Award winning business class – what is that really all about


(Posted 20th April 2016)

Critics of Kenya’s national airline, Kenya Airways, and there are quite a few notorious ones using social media platforms to bash them often for no reason other than a personal grudge, promptly raised questions how a – in their disturbed view – ‘down and out airline‘ could even win such an accolade four times in a row, and then top it by bagging the award as ‘Africa’s leading airline‘ at the recently held World Travel Awards, aka Oscars of the Travel Industry.
I personally suspect that many of those critics perhaps never flew on Kenya Airways, and those who did were not in business class, allowing them to judge the product from check in to collecting the bags at the final destination.

The experience starts on the proverbial, and real, red carpet on check in. A dedicated ‘Sky Priority‘ desk allows for literally instant check-in service and an increased baggage allowance of, on international flights, two checked bags of up to 32 kg’s each, is clearly a bonus for travelers who like to go on the road, or rather into the skies ‘heavy‘. Bags are also getting special yellow tags reading ‘priority baggage‘ but more about that at the end of the review.
Seat allocation done, if not already pre selected on the airline’s website where passengers can check in online up to 30 hours in advance, get boarding passes and all and only need to drop off their bags, one is then invited into a premium lounge at the airport of departure. This provides added comfort and reduces stress when traveling as one can wait there until the boarding gate queues have dwindled to a trickle, giving that priceless experience of ‘last on and first off‘ the plane.

Kenya Airways own lounges at the new Terminal 1A in Nairobi, Pride and Simba, are already bagging awards for being the best lounges in Africa, but certainly in the wider Eastern African region and relaxing there between connecting flights, food and drinks galore on offer, further enhances the experience to travel in the front cabin of the aircraft. In Nairobi one has access to WiFi and even computer screens, good for those who do not want to unpack their laptop just to check a few mails. Newspapers, magazines and of course oversized TV screens allow travelers to stay in close touch with global events, be it in the financial markets, economic issues or broader world affairs and events.

Recent service adjustments, after all did the airline make significant losses last year, are hardly noticeable in the Simba Lounge and while I missed the sparkling mineral water from Keringet did I not mind the absence of foreign beer brands, as after all, when in Kenya do as the Kenyans do and drink the famous Tusker beer. I maintain that I personally enjoy my cup of tea and that is made of Kenya’s best known tea brand, Kericho Gold, so no quarrels there either.
But key of the experience remains the service on board in business class.
On the sector from Entebbe to Nairobi, a 50 minute flight, a hot breakfast is served on the red eye and the early morning flight, with a smile of course even at five in the morning and that, by any world airline standard, is a feature worth mentioning. Did I mention that one has a choice between two hot dishes for breakfast besides hot rolls and croissants or other pastry?

For flights, there are five a day between Entebbe and Nairobi, during other hours does the airline still serve either a hot snack, hot lunch or hot dinner, again an investment into their clients wellbeing and comfort not otherwise available on this route.

My longer leg of this journey, from Nairobi to the Seychelles, was an even better experience. A choice of three different hot meals, red meat, poultry and vegetarian, was given through the printed menu the crew handed out before taking their guests orders, drink preference of course included.
The meal arrives on a tray, what else, and is placed on top of a table mat spread over the suitably large, movable fold out table. The glasses are made of real glass, the china used is branded and the cutlery is made of steel and not plastic. Notably do the napkins have a button hole, allowing it to be fastened on one’s shirt to avoid any spills ruining an otherwise perfect look.

(Flight purser Anthony Gakuru doing his thing on the B737-700NG operating on this flight KQ250 from Nairobi to Mahe)

(Yes, that is what an inflight meal on an award winning African airline looks like)

Drinks are on offer throughout the flight, a choice of two white and red wines, champagne, premium spirits and of course a range of juices and soft drinks. Tea and coffee, on select flights even Cappuccino and Espresso, are also available while the aircraft is at cruising altitude.
Did I forget to mention the hot towels offered, at times before and at times after take off, to wipe the sweat off one’s face or simply to refresh and clean the grit of the hands.

And at the end of the journey, of course first off the plane ahead of other passengers, comes another little surprise. Remember the mention of the priority tags on baggage? Most of the time, though admittedly not always depending on the aptitude of the ground handlers, are the bags also first to appear on the baggage carousels and that again, is a great bonus for travelers from whom time matters …

I am a regular traveler in business class, not just with Kenya Airways, but must admit that their service levels truly are such that the WTA trophies this year and in past years, justifiably found their way into the airline’s headoffice in Embakasi.
To many more happy landings with the Pride of Africa and of course in this writer’s preferred seat, 1A …