I had a great trip on Kenya Airways from Nairobi to New York in Premier World business class on the 787-8 and enjoyed the hospitality on board which instantly made Kenya Airways my favorite African carrier.
Kenya Airways 787-8 Business Class Review
I booked this ticket using Air France Flying Blue miles from Johannesburg to New York via Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi for 55,000 miles in business class plus $458 taxes/fees. As a rule, the price is much higher, but this price appeared about three weeks before departure.
My trip started in Johannesburg, with a delayed flight that nearly caused a connection to be missed. Luckily my flight was held for connecting passengers from Johannesburg and I was quickly settled into my seat for the 3pm flight to New York JFK.
Kenya Airways (KQ) 002
Johannesburg (JNB) – Nairobi (NBO)
Saturday July 23
Departure: 11:35 p.m.
Duration: 3:00 p.m.
Distance: 7,336 miles
Plane: Boeing 787-8
Seat: 3F (Business Class)
A flight attendant met me at the gate, checked my boarding pass and directed me through the galley and dropped me off at my seat in the forward cabin.
Most of the other business class passengers had already boarded, although I was able to take a few photos before departure:
Kenya Airways 787-8 uses the standard Zodiac Aura Lite product for its business class seats. The forward business class cabin has three rows of flat business class sleeper seats in a 2-2-2 configuration while the aft mini-cabin has two rows, for a total of 30 seats.
People love or hate these seats. I find there’s more to love than hate, considering your feet have unlimited legroom rather than being constrained by a box or cutout. On the other hand, they are not very private.
Each seat has a pitch of 74 inches and a width of 31 inches.
In lie-flat mode, the bed is over six feet long and I slept well, despite the lack of air vents above each seat.
I like the personal storage of this seat, including a generous cutout for personal items (easily big enough for your large electronics or small bags) as well as a pocket for literature. The tray tables are in the center console and therefore do not limit your knee space. While I much prefer a window seat, especially on a long-haul flight (late booking, I still took the last seat in the cabin), I appreciated being able to get in and out without disturbing my seatmate.
The seat tilt was electronically controlled by a push button. The seat controls have a memory function so you can set your preferred position and return to it on demand.
Universal power outlet and USB-A charger:
The bedding consisted of a pillow and a duvet with a soft, velvety material on one side.
After landing, I stayed a few moments to take additional photos of the cabin:
A basic black Kenya Airways branded toiletry bag was waiting on each seat. Content included:
With such a long flight time, I put on my United Airlines pajamas (from the outbound flight) before the pushback. As a general rule, I won’t wear pajamas unless a flight is longer than 10 hours.
The toilets were clean again when I changed into my pajamas before landing.
IFE + Wi-Fi
Kenya Airways does not offer wi-fi on its Dreamliner jets. If internet on board is a problem, you should avoid Kenya Airways.
An IFE library included Movies, TV Shows, Animated Map and Music. The selection was limited, with around 55 movies to choose from (far fewer than the advertised 100 movies), none that really caught my eye (I ended up watching Christopher Nolan Principle for the fourth time – still one of my favorite films that requires deep thought to understand).
Some music and games have been blocked:
The noise canceling headphones were a little bulky on the ear, but worked effectively.
With a large distance between the seat and the screen, the use of a remote control was necessary to control the screen.
Food + Drink
A pre-departure drink was offered, with a choice of water, orange juice or sparkling wine.
Dinner was served after takeoff, followed by on-demand snacks and breakfast before landing.
Kenya Airways still hadn’t brought back printed menus on my flight, forcing a flight attendant to walk through the cabin and read options to each passenger. Main course choices included beef, chicken or a vegetarian dish.
The service started with a hot towel.
I chose the “seared chicken supreme served with spring onion rice, sautéed Kenyan beans, carrots, red pepper and a honey soy reduction”.
The whole meal was served on one platter, with the main course and sides covered. For a 15 hour flight, the first meal was relatively meager. I had just had dinner on my connecting flight and wasn’t very hungry, but even United Airlines does better than bread, main and dessert. That said, the quality of the food was good, as was the presentation.
I just drank water, hoping to fall asleep soon.
With 13.5 hours left in the flight, I slept for the next nine hours… I’m grateful that I can sleep so well on flights.
I woke up with about four hours left in the flight. When I wasn’t very hungry, I ordered a burger for the purposes of this review from the ‘midnight snack’ menu. It was served immediately in a red box.
Unboxing it, I found a cheeseburger with BBQ sauce. I’m pretty easy going when it comes to burgers, but I found this to be pretty good.
For dessert I had a small cup of cookies and ice cream.
Somehow I fell back asleep and woke up about two hours before landing, just as breakfast service was starting. First came a hot towel.
Breakfast choices included chicken sausages, mushroom omelet, or sautéed mushrooms.
I chose the mushroom omelette, which was served (still covered) with fruit salad, yogurt and a ‘croissant’. The coffee was strong and appreciated after my long sleep.
Kenya Airways won’t win any catering prizes, but there was enough food on the flight with snacks available between meals.
Where Kenya Airways should win an award was for the excellent service on my flight. I will dedicate a special article to the crew, but I would like to congratulate Mohamed Khan, the purser on board. From the start, he set a professional yet fun tone. Instead of wishing us a good flight, he said:We wish you a very pleasant safari.
In the end, we were delayed for 90 minutes due to late arrivals of connecting passengers (myself included), but Khan kept up to date.
During the flight, he actively engaged in doing exactly what a purser should do, which is talking to passengers to make sure they were comfortable. I very much enjoyed the chat and his love for his work.
I also want to thank Sang, the flight attendant who worked on my side of the aisle, for her excellent service on board.
After the plane landed, I asked if I could take a photo with the crew members and they happily agreed.
Service is the most important mark of a great flight and the service was attentive, courteous, warm and overall exceptional on this flagship long-haul service to New York.
After more than 14 hours on board, it was nice to get off the plane…and soon on my six-hour connecting flight to LAX on United. I would (and will) fly business class again with Kenya Airways and found it to be a good product overall, despite the lack of wi-fi internet and relatively small meals. Is Kenya Airways really “The Pride of Africa?” After this flight and in light of the downfall of South African Airways, I would say the answer is yes.