Does RwandAir Have Africa’s Best Business Class?

Over the past year I’ve been trying a lot of “random” airlines, and the more of these carriers I’ve tried, the more I’ve become obsessed with them. For example, up until a couple of months ago I didn’t know the first thing about Air Astana (other than the fact that they’re based in Kazakhstan), though after studying them further I was intrigued, to the point that I went out of my way to fly with them last month. I had awesome flights on them, and would fly them again in a heartbeat.

air-astana-767-business-class-2
Air Astana’s 767 business class

One of the websites I check every morning is airlineroute.net, which has a listing of all the route changes that airlines have filed. This can include new routes, discontinued routes, aircraft changes, etc. This morning I saw a headline about Rwandair A330 aircraft changes.

Okay, so I figured it was safe to assume that RwandAir is the airline of Rwanda, though other than that I didn’t know anything about them. Given my interest in airline products, when I saw that I said to myself “hmmm, I didn’t realize they had A330s, and wonder what their business class is like.” Then I started doing some research, and stumbled upon a post by Young Travelers of Hong Kong.

As it turns out, RwandAir is in the process of taking delivery of two A330 aircraft, which complement their existing fleet of eight other aircraft (four 737s, two CRJs, and two Dash 8s). That’s some nice growth, given that their current planes only operate regional flights.

Well, upon doing some research I was very impressed by the product RwandAir has on their A330s. They’ve fitted these planes with Vantage XL business class seats, which are the same you’ll on SAS.

rwandair-business-class
RwandAir’s A330 business class

Arguably this is the best business class product available on any airline in Africa. Ethiopian, Kenya, South African, etc., all don’t feature direct aisle access from all business class seats on their longhaul planes (SAA is in the process of taking delivery of some A330s with direct aisle access, but these will only be a small portion of their overall fleet).

Anyway, having flown Ethiopian and South African, I’d be keen to try RwandAir’s business class product. They have roundtrip business class fares between Dubai and Kigali for ~$1,100 all-in.

rwandair

The flight stops in Mombasa, Kenya, in one direction, so you even get three flights out of it.

dxb-kgl

With my German passport I don’t even need a visa to visit Rwanda, and best I can tell Kigali is quite safe.

Has anyone flown RwandAir or visited Rwanda? Am I the only one who is so impressed by their A330 business class?

Comments

  1. I have flown RwandAir from Entebbe to Johannesburg via Kigali recently, and was suitably impressed with the hard product. The airport in Kigali is a bit of a joke, but doing as much travel around Africa as I do, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

  2. Rwanda is great and Kigali very clean and safe – you will enjoy! Trying using NBO as final destination – might be a bit cheaper. KQ and Rwandair always try to undercut each other into / out of each other’s hub city.

  3. Yes I have been to Kigali. It is typically the entry for those looking to see silver back Gorillas. I highly recommend going to visit these magnificent animals of which there are approximately only 1000 left. You do need to get it organized well in advance via a specialist tour company and it is pricey as the permit per person is around $1000 (not a typo). It is also arduous as it can be a four hour hike straight uphill amongst Jungle growth. If you google around you will find a lot more valuable information and you may email me for my experiences and my advice.

    Kigali itself is (i find ) to be a nice city. But the main reason to visit would be the Gorillas.

  4. Funny, I just found out about WB’s A330 on routesonline.com this morning and at first I thought it was talking about second-hand aircraft, until I found out it’s a brand new one and went to Google to see the images – so gorgeous!

    I’ve visited Kigali in 2010 and I felt really safe walking by myself alone. Streets are clean (I think littering could lead to a fine), easy to move around, and people are laid-back. I’m sure now it has changed much more. Rwanda is trying to become “Singapore of Africa” whereby attracting foreign investments to make the country as an IT hub of the continent. It was kind of hard to believe what happened in 1994 – one of the worst atrocities in human history that took place in the period of 3 months – but if you visit the genocide museum you are reminded of the history. It’s a unique nation and definitely worth having a look!

  5. Just traveled to Rwanda and Kigali. They’ve had some world conferences/summits there recently so they’ve been building up a decent amount of new hotels. The real life Hotel Rwanda (rebuilt after the genocide–Milles Collines hotel was nice.

    Not too much to do in Kigali itself other than going to the Genocide Museum, but Kigali’s often the launch point for the gorilla trekking. Very scenic drive from Kigali to the Volcanoes National Park where the gorillas are.

  6. Spent a couple of weeks in Rwanda in 2008 and can highly recommend it. We spent a week in Kigali and then went to see the mountain gorillas. We stayed at Paradise Malahide which is near Gisenyi – it’s on Lake Kivu and you wake in the morning to the sound of fishermen singing as they come back in with the night’s catch. You’ll need to hire a private driver to take you out there, but it’s not expensive.

    Rwanda’s a beautiful country and extremely safe – my wife and I walked around quite a lot in Kigali and its suburbs and never felt uneasy. The food was tasty and the country itself is probably the most beautiful I’ve seen.

    As someone mentioned above, it’s very clean – there would be people out manually sweeping the sides of the roads each day to clear away leaves, etc.

  7. Visit the national parks before the Chinese kill all the wildlife for food, boosting their egos, or growing their puny little d&cks

  8. Rwanda is a great place to visit (Kigali’s airport is easy to navigate, and the hilly city is impressively safe and clean). As someone mentioned earlier, most tourists head there for gorilla trekking, and I recommend you stay at the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Ruhengeri, should you decide to partake in this activity.

    Other places to explore in the country are Lake Kivu (stay at the Cormoran Lodge in Kibuye) and Nyungwe Forest (stay at the Nyungwe Forest Lodge). This sounds like a lot but it’s a tiny country with a great road system, though you would have to hire a car with a driver.

    RwandAir is a good airline, though I only flew with them between Bujumbura and Kigali (Dash-8) and between Kigali and Johannesburg (737) a few years ago.

  9. The last time I flew RwandAir in 2007 (then called RwandAir express), their fleet consisted of two used USAir (not US Airways) prop planes. Their fleet modernization and expansion is impressive!

  10. When I flew Rwandair back in 2009, I could only make a reservation online but pay in cash or cc at the airport for some odd reason. I’m sure it has now changed.
    When I arrived in Kigali airport, I recall customs checking everyone for plastic bags. Don’t bring any or else they will throw it out. Again, this policy may have changed since then.

  11. Yes Indeed, they have the best Business Class Seat on the A330s. But when it comes to overall Business Class Customer service , Catering, lounge ext… Kenya Airways remains the top in Africa.

  12. Beware of aircraft swaps on the Dubai route. I booked it last week just to try the A330 and we were swapped to a 738 at the last minute instead. They are a perfectly adequate airline (although Kigali lounge could rival your Chinese experiences for worst in the world) and for the most part get you where you need to go more or less on time.

    The A330s will go onto new Kigali – Mumbai – Guangzhou route in a few months so better hurry if you want to try them on Dubai.

  13. We don’t hear enough from @Sean M. It’s always a pleasure to read his comments.

    Ben, how about waiting until RwandAir commences its route to Guangzhou? That way you can experience RwandAir’s full blown long-haul premium service.

    A trek to see the gorillas in the wild would be a wondrous experience! And it would make for a fascinating trip report.

  14. I visited Rwanda this summer. KGL is a small airport. They have interesting security as you enter the airport for departure with security outside including a dog sniffing your luggage. I was flying QR and had lounge access. The lounge was fairly decent. Once you go to the gates you’re stuck at the gates however as you have to go through security again.

    Highly recommend visiting the mountain gorillas.

  15. @Lucky If I am flying on American out of Terminal 4 is there anyway for me to get to Terminal 2? I have several hours to kill and the Air Canada lounge has to be nicer than the Admirals Lounge I am currently in.

  16. Visiting the mountain gorillas would certainly be a once in a life time experience but for $1,000? That’s a little much.

  17. That would be a massive improvement from the RwandAir flight 1 we took JNB-KGL-JNB in Dec 2014!

    If you do go to KGL, I HIGHLY recommend:

    (1) Tour the Genocide Musuem. It’s very good…though English translation is the smallest and at the bottom of the displays. Hopefully, you can also speak German!

    (2) Trek with the gorillas! This will be one of the most amazing experiences you can ever imagine, better even than safari. The permit is pricey–$750 per person per day allowing 1 hour with the gorillas once you reach them–but totally worth it. You can stay at any number of lodges (we stayed at the pricey Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge) and as long as you have your permit in advance, you can trek for the gorillas. It’s incredible.

    (3) The drive from Kigali into the countryside is incredible. Rwanda truly is a majestically beautiful country. If you drive to where you do the gorilla treks, you’ll really enjoy amazing scenery the whole way.

  18. @Hahaha
    do you know why the rhinos were brought to extinction? Do you know why the people are killing them?

  19. I heard Rwanda is a very nice place, awesome temperatures through out the year. Stable govt and good people. One of my uncles visited the place in the early 2000s and loved it so much that he settled there. I’m hoping to go vistit Kigali one day.

    Qatar Airways fly’s via Entebbe. Other routings worth considering from USA is 1 stop flights via Brussels or Istanbul via Brussels Airlines (Redeem Etihad) or Turkish Airlines (Avoid)

  20. @nikola

    OMG! The Chinese are killing animals in Africa!

    But these names don’t sound like Chinese to me lol

    W.D.M. Bell (later known as “Karamojo” Bell), Scottish born elephant hunter

    John Henry Patterson (killed the Tsavo Man-Eaters)

    Frederick Russell Burnham (Lord Roberts’ Chief of Scouts in the Second Boer War and known as: England’s American Scout)

    Bror von Blixen-Finecke (who was, between 1914 and 1926, married to Out of Africa author Karen Blixen)

    Denys Finch-Hatton (who was, after her marriage collapsed, Karen Blixen’s lover)

    T.R.M. Howard (civil rights leader, entrepreneur, surgeon, mentor to Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer, hunted African big game in the 1960s and 1970)

    John A. Hunter

    Philip Percival

    Frank M. “Bunny” Allen, whose safaris with Ernest Hemingway led the author to write Green Hills of Africa, True at First Light, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro

    Theodore Roosevelt, US President who travelled and hunted in Africa following his terms in office

    Frederick Selous

    Peter Hathaway Capstick, American hunter who spent most of his life in Africa

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big-game_hunting

  21. Kigali might be my favorite “city” in Africa, and Rwanda is absolutely worth a visit. I’d be excited to see a review on Rwandair as they do seem very growth-minded.

  22. Kigali is beautiful and well worth a visit. The genocide museum is absolutely jaw dropping. A must visit place. I’d also agree that paying $750 to visit the gorillas is well worthwhile. However, the permit is slightly cheaper in Uganda and much cheaper from in Virunga National Park near Goma, DRC — $400 normally and only $200 between now and December 15th. I’ve been both in Uganda and Rwanda (when it used to be $400 each) and I’m going to DRC in about six weeks. Can’t wait!

  23. @Credit

    Well, if the Chinese need alternate means to enlarge their puny little d*cks, I’m sure your own personal life experience on how you enlarged yours would be beneficial.

  24. Hi Ben –

    Rwanda is extraordinary. My gorilla encounters were simply the highlights of of my traveling life, and I am lucky enough to have 95 countries and three African safaris under my belt.

    The magic of being in these extraordinary beings’ presence — not in a jeep or other protected vehicle, but on foot, sharing an intimate meadow with them — connected me to my humanity, to my sense of being part of a whole, in a way that nothing ever has. It was absolutely worth the $1500 ($750 x 2 days) in permit fees. (The official reason for two days is that they cannot guarantee you will find a gorilla family on any given day, but it’s almost unheard of for you not to get to see one. The better reason is that each gorilla family has a distinct personality, some gentle and small, others large and boisterous. Each filled me with something profound and precious.)

    See if you can get Francois to be your guide, at least one day. He worked with Dian Fossey, and has knowledge that is subtly different from the others. He’s also a character and a mensch.

    As someone else said, Sabyinyo is the best lodge in the area; stay away from Mountain Gorilla View Lodge (sometimes called Gorilla Mountain View Lodge, for some reason.) Finally, read, “In the Kingdom of Gorillas” by Bell Weber and Amy Vedder. It details the creation of gorilla conservation and eco-tourism efforts in Rwanda, from the time of Dian Fossey, through the civil war and genocide, and beyond. It is a superb blueprint for engaging people in protecting their natural world, as a dynamic gesture of self interest.

    As for Rwandair, I flew one of their RJs, and found the ground agents to be disinterested, but the in-flight crew was very caring– I felt like a truly valued client, and not at all taken for granted. The hard product was a similar to, or a little better than, comparable aircraft in the U.S.

    I sure hope you go, Ben. I am forever changed by the experience, and I think you might be, too.

  25. I’m planning to fly RwandAir this Christmas from Dubai to Mombasa and found this report and comments very helpful in deciding to fly with an airline I have only just heard of.

    Interesting though that the RwandAir sales desk says there is no chance of the plane being downgraded from the A330 to 737 as they are too busy on this lane – however their website shows the route is currently using a A330 but is showing a 737-800 in December on the dates i’m looking at. Seems like @SeanM knows more than their own staff.

    The Sales office says it is the same business class seats on both aircraft so wouldn’t make a difference in that regard. I cant find anything online to support this though – does anyone have any experience on this?

  26. Rwandair have now launched (as of May) a 3xweekly servive from KGL-LGW. Paid business class is circa £1100 one way, with returns for £1400. Avilable from 26th May 2017, oprated on the A330 with the very nice business class!

    Lon-Kgl

    1 WB 701 2 LGW N KGL 2130 0710+1 0 30MAY17 26DEC17 332 8:40
    2 WB 701 34 LGW N KGL 2140 0720+1 0 31MAY17 28DEC17 332 8:40
    3 WB 701 5 LGW N KGL 2150 0730+1 0 26MAY17 29DEC17 332 8:40

    Kgl-LOn

    1 WB 700 2 KGL LGW N 1220 2000 0 30MAY17 26DEC17 332 8:40
    2 WB 700 34 KGL LGW N 1230 2010 0 31MAY17 28DEC17 332 8:40
    3 WB 700 5 KGL LGW N 1245 2025 0 26MAY17 29DEC17 332 8:40

  27. I recently took an interest on Rwandair and just so happened to stumble on this.
    I like how the narrator speaks of his own experience in his own words, it kinda materialized most of what I read about the airline

    I’ve been in my bubble for quite a while now and was having trouble figuring out where to jump off to for a nice small vacation. Dubai was definitely one of my options but now I’ll definately add gorilla trekking​ to the list.

    Sounds a bit costly (might be biting off more than I can chew)but after reading these comments I’m doing it at the drop of a hat. Plus I get to try the A330.

    As of the plastic bags ban thing, Its only the best thing since sliced bread I think.

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