Business Class, in the air and on the ground


(Posted 05th May 2016)


Lounges for ‘special guests‘, i.e. those regular high fliers who sit in the aircraft’s front cabins and who spend probably more time in hotels than at home, courtesy of whatever job it is they are doing, or others booking executive rooms or suites, are still comparably far and few between in Nairobi’s hospitality industry. More so lounges where guests with access privileges then receive a free breakfast, snacks throughout the day and evening and notably, are invited for a happy hour when free drinks are offered to round up a days’ work. (The Happy Hour at the Business Class Lounge of the Radisson Blu in Nairobi actually lasts two hours, from 6 pm to 8 pm, and sometimes, a bit longer even)
The InterContinental Hotel in Nairobi has exactly one as just described, very much in demand in fact as repeatedly witnessed in the past, on the 06th Floor, available to guests on the Executive Floors and for holders of top tier loyalty cards.
Enter the Radisson Blu, which opened in November last year, with this correspondent the first guest to check in. At the time were only floors 2 to 6 ready for occupancy and the two Executive Room Floors, number 7 and 8, were still awaiting completion of the rooms and suites.
The Presidential Suite in fact, located on the 7th Floor, is still undergoing final touches and Jens Brandin, the General Manager of the Radisson Blu in Nairobi, cunningly did not let me have a sneak preview but asked me to come back when this apparent marvel of a Presidential Suite is ready, so as not to cloud my mind with one bit or another still requiring completion.
However, the 8th floor – floor number 7 was completed and inaugurated a few months earlier, was opened last weekend when, coming from the Seychelles Carnival I reached Nairobi with Kenya Airways, courtesy of my pilots NOT going on strike that day but operating KQ 251, and thank them I did, profusely.
Guests booked on the Executive Floors are given a second key card, which allows access by elevator to the 8th floor where the Business Class Lounge is located and the window front offers a splendid view over the Nairobi National Park, the approach to Wilson Airport and the more distant approach path into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, best seen at night when the bright lights of aircraft landing hang in the sky like a long line of bulbs strung up between trees.

While the take up of the lounge, during the days I stayed in Nairobi, was not very heavy, that only provided the calm and the tranquility one comes to expect. Staff, alert to the slightest attempt to turn the head and look for them, appear instantly at one’s side without hovering, a hallmark of good training. A lounge manager is available and can do just about anything for a guest a front office manager does, from accessing bill to checking out. Lionel Linde, who holds this position, is in fact a familiar face, observed for a while now as he made his moves through a few hotels and advanced his career, and a fine young hotelier he makes as well as a great addition to the Radisson Blu team.

(Visible quality, of both presentation and content)

Notably are dinners and lunches also served at the lounge
with an extensive menu offering a range of mouthwatering
choices of food, and the Lamb cubes in gravy proved to be
particularly good and the portion was on the large side.

It is such added value offers which will no doubt help this
new 271 rooms and suites large hotel to establish itself as
a prime choice, location on Upper Hill not being a disadvantage.
State of the art meeting rooms on the 01st floor, I am tempted
to call it the Mezzanine Floor, cater to up to 1.000 delegates or
various smaller conferences at once and as witnessed were in
high demand, followed by a Friday night closing cocktail party for
which participants sported black ties and those little black or
red dresses, signalling that this was a high class function which
the F&B Department had well prepared, given the satisfied faces
of those rubbing shoulders.

A dinner at the ground floor Chop House produced a fine steak,
cooked as ordered and service was both competent and swift.
The all day dining restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner
with buffets on offer of different food types every day of the week,
though an a la carte menu is available for those who like to just
snack along to quell that peckish feeling or calm down a rumbling

Overall was the Business Class Lounge experience however the
standout part of this visit and of course not a complaint or issue
elsewhere, be it room, front office, room service, housekeeping or
the down stairs restaurants.

Elsewhere in East Africa are such value addition lounges only rarely
found, notably at the Kampala Sheraton Hotel on the 10th floor, serving the property’s four executive floors and guests holding Starwood top tier loyalty cards.
It is understood that the Dar es Salaam Serena, currently undergoing major refurbishments, and the Kampala Serena, also undergoing some work to add more rooms, a second Presidential Suite and more banqueting and conference facilities, will be getting similar lounges and this correspondent is much looking forward to sampling their quality when open and review them for the benefit of our readers.