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.