RwandAir had been on my to-fly list since its recent growth as one of the African continent's promising airlines, which has seen the airline expanding its network to places like Kinshasa, Guangzhou and Tel Aviv.
I booked a one-way ticket Dubai to Accra via Kigali on RwandAir - very reasonably priced, with a generous 2 X 23 KG check-in baggage allowance. I was actually excited to fly on RwandAir A330 widebody aircraft from Dubai to Kigali, unfortunately, there was a downgauge to a B737.
Aside from breaking my #avgeek heart, this downgauge to a narrowbody aircraft could have played a part in my misfortunes upon arrival in Accra. Read on.
Route: Dubai to Kigali
Operating aircraft: B737-84Y
Departure from Dubai: 1.55am / 2.21am*
Arrival in Kigali: 6.00am / 5.41am*
Flight time: 6h5 / 5h20*
(*denotes actual timings)
Getting from Dubai International Airport Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 where my RwandAir flight would depart isn't the most easy since shuttle services are only provided between Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. Using Google Map, I managed to find a public bus route (with 1 transfer - have to cross the road with my luggage) that got me smoothly to Terminal 2.
Terminal 2 is where FlyDubai operations are based so it is somewhat like a mini-Terminal 3, well, with basic but adequate facilities.
Checking-in for the red-eye flight isn't easy, as almost everyone had a mountain of luggage, with brand new television sets a norm. I also spied on a sculpture being transported. It seems like everyone is utilizing a manual way of shipping much-needed commodities to all over Africa. With so much luggage going up the B737, it should have been a red-flag regarding my own luggage (just a normal-sized one, 16kg) at this point, but I didn't put too much thought to it.
The check-in agent was really nice, and even offered to change my seat for a emergency exit row, but I liked being seated behind the wing instead of over it so I kept my seat, even though I learnt the flight was going to be totally full since it was a smaller aircraft.
For boarding, the queue started forming quickly as the scheduled boarding time neared, rightfully so, since everyone had large carry-ons as well, and was probably eager to grab the limited overhead compartment space.
We were bussed to the aircraft, which meant lifting the carry-ons up the stairs. Upon boarding, we were warmly welcomed onboard by the cabin crew members, whom were so tall!
Being tall was a great advantage, as the cabin crew could just look effortlessly into the overhead bins (at their eye level!) and make the necessary arrangements to optimise the compartment space. I saw that they even actively helped passengers to lift their baggage into the compartments. I don't condone or advocate passengers to depend on the cabin crew to lift their luggage but it was a nice gesture from the kind RwandAir cabin crew nonetheless.
On the seat was a soft bright green cushion. Later, equally soft abeit bright blue blankets are distributed to all passengers, which was appreciated on this night flight.
Boarding took some time, given that passengers have to be bussed to the aircraft in batches.
After a welcome announcement in Kinyarwanda and English, and the playing of the safety video, we took off from Dubai, with the glittering night lights of the metropolis below us as we ascended into the night sky.
After the seatbelt sign was switched off. Entertainment earphones were distributed. Passengers could enjoy the radio channels (though limited), as well as the overhead screen, which showed Aquaman.
Dinner was served, with ambiguous choices of "beef or chicken" offered.
It turned out the beef option was beef lasagna and chicken was chicken curry with rice. Blindly unaware, I opted for the beef.
The main course was a tad too salty, but I savoured the juicy bits of beef.
It was served with salad (though generous in portion, this medley of frozen mixed vegetables in a mayonnaise dressing shouldn't really constitute salad), an equally sinful black forest cake, a bun and cheese & crackers.
I guess dieting can go out of the window!
I had a can of beer for my drink. Wines and beer are offered, alongside water, soda and juices.
Later, coffee and tea were served, before the meal trays were cleared.
Lights were then turned down as most passengers managed to get some rest after the very filling meal and the late hour.
Later, about less than 1.5 hours before landing, lights are turned on again for the refreshment service.
A croissant is served with a choice of water or juices, which included exotic flavours such as passionfruit and mango juices.
Though small, I liked the very flakey croissant.
The cabin was then prepared for landing, including the collection of blankets.
We then descended into Kigali, with a pre-dawn aerial view of this hilly city.
Kigali International Airport does not have aerobridge, so again, passengers carried their carry-ons down the flight of stairs during disembarkation and were rewarded with a nice morning view of their aircraft - with many of them appreciating their journey with selfies before walking to the terminal.
It was a nice flight with RwandAir, though the cabin was packed to the gills with people and luggage, I appreciate the kind services of the RwandAir cabin crew.
Editor's note: Upon arrival at my ultimate destination, Accra, I realised my luggage didn't make the journey. It could have been the cargo hold was too full or some weight balancing was required and my luggage could have been off lifted. At the baggage handling department, there was another man travelling from Dubai with the same predicament (was it all Accra-bound passengers were affected?). I ended up waiting for my luggage for 4 days. Great thing I did buytravel insurance and I strongly recommend you to do so especially when flying on multi-stop itineraries.
For the video experience of my RwandAir WB305 flight, see below: