When traveling to long-distance dream destinations, getting there is often a nightmare. Anything that cuts down on transit time is worth its weight in gold. I’m not one to write about specific flights or airlines per se, but as a self-confessed safari addict, Kenya Airways’ (KQ) direct flight from New York’s JFK airport to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, makes me so happy I had to share.
Updated May 2020
Prior to this flight, flying from New York to Nairobi required a layover in Johannesburg, Amsterdam or London which meant it took at least 24 hours before I checked into my hotel.
At the end of 2018, I was invited to fly on Kenya Airway’s inaugural direct 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.
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. The NYC to Nairobi flight time was 13 hours, nearly two hours less than anticipated. (We thanked autumn tailwinds for the boost.)
Others posts you might like
This Flight Will Help Protect Wildlife
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 growth.
But perhaps you’re don’t know why you should be 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.
From New York to Nairobi
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 Onboard 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.
I had a remote-controlled, large touchscreen monitor with a classic entertainment system—I found the touch option temperamental (return flight too)––with a decent selection of movies and TV shows 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.
We were given a small black fabric pouch before takeoff which contained the usual suspects: a pair of socks, earplugs, eye mask, a tiny tube of toothpaste, a 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 controlled by both passengers and crew.
The only thing that baffled me was the lack of WiFi. Odd considering it’s a brand new plane and the flight is also meant to cater to business travelers of American companies based in 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)
Not a selling point I’m afraid. While plated beautifully, I was 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.
Though my return home didn’t include the same fanfare as my departure, flying home from Nairobi to JFK on a direct 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, the sentiments above are my own. They neither reviewed or approved this article.
For regular updates sign up for The Insatiable Traveler ‘s newsletter