It’s hard being an Airtel Kenya Customer

Over the holidays, as we all went home upcountry, I tried being a full time Airtel Kenya customer. In Nairobi, I use Faiba4G as my main data SIM. And being that we are in an age period where traditional phone calls are basically dead, there’s little I do with my other SIM cards. Safaricom is for M-Pesa mainly. And since M-Pesa may soon only need an app, I see a future of just data SIM cards.

Airtel have really good packages. My favourite being the 2GB at 99 bob daily. Since Faiba has made me fully reliant on their extra good packages, I wanted lots of data at good prices. And since upcountry there’s only Safaricom and Airtel connections, Airtel was my choice because of price.

A few years ago, my only option would be Airtel. Safaricom’s network was unreliable. Only 2G was accessible. But over the years, things have changed. Safaricom’s 4G is everywhere. Yet we still have to place our phones on the windows to get fast Airtel 3G. But that notwithstanding, I still went with Airtel because… more data. (Telkom is yet to expand even 2G to our area).

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Here’s why I feel it is hard to be an Airtel customer in 2019:

Unreliable Network

On 12th Dec, my phone told me data services weren’t available temporarily in my location. 3 days later, the issue hadn’t been fixed. There was no SMS notification from Airtel saying they had issues. Customer data expired just like that.


Inefficient Automation

On other networks, whenever you subscribe to an auto-renewal service, you know that your data when not used up will be auto-renewed before expiry. This is mostly the case with Airtel, except for certain situations. In more than three instances I had bought enough Airtime to last a couple of days with the 2GB auto-renewal. Then almost at the time where auto-renewal happens I get a notification saying I have insufficient funds. Checking balance, I have more than enough airtime to charge 99 bob. It refused to auto-renew. And that’s how my data expired.

No Data Manager

Both Safaricom and Telkom have data managers where when set up, your airtime won’t be used when browsing. Meaning you have to buy a bundle. Airtel doesn’t. Immediately your data is used up, run to the window (because 3G is only available on the window), and switch data off to buy another bundle.

Customer Care

Talking to customer care on Twitter is just a whole other sport. Two years ago, I wrote this:

Airtel Kenya have the worst Customer Care; No one cares, No one follows up on Issues

My feelings on their customer care remain the same despite all awards.

Unexplainable Changes

Whether you use Safaricom or Telkom, I bet you know the shortcodes and the numbers for different things in the menu. Over the holidays, on Airtel dialing *544# to check balance has changed options from I think 8 to 9 to currently 10. Finding the 2GB bundle used to be option 1. It changed. They are minor things, until you get stressed up with finding an option.

In Nairobi, at least where I live, Airtel 4G has the fastest speeds compared to other providers.

If only they can make sure the experience is smooth countrywide from strengthening their network, to having efficient communication, even during outages, and adding a data manager, then they would be a serious contender.

About Airtel Money, there’s little hope to date, as it is still a problem finding an Airtel Money agent:

The Problem with Airtel Money in Kenya

Do you use Airtel? How’s your experience? What do you like most? What do you hate?



  1. It is mid 2021 and Airtel still offers very poor quality network. It seems to me that they are deliberately working hard to lose its diehard customers. Something fundamentally wrong is going on. THE AIRTEL PROBLEM IS HUGE while Safaricom on the other side is fleecing its customers into poverty to their last single coin.

  2. Airtel has being a big disappointment and let down.

    Business was low from march to June 2020 thanks to covid 19 and i requested for a downgrade from 1500 per month to either 500 or 1000.

    No one advised me that i will loose all the data and talk time accumulated. In the downgrade i lost 50 GB data plus talk time. Why deal with a company that doesn’t care or advice accordingly.

    I applied for termination of the line early September 2020 and the customer service lady said it takes 30 days and no confirmation to date and seems like the billing department doesn’t know what the customer service department is doing. They are absolutely 2 different set ups.

    Airtel is just not worth it.

  3. Airtel,what’s going on with my line?Why are you frustrating your customer, I have called Customer Care 8 times and the technical group hasn’t respondedi haven’t been able to use your line close to 10 days now.I have a pal who wanted to buy your line but when she heard about my ordeal,she has decided to put on hold.
    Respond to this_my number is 0734842608

  4. I have used it all the way since my first phone in 2004 despite all the shortcomings. @AIRTEL_KE is facing unfair business ground in Kenya but it’s doing fine across border the reason it’s my first choice. Safaricom despite enjoying the Kenyan market sumptuously has failed to spill over the borders. I don’t need to change my line when visiting ??, ??, ?? or any other African country. When it comes to international calls I find @AIRTEL_KE clarity excellent and affordable. If this telco is given same space and prevelages as Safaricom I asure you #Safaricom will go down the drain within 6 months.

  5. Your observations were so surprisingly mine! The Kes.99 2GB, window manenos, data manager, lost data bundles, etc… Spot on. Only that I happen to be living in Kiambu, where you’d expect much better Airtel data network. So am stuck with the problem, since Telkom and Faiba are simply dead here, Safaricom too expensive. I thought am the only one suffering from dependence on Airtel data… If Airtel just fixed these few things, I can bet you they’d finally trounce Safaricom. Safaricom is a rich man’s platform making abnormal profits. But what’s the likelihood that Airtel will be able or willing to resolve the problems? Highly unlikely. Why I haven’t figured out yet. I even offered them space on my farm to erect their mast to improve their signal in the area, they don’t follow up even after pursuing them for two years. Thanks a lot for the article I wish Airtel can get to read it.

  6. I think, the thing when dealing with Airtel, expect the bare minimum so whatever you end up getting, you’re not disappointed. I’m a heavy Airtel user, mostly for nostalgia (I’ve had the same number from 2008), and because of their affordable call rates to other networks. Their data services happen to be okay where I live and where I work so no major complaints there, except the random unexplained outages.

    I use the AirtelMoney Visa card to transact and the interoperability has been working well for me, after I had to literally spoonfeed people on how to send me money from MPESA. All in all, if you really put your back into it, you’ll enjoy their services. But still, Airtel needs to pull up their socks if they’re to take on Safaricom in this industry. And they need to, coz the only other option, Telkom, is mediocre everywhere else except Nairobi.

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