This ticket was surprisingly the easiest part of the trip to book. Ever since United/Continental introduced one-way awards it’s become increasingly easy to book trips part by part…and availability was good. Getting to Europe was easy…lots of options, and eventually I even got the nonstop to Brussels. However, Brussels-Kigali only had one seat for awards…and we needed two. I booked mine, and we figured worse case we could always buy a London-Kigali Z fare for Matt. However, over Thanksgiving weekend I got an alert from ExpertFlyer that a seat had opened up…and we were all set!
Headed out to Dulles, for what’s becoming a bit of a routine flight for me in my country counting quest. I always used to wonder how United kept Dulles to Brussels profitable, but I’ve been on it so many times now that it’s semi-obvious. Other than all the african connections this flight is always packed. Not too sure who’s on it, but clearly people always are. So, let’s get on to the important stuff – the flight details!
United Flight 950
Washington, Dulles (IAD) to Brussels, Belgium (BRU)
Depart 17:49, Arrive 7:15, Flight Time 7:26
Boeing 777, Registration N779UA, Manufactured 1996
Pretty routine flight…with nothing overly exciting to say about it. A few unusual notes for regular United fliers: The “warm nuts” were 100% cashews. I wish it was this way all the time, but alas, I don’t think it’s the case. The steak was, as usual, a piece of leather and way overdone, and the salad was pretty anemic and pathetic compared to past offerings. Other than that, it was pretty typical upgrade-class, and not much to write home about. Watched a typically terrible United movie (“Bad Teacher”) and dozed off to a solid five hours before landing in Brussels. A few pictures of the meal:
The so-called “Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes served warm with Bernaise sauce”
“Red Rock Seafood Bisque” – actually super-tasty…the best soup I’ve had on United yet!
“Fresh seasonal greens with dried cranberries, blue cheese, walnuts and croutons” – sad. Tiny, tasteless, and bland. I think I had two bites.
“Grilled Filet Mignon – Roasted garlic and herb compound butter, mashed red skin potatoes with green beans and carrot bâtonnets” – again, sad. Way way way overcooked, but I convinced myself it was needed protein, so forced it all down. At least the steak – the rest wasn’t worth touching.
“Ice Cream with your choice of sundae toppings” and “Cheese Selection – served with seedless grapes and crackers.”
Flight landed on time, if not a few minutes early – and I had the dilemma of what to do with a three plus hour wait. Debated going into the city for a coffee and croissant, but lazy and Starbucks won out, and I ended up just clearing immigration (to test the new passport) and having an Americano or two at Starbucks. The odd thing is, Brussels Airlines wouldn’t even let me check in for the flight to Kigali until 2:30 before the flight. So, with nothing else to do, I decided to relax.
Check-in was fine, but they insisted on weighing all carry-on bags…but no hassle I was allowed to carry on my rolling bag which still topped the scales at nearly 15kg. Can’t complain too much. Through immigration quickly thanks to the fast-lane, and was soon relaxing in the “Sunrise Lounge” that Brussels uses only for the three or so Africa flights per day. This beats all other lounges in this airport hands down, with a real espresso machine, decent pastries, etc. I was soon more than adequately caffeinated, and ready for adventure!
Brussels Airlines Flight 465
Brussels, Belgium (BRU) to Kigali, Rwanda (KGL)
Depart 10:50, Arrive 19:55, Flight Time 8:05
Airbus A330-200, Registration HB-IQA, Manufactured 1998
Bulkhead had plenty of room on this plane, and honestly for a daytime flight it was a great seat. Brussels still believes in the tilt-a-gurney seats at least on this plane, which would have majorly pissed me off if this was either an overnight or a paid ticket. Before the flight, business was only booked to 7 people out of 36 seats, but ended up going out full. I’m guessing based on the number of smiling people paged to the podium (and the fact coach was showing completely sold out) that this was the upgrade express. No complaints though, you win some, you lose some…
Meal was pretty much Lufthansa style – served as quickly as possible and get them out of there! Again, I’ll limit it to a few pictures. One thing that was notable was the offering of Kir Royales as a starter. A nice touch, semi-classy, and really doesn’t take much work. Are you paying attention United? yeah…you…who claims even making a mimosa is too much effort pre-departure!
Who knew the Belgians and Rwandans celebrated US thanksgiving? Strangest airline appetizer ever potentially!
The veal in some sort of mustard sauce was actually pretty tasty – can’t complain much!
Mmmm…the best part of flying a European airline…real Belgian chocolates!
Landed on time, bus gate…since there are no jetways in Kigali. Picked up a bottle of duty free wine for the hotel, and immigration was a breeze. No questions, quick and efficient, no visa needed, and soon we were off to the hotel to start the big adventure!