This is the report of my experience on the MS
986, Egypt Air’s daily non-stop service from New York to Cairo. There is precious little information available on the Internet concerning Egypt Air’s in-flight service, except for a few not very detailed reports on Epinions and Skytrax and general declarations about how awful it is. Hopefully, this will add some additional information.
I have started a Oneworld Explorer RTW ticket in Cairo. Of course, starting a ticket in Cairo requires that one get to Cairo to actually start the ticket. My original plan for this was to use a Oneworld Business Class award for 80,000 AAdvantage miles, routing JFK
-CAI using Aer Lingus and British Airways. Since one of the main goals of my RTW was to accrue AAdvantage miles, I was no thrilled with burning miles to get to Cairo, so I began to look at other options. I knew that Egypt Air had a daily flight to Cairo from New York, so I looked into it and found that I could fly in Business Class for $1200. I then checked First Class and saw it was only $300 more. I figured that if I was willing to pay $1200 for Business, I might as well, just spring for the additional $300 and go in First. After a few more weeks of debating, I decided to buy the ticket, which I did through ITN.net.
Saturday, February 21, 2004
Egypt Air flight MS
Route: New York (JFK
) – Cairo (CAI)
Departure Terminal: Terminal 4
Arrival Terminal: Terminal 1
Scheduled Departure: 6:30 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 10:30 AM
Total Sector Time: 10 hours
Equipment: Boeing 777-200ER
My car service arrived a few minutes before my scheduled 3:00 PM
pick-up and, as I was ready, I left early. There was no traffic and I was at JFK
by 4:00 PM
. An uneventful drive to the airport – the best kind!
Egypt Air uses Terminal 4 at JFK
, which is the newly built International Terminal (occupying the sight of the infamous windowless IAB
). When facing the check-in islands, Egypt Air’s counter was the one to far right, facing the Delta terminal. Ground handling was done by Swissport. Although there was a sign over one counter saying First Class, there was no line set-up for the counter and it was in the middle of the Economy Class check-in desks. As it turned-out, there was no line to check-in, so it was not a problem, but if there was a line, I am not sure if First Class passengers can bypass it. Egypt Air does not pre-assign seats, even in First Class, but I was able to make a request for a window seat when I reconfirmed my flight (an MS
requirement) earlier in the week. My request was honored and I was assigned Seat 2A. I asked the agent if the seat next to me would go unoccupied and she assured me it would, which is always nice (call be unsocial, but if there is going to be an empty seat, I would just assume it is the one next to me). My ticket was pulled at check-in and I was given a lounge pass and sent on my way (no luggage to check for me).
Egypt Air uses the Swiss Business Class lounge for its premium passengers. Although I asked, I was not granted access to the First Class lounge. The Swiss lounge was nice and featured a selection of cheese, crackers and cookies, along with soft drinks and alcohol. I got a Diet Coke and some cheese and relaxed overlooking the Swiss A340 to ZRH
and the A330 to GVA
. Not having been completely confident in Egypt Air, I did not cancel my award booking as Aer Lingus uses the same terminal and I figured, if the Egypt Air flight was delayed, smoking or if they made me check my quite heavy rollaboard, I would just go on my award flight. Since I was told the flight would be non-smoking, the plane was already in and my bag was allowed as a carry-on, I canceled the award ticket from the lounge with no problem.
After changing some money, I headed through the B concourse security a few minutes before 5:00 PM
. I was told at check-in that I needed to be at the gate by 5:00, and I did not want to risk being denied boarding, so I followed their instructions, even though it was awfully early. The gate area (B20) was roped off and I could see that everyone’s carry-ons were getting a look through. I took a few minutes to wander the concourse and got a nice look at the Swiss A340 as well as a PIA 747-300 to Manchester, Lahore and Karachi, a Virgin 747-400 (Virgin just moved to Terminal 4 from Terminal 1); a Varig 767-300 and a North American 767-300.
At the gate, my bags were given a cursory check. Boarding had not yet begun and I observed my fellow passengers. The median age of the passengers appeared to be 975, most of whom appeared to be Americans on tour groups. There were a few Egyptian passengers, but by far the vast majority were American.
Boarding began at 5:30 PM
and I went on board immediately, despite there being no special call for First and Horus (MS’ Business Class) Class passengers. They started boarding my row numbers, but I figured the old people would take forever to work their way onto the plane and I was not in the mood to wait behind them.
On entering the aircraft, which, by the way, was named Nefertiti, I was pointed to my seat. Egypt Air has twelve First Class seats, arranged in a 2x2x2 lay-out. Seat pitch was very generous ( I would guess 60 inches) and the seats were as wide as American’s 777 First Class seats. The cabin was clean, but looked worn-in, although not, IMO, worn-out. The seats were a mix of leather and cloth with a pink leather boundary and a tan cloth center. The arm rests had wood trim and the belt buckles were gold. Seat 2A is the left hand window seat in the second of the two rows of First Class. The same interior colors seemed to be in use in Horus Class. Incidentally, both First and Horus Class are located between the L/R1 and L/R2 doors, the rest of the plane is Economy Class.
Boarding continued for the next hour. Despite having my jacket on my lap, no flight attendant offered to hang it for me or, for that matter, offer me a drink. As our 6:30 PM
departure time neared, I was the only passenger in First Class, but two off-duty pilots settled into the window and aisle seats opposite me in Row 2. While the flight attendants were on board when I boarded, the pilots did not board until 30 minutes before departure. Just before departure, I was offered a drink, a choice of various fruit juices offered from a tray by a very nice older woman flight attendant. I was also given a flower. The final two on board where the security guys doing the bag searches, one of whom settled into Seat 1A, while the other (the younger), went aft, presumably to make sure the old people did not get rowdy. I do not know if these guys were packing heat, but, as they were the ones doing the bag searches, they were far from anonymous.
We pushed from the gate at 6:30 PM
sharp and I was the only revenue passenger in First Class, which is always a nice feeling. The captain announced our flying time at 10 hours and 30 minutes. The screens in the front of the cabin showed the view from the plane’s nose, which was a nice feature. Takeoff was a few minutes before 7:00 PM
from Runway 31L and we were airborne after what struck me as a very short take-off roll. Once airborne, the camera view switched to a belly camera, giving a nice view of southern Long Island as we followed the Canarsie Climb out of JFK
enroute for Nantucket.
I reclined the seat and tested out the footrest. The footrest and recline where both electronic as was the four way lumbar support. The foot rest did not come quite to the horizontal, but was close. The seat reclined a fair way, but was not flat. I would describe the recline and legrest extension as very similar to that offered on American’s 767-200s in First Class. Comfortable and nice, but no longer state of the art.
The in-flight service began soon after take off while we were still over Long Island. First, I was offered a hot scented paper (not cloth) towel and the curtains where closed. My table was set with a pink table cloth. There was no meal trays and everything was served from the galley – no carts or trolleys, but this may have been due to the low passenger number (me). I was given a linen napkin and plastic cutlery. There was no printed menu, which I found surprising. I do not know if this was an oversight, or if Egypt Air just doesn’t do printed menus.
The first course was a cold appetizer plate (all plates where square or rectangular) and two warm rolls. The appetizer plate featured a smoked fish product that I did not eat, a pâté of some sort and some cold vegetables. I ate the pâté and the vegetables. I was not offered a drink before the meal started, but was offered one when the appetizer was served. I had a Diet Cole with lemon and was offered a full can and a small glass with Egypt Air’s Horus logo emblazoned on it.
The second course was soup, which was a bowl of chicken noodle soup. It was fine, but not particularly good. The third course was a small salad bowl, offered with a choice of French, thousand island or blue cheese dressing. I was not thrilled with any of the dressings, but picked French. The salad was iceberg lettuce with tomato, olives and a few other vegetables. The fourth course was the main course. I was offered a choice of lamb, chicken or fish (no more detail given) and could choose between ravioli or potatoes as a side dish. I opted for lamb with ravioli. An interesting combo, I know. I was given four small lamb chops with the bone and a nice size helping of ravioli, which was in a tomato sauce and had melted cheese on top. The lamb was good, but, predictably, overcooked and the ravioli was good, but not anything better than you would get from a can. I do not think the main courses were pre-plated as the food was hot, but the plate was not.
After the main course, I was offered fruit and cheese. I was two small wedges of cheese (one a sharp cheddar and the other a blue cheese), which was served with some crackers and some vegetable sticks. I was given a massive bowl of fruit with banana, grapes, kiwi and few others, out of which I just ate the kiwi. Dessert was a tart of glazed fruit in a chocolate shell with whipped cream. The meal service was done very quickly and was completed within an hour of take-off. I suspect that it would be longer if the cabin was more full. Service was attentive with two flight attendants working First Class, but was not up to the level of Cathay Pacific or Lan Chile.
For the bulk of the flight, I was left alone and watched the moving map display. There was a video monitor in the arm rest and they showed cycled films, none of which appealed to me. I slept on and off for the duration of the flight. Each time I went to use the bathroom, I was offered more to drink. There were two bathrooms for First Class, one near the flight deck and the other near the First Class galley. It seemed the crew used the one near the flight deck and kept the other one free for my use. I was actually surprised how big and clean it was.
Our route of flight was more northerly than I expected. We overflew southern Long Island and Nantucket before entering the Gulf of Maine. We passed well north of Halifax and began our trans-Atlantic crossing after skirting the north coast of the Island of Newfoundland. We made landfall over extreme southwestern Ireland and overflew southwestern England quite near Penzance. After crossing the English Channel, we made landfall in France over Brittany and left France near Marseilles. We overflew Corsica and tracked parallel off the coast of Italy, overflying Reggio di Calabria. Over the Mediterranean, we took up a westerly track, passing over Crete and then turning south, entering Egypt west of Alexandria and following the Nile down to Cairo.
Breakfast was served over Italy and was just a continental breakfast of warm rolls, croissant, fruit, cheese and yogurt. It was fine, but nothing special.
We began our approach into Cairo at 11:00 AM
local time and overflew the city before turning west toward the airport. We landed at around 11:30 AM
, a full hour later than scheduled. This is my biggest gripe about Egypt Air. For a 5600 mile flight, they scheduled a sector time of 10 hours. It doesn’t take a genius to see that that is, at best, an ambitious schedule and my informal monitoring of arrival times reveals that the MS
986 always arrives at least an hour late. If you are planning to connect in Cairo, leave yourself plenty of time.
After a long taxi, we arrived at our remote parking stand. First and Horus Class passengers were allowed to deplane first through the L1 door and we were taken to Terminal 1 in a separate bus. Fortunately, we arrived at a slow time and immigration and customs was empty. Despite having to buy the visa stamps, I was out of the airport within 15 minutes of deplaning (having no checked luggage helped).
Overall, I was quite happy with Egypt Air and would recommend it. It was definitely worth the $1500 fare. Just be advised when making connections to add at least an hour to the arrival time.
Oh yeah, the pilot did not fly the airplane into the Ocean, which is always appreciated!