Kenya Airways Review: JFK to Nairobi Non-Stop

The pilots on the 787 Dreamline - Kenya Airways from New York to Nairobi
Saying hello to the cockpit crew

When traveling to long-distance dream destinations, the time you spend 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.

On Kenya Airways, it’s approximately 13 hours Nairobi bound and about 15 hours back to New York. That may seem long, and it is, but prior to this flight, flying from New York to Nairobi required a layover in Johannesburg, Amsterdam, London, or Dubai, which meant with layovers it took at least 24 hours before I reached my hotel. This direct flight can save me anywhere from 6-8 hours transit time.



Flights Helps to 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.

Perhaps you don’t care about Kenya’s tourism. If you love wildlife, you should. 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.

My First Time on Kenya Airways

My first experience on Kenya Airways was at the end of 2018. I was invited to fly on Kenya Airway’s inaugural flight from JFK to Nairobi on its new 787-8 Dreamliner. It was the start of a two-week trip that would begin and end in Kenya by way of Zimbabwe and Botswana.  

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.

Dreamliner 787-8 Stats

Premier World (Business) Class

Passengers: 30

Seat Pitch: 75 inches (lay flat)

Meal Service

  • Business: Welcome drinks; Champagne provided upon request
  • Hot meals and drinks (Third mear dependent on the time of arrival
  • Drink sercie with nuts and snack service

Personal In-flight Entertainment Systems: Mix of documentaries, music tracks, TV programs, and movies. [Large screens]


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 was happy to find there wasn’t the painful center seam I’ve experienced on other planes. A pillow and yummy soft blanket wrapped me in a cocoon of coziness.

There was 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.

A small black fabric pouch greeted us 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 were controlled by both passengers and crew.

The only thing that baffles me is the lack of WiFi. Odd considering one of the airlines professed priorities is to cater to business travelers of American companies based in Nairobi.

The Windows on the inaugural flight to from New York to Nairobi -- My KQ Review

My Second Trip: Economy Class

Passengers: 204

Seat Pitch: 32 inches

Meal Service

  • Hot meals and drinks (Third dependent on the time of arrival
  • Drink served with nuts and snack service

Personal In-flight Entertainment Systems: Mix of documentaries, music tracks, TV programs, and movies.

In-flight entertainment on Kenya Airways flight from JFK to Nairobi - watching the Movie The Accountant

Seating

Economy Comfort Seats – Only available in rows 11, 12, and 14, and sports 34-inch pitch while the rest only have a 31-inch pitch.

I paid nearly $300 on top of my ticket price for economy comfort in the 11th row immediately following Premier Class, the added pitch was definitely more comfortable on a long flight and came with a small pillow and blanket.

The only caveat is that parents with babies also choose these seats because of the baby and toddler cots that attach to the bulkhead. On the way to Nairobi, adorable twins were not so adorable when screaming throughout the flight.

Super Economy Seats: Also located at the front of the economy section and only available close to the departure date. For an additional fee, passengers can block the center seat from being filled.

Extra Leg Room Seats: As suggested, these are seats that for an extra fee give you more legroom.

Preferred Seats: Seats close to the front of the plane that enables passengers to depart the plane quicker.

Standard Seats: Standard economy seats.

In-Flight Service

Kenyan flight attendant aboard Kenya Airways flight from JFK to Nairobi wearing a surgical smock over his clothes, gloves, and mask

The flight attendants were very attentive and friendly. On my 2021 flight, everyone wore face masks, gloves, surgical hats on those with hair, and surgical smocks over their uniforms. A little extreme in my opinion–I thought I was in an emergency room. But for those who might be skittish, I suppose it is comforting.

The Food

Not a selling point I’m afraid. While plated beautifully in Business, I was underwhelmed and I don’t expect much from plane food. (I’ve never based my choice of carrier on the cuisine but for those who might, that’s my take.)

In Economy, food was in a box served hot. It was absolutely fine but nothing special.

A bowl of carrot-ginger soup  inaugural flight of Kenya Airways JFK to Nairobi
Appetizers in Business in 2018
Food box from Kenya Airways flight from JFK to Nairobi
The message on my meal box on my flight in Economy Comfort

Safety and Health Precautions

Vaccinations are not required but passengers must fill out a Travelers Health Surveillance Form which has to be completed before departure.

When I flew, a negative PCR test result must be received within 96 hours of departure. (Please check for updated Covid precautions. Try CanItravel.com.)

A passenger Locator Form must be completed before arrival.

In Short

If you’re flying from New York City, I highly recommend Kenya Airways JFK to Nairobi direct flight. It will save you time literally hours. With long-haul adventures, that’s essential.


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 nor approved this article.


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24 thoughts on “Kenya Airways Review: JFK to Nairobi Non-Stop

  1. Buff says:

    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!!!

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      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.

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    • Susan Portnoy says:

      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.

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    • Susan Portnoy says:

      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.

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