on September 1 I had booked a package tour to Tunisia, 11 days from September 19 through 30.
After September 11 then, I was a little concerned and considered cancelling the trip; not so much for fear of Tunisia herself, but have a look at Tunisia´s geographic location: squeezed in right between Algeria and Libya...
Anyway, I decided that if I cancelled the trip the terrorists would win, so, stubborn as I am, I took the trip as planned.
For the first flight FRA-MIR (Monastir), I was booked on a Tunisair flight departing at 2305. The a/c was supposed to be a 737, but my efforts to find out in advance whether it was going to be a -200, -500 or -600 were unsuccessfull.
Because I anticipated rather long queues due to increased safety procedures, especially for an Arabian airline´s flight from a NATO country to Arabia and because I still had to pick up and pay my ticket, I decided to be at the airport at 1800.
No queues at the Thomas Cook desk; no queues at the Tunisair desk, where I had to ID myself upon check in which is not normal at FRA. At about 1810 I was basically ready for my flight in 5 hours. At about 1845 I had a look at my boarding pass - it said "Boarding 1845" - I was rather surprised until I discovered the check in lady had changed my reservation to the earlier FRA-MIR flight, scheduled for departure at 1915. I knew this one was a 320, so I had the choice of protesting that change in order to get a slight chance of flying the 737-600 or be thankfull to not to arrive in the middle of the night in my hotel. I went for the latter option (bye bye, 736) and started to hurry to my gate.
No queues at the check point for boarding passes; no queues at the security check - apparently FRA deemed their standard procedures safe enough. I passed passport control and arrived at my gate. There came the first surprise: the actual boarding process took place upon entering the gate area. And I had to ID myself again, on entering the gate - very unusual, that is.
The actual boarding (via finger, thank god) started at about 1900. The next (unpleasant) surprise: the stewardess demanded to see what was left of everybody´s boarding pass. I had already tucked that away way down in my rucksack, so a little congestion formed behind me, but well, not my fault. Hell, I could have thrown away that piece of paper, I sometimes do on flights where I don´t need it for claiming miles or points.
Anyway, I settled in my window seat on TS-IMH "Ali Belhaouane" (no idea who that is/was).
Photo © Jerome Nicolas
Considering she is only 7.5 years old, the plane was in rather bad shape, on the interior - filthy, small things kaputt and generally tired looking.
We took off at 1934. The warm meal was ok. But only one drink in a flight of over two hours and rather rude and patronising steward(esse)s made the cabin service an underperformer. A cockpit visit was denied. The 174 seats were not all full, perhaps 15-20 empty ones.
We landed at 2050.
My suitcase came quite late, after waiting over an hour at the belt, and, to add insult to injury, was damaged. So I spent anouther 40 minutes with the guys at TU´s claim office.
I had to go through another full fledge security check on leaving the arrivals area. (??? - Perhaps to stop western pornography flooding the country?)
After 11 days at the beach and the hotel pool, it was time to leave on Nouvelair´s flight BJ 282, scheduled to leave MIR at 1340.
A bus picked us up at the hotel at 1115, we arrived at the airport at around 1200. I went straight to the BJ check in and requested a window seat on the left - a must on a 2-3 DC9 series. "Not possible" - "Why?" - "Not possible, SIR." - "Why?" - "Because you only 1 person". AArgh! As if I were the only single traveller - stupid bitch, and not very customer friendly, I should say. I finally settled for a window on the right. By the way, I did not have to ID myself at check in.
I then went through boarding pass, security and passport control. The security check was as on every western airport, X-ray and a metal detector. No queues on either of those check points as well.
I went to my gate and was a little concerned - a BJ flight to Nantes was announced there, scheduled to leave at 12something, but delayed until 1500. A number of other flights (Airtours and BD) where delayed 3-5 hours as well, three of the four BJ flights were 3-4 hours late (i.e. all except mine), the TU flight to FRA scheduled for 1410, half an hour after us was delayed 2.5 hours, and no BJ plane in sight on the whole airport (their home base, I might add). Now that´s a situation in which you start to worry a little, right?
At 1306, however, a BJ MD82 landed. Ours? At 1310, the airport monitors showed our flight as "Boarding" - but at the gate, still, only the Nates flight was showing. At 1320, finally the screen switched from "Nantes-delayed" to "Francfort-boarding". Funny enough, no BJ employees were anywhere in sight. At 1330 they came, and at 1345 we were allowed to enter the busses which took us to our aircraft, BJ´s sole MD82 EI-GTJ.
Photo © Eduard Marmet
I noticed boarding was not only through the front left door, but also through the rear stairs! Since I´ve never done that before (and perhaps never will again), I boarded through the tail. Nice, looking up the long tube above you and stepping up the 14 steps to heaven - makes you feel somehow very 60s.
Funnily, the life vests still had Korean Air markings and the first language of the little "Life vests under your seat" signs was Korean, too.
The 169 (!) were all full and THE most cramped I´ve EVER experienced. We took off at 1410.
If I had considered TU´s service bad, I apparently had never had to endure BJ´s - the meal was cold, OK, it was HALAL and without pork as they proudly pointed out, thanks a lot, but that didn´t make it any warmer. Alcoholic beverages were not free, and only one drink as well. The 8 year old plane however seemed to be a lot cleaner and in better shape than good old Ali Belhaouane. Plus the cabin crew was a lot friendlier (even if they did´n allow a cockpit either).
We touched down at 1734 and arrived at our gate at 1751 - a delay of 41 minutes.
My suitcase took only 20 miutes this time and was not damaged.
All in all, mainly business as usual. If you plan to go to Tunisia from Germany, stay away from TU and BJ at all costs. Strangely, the German charter airlines are not very present on that market, but there is the odd Condor or Aero Llyod flight - try to get it.
Thanks for reading the report, hats off if you did read the whole thing, hope you enjoyed it.