Review: Kenya Airways E190, Dar Es Salaam – Nairobi


Kenya Airways is the flag carrier of Kenya based out of its aviation hub at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya. Based on Nairobi’s location, it has the potential to be a strong competitor for African connecting traffic and likely gets strong competition from it’s competitor Ethiopian Airlines in Ethiopia to it’s north. Kenya Airways is a member of Skyteam, serving mostly European destinations with the odd North American and Asian destination. Our flight today would be on their Embraer 190 aircraft product; the most common equipment in their regional fleet.

This post is one chapter on our trip to the Republic of Tanzania and the Islands of the Seychelles. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and enhanced through World of Hyatt and Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Kenya Airways E190, Dar Es Salaam Julius Nyerere International Airport – Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport

While I was researching this trip on how to get from Tanzania to the Seychelles, I came across a discounted fare on Kenya Airways. It was very cheap thanks to it’s dog leg connection Dar Es Salaam – Nairobi – Mahé. The economy base fare was only $35 USD per person with free baggage allowance. With the taxes and fees, our tickets came to less than $175 USD per person.

For this journey, we didn’t bother with business class (at about $600 USD per person) for this one way trip as there was a lack of interesting lounges available at the airports (if any at all), and minimal connection time between flights. We didn’t need any extra baggage allowance, and we don’t have, or don’t generally earn any points in the Flying Blue frequent flier program that would have contributed towards any mileage balance.

While there would have been some African Priority Pass lounge options, I didn’t have a Priority Pass membership at the time. Given our early morning departure, this wasn’t a major issue and our economy class ticket worked perfectly fine for our needs.

We had arrived into town the day earlier on Precision Air Zanzibar – Dar Es Salaam. We stayed the night at The Hyatt Regency Dar Es Salaam – The Kilimanjaro. We woke up at 5:30 AM to get ready for our trip to the airport. Unfortunately, the included hotel breakfast started service at 6:30 AM so we missed out on that opportunity. I would have loved to stay for breakfast but getting to the airport won out over a slow breakfast and the possibility we might miss our flights.

Getting to Dar Es Salaam Airport:

We took an Uber X from the Hyatt Regency Dar Es Salaam – The Killimanjaro to the airport. There were lots of cars available at 5:30 AM when I first checked. Unfortunately, there were no Uber XL’s available, so we stacked our bags on the front passenger seat of a small car and throughout the trunk.

Picking up an Uber X in Dar Es Salaam

It was a quick 30 minutes up to the Dar Es Salaam Jules Nyerere International Airport and we arrived at about two hours before our flight. The ride ended up costing $5.17 USD and I gave the driver a $5 USD cash tip on top of the fare; which he appeared to be very happy with.

Checking into Kenya Airways:

I was happy to report that online check with Kenya Airways worked, even as an international one way ticket. The hardest part was finding Wi-Fi that could handle the check in as the bandwidth at our Zanzibar hotel, The Park Hyatt Zanzibar wasn’t even strong enough to process this.

After we had a baggage X-Ray to get into the Jules Nyerere International Airport, we checked in at the three Kenya Airways desks in the International Departures Hall.

Arriving to the Departures Area at Jules Nyerere International Airport

Our checked bags were weighed on the large scales for weight. The check in agents paid no interest to our hand luggage in weight or any efforts to tag it. The check in agent asked me, with curious inquisition, if we had $150 USD per day to cover our stay in the Seychelles. He seemed outright flabbergasted when we said that we did. Since we were on a one way ticket, he asked to see proof of onward travel, which I had as a paper copy. He was even interested about our the hotel reservation which I had to show him through my Starwood Preferred Guest App on my iPhone. I didn’t get the impression that he was being nosy, instead just ensuring that he did his job in an otherwise bureaucratic African world.

Checking In at Kenya Airways
The Largest Italian Luggage Scales I’ve Seen

We headed for international customs where we had to provide right hand fingerprints and complete a departure document. It was pretty slow and this took us 10 minutes to get through with only 1 desk working for “non foreigners”.

We then headed up to the final security check for a hand luggage search. We ended up in the departure hall at about 7:40 AM with boarding set for 8:15 AM.

There wasn’t much at all to do here.The Dar Es Salaam airport was easily one of the most African airports that I’ve been through. It’s pretty tired and about 30 years out of date. It even has giant portable industrial air conditioners set up throughout the hall to keep things cool.

The Swissport ground staff eventually opened the departure lounge area at about 8:00 AM. We had a boarding pass check and identification verification to get into the departures holding area.

The International Departures Concourse
An Electric Mix of International Departure Destinations from East Africa

The only other flight that was departing Dar Es Salaam this morning was an Air Tanzania flight to Monoria, Comoros. The next listed departures were in the late afternoon.

The Tanzanite Lounge appeared to be downstairs, but we didn’t notice anyone use it at all during our visit. It is reported to be a Priority Pass lounge.

The Tanzanite Lounge Entrance Stairs

While we were there, an older man in a suit arrived in picked us off as Canadians. It turned out he was a Canadian Member of Parliament Rob Oliphant travelling with Jenny Kwan (another Canadian Member of Parliament and the official opposition critic for Immigration) and representatives from the Canadian Embassy in Dar Es Salaam Tanzania. They were here as a delegation on the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration; looking at quality assurance for the Canadian Immigration processes and policies. We had a nice and short discussion about Africa and travels throughout the region. They were headed from Dar Es Salaam up through Nairobi to Uganda for the week.

Kenya Airways
KQ481 – Economy Class
DAR – NBO (Dar Es Salaam – Nairobi International Airport)
June 5, 2018
9:00 AM -10:20 AM
Booked: Embraer 190
Flown: Embraer 190

On Board Kenya Airways:

Kenya Airways offers regional service on Embraer 190 aircraft. It is their most common aircraft type with fifteen of them currently in their fleet. Typically, these are used for intra Africa international destinations.

When boarding was called, it was all at once and a free for all for the door. We wandered down the jet bridge and onto our seats 14 A and 14C. There was no row 13 and economy numbering started with row 11. This meant we found ourselves in the third row of economy.

During our travel to economy class, we passed by Kenya Airways Business Class, which is set up in a 1 – 2 configuration.

Kenya Airways Business Class E190

Economy Class on Kenya Airways is set up in a 2 – 2 configuration. It has reasonably spacious seating for an Embraer jet, but I wouldn’t confuse it with luxury by any means.

Kenya Airways Economy Class Emergency Row Embraer 190 Seating
Kenya Airways Economy Class Embraer 190 Seating

The seat featured an in flight video screen that was never turned on for entertainment. It contained a welcome message only. We got underway quickly with the plane fully boarded at about twenty minutes before flight.

A Static and Non Functioning Entertainment System

As we got underway, we departed the old airport. On our taxi, we passed by the construction of the new international Julius Nyerere Airport. Construction was initially announced in the year 2013. The new airport has sustained several construction delays and seems like it may open in late 2018.

Departing Dar Es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport
Spotting an Air Tanzania DH8-4 Boarding Passengers at Dar Es Salaam

We got underway fairly quickly. We had a nice take off over a very green Dar Es Salaam.

On Climb to Altitude over Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
An Kenyan Airways Winglet over Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

The Meal: A Breakfast Snack

With such a short flight, I wondered what kind of meal we would be provided. The answer turned out to be a very small one. We were served a coffee, some yoghurt, and a bun in cello wrap.

A Snack with Bread Roll, Yoghurt and a Coffee

Spotting Mount Killimanjaro:

Since there was no entertainment, the entertainment of the flight turned into staring out the windows. I was really happy to see that our flight path took us past Mount Kilimanjaro. We were really lucky as the clouds broke just right so that we could have a clear look. At times, it’s supposed to be obscured from the top. I was a little surprised to see the top covered in snow in the summer months of June. The pilot made an announcement of our pass by the mountain which sent a few people around the plane clambering for a sneak peek. I hope to get up top one day.

Spotting Mount Kilimanjaro from the Aircraft
The Tallest Free Standing Mountain Above Sea Level in the World
The Flat Dormant Volcano Top of Mount Kilimanjaro
A Snowy Top during our travels in April
A Close View Over the Wing

Arriving to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport:

We descended toward the airport. We passed over the Nairobi game park reserve on the final approach but I was sadly unable to see any wild animals. The only interesting thing was the airplane boneyard on the north side of the runway at JKIA.

On Final Approach to Nairobi, Kenya
Overflying Choking Traffic Roads in Nairobi, Kenya

We landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya and pulled up to the gate. As expected, we were surrounded by Kenya Airways planes in their main hub in Kenya.

Our Kenya Airways Embraer 190 on the ramp at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport

The last time we were through Nairobi, Kenya was on South African Airways Business Class Johannesburg – Nairobi and Swiss Airlines Business Class Nairobi – Zurich. At that time, they had just had an electrical fire through the airport and the new terminal was still under construction.

There are new modern visionary airports in the world like Singapore’s Changi, Hong Kong International Airport or even Beijing Capital international airport. Others tend to take a more institutional approach. The new Terminal 1A of the Jomo Kenyatta Airport is one of those more institutional varieties. It had great wide new spaces, but was painted in a gold and yellow coloring that looked more at home in a swimming pool of the seventies than a brand new airport designed to be the pride of a country. There also seemed to be quite a few places where the project didn’t look completely finished: fixtures and covers were missing and liquid appeared to be leaking around certain structural steel supports.

After arrival, we entered out into the new Jomo Kennyata International Terminal Nairobi at Gate 15 and found the international transfers desk. Kenya allows international to international transfer without clearing immigration, customs and the necessity of getting a Kenyan Visa. The surroundings seemed a bit more organized than Jules Nyerere in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

We bid goodbye to the other Canadians and headed for the security screening for international connections. After being screen through, we headed onwards on our Kenya Airways Nairobi – Mahé flight to the Seychelles.

My Thoughts on Kenya Airways:

Kenya Airways was a perfectly reasonable way to get around Africa. While I was expecting complications and drama flying with them, everything worked as promised including the online check in system allowing a convenient check in even for our one way international ticket. The food service was as expected and the only negative experience to report was a lack of a proper in flight entertainment system on this particular leg of travels.

If you fly regionally within Africa, do you fly Kenya Airways or is there another choice that you prefer ?

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