A big part of my visit to Algeria was flying the Algerian flag carrier, Air Algérie. While my expectations were frankly low, especially after my ground experience at the airport, I was very pleasantly surprised with the onboard product and will go out of my way to fly Air Algérie again.
Air Algérie A330-200 Business Class Review
Air Algérie is based in Houari Boumediene Airport (ALG) in the capital city of Algiers and flies to over two dozen domestic destinations as well as over 40 international destinations. Very little information is publicly available about the airlines’ fleet configuration, but I confirmed that all Airbus A330-200 jets in the fleet (there appear to be eight) now include a retrofitted interior.
I booked my one-way ticket from Algiers (ALG) to Doha (FOH) for $603.95 on Priceline, an American online travel agency. While I always prefer to book directly through the airline, the Air Algérie website would not take my credit card. While one advantage to booking via Priceline is that you generally have 24+ hours to cancel without penalty, my business class ticket was fully refundable.
From the Hyatt Regency, I walked via covered bridge to the airport check-in area and had to go through a metal detector in order to enter the ticketing and check-in area.
There was a huge line at the Air Algérie ticket counter.
I’m not going to rehash what I’ve already written about, but I ran into a problem taking photos during check-in.
During check-in, my visa and COVID-19 test was verified for Doha (Doha does not require a vaccination any longer, but does require a PCR test not older than 48 hours or an antigen test not older than 24 hours) while completing check-in.
I was also directed to go to a desk on the other side of the lobby for a stamp. Although I’m not sure why that was necessary, a man in a blue uniform took my passport and boarding pass, then stamped it without a word.
Boarding pass in hand, I headed through passport control where I had more issues.
I covered the Air Algérie VIP Lounge in a separate review, but spent the next few hours here before boarding my early morning flight to Doha. The lounge is spacious and comfortable, but don’t arrive with an appetite…
My boarding pass indicated boarding would begin at 11:45 pm, one hour prior to departure. At 11:30 pm, I left the lounge and headed to my departure gate, down a long and quiet corridor.
At the gate, despite the light load on the flight, I found that boarding had already commenced.
Passports were checked, but tests or visas were not checked again.
Air Algérie (AH) 4078
Algiers (ALG) – Doha (DOH)
Tuesday, October 11
Depart: 12:45 AM
Arrive: 09:00 AM
Duration: 6 hr, 15 min
Distance: 2,945 miles
Aircraft: Airbus A330-200
Seat: 3A (Business Class)
Onboard an absolute treat was awaiting.
Can you blame for guarding my expectations prior to stepping onboard? I had been chewed out at check-in, hassled during passport control, chewed out by a passenger in the lounge, and found the lounge totally lacking in terms of food and drink for a flagship lounge. The day before I had been chewed out by hotel staff for taking pictures.
So as I entered the cabin, I was quite furtive and frankly fearful to even take pictures. But as I recounted in my teaser of this review, my fears were totally misplaced. What an amazing flight awaited me.
There, I received a warm greeting from Emelle and Nazim. Their English was perfect and their smiles were delightful.
I asked if it was okay to take pictures, noting I was excited to fly Air Algérie for the first time. Not only did they bless my photography, Nazim told me to turn on my video and then offered me this warm welcome:
What a night and day experience. To go from a check-in agent yelling at me with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth to border guards having fun at my expense to this.
And let me just underscore how great Nazim and Emelle were the entire flight. Of course, they were attentive and polite, but so much more: they treated me like family, loved their jobs, and served as superb brand ambassadors for the flag carrier of Algeria.
I’ll interweave some of this great service into the other sections of this review.
As expected, a lovely cabin of 18 reverse herringbone business class seats awaited, including four rows in a 1-2-1 configuration and row five in a 1-1 configuration with a galley between seats.
I was able to pull up the seat map prior to the flight, which appeared to show the two solo seats in row five behind doors 2L and 2R, but they were actually in front:
The cabin was white, the seats blue (despite the red colored scheme of Air Algérie), and I thought the cabin looked very inviting.
When the aircraft door finally closed, I was one of only four passengers in business class. Emelle remarked that this is a new route, which is true. The empty cabin made the service even more personalized, though I hope for the sake of Air Algérie that this new route catches on.
Each business class seat has a console that controls the seat position as well as a universal power port, USB-A port, and a headphone jack.
Your feet will be constrained a bit, but as a side sleeper, I had no trouble nodding off (thankfully the cabin was kept cool despite the lack of individual air vents)
I am thankful, however, I brought my own pillow and blanket along (for my outbound flights, which were in economy class). The blanket in Air Algérie business class was typically what you would expect in economy class. No pillows were available. Emelle was very apologetic, blaming the pandemic (which we call agree is bogus at this point, but probably quite true as to why the company has not restored blankets and certainly not the fault of the flight attendants).
I still managed over three hours of solid rest onboard. After dinner, the business class was dimmed purple.
I did notice when going to sleep that the seat could have used a deeper cleaning and was not aging well:
When I woke up in the morning I retook some cabin pictures since I thought the cabin looked even better in the natural daylight:
IFE + Wi-Fi
Although Air Algérie advertises wi-fi on its long-distance flights, there was no wi-fi signal on my flight.
Even more surprisingly, though, was that there were no headphones. Again, the pandemic was blamed. But rather than leave me hanging (because I carry my own wireless headphones but not old-school ones), Nazim let me use his own personal headphones. I thought that was a very kind gesture.
Although there was no wi-fi or headphones, the in-flight entertainment library included movies, TV shows, music, games, a moving flight map, and copious amounts of information on Air Algérie.
Food + Drink
With the dismal lounge spread, I was not sure the food onboard would be any better. In fact, I was not even sure if food would be served at all. But Emelle told me that dinner would be seven after takeoff and breakfast before landing. No menus were offered.
A bottle of water was waiting at my seat.
Emelle stopped by with a choice of orange juice (not freshly-squeezed), Sprite, or water. Look at the beautiful smile on her face!
Shortly after takeoff, dinner was served. First, Emelle placed tablecloth on my tray table.
I appeared to be the only one of the four passengers who was eating. There was no choice: the tray included cheese sandwiches, a hot beef entree wtih rice, a bread roll with cheese, and two cakes for dessert.
I did not eat the sandwiches, but found the beef entree very flavorful, with a nice mix of spices including pepper, turmeric, cumin, and bay leaves.
When Emelle saw that I had polished off my main course, she offered me another one. I accepted.
Not bad at all…
I used the lavatory to brush my teeth and when I returned, Emelle had placed a fruit plate on my tray table. The peach was ripe and sweet.
So much for brushing my teeth before bed…I just went to sleep.
About 90 minutes outside of Doha, I was gently awaked by Emelle. She told me breakfast was ready.
After three hours of sleep, I felt incredibly lethargic and considered just going back to sleep.
But the breakfast tray arrived and the smell of a hot croissant, pain au chocolat, and hot coffee helped me to wake-up. Besides the pastries and coffee, more orange juice, dates, a bread roll, and cheese were also on the tray.
What I have preferred fresh fruit and plain yogurt? Yes. Or eggs? Yes. But for a six-hour flight, I thought the meals were decent.
Lavatories were located in both the front and rear of the business class cabin. No special amenities were included beyond an eau de cologne.
No amenity kits were offered.
As we landed in Doha, I was sorry the flight was over so fast.
Objectively, this flight was mediocre at best if you consider the lack of amenity kits, proper blankets, pillows, menus, headphones, and IFE along with the tattered cabin. But what made it so great for me was the kind service of Nazim and Emelle. They were not given a lot to work with, yet provided caring and gracious service throughout the flight.
Air Algérie has great potential. Its business class seat is excellent and the service was among the best I have ever experienced in business class and certainly on a first class level. I was happy to try the flag carrier of Algeria and do look forward to flying it again. If Air Algérie could make small improvements to in-flight product, it could be a leading carrier of the region.