Reading about the hijacking of EgyptAir flight 181 earlier today brought back memories about the two times I flew EgyptAir back in 2012. I was able to convince my wife to do a quick 40-hour visit to Cairo in-between a trip to Istanbul and Dubai. We could have flown with Turkish Airlines from Istanbul to Cairo and with Emirates from Cairo to Dubai. The reason we did not was because EgyptAir provided the most lenient cancellation policy among these three airlines. In essence, if we had to cancel our paid tickets, we would get a full refund minus a $20 processing fee if I remember correctly.
This trip took place fifteen months after the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. The military was still running the country and every few weeks something would happen that would result in the death of dozens of people, including the Port Said Stadium riot in February 2012, which left 74 dead. Therefore, we wanted to make sure that if things got ugly right around our visit we would be able to change our plans without doing so having a significant financial impact. Choosing EgyptAir for this reason is a decision I soon began regretting.
On the day of our Istanbul-Cairo flight, we were informed upon checking-in that the flight was delayed (our flight appeared to be on-time online). In an attempt to improve our experience, I inquired about the possibilities of a paid upgrade to business class. It took the agents a while to figure out what I was requesting and when they finally did, it seemed they had no idea how to process such an upgrade. We waited for about fifteen minutes until they were finally able to tell me what the upgrade fee would be. The fee was a little higher than I expected for a two-hour flight in what would surely be a forgettable business class cabin, but I decided to go ahead with the upgrade anyways. The agents then asked me to fill out a form by hand. Everything about this process felt minor league and we had not even set foot inside the aircraft yet.
When we finally did after a two-hour delay, I instantly began regretting my decision to upgrade. I am not sure I had ever seen a business class cabin more beat-up than the one on this A320. For some reason I did not take pictures of the cabin. I guess I just wanted time to pass as quickly as possible. The food was inedible. The service indifferent. The in-flight entertainment, non-existent. Fortunately, we landed safely and without incident.
Two days later it was time to fly EgyptAir again. The flight to Dubai would be on their flagship Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, so I was confident the experience would be better. I was wrong.
Things turned badly before we even arrived at the airport. Our flight was supposed to depart at 9AM. After breakfast at our hotel, I went to the concierge to see if they could tell me whether the flight was on-time. Again, the flight appeared to be on-time online, but I did not feel like I could trust that information anymore and, after all, I would much rather spend time at the splendid JW Marriott Hotel Cairo than at the Cairo airport. Not surprisingly, our flight was delayed, by three hours!
About an hour later I went to the concierge again to re-check our flight status. I almost had a heart-attack when he informed me that the flight appeared to be on-time now and scheduled to depart at its original departure time of 9AM. How was that even possible?!
It was now 8:45AM, so there was no way we could make it to the airport in-time for our flight. The concierge called the airport to see what was going on. False alarm. The flight was indeed still delayed and not schedule to depart until 12PM.
The flight did not end up departing until 2PM. At no time were we ever given an explanation for the delay.
When we finally got to the boarding area, a strong unpleasant smell was immediately noticeable. Things did not get better when we finally boarded. The entire plane reeked. The smell was emanating from a large number of passengers that appeared not to have taken a shower in months. We had to literally breath out of our mouths for the entire 3.5 hr flight.
I debated whether this is something you could blame on the airline. To be honest, I am not sure what they could have done considering the large number of passengers that appeared to be responsible for this problem.
While our flights were not hijacked or anything like that, my impressions of EgyptAir certainly left me believing that EgyptAir ran as minor-league an operation as I had ever seen from a “major” airline. Therefore, I am not surprised by today’s developments. If anything, I am surprised problems like this with EgyptAir are not more common.
I decided after our two flights that I would never fly EgyptAir again and that I would never recommend flight options to clients that involved EgyptAir unless there were literally no other options available.
Have you flown EgyptAir? What was your experience like?