabin crew, comfortable seats and good onboard service.