RwandAir's economy class from London to Kigali, Rwanda
You'd be forgiven for not recognising the airline RwandAir. Yet, this pioneering flag carrier for the East African nation of Rwanda is blossoming, showing travellers that there's an alternative way of reaching some of Africa's busiest cities from the UK, be it for work or play.
In May 2017, RwandAir launched a brand new affordable route from London Gatwick (via a short stop in Brussels) to Rwanda's capital, Kigali. As well as taking you to the heart of Africa, it connects you with RwandAir's continental routes to myriad other African hubs, such as Harare, Zimbabwe, Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Early in 2018, Weather2Travel.com hopped on board to experience the route from London to Kigali (and on to Harare, Zimbabwe), and found that there's a lot to be said for flying with one of Africa's youngest, fastest growing airlines...
A bit about RwandAir
RwandAir, with its distinctive blue sky and bright sun tail, launched in 2002 under the guise of 'Rwandair Express'. In a bid to reflect its aspirations as a major player in the international airline stakes, it jettisoned 'Express' in 2009, and RwandAir was born.
With its main hub at Kigali International Airport (KGL), this IATA member airline has a steadily growing fleet (currently 12 aircraft: six long range Airbus and Boeing aircraft, six shorter range Bombardier aircraft), with more routes both inside and outwith Africa in the pipeline.
RwandAir's small fleet nips passengers to destinations the length and breadth of Africa and, thanks to codeshares with leading international airlines, it can increasingly offer even more routes further afield.
RwandAir has teamed up with Brussels Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways and Turkish Airlines to increase its reach and offer greater variety to its passengers - and theirs.
Along with London Gatwick, Harare was added to RwandAir's route map in 2017. When paired with the London flight, it offers a quick transfer via Kigali for those looking for great value fares to Zimbabwe - the place for adventurous travellers keen to see the many wonders of this enchanting destination, which is emerging post-Mugabe.
From May 2018, Cape Town will become a firm favourite on the schedule via Kigali, while routes to the Middle East and Asia will help secure its reputation as one of the continent's leading home grown airlines.
What's RwandAir's A330 economy class like?
Prepare yourself for that new aircraft smell as you step on board RwandAir's snazzy A330. From London all the way to Kigali, the staff were all incredibly friendly and helpful - they really couldn't do enough for you, and all with a smile. This goes a long way when you're strapped in for a lengthy flight.
The cabin is divided into three classes: economy, premium economy and business. In economy, the setup is eight seats across in a 2-4-2 formation. It's all about your reclining seat with headrest, bolstered by a pillow and blanket.
As for entertainment, each economy seat includes its own personal TV screen with a good selection of films. There's a USB port for charging your phone or tablet, and WIFI is available for a fee.
When it came to the food, the crew were really helpful: our request for a vegetarian meal seemed to have got lost, yet they kindly found an alternative, which was much appreciated.
Snacks and drinks seemed to appear quite regularly, which is always a good thing - especially as there was generous pouring of the red wine!
Tried and Tested tips
The modern A330 aircraft offers comfortable seats with headrest and a decent pitch. While blankets are provided, it seemed to get a little chilly during the flight, so we'd recommend taking an extra layer if you feel the cold.
Another top tip would be to take your own headphones. With standard headphone jacks, you'll have a better listening experience if you pack your own sound system.
It's also worth noting that there's no amenity kit for economy travellers, so remember to take any mini toiletries you might need with you.
One of RwandAir's biggest selling points is its affordability. Fares are really reasonable, with return economy flights from London to Kigali starting from £390 per person.
How long is RwandAir's flight from London to Kigali? The flight from London to Kigali, including a brief stop in Brussels, is 10 hours 50 minutes.
How long is the connecting flight from Kigali to Harare, Zimbabwe? This is a relatively short hop at 2 hours 45 minutes.
Why does RwandAir stop in Brussels? Through its codeshare with Brussels Airlines, RwandAir makes the most of its route with a service stop in the Belgian capital to collect/drop off more passengers from continental Europe.
It is a short, typically hour-long, stop and you remain on the aircraft. Simply watch a film or read a book while passengers embark (or disembark) before heading to Kigali (or London) for the remainder of your flight.
What's RwandAir's baggage allowance? RwandAir has a generous baggage policy, which is included in the price of your fare - no need to pay extra unless you're taking excess baggage.
Cabin baggage: you can take one bag (22x15x8 inches / 55x38x20 cm) up to 10 kg plus a laptop or camera bag as cabin baggage.
Checked hold baggage: those in economy are permitted two pieces of luggage weighing no more than 23 kg each, while those in business can take two pieces of luggage weighing no more than 32 kg each.
Are food and drinks included in your fare? Yes. All meals, snacks, and drinks (including alcohol) are included in your fare with RwandAir.
Is RwandAir a safe airline? RwandAir has a clean safety record with a solid five out of seven score on airlineratings.com. Numerous factors are considered when scoring airlines, from passing IATA's safety audit (IOSA) to being allowed to operate in the EU. RwandAir felt like a very safe airline to fly with - helped, of course, by its youthful fleet.
Keen to book your seat on RwandAir? Whether you're flying to Rwanda or on to other destinations in Africa such as Harare in Zimbabwe, head to RwandAir's website for the latest fares via the airline's Kigali hub from London Gatwick.
Weather2Travel.com was a guest of RwandAir from London to Kigali, Rwanda in March 2018. All views expressed are those of the writer.
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