Trip Reports & Reviews

Rwandair A330 Business Class: THE LONG WAY TO SOUTH AFRICA!

Noel

Noel Philips

I took a flight in Rwandair A330 Business Class from Brussels to Johannesburg, with a stop in Kigali, Rwanda and Lusaka, Zambia! Find out what it’s like flying on an African airline through some of the most exotic places on earth!

Once inside the terminal it soon became clear that this trip wouldn’t be getting off to a great start.

I headed to the lounge that Rwandair use in Brussels – the Diamond Lounge.

Finally there was some movement on the ramp, and my ride to Kigali pulled into view. It’s the sole A330-300 in Rwandair’s fleet, delivered to them brand new three years ago.

In addition to the A330-300, they operate an A330-200 and evem have an A330neo on order.

I boarded into a dark cabin. The aircraft had arrived in from Gatwick and many of the passengers were resting.

While the cargo was loaded, amenity kits were handed out. Everyone seemed to get a completely different style, presumably from different variants. I got one of the nicer ones, which had the usual eyemask, toiletries, a brush and toothbrush.

The crew handed out a glass of orange juice while we waited for the last passengers to board.

Finally, we started to move, and our engines powered up for our flight to the heart of Africa.

Our route this evening took us across Germany, and down over the Balkans to cross the Mediterranean. We entered Africa, crossing Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda before descending into the tiny country of Rwanda.

Flight time tonight was 7 hours 59 minutes, at a cruising altitude of 35 and 37,000ft.

Tonights service started with a dinner service. I opted for scampi to start, and the chicken curry for the main course which was spicy, but delicious.

The food tasted nice, but the presentation wasn’t the best. It was very filling and very tasty.

After dinner, I put my bed down to try and get some sleep.

I woke up around 5 hours later, somewhere over South Sudan.

Breakfast was a little, lets say lacking on this flight – with just a small bowl of fruit.

The cabin is decorated with african style art at the front, and the Rwandair logo at the back.

There’s wifi on both of Rwandair’s A330s. You get 15 minutes for free, or can pay up to 30 dollars for the entire flight. It’s capped at 300MB, but at the slow speeds of inflight wifi it is more than enough.

The captain’s announcement had cheered me up a lot and made me a lot more confident of making my connection. It seemed that Rwandair operate a very much ‘no man left behind’ system, which I imagine is frustrating for the waiting passengers but very handy for the affected passengers.

We soon started our descent over the beautiful scenery of Rwanda. I was amazed just how beautiful this country looks from above, and would love to return to visit properly.

Rwandair was formed in 2002 after the country’s former airline, Air Rwanda, ceased operations. It’s 99% owned by the Rwandan goverment.

We were soon on approach to Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali.

We nearly missed out taxiway at Kigali, and made the turn towards the tiny terminal building at Rwanda’s largest airport. There are plans to build a new airport awaay from the city but, in a common theme for airport development, it’s running some way behind schedule and has had to be redesigned to bring it up to international standards.

There are no jetways at Kigali, and with no bus I had the amazing opportunity to walk across the entire apron to the termiinal building. This is great for an aviation geek like myself, but I imagine in the African rain it could be an unpleasant walk.

Once inside the terminal, it was a quick dash to the gate for my connecting flight to Johannesburg.

I was led out to a bus for my next flight, as the passengers from my inbound flight were still walking across the apron. The bus had to be one of the most elaborate airport buses I’ve ever seen.

I rolled across the apron in my armchair, before walking the last bit onto Rwandair’s other A330, an A330-200

The business class cabin on the A330-200 is identical tothe A330-300, just with two less rows.

The aircraft had been kept waiting for two hours for my flight to arrive.

Pretty soon all four of the passengers from Brussels were onboard, and we pushed back for the next hop on my African adventure.

This time a safety briefing was played, and it turned out to be a pretty cute video.

We had a pretty short taxi and backtrack out to the runway at Kigali.

The Johannesburg flight stops at Lusaka in Zambia on the way. Our route to Lusaka took us south out of Kigali, to cross eastern Congo into Zambia. Flight time today was 2 hours and 1 minute, cruising at 40,000ft.

Breakfast today was a fruit starter, followed by sausage, scrambled egg and fried matoke, a type of east african banana.

Rwandair’s magazine is called Inzozi. Their route network is pretty extensive across central Africa, with some long haul routes to Brussels, London, Dubai, Mumbai and Guangzhou. When they take delivery of their A330neo, they plan to serve New York, with a stopover in Accra, Ghana.

They operate a fleet of 12 aircraft, including two A330s, some Boeing 737s, and regional aircraft in the form of CRJ900s and Dash 8 Q400s.

The magazine has some interesting parts, for instance a section on what it’s like to fly on a plane, and this crossword, which, seems to have a pretty clear theme.

We soon started our descent over the next country on my trip, Zambia. Zambia’s a lot drier and looks a lot dustier from the air than Rwanda.

It was pretty bumpy on approach to Lusaka, as we came in over the outskirts of the city.

We touched down into Lusaka and taxied into the small terminal.

Lusaka Airport is having a brand new terminal built by a Chinese company, which is due to open by the end of 2019.

For now though, we headed to the older terminal which was opened in 1967.

Pretty soon we’d picked up a few more passengers and fired up the engines for the last leg – the short hop down to Johannesburg.

A short taxi to the runway and we were on our way.

The last leg of my journey to Johannesburg took us directly south from Lusaka, crossing Zimbabwe and into South Africa. Flight time was 1 hour 39 minutes cruising at 40,000ft.

There isn’t a great choice on the inflight entertainment- just a few TV shows and movies.

And you know what? Journeys like this are why I love flying so much. Sure I might not have seen much of any of the countries I flew into, but to get a taste of life in these places, onboard an airline from the heart of Africa, on what would otherwise be spent 7 miles above on a British Airways plane, is what flying is all about.

Rwandair impressed me so much. The seat was incredible, their service fantastic and their attitude to disruption of simply making sure everyone got where they needed to be going, was a breath of fresh air.

Sure, their meals weren’t great, and we had that delay and the missed safety announcement, but when you get to fly through places like Rwanda and Zambia for a fraction of the price of the major airlines, you can’t really go wrong with a little trip on Rwandair.

My flight today cost me just over £1,000 for a one way ticket, or 1298.53 US dollars, giving a cost per mile of just £0.18p.