Kenya Airways Review: Direct Flights to Nairobi From New York

When traveling to long distance dream destinations, getting there is often a nightmare. That’s why anything that cuts down on transit time is worth its weight in gold. I’m not one to write about flights or airlines per se, but as a self-confessed safari addict, Kenya Airways’ (KQ) new direct flight to Nairobi from New York makes me so happy I had to share.

I’ve been fortunate to visit Kenya four times on safari but to get there I had to layover in Johannesburg, Amsterdam or London, which meant it took at least 24 hours before I checked into my hotel in Nairobi.

In 2018, I had the pleasure of being invited on Kenya Airway’s inaugural flight from JFK to Nairobi. It was the start of a two-week trip that would begin and end in Kenya by way of Zimbabwe and Botswana. (More on that to come.)  The journey was a dream compared to my last trip, slicing off more than eight-hours previously sacrificed to a layover and a second flight. Once in the air, we arrived in Nairobi 13 hours later, nearly two hours less than anticipated. (We thanked autumn tailwinds for the boost.)

Others posts you might enjoy

How to get comfortable on a long-haul flight

Kenya Safari Lodges with Spectacular Views

You’ll Never say “I’m Jet lagged” Again!

Tips for Taking Amazing Wildlife Photos

This flight was a long time in the making with nearly 10 years of planning and negotiations between government agencies and airline execs. Perseverance and a renovated Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) with all the security bells and whistles put the cherry on top of the plan.  The flight is a boon for travelers and certain to further energize the country’s tourism grow

But perhaps you’re not interested in Kenya’s tourism. If you love wildlife, you should be. Increased revenue from safari-goers means more reason to protect and expand national wildlife reserves, promote community projects that mitigate human/animal conflict and support programs to save endangered species.

Once aboard, I sat in business. (It’s definitely the way to go if it’s in your budget.) We departed slightly after 1:00 pm and arrived in Nairobi at 8:30 am local time without a hitch.

The Amenities

The amenities in business are what one would expect. The seats were comfortable and adjusted in a million different ways including the ability to adjust lumbar support. Fully flat, I fell asleep almost instantly and happy to find there wasn’t the painful center seam I’ve experienced on other planes. A pillow and yummy soft blanket aided my slumber.

A remote-controlled, large touchscreen monitor and the entertainment system—I found the touch option temperamental (return flight too). There was a decent selection of movies and TV to watch. Individual reading lights made it easy not to disturb others and a universal outlet and USB port located under my left armrest kept my devices charged. A cubby next to the screen held headphones.

A small black fabric pouch handed out before takeoff contained the usual suspects: a pair of socks, earplugs, eye mask, a tiny tube of toothpaste and collapsible toothbrush, and a pen.

The windows are 65% larger than other planes on the Kenya Airways Dreamliner, and instead of those ugly pull-down window shades, they dimmed electronically and could be controlled by both passengers and crew.

The only thing that baffled me was the lack of WiFi. Odd considering the flight is also meant to cater to the business travelers of American companies based in Nairobi.

The Windows on the inaugural flight of Kenya Airways JFK to Nairobi

The In-Flight Service

The flight attendants were very attentive and friendly, but they would have been insane not to have been considering the press, travel agents and airline execs—not to mention the US Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec on board. (On my return home, the attendants were just as friendly. However, (and I’m nitpicking here) they seemed overwhelmed and were forgetful. That said, nothing they did or didn’t do was major or would keep me from flying the airline again)

Food on the inaugural flight of Kenya Airways JFK to Nairobi

The Food

Not a selling point I’m afraid. While nicely presented, I was decidedly underwhelmed (both flights), and I don’t expect a lot from plane food. I’ve never based my choice of carrier on the cuisine but for those who might, that’s my take.

The pilots on the 787 Dreamliner - Kenya Airways from JFK to Nairobi
Saying hello to the cockpit crew

Final Thought

Though my return home didn’t include the same fanfare as my departure, flying home in one flight was in itself a celebration.

Book Your Flight 

Kenya Airways Official Website to book your flight.

Kenya Airways flight from JFK to Nairobi: Daily flight departing at 12 pm arriving at 10:30 am local time. (Official flying time: 14 hrs, 35 minutes)

Kenya Airways flight from Nairobi to JFK: Daily flight takes off at 11:25 pm arriving at JFK at 6:25 am. (Official flying time: 15 hrs)

Though I was a guest of Kenya Airways, my sentiments are my own. 

Sign up for The Insatiable Traveler Newsletter

Pin for to Share

22 replies »

  1. I flew four flights with KQ to New York and back in economy. Two to New York and two back to Nairobi. The first on December 23. I must say it was the most bumby flight I have taken in over ten years a a frequent flyer. I love the flight timing and the new plane but,…It would be remis of me if i dont mention the four flights were an average of (12) twelve hoiurs moderate to severe turbulence. I need to know why? Is is due to the route? I have flown lots of other airlines but have never experienced such sustained turbulance before. Not on one flight but ALL four.

    Kenyans are very loving and hospitable. But, the crew seem to be overworked and tired. I asked for a snack on one of the flights and were told no. “hold on until we serve everyone”

    The crew don’t check the pasangers to ensure that they honor the seat belt sign during turbulance. They never enforce it and lots of people were constantly walking while the seatbelt signs were on.

    The PA system is very inaudable. Pilot need to comfort passangers with at lease one announcement during sustained turbulence. WIFI is needed on such a long flight.

    Will still fly KQ. But. They NEED to improve service on this long flight!!!

    • There was turbulence on our flight as well. Not so much when I was awake but I remember waking up at one point and thinking it was pretty rough. I don’t know if it’s the route or the season. I think it’s probably more the latter but who knows.

      Shame to hear about the service. The truth is, I’ll probably still use it even if the service doesn’t improve. The time saved is so compelling.

    • For me, and I’m sure everyone is different, I’d rather get it over with. When you break it up, you have to deplane, wait in another gate, board a plane again, blah blah.. I’d rather sit it out on one long flight. Especially since the direct flight bypasses 8 hours of layover time.

    • I would love to but I think the tensions between the States and Iran make it a little risky at the moment. Hopefully, someday I will be able to. I think it would be an extraordinary adventure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *