On July 8, 1931 a small airline started a service that would pioneer international air services to Kenya. That was when a regular mail and passenger service began at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport to Kisumu that was already connected with Imperial Airways’ Central African service.
Then, 85 years ago, in 1932 Imperial Airways, an antecedent of British Airways (BA), extended its Central Africa route to Cape Town and now included Nairobi.
The service departed London’s Croydon Airport on Wednesdays at 12:30am arriving in Nairobi at 16:25pm — a week later! It continued to fly this route for five years, until 1937, when the landplanes were replaced with the first all-flying boat service.
The RMA C-Class flying boats left Southampton for Cape Town, stopping enroute at Kisumu and Mombasa, with an optional stop at Lake Naivasha for Nairobi passengers.
Mrs J Marks, the wife of a mining expert summarised her experience of the journey: “It was a magnificent flight. Our flying boat ‘Canopus’ was more comfortable than an ocean liner.”
She marvelled at how, “thanks to the wonders of modern aviation,” only a week after having lunch with friends in London, she was alighting from an aircraft thousands of miles away.
Today, BA’s daily Boeing 747-400 service operate the same journey in eight-and-a-half hours, departing Heathrow’s Terminal 3 in the morning and arriving at Jomo Kenyatta International at 21:00 in evening.
BA is investing £400 million (Sh53.5 billion) in Club World, the latest-generation technology in the air and on the ground, new lounges and enhanced catering. This includes a new lounge at Jomo Kenyatta International.
Catering has been a focus across Africa and improvements have been made on a number of routes, including Kenya. Display trolleys allowing customers to select dishes from a choice of fresh meals is a new service style being introduced across Club World starting from September.
The latest-generation WiFi is being rolled out across long-haul flights. “It’s amazing to consider how far things have progressed over 85 years – from a week-long journey to a flight that takes less than half a day – but innovation and customer experience remain as important as ever,” says Sophie Onyango, Business Development Manager, BA Kenya.