Egypt Air flight MS160, 2nd April 2007 06:50 local time
Photo © Balazs Pinter
Photo © Guillaume Dhoore
A day trip to Cairo from the Red Sea coast at El Gouna presented itself, as well as the opportunity to fly Egypt Air there and back. So it was that a group of six intrepid Brits plus their Egyptian ‘fixer’ were at Hurghada airport at 6am on an April morning. Security was interesting- the bottled water ban seemed to apply, sort of, as I was asked to dispose of an opened half-consumed bottle, but the second sealed bottle was allowed through- but some of the others travelling with me were asked to dispose of their sealed bottle as well.
The flight was 20 minutes late in pushing back, and the plane an A320-200 (SU-GCD)- on the website it was listed as an A330 but presumably passenger numbers dictated the change of plane- the A320 was 98% full however. My seat was 37K, well to the back of the cabin. The usual safety briefing, with an annoying little cartoon man, was broadcast twice on the drop-down screens, in Arabic then English, and was preceded by what I assume was a prayer from the Koran.
There was little other traffic to prevent an efficient taxi and takeoff and the routing took us north up the Red Sea to the West of the Sinai peninsula at FL220, with some excellent views of the coral reefs, the Sinai mountains- and shipping en route to/from the Suez canal.
In flight service wasn’t at all bad for a short domestic flight- a ‘breakfast’ consisting of a slice of sponge cake, a carton of fruit juice and tea/coffee- not time for much more, but efficiently served.
The TV screens showed a documentary on the restoration of some 19th century palace- I didn’t get the name, as I wasn’t watching the subtitles too closely. There were even some interesting features in the in-flight magazine, Horus.
Quite a bit of cloud over Cairo approaches at about 7000 feet, but we soon dropped below that and made our approach to land (I think) on 5R; the touchdown was one of the softest that I have ever experienced, at least in recent memory- reaching c 10 feet and then lowering down ever so gently- on rollout thrust reversers were not deployed. Taxi via 34 and, surprising, part of 23R, to an open stand near the domestic terminal, where a fleet of airport buses eventually arrived to deplane us.
All in all, an efficient flight with good service.
Egypt Air MS153, 2nd April 2007, 22:00 local time
Photo © Ian Schofield
Following an action packed day in Cairo, time to return to the airport, after a pleasant meal at the Sheraton airport hotel, which seems to be used by a lot of flight crews, and a lot of people awaiting an airport pickup. Once arrived at the terminal, time to be less British and join the scrum of people waiting to get through pre-check in security- two scanners only for the whole terminal and lots of people and suitcases to process- it makes BAA look organised! Our Cairo airport ‘fixer’ in the meantime took tickets to go off, check-in on our behalf and collect the boarding cards. Once through, the terminal was busy enough to make the only sensible option to go straight to the departure lounge where seats were available- this time security let all water bottles through, despite there here being signs similar to EU airports about restrictions on liquids etc. At no point was the bottle of sun-tan spray in my hand-luggage ever questioned- I had brought a well-used bottle so if I had to relinquish it, so be it; when I checked with Mr Fixer, he said, “No problem” (which usually means “no, problem!”) so I was surprised to get through with everything intact!
The departure lounge soon became pretty crowded, but we were near a TV screen with very fuzzy images of CNN news- at least something to watch. Boarding started just about on time, and I was wondering if we were to be on an A320 again- seemed rather too many people for that. In fact as the airport bus approached the stand, it was clear we were on an A330-243 (SU-GCI) and that this was going to be pretty full again. When checking flight details, I had noticed that this flight was sold out for the rest of the week, so clearly the holiday season had begun in Cairo as well.
As a result of the larger plane, 36F was not a starboard window seat but one in the middle section so I was unable to observe much life outside the goldfish bowl. However, they did switch the TVs to the external (downward) view camera- not sure where it is, looked to be the nosewheel area, but perhaps someone can enlighten me- as it was dark, not too much to be seen anyway, but a nice touch.
The return flight, with a tailwind, was much quicker, and although the captain said we would be at FL330, we can’t have been there very long- but even so, still time for a late, late breakfast service which was identical to the earlier catering! In flight show appeared to be some classical music concert, but without my headphones or subtitles, I could only guess!
Approach to Hurghada was straightforward, down the coast, then a righthand turn to line up for Rwy 34; it had been quite windy locally, so to detect some use of rudder on touchdown to straighten us up was not surprising.
Again, quick taxi to a stand, and a fleet of buses to take us to Domestic arrivals and greeted by our local ‘fixer’; the scary part of the evening, being driven back to the hotels, was about to begin!
I was impressed with much of the experience- Egypt Air were professional and efficient, the planes were very well turned out, and the only poor part of the experience was Cairo airport departure terminal- which seemed too small to cope properly with the volume of passengers it had at that time- and where the insects managed to attack my right foot, the only bites that got through in two weeks in Egypt!
[Edited 2007-04-09 14:03:03]
[Edited 2007-04-09 14:09:12]