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Travelling the world for 6 months... My sabbatical leave experience

Travelling the world for 6 months... My sabbatical leave experience

Old Dec 18, 18, 9:10 am
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Originally Posted by Seat 2A View Post
Epic! Have you sold the movie rights yet?
Considering this now. I need to pay for this vacation you know... :-D

Last edited by palmanfr; Dec 18, 18 at 9:15 am
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Old Jan 2, 19, 9:22 am
  #62  
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BA/Comair VFA to JNB - Business class

The lack of recent updates from my side on this thread can be explained by the fact I accidentally spilled some white wine on my macbook during a flight between Jakarta and Colombo (and it was my first glass of the day for the ones wondering ! ) and I could not really use my laptop after this unfortunate event until I got a replacement during the Christmas holidays...
So I am in AMS in the BA lounge and I am starting today the second half of my sabbatical round the world trip - more motivated than ever !

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After 3 eventful days in the region of Victoria falls, it was time to end this African adventure and go back to Johannesburg, and later the U.A.E.

The 11th post of my blog summarizes the few days we spent in the Victoria Falls region (Post11 ? Boarding:Now! ? My round the world experience !)

Victoria Falls airport is located about 30 min by car away from the city and the international terminal was built a few years ago only as it looks very new and shiny.

















Checking our bags took about 10 minutes as a group of French tourists was before us and using the business class counters by mistake. Security clearance and immigration took about 30 minutes in total, partly due to the large amount of passengers flying out at the same moment (an Airbus 330 from South African was departing around the same time as us), but also due to the few power shutdowns which occured in the terminal (we had 3 in 30 minutes only). Funny (or Scary) enough, a few passengers went through the metal detector while the power was off Liquids were not requested to be taken off, but they requested every passengers to remove their shoes to go through X-Ray. Safety first ! / ? (choose the punctuation you would feel appropriate to apply here )


VFA security check point during a power shut-down



The terminal was easy to navigate in, with a few souvenir shops, a caf and 2 lounges. Note that BA/Comair does NOT have a partnership with any of those lounges, so status holders or business class passengers are not eligible to use a lounge in VFA airport. However, we were able to visit the biggest lounge of the two thanks to my Priority pass membership. The other lounge is much smaller (like the size of a living room) and is a pay per use lounge.


VFA airport terminal




Quite empty duty free store...

There is not much to eat inside the lounge besides basic cheese sandwiches and potato chips. There is however a lot of adult beverages selection This unfortunately summarizes the economical situation of Zimbabwe, where food availability is quite scarce and certainly extremely expensive, but surprisingly (and sadly) enough, alcohol is quite cheap


VFA business class lounge (Priority pass only)


Way more booze than food...






International departures of the day...

Boarding started at 1330 and for once, the aircraft was connected to a jet bridge !




ZS-ZWG in VFA airport



British Airways (operated by Comair) flight BA6282, November 12th 2018
VFA Victoria Falls 13:55
JNB Johannesburg O.R Tambo 15:35
Boeing 737-800 ZS-ZWG Seat 01F, Business class, window.


I started by then to be quite used to the comair business class configuration The legroom was ok, the usual pre-departure drink was served (I opted for some bubbly) and we took off at 1400 with some views on the domestic terminal where an Air Zimbabwe Boeing 737 was waiting.




Legroom on seat 01F


Welcome bubbly


VFA airport international terminal


Air Zimbabwe Boeing 737-300

The usual meal tray was served and I opted this time for the vegetarian couscous. I do not recall how it tasted so I assume the dish was nothing to write much about. The service was good, but quite long, but I was able to work a bit since there was a middle table between our two seats.


Take off from VFA






Vegetarian option

We landed at 1530 and taxied for a good 5 minutes towards the domestic terminal of JNB where a bus was waiting to bring us to the international arrivals area. You start to know the story by now Immigration took about 20 minutes to complete and we were ready to go to the Protea JNB airport hotel for my short night (my friends flight was the next day at noon, so she had a regular night ). This hotel was actually quite nice and had lots of nerdy aviation stuff. I liked it !


Landing in JNB


Protea hotel JNB airport


View from the Protea hotel JNB airport
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Old Jan 2, 19, 10:52 am
  #63  
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Yeah, I love it if people use the wrong counter or if Im asked im really in the right line (happens only when on leisure trips....). A whole group is heavy.
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Old Jan 2, 19, 12:03 pm
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Wow very impressed by VFA airport, really moden and airy. Its shape is nicer than LVI.
Air Zimbabwe Pocket Rocket is a -200 variant .
Did you buy the 50 billion note?
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Old Jan 2, 19, 12:55 pm
  #65  
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Originally Posted by flying_blue_white_red View Post
Wow very impressed by VFA airport, really moden and airy. Its shape is nicer than LVI.
Air Zimbabwe Pocket Rocket is a -200 variant .
Did you buy the 50 billion note?
You're right ! 737-200 indeed. Thanks for correcting. Those type of birds are very common anymore in Europe...
For VFA airport, yeah it was quite nice (when there was power in the terminal !) considering the current situation of Zimbabwe. I guess it was built when the country was less in turmoil ? LVI airport was also quite nice. Better than some European airports I've been sometimes !
Yeah, I bought the 50 billion note to a local guy when crossing the bridge. Quite hard not to buy anything when you're there. That's a cool souvenir, maybe a copy, but it did not take too much space in my luggage at least :-D
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Old Jan 2, 19, 12:57 pm
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Dare I ask how much that note is worth elsewhere?
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Old Jan 2, 19, 1:04 pm
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Originally Posted by nequine View Post
Dare I ask how much that note is worth elsewhere?
I don't think it has any value anymore, besides what the paper would be worth... You can easily get it in the streets of Victoria Falls for about 1 USD. I bought it with 2 bracelets for 15 USD to a local guy selling stuff.
My Zimbabwean colleague at work told me that when he was young, his parents were carrying bank notes in a wheelbarrel as they needed so many to buy some stuff. The wheel barrel had actually more value than its contents...
The economic situation of Zimbabwe is quite bad right now and all the prices are impressively high. Iceland or the other nordic countries look cheap in front of Zimbabwe... The situation seemed to be more "normal" in neighbouring Zambia.
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Old Jan 2, 19, 1:26 pm
  #68  
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Kenya Airways "red-eye" flight to NBO - Business class

My friend and I were booked on different flights for this trip since I found her a good deal on Emirates from France which could include two stopovers in Dubai. Me on the other hand had a return trip between DXB and JNB on Kenya airways. I booked in such a way that the timings would match. I would depart a couple hours before her from Dubai and arrive at the same time in Johannesburg. On the way back, she would have departed an hour after me from Johannesburg, around 13:00 and I would have arrived about 45 minutes after her, shortly after midnight. This would have allowed a good night of rest after landing in Dubai... This plan would have worked brillantly if Kenya Airways would not have made important schedule changes on their Nairobi to Dubai flights. Instead of arriving at midnight, I could have arrived a few hours before in the evening, or the next day at 5am. This resulted in some changes in my flight from Johannesburg too and they (or Amex Platinum travel) basically left me with two, as equally bad, options :
  • - Depart Johannesburg at 01:55 (am !), arrive in Nairobi around 07:00 (on a 737-800) and have a 7 hour layover in NBO before taking the dreamliner flight to DXB and arrive around 21:00
  • - Depart with the original dreamliner flight from JNB around noon, have a 7 or 8 hours layover in NBO and take a night flight on the 737 to DXB and arrive a 5 am

I choose the first option. Rebooking on Emirates was not one of the options offered

So after a one hour nap at the Protea JNB airport, I took the last shuttle to the airport and arrived in the desert terminal shortly before 23:00. Only a handful of international flights were departing at that time, the KLM flight to AMS just before midnight, my flight to NBO around 2 am and one hour later a flight to Kigali







Checking my bag was a swift operation although most of the counter agents looked pissed and tired to work at that time of the day, and I was offered to wrap my bag, free of charge.


Check-in area KQ in JNB


Free luggage wrapping

As you can imagine, clearing security and immigration took litterally no time and I was airside in a few minutes after check-in. Fun fact : The main security check point was closed at the time I got there and a security agent escorted me to the staff/crew checkpoint to clear security, and then get to the main terminal !


Main security check point was closed, I had to use the staff/crew check point to access the terminal


Two more stamps in the collection ! Entry and exit the very same day !










Rush hour in JNB International !

Kenya airways uses the Bidvest lounge in JNB International, which is also a priority pass lounge and shows as open 24/7. JNB International has several priority pass lounges, with some looking nicer than the Bidvest lounge and were showed on the app as open until 2 am. Unfortunately, both lounges I wanted to visit were closing so I went to the only open lounge available, the bidvest lounge upstairs.


Bidvest lounge in JNB, the only one open 24/7

The lounge is ok, wifi was ok, the seating was ok, the buffet was not very appealing, but ok (although I did not eat much as I was not hungry at all). It was just an empty contractor lounge in the middle of the night, with the staff looked to be as annoyed to work at that time of the day night than me flying at that time. Nothing really sexy but better than waiting inside the terminal. At least they had seats where you could lay back. A few other passengers were using those to have more or less extended nap








Bidvest lounge JNB International terminal
















A real feast !

I was starting to feel quite sleepy and struggled a bit not to fall asleep in the lounge and miss my flight. Around 01.20 I decided to leave the lounge and walk towards the gate, and the priority boarding started a few minutes after I arrived, with lots of confusion and people trying to jump the queue seriously ?!
After the boarding pass and passport check, we had to wait another 10 minutes in the jetty before getting inside the plane







Waiting in the jetty for boarding. We waited 10 minutes as the aircraft was not yet ready.

Kenya Airways KQ765, November 13th 2018
JNB Johannesburg O.R Tambo 01:55
NBO Nairobi 07:00
Boeing 737-800NG 5Y-CYB Seat 01A, Business class, window.


Finally, I got to my seat 1A at 1.45 am. The seat is very similar to a first class domestic seat in North America. Still better than what the European airlines offer within Europe, but not as good as a full flat seat you can get on their dreamliner. The legroom was ok.

The menus were distributed on the ground, together with a welcome drink (non alcoholic only). We pushed back at 2 am, with the business class cabin about 80% full. A small amenity kit was placed in the seat pocket.


Pre departure beverage - No alcoholic options available


Seat controls, KQ 737-800 Next Gen Business class.


Legroom seat 01A




Menu KQ Business class JNB-NBO

I was not very hungry and asked the flight attendant to only get the dessert. When the service began about 30 minutes after take off, she brought me the snack box with just the 2 small desserts inside, in a plastic cup. The taste was uneventful.

I eventually managed to fall asleep afterwards and maybe slept a couple of hours, thanks to my eye mask (I am using the BA first class one as I find it very comfy to wear)






Pushing back from JNB


The late night "dinner" - KQ JNB-NBO business class

I just ordered the "desserts"

I woke up around 5 am, feeling thirsty and wanting to visit the lavatories and since all the window shades were left on, you could see the cabin naturally lit by the rising sun. That was one of the most bizarre feelings I had in my aviation life : Literally everyone was alseep in the cabin, and when I walked in the front galley to use the lavatory, i found the purser and the flight attendant also asleep on their jumpseats. It was like I was the only survivor of a loss of cabin pressure where everyone fell in a coma ? I was able to serve myself some water from the galley and visit the loo and I guess that using the flush woke up the purser who asked me when i went out if I needed something

Very bizarre feeling. I guess this night flight must be tough for the crews too, as I think they are doing a same day shift from NBO. I prefer not to know if the cockpit crew was still awake during the entire duration of the flight, but can easily think they were not


Outside views when I woke up...


... and inside the cabin - all the window shades remained open during take off and for the entire duration of the flight. But despite the raising sunlight, everybody, including the cabin crew, was sleeping !


Very bizarre feeling. Am I the only one awake !?






Some nice outside views approaching Nairobi

We landed in Nairobi around 06:50 with some nice views over the valley and mountains and disembarked by bus at 07:00. (This time I could not take pictures of the Kilimanjaro as it was on the other side)


Flight route


5Y-CYB when disembarking in NBO
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Old Jan 2, 19, 1:57 pm
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Kenya airways lounges in NBO

Transit was smooth and security cleared within minutes and this time, I decided to visit the smaller Simba lounge located right above the security check point




Transfer security was cleared in less than 3 minutes



The Simba lounge was about 25% busy when i arrived and the staff was still installing the breakfast buffet. It is quite small, and I believe can comfortably accomodate 60-70 guests or so. It has some outside views and comfortable seating with accessible power plugs. I remember the wifi was working well although you had to retype the login credentials quite often. It finally has restrooms, showers and a separate VIP area (with a TV) which was open to everyone that day.


Simba lounge entrance NBO airport








Simba lounge NBO airport


"VIP" room




Buffet area

The breakfast selection is pretty basic, not much to write about it, but the lounge staff was friendly.

I was feeling a bit sick that morning with sore throat and headaches and asked one of the lounge attendant if i could get some honey as I prefer to take some essential oils and use honey as a support when feeling like this. It took a couple requests to get some, but it eventually arrived.






Breakfast selection




Nice outside views

Bizarrely, my flight to Dubai was showing as closed 5 hours before boarding. The status remained like this until I reached the gate for boarding Looks like someone had a fat finger and fell asleep on the computer too !


Flight CLOSED ???

I was able to get some work done at the lounge and stayed until noon, when I decided to go to the larger Pride lounge , which I visited 3 weeks before, on my way to South Africa.

The staff was on its way to install the lunch buffet when I arrived, and since I was feeling more and more tired, I decided to visit the rest area where I wanted to have a nap. I stayed there only 10 minutes, as it was smelling bad, the seats were quite uncomfortable, and showing signs of wear.



Pride lounge - Nap area


I did not stay more than 10 minutes in there...

So I had some lunch


Pride lounge lunch menu







I left the lounge around 13:25 to go towards the gate 14 from where my flight to Dubai was departing. I was happy to see that the clock on the gate screen was adjusted compared to 3 weeks ago !




5Y-KZH to Dubai



We did not get much information at the gate on why the boarding was delayed. It was also indicated on the screen that all passengers should visit the gate desk to get the passport verified.


Finally boarding !
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Old Jan 3, 19, 8:04 am
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Checking my bag was a swift operation although most of the counter agents looked pissed and tired to work at that time of the day, and I was offered to wrap my bag, free of charge.
I was told by KQ they wrap the bags for free, since at that time of night there is a higher risk of theft out of luggage, that it is easier, (and cheaper), to just wrap the bags than to deal with all the theft claims.
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Old Jan 3, 19, 8:25 am
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Such an amazing thread!
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Old Jan 3, 19, 8:28 am
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Kenya Airways NBO-DXB - Business class

Kenya Airways KQ310, November 13th 2018
NBO Nairobi 14:10
DXB Dubai 20:55
Boeing 787-800 5Y-KZH Seat 01J, Business class, window.




The cabin configuration was exactly the same as on the flights from Dubai to South Africa 3 weeks before, except that this time, I selected a seat on the right side of the cabin. The business class was about 40% full, and I could enjoy a pair of seats just for me.

Although I did not face any technical issues with my seat, some passengers had issues with the power supply and IFE, considering the light load on that day, swapping seats was the solution offered by the crew.











We took off around 1445 with some great outside views


Ready to take off !









Hot towels and paper menus were offered, together with the daily newspapers and the noise cancelling headphones (this was done before take off IIRC).

A drink with some macadamia nuts was also offered after take off




Kenya Airways business class menu NBO-DXB



Unlike the flights I took with KQ 3 weeks earlier, I did not find the starters or main course to be very good, I opted for the vegetarian curry and it was mediocre. The dessert, a chocolate meringue mousse was a good surprise though

The white wine I wanted, a Viogner was unavailable on board.




Vegetarian curry


The crew offered a service I cannot remember much about, they just did the job and not much more. Note that the dessert service was done using a cart, which I always find nice.


Dessert service using the cart


The business class cabin

I managed to get an extra hour of sleep, thanks to the lie-flat seat and some hot beverages during the flight.


Relax position of the seat



Lie flat mode

We landed at 2030 in Dubai and disembarked by bus, with no distinction of travel classes. Everybody got packed like sheep inside a couple buses from Dnata


Route NBO-DXB

In DXB tarmac

There were no lines at that time of the day at the immigration but I was directed to the main immigration office for secondary inspection after the first immigration agent found an issue with my passport (which was not the case 3 weeks before). I initially thought it was because he figured out I had two passports but it appeared that it was due to the fact I had 2 Qatar stamps (for stays of 6 hours and 24 hours in the country, during a transit). The second officer cleared this issue in a heartbeat, but like most people, I never really feel comfortable when I get secondary screening !

The luggage took a good 40 minutes to arrive on the belt as a previous flight from China landed at the same time as us.


Waiting for the luggage...

I eventually checked in at my hotel afterwards and came back at the airport 3 hours later to pick up my friend who was coming with the direct EK flight from JNB Immigration in Terminal 3 was significantly more crowded than in Terminal 1 !



Considering the price paid (about 700 Euros RT if I remember correctly), and the number of miles and XP points those KQ flights gave me, I would repeat most of this itinerary if the occasion comes, but I would certainly avoid taking this read-eye flight between JNB and NBO, especially if not operated with an aircraft equipped with flat seats in business class.
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Old Jan 3, 19, 8:29 am
  #73  
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Originally Posted by roadwarrier View Post
I was told by KQ they wrap the bags for free, since at that time of night there is a higher risk of theft out of luggage, that it is easier, (and cheaper), to just wrap the bags than to deal with all the theft claims.
That's actually a pretty good idea ! And it also protects the luggage. I wish more airlines would offer this as a complimentary option...
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Old Jan 3, 19, 8:30 am
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Originally Posted by JamesU2002 View Post
Such an amazing thread!
Thank you ! It takes me quite some time to summarize everything but I kinda enjoy it at the same time. Glad to see some like reading it !
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Old Jan 3, 19, 8:32 am
  #75  
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Originally Posted by flying_blue_white_red View Post
LVI has changed a lot since the last visit 8 years ago. Not tempted by KQ direct flight CPT-LVI?
The bonus with KQ is the free fly over the Falls. 4 fly-overs on 4 flights (well 3 via LVI and 1 via VFA). No need to pay for the dire Flight of Angel in helico or ultra light aircraft




Once image and internet links are added to your trip report text, you should copy and paste everything in the Notepad first (Bloc note en Franais after seeing your passport ). From here you can copy and paste to post on Flyertalk.
I followed your advice and I am now using Notes instead of Microsoft Word, and I have way less formatting issues than before ! Thanks for this great tip... Sometimes looks like you just need to go back to the basics !
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