Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Love Hate Relationship with Egypt Air

Oh the joys of Egypt Air; where do I even begin? I remember before Egypt Air joined the Star Alliance in 2008, deciding to fly with them meant you were taking a gamble on a few things that were almost guaranteed. One: Your flight would be delayed. Two: Your bags would go missing. Three: The food would be almost inedible, and Four: The staff were never happy to see you.

These days, at least a few of those items are not entirely true. The food is edible (all be it rather tasteless unless that is you're looking for the taste of cinnamon and / or nutmeg). I haven't lost a bag flying with them now *touch wood* for a good few years. Surprisingly, the last few times I've flown Egypt Air we've not only left bang on time, but have arrived at our destination early. But unfortunately it seems that some things won't change, as the staff still never look happy to see you. The grumbling expression of "oh God do I have to give this security presentation again," coupled with the "Find your own blanket and pillow" mentality leaves you as the customer to fend for yourself. 

My most recent experience with Egypt Air has re-affirmed a few things for me. Primarily, that I have an absolute love-hate relationship with the airline. If you are flying out of Egypt and searching for the cheapest flights (in my case to London Heathrow) there are many websites that give you hints and tips on when you should purchase your tickets, what days and times are optimal. I abided by all these rules, and initially on the dates I was searching for my cheapest option was an 18 hour trip through Dubai on Emirates Air - hold the phones...when did Emirates Air become the cheapest airline to fly? Has their website been bugged?

After a few hours of searching and altering arrival dates and times, I managed to find that the cheap flights on Egypt Air either left on Tuesdays or Saturdays. These tickets clocked in at close to 600$. Try to fly any other day, and you're looking at $1,000 plus. Don't ask me why. The only thing I can comment on this is that flying out of Egypt at the moment, regardless of which airline, has gotten astronomically expensive. In the "peak" summer months of July - mid-October flights to Heathrow were an astounding $1,200 plus. I thought at first this was the result of the Olympics, but after checking flights out of other airports around the world was able to conclude that no, it's just flying out of Egypt. I find this exceptionally ironic, as flights into Egypt at the moment are ridiculously cheap. So in an attempt to boost the tourism economy flights into Egypt are offering amazing fares, but if you're looking to leave the country expect to pay almost twice the price. x-(

Old school de-planing
to the runway bus
So after deciding to fly with Egypt Air on one of their cheaper dates, I elected the "insurance" policy just in case they decided to lose my bags (which fortunately, they didn't). Here comes the first reason that I love Egypt Air, and will often pay an extra $100 to fly with them. While the rest of the world's airlines are cracking down on the luggage you can bring, Egypt Air welcomes you on their international flights with open arms and a two baggage allowance per person, a whopping 24 kg per bag for a total of just under 60 kg. That's double the British Airways allowance. Don't mind if I do. I cannot contend with Egypt Air's baggage allowance. 

Rather than buy return flights through Hurghada which tripled the cost of my ticket, I purchased domestic flights from Hurghada to Cairo, then my return flights internationally as starting in Cairo. Reason #1 why I hate Egypt Air: feeling the need to charge me 800 $ for the convenience of flying through Hurghada, when if I march into your Egypt Air office, I can get the same tickets for under $150 RETURN! What gives, Egypt Air, what gives. 

When I show up on the day to catch my flight from Hurghada to Cairo (having booked each ticket separately), the steward checks my ticket, sees me with two bags to check-in, and says "sorry ma'am the baggage allowance on this flight is one bag," returning my ticket to me and pointing at a little note on the bottom. Without batting an eyelid, I pull out my International Departure ticket (scheduled for the next day) and say "No problem, I'm connecting tomorrow in Cairo with Egypt Air and flying internationally." The steward takes my ticket and studies both. Now bear in mind, were I flying British Airways domestic in the UK and tried this, they would tell me there's nothing we could do. Had I wanted the 2 bag allowance, I shouldn't have purchased separate tickets. Reason #2 I love Egypt Air: I had no problem getting both bags on. 

I'm not the only one that knows to take full advantage of Egypt Air's baggage allowance. On my flight to the UK, there was a gentleman also flying with his two daughters. With a carry-on allowance of 2 bags per individual passenger, they should for all accounts and purposes be allowed 6 carry on's. Reason #3 I love Egypt Air: This guy had 10 (count them, 10) carry-ons of all shapes and sizes, and experienced zero problems. - Are you sensing a pattern here? 

It was probably just my luck that I got the grumpiest security employee the day this happened, and to be fair this isn't really a gripe about Egypt Air, so much as it is about Cairo Airport. But seeing as how that's their hub, sorry I'm lumping you together. Reason #2 why I hate Egypt Air: I set the alarm off at security, and felt mauled by the security girl. I mean mauled. I get it, you have to check if I'm carrying any concealed weapons, but was it really necessary to lift and separate more than my bra was already doing, and give a good grab just to make sure that I'm clear? I mean really...

Reasons # 3 and 4 why I hate Egypt Air somewhat go hand-in-hand as it's the overall experience of being on board. Generally speaking the staff are not friendly and often downright rude. My flight to London this time, the male stewards felt it was pertinent to come up and individually on multiple occasions try to engage in mundane conversation. But ask me if I needed anything? No ma'am. I had to walk to the back of the flight myself (despite pressing the call button - I seriously think they see that and then just turn it off) to get some water to drink. Combine that with the average food and the minimal leg room, that's my gripe as far as the overall comfort of the plane is concerned. 

And to end on a positive note, Reason #4 why I love Egypt Air: Since they have joined the Star Alliance and are expected to maintain a certain level of customer-experience, they have a great selection of media to choose from throughout the flight for a wide range of audiences. I have yet to get onto a flight on Egypt Air and not find anything that I would be interested in watching. From documentaries, to films, to TV shows and a variety of games, I have to give them the two thumbs up on at least making sure that their customers stay entertained on board. ;) 

And just because I love this poster hanging
in Cairo International Airport

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