While EgyptAir has a lot to offer in terms of friendly service and a great business class seat, the unacceptable catering on my Boeing 787-9 flight from Washington to Cairo in business class really left me with a poor impression of the Egyptian flag carrier.
EgyptAir 787-9 Business Class Review
I booked my flight using frequent flyer miles (part of a larger trip) and was able to choose a seat in advance on the EgyptAir website.
EgyptAir uses the B Gates at Washington Dulles and I arrived from the Polaris Lounge about 1 hour, 15 minutes before departure. United had already issued my boarding pass for this flight in Los Angeles, but I figured EgyptAir staff would want to check my travel documents considering I was flying to Bankgok via Cairo, London, and Tokyo.
The agent took a look at my files, asked if I was really going to Bangkok, then handed me a boarding pass to Cairo, noting that I could pick up my connecting boarding pass in Cairo. That may have saved her a few minutes, but led to a headache (and eventually a cup of coffee) at the transit counter in Cairo.
We boarded one hour prior to scheduled departure.
Washington (IAD) – Cario (CAI)
Tuesday, November 2
Duration: 10hr, 20min
Distance: 5,842 miles
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 12A (Business Class)
Let’s start with the meal service.
Food + Drink
We may be still be in a global pandemic, but COVID-19 does not spread more easily on plastic than on glass or ceramic or silverware. In an effort to cut costs under the auspices of “our safety,” airlines around the world have cut back service and shifted to disposable cups and utensils in premium cabins. EgyptAir takes this to a new extreme, with a deplorable amount of plastic waste onboard.
Service began shortly after takeoff. First, the beverage cart rolled through offering a choice of fruit juice, soft drink, or water. EgyptAir is a dry airline and therefore does not offer alcohol of any kind onboard.
Prior to the pandemic, juice was very tasty and in some cases freshly-squeezed. Here, the juices were from Egypt, but the apple juice tasted more like sugar water than actual fruit juice.
Next, I was asked what I wanted to eat, “beef, chicken, or fish.” I asked what kind of fish and the flight attendant said she did not know. What was it served with? She did not know.
This is a service failing that goes beyond the stinginess of the menu itself and the way it is served. Is it really too hard to open up the three entree choices, look at what they are and what they are served with, and offer passengers a bit more of a description?
Lunch was served on a tray. The tray included a salmon appetizer, a packaged bread roll, a small salad, cheese, and a chocolate tart. Moments later, the main course was added.
I ordered fish. Huge mistake. I have no idea what kind of fish was served, but it had a strong fishy smell and a very unpleasant taste. The pasta was undercooked and did not have nearly enough sauce. The cooked spinach was a soggy mess. And nothing screams premium like a foil container…
I’m actually not a picky eater when it comes to airline food, but this was really bad and made me very thankful I had enjoyed a large breakfast in the Polaris Lounge prior to my flight.
By the way, the utensils may look metallic, but were plastic. They were also scratched up (i.e., it appeared they were re-used…).
Midway through the flight a snack was offered…fresh fruit and mixed nuts. This was by the far the best meal of the flight and was greatly appreciated: I was getting hungry six hours into the flight.
Prior to landing, breakfast was served. I was hoping for something hot, but instead received this:
Talk about a mess. It included a rock-hard croissant, frozen salmon sandwich, cheese and olive sandwich, bottle of orange juice, packaged blueberry muffin, sugary yogurt, and some cut fruit.
The food could have been arranged…see, it looked a bit better once I cleaned it up:
But careful arrangement could not have made a frozen sandwich or rock hard croissant edible.
What a disaster.
At least there would be espresso or Arabic coffee, right? “No, those machines are turned off due to the pandemic,” I was told. Instead: watery coffee.
You don’t want to fly EgyptAir for the food or drink and it left such a negative impression it overshadowed what was otherwise a decent flight.
The business class cabin includes 30 reverse herringbone seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. Not only is the cabin aesthetically pleasing, but the seats are quite comfortable and offer great privacy and tremendous space. Seat width is 20 inches and the bed is 80 inches (about two meters). The lamps at each seat are a nice touch.
Plenty of room for your feet, though the position of the meal tray did impede knee room.
Seat movement is controlled by a small screen on the side console under the window.
12A was a bad choice, by the way, due to the missing window next to my seat (I had one window instead of two). Avoid this row if you wish to look out the window.
There was plenty of personal storage, including two large compartments under the window, another compartment below it, and a compartment on the other side that also served as an armrest. Inside the compartment under the window was an IFE controller, power plug, and USB port. A reading light was also available.
EgyptAir has improved its bedding since my last flight and offered a large plush blue blanket as well as a large pillow.
I did not sleep well during the flight, which I primarily blame on the noon departure and the coffee I had consumed earlier in the day, but it also merits mentioning the cabin was warm and there are no individual air vents.
IFE + Wi-Fi
The in-flight-entertainment selection was limited, with a a small number of movies, TV shows, music, and Islamic-related content. The Live TV section did not function.
An Islamic prayer was also offered before the flight, which occurs on many carriers from predominantly-Muslim countries.
Headphones were flimsy and much better suited for economy class.
I watched a German movie called Traumfabrik which was very predictable, but I liked it a lot.
Wi-fi was available for purchase and greatly overpriced. Every passenger was given 10MB for free, which I appreciated, but a 100MB package cost $23. That’s ridiculous when so many carriers offer flight passes without data caps for around the same price (or less).
All my work was done so I saw no need to connect.
With all the cost cuts, EgyptAir is still offering amenity kits onboard. The kits are in a faux-leather EgyptAir branded bag and included:
- Hair brush
- Toothbrush + toothpaste
- Ear plugs
- Sanitary wipe
- Eye shade
The toothbrush, pen, and hair brush were made of wood and stamped with the EgyptAir logo.
Even the lavatories were an issue on this flight. There are three lavatories for business class passengers, one in the front of the aircraft (also shared by the flight crew) and two in the rear of the cabin.
There was a drainage problem (you can see it in my picture below) and the water would not drain from the sink of the two rear lavatories. At some point in the flight, the crew them out of order, leaving only the front lavatory operable. There was almost always a line.
In my first impressions post, I noted how kind the flight attendants were…and they were. But the more I think about the indifference over meal service, the more I have to scale back my initial praise for the service.
Flight attendants should be able to explain what entree choices are available beyond one word descriptions of the meat.
That said, the crew was otherwise great and did the best with the limited resources they had. I did register my feedback via an in-flight survey included in the IFE:
I like that EgyptAir still uses stickers to indicate whether you want to be awakened for meal service. So old school…
Kudos to the flight attendants for also frequently offering water during the flight:
If you care about masks, the flight attendants were very diligent in wearing them whilst in the cabin…but passengers not so much. Many passenger ignored the mask rule and kept them off or lowered below their nose and mouth. Flight attendants were not proactive in monitoring for mass compliance.
Flight attendants also did not wear masks when in the galley, putting them on only when walking through the passenger cabin. I don’t have a problem with that, but did want to note it.
One other note. The pilots were smoking in the cockpit and I suspect the crew kept going into the cockpit to do the same. I smelled it when I went up to the front to use the lavatory, but thankfully never smelled it in the business class cabin, unlike China Eastern.
We landed ahead of schedule in Cairo at just before 4:00am in the morning. I had a long layover ahead and sadly was not well-rested, despite my best efforts. EgyptAir truly has a lot of potential and has a great business class seat onboard the 787-9. But the ridiculous excuse for meal service right now make the business class experience so much less premium. That matters for me and there is no way I’d set foot on another EgyptAir longhaul flight until the meal service standards are restored to pre-padnemic levels.
Sounds like with better food and cheaper (or even free) Wifi, it could be a decent business class product.
Can all travel bloggers review these products on a scale of 100 ? You are having a great seat but mediocre food whereas on the other side Ben from OMAAT is having great soft product on Emirates 777 but mediocre seat. End of the day, we rate Airlines based on ticketing, time, ground handling, lounge, seat, food, drink, amenities,, service, connections etc…. but one bad meal or bad seat doesn’t make any airline bad IMHO. I am also not sure how many business class passengers care about $40 worth of food on a ticket worth $4000. May be most business class passengers care about sleep quality over food.
I think the best you/we can do is compare all my own business class reviews (just like with Ben’s reviews). Food really matters to me – that is a common theme in all my reviews. I know it matters a lot more than it does for most people. Presentation also matters greatly to me. I hate plastic and disposable items in a premium cabin. It really bothers me, perhaps irrationally so. But at least that will be a consistent theme in all my reviews.
I am with Matthew and beg to differ on your statement. While yes stateside airlines plough only 1% of the ticket cost into food, middle Eastern airlines generally do not. They will try to feed you in a way that compensates the omission of pork and for some alcohol in their menu, and I fly QR EK EY and WY for that sole reason. Food and beverage is as important as the seat on these Airlines and it also reflects the Arabic culture of generosity in food.
Remember, Egypt Air may be “dry” in the sense they don’t cater alcohol, but customers are allowed to bring their own bottles of wine aboard. Flight attendants will gladly serve it you.
That’s good to note – I was not aware of that.
Oh, and one thing I forgot to add in my review: the pilots were smoking, but I only smelled it when I went up to very front to use the lavatory. I never smelled it in the cabin.
Pilots smoking!!?? Oh, the horror!
I bet they defecated and urinated on
the flight too!
There may have been some unconfirmed passing of gas, unless there was a female pilot (women never fart-that’s why their heads explode over stupid stuff)
Oh, wait, a FEMALE pilot on a Muslim majority airline!!?? Easier to look for Unicorns…..
Are you for real or just a disgruntled troll?
Lovely picture. Thanks for sharing Adib!
Slightly odd review. No mention of the boarding process, no mention of how busy the cabin was and little information on service, welcome and farewell.
Most of your reviews start with plenty of detail on how you boarded, what the welcome involved and the seat. Instead, this odd one jumped straight into the food? Bizarre.
In terms of plastic, this drives me mad. Business class tickets require more fuel consumption / CO2 emissions during engine start up than the hydrocarbons used in plastic for the entire cabin. If you’re going to base reviews of business travel to Bangkok via Cairo, then four hours BACK to London, complaining about a couple of plastic forks, then your logic is frankly ridiculous.
The food really rubbed me the wrong way on this flight. Boarding process was chaotic with 20 wheelchairs lined up for pre-boarding, but I got to skip them as a business class passenger and was first onboard and ran down the jet bridge to take my pictures. All the other business class passengers lined up behind the wheelchairs (which I probably should have done), giving me a few minutes alone in the business class cabin.
I was warmly welcomed onboard at the door by the same flight attendant who would serve my side of the cabin during the flight.
No farewell or “thank you fly flying EgyptAir” beyond the captain’s message during descent into CAI.
And it if wasn’t clear, I just hate eating off plastic at all times in all places, but especially in business class.
You can do the pyramids in a 4 or 5 hour layover.
You can do the pyramids in a 4 or 5 hour layover.
Nice review with crappy food. Your access to Polaris was because you had a MS J ticket or because of something else?
Correct, all longhaul business or first class travelers on Star Alliance have access.
Good gosh, are you paid by the picture?
Bad food, according to the American flying a foreign airline. Maybe your entitlement was the problem.
A first world problem indeed…..
In all fairness, Matthew was probably also comparing the food on this trip to an EgyptAir flight he previously took in business as well. Granted, that was Do & Co catering pre-pandemic, but still.
@Jorge: How about this: bad food compared to when I last flew EgyptAir business class.
Does that help your reading comprehension?
Great article Matthew.
I had a very similar experience flying from Cairo to Toronto. I also managed to catch an intestinal parasite from either the terrible conditions in the lavatories or the fruit which was served on the plane. I agree that the physical space was very good but found the flight attendants rude.
I was blown away when at dinner time, an attendant asked me if I “want food? “.
I should have declined but figured it would be as good as other business class airlines. Big mistake.
I went so far as to send a complaint after being asked to take a survey. This, as you may expect fell on deaf ears.
Suffice it to say that I will categorically never use this airline again. It is far below the standards of any other airline in the industry.
The worst business class long haul flight I ever took, iad to car then dla, only praise is the chair, I miss Qatar
Excellent review, thank you.
I am scheduled to fly business class on the 787 next week JNB – CAI and hope the food experience will be up to standard.
How was your Egypt Air flight?
i am also considering Jhb-Cairo-London on Business Class next month …
Don’t expect anything decent with catering. Also, the business class seat on the A330 or 777 is not nearly as nice as the 787.
if you the food service is bad try United Polaris Long haul. Pitiful. I few on Turkish (business) in February 2021 and it was sooooooo much better despite the covid restrictions. These airlines can do better and they know it.
Just came back from Cairo to Italy. One of the worst flights in my life. The only good part of the flight was to arrive and to acknowledge that I will never never never will fly again with this company (?). The only national company out ranked by ryan Air. S*it company.