On a recent jaunt through Southeast Asia, I found myself with a little free time on the tail end of my tour. I would be spending a good chunk of time exploring Angkor Wat and the area around Siem Reap (REP) in Cambodia for the majority of the trip, but there were six days left unplanned that I needed to fill. I was flying to and from REP with Malaysia Airlines, so I had to make the decision about whether or not I’d remain in Kuala Lumpur (KUL) the entire six days or head off to another destination for a day or two.
My research into KUL as a tourist destination showed that six days would likely be too much time to devote to exploring, so I started looking into other regional options that might allow me to experience a few new carriers. After poking around for a few days, I settled on a destination – Bangkok. It’s a cheap, fun city that always keeps me occupied.
I booked my return from BKK to KUL on what is one of the more unique carriers I’ve ever flown on – Egyptair (MS). A Star Alliance carrier based out of Cairo, most folks would never think that they operate flights between BKK and KUL. They do though, and they were selling very reasonably priced seats in their business class cabin between the two cities on the day I was looking to return to KUL. After debating for a few days, I bite the bullet and forked over the cash for a one way ticket.
I arrived approximately 3 hours early for my flight, which was scheduled to depart at 2:55 PM. I wasn’t expecting Egyptair to have their desks set up for the flight just yet, but luckily by the time I arranged my bags after getting off the hotel shuttle and wandering into the cavernous check-in hall at BKK, the counters were indeed opened and fully staffed.
As was the case for much of my travels on this trip, the check-in counters were completely empty for the Egyptair flight. I used the marked business class lane and presented my passport for check-in. The agent who assisted me was wearing a Lufthansa shirt and lanyard, so I began to wonder if Lufthansa and Egyptair shared staff at BKK. This suspicion was increased when the agent handed my boarding pass to me and it was on Lufthansa ticket stock. She indicated that as a premium passenger I would be granted access to the expedited security and immigration service, and pointed me in the right direction to reach it.
The entire process was quick and efficient, and the agent was friendly enough though not nearly as endearing as other agents I’ve met while traveling. The expedited security and immigration service was nice though I was delayed a few minutes when the older gentleman in front of me began getting confused by the directions the Thai airport security agents were giving him. Despite the delay, I was airside and admitted to the lounge in less than 10 minutes.
SEAT & IFE
Boarding was not announced in the lounge for Egyptair passengers, so when the time for boarding printed on my pass was close I grabbed my bags and made my way toward the gate. The flight between BKK and KUL operates as a tag flight from Cairo to BKK. The gate area was filled with quite a few passengers who seemed to have come off the previous flight and were patiently (and impatiently in some cases) waiting for their opportunity to re-board the flight. Most folks were crowded around the entrance to the boarding area, so I immediately headed to the rear of the waiting area where not a soul was standing. It was from here that I broke out my camera and tried to get a few decent shots of the Egyptair 773 that would be taking me to KUL.
During my photography shoot the gate agents started the boarding process and seemed to have loaded the plane quite quickly. By the time I had put my camera back in its case the sign above the gate had changed to “Final Boarding” and the entire waiting area was empty. I quickly ran over to the counter and handed over my ticket. The gate agent smiled and simply said, “We’re waiting for you. Enjoy your flight.” I walked down an empty jet bridge and was greeted at the door by an Egyptian (I’m assuming) man in a nice suit who glanced at my ticket and directed me to my seat for this flight – 8A.
Walking in to this flight, I had rather dismal expectations of the service and hard product Egyptair was going to offer. All my research seemed to indicate folks were largely unimpressed with the entire experience, which is why it was so surprising to me that I was overall quite pleased with what I saw and experienced on this short flight.
Despite having 56 seats in their business class cabin, there were only 5 passengers booked into the J cabin for this flight. Seating starts at row 8 and goes back to row 15 in a 2-3-2 configuration. My seat, 8A, was against the window on the bulkhead row. Further back in seats 12A&C were an older Arab couple in traditional clothing. Directly behind them was a large Arab man in a sport coat. The way he watched the cabin during boarding and the remainder of the flight makes me think he was a bodyguard for the couple sitting in front of him. Further back in the cabin in seat 14K was a European gentleman. All four passengers seemed be continuing their journey from Cairo, so I was the only passenger who joined the trip in BKK.
My first impressions of the seat were very positive. The amount of space between each seat is pretty large, and the bulkhead seats seem quite spacious without another seat in front. The blue and white motif running through the cabin was a bit plain but that seems to be the status quo for many airlines in this day and age.
I reclined the empty seat next to me to its full bed position to give it a test. This raised a bit of curiosity amongst the FAs on board since I only laid in the bed for about a minute before returning the seat to its upright position. It’s an angled lie-flat seat much like American’s current offering on non-773 aircraft. While it’s completely unscientific, I felt like this seat was a bit more comfortable than what I normally ride with AA. The pillow was nice and plush and the day blanket provided (not sure if they provide a different one for longer, overnight flights) was also quite nice.
While many business class seats I’ve flown have the tray table stored in the arm rest, the Egyptair seat extends the arm rest out into the space in front of the seat to hold the tray table. While it might seem odd I actually really liked this concept – it helps create a line of demarcation between you and your seat mate. While it only goes up as high as my thigh, and while I didn’t have a seat mate on this trip, that little added barrier would have made me feel more isolated and “cocooned”.
The IFE was an interesting offering. The number and diversity of movies and television shows was pretty minimal, so definitely not a fantastic score on that front. MS’s IFE system did have a few interesting facets though.
The IFE system offered a seat to seat chat feature. I debated sending a fun little message to the older couple a few rows behind me with the bodyguard, but decided that wouldn’t go over so well. Still an interesting offering that I’ve only seen on a few other carriers.
The IFE offered destination guides for a large number of cities served by Egyptair. The city guides featured several subject area tabs, each of which contained multiple pages of information. Tabs for most cities included suggested hotels, suggested tourist sites, food offerings the city is famous for, climate information, airport information, and transportation options to and from the airport with the estimated cost of each option. The feature even had a quiz for each city where you could learn trivia about each location. While the movie/tv offerings were quite disappointing (I just couldn’t bring myself to watch Miss Congeniality 2), the destination guide feature kept me occupied for the full two hours of the flight.
The FA came by a few minutes before the doors were closed offering me a choice of juices or water (no alcohol). I selected what was called guava juice but tasted more like lychee. Whatever the mystery juice happened to be, it was delightfully refreshing in the slightly steamy BKK heat that was seeping into the cabin.
After take off I was provided with a hot towel and my drink order was taken. I asked for a Pepsi and the FA provided it along with a glass of ice bearing the Egyptair logo. One thing I noticed about MS’s J cabin was that just about everything was etched with or featured the Egyptair logo. Everything from the china under the food, to the bathroom amenities, to the seat belt buckle featured the head of Horus and the Egyptair name. It was a nice touch and really helped to cement the Egyptair imagery in my head. I’ve always heard many airline shy away from putting logos on too many things since it tends to encourage folks to put them in their pockets and carry on bags. I have to admit I was tempted a few times to do just that, but managed to keep it classy.
No menu was provided to me for this leg of the trip, but the FA did roll out a cart to my seat featuring three meal options – chicken, fish, or eggplant. I have to admit, the aroma of the food sitting so close to your seat was quite alluring, and I had a difficult time making a selection. Ultimately I went with the eggplant option. The FA placed a tray containing a side salad, an appetizer, and dessert on my tray table before placing my entrée selection in front of me.
The side salad consisted of huge slices of tomatoes, some carrots, and olives on a much smaller bed of lettuce. The veggies were already tossed in a balsamic dressing. The appetizer consisted of a tuna roulade and a creamy vegetable salad consisting mainly of corn and tomatoes in mayonnaise. Both were surprisingly tasty though I had to eat the creamy veggie salad lightly since I’m not the biggest fan of mayo on just about anything.
The entrée itself was a spiced Arabic eggplant dish that smelled heavenly and tasted just as good. While the presentation wasn’t top-notch the flavor sure was. I was a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed this dish. Packed full of spices and flavors but mild enough to not burn your tongue off. Even the sautéed vegetables offered on the side were cooked perfectly. The only negative about this dish was that the rice was overcooked and crunchy. Being half-Japanese, I’m incredibly picky about my rice and I have to admit this received a huge rejection letter from my taste buds.
The dessert was some type of chocolate layer cake, but since I’m allergic to chocolate I had to skip out on eating that portion of the meal.
After my meal was complete and the FA had taken my tray away, she stopped by with a hot glass of tea. A great way to finish off the meal and my flight with Egyptair.
After boarding and taking my seat, an FA just happened to meander by my location. Oddly enough, she did a double take when she saw me sitting there, and seemed a bit bewildered that there was a new passenger in the business class cabin. She disappeared for a few minutes and could be heard speaking softly with a male co-worker in the galley before reappearing with a smile and the tray of juices mentioned above. She never asked to see my boarding pass, so I’m guessing whatever confusion she had about my sudden appearance was cleared up in her conversation.
The best word I can think of to describe the service provided by my FA is shy. She smiled softly the entire trip, but rarely spoke to me. I’m not sure if she wasn’t comfortable using English, but when she did speak it was heavily accented and we struggled to communicate a bit. Most of the service was conducted through hand gestures, with a small bit of kabuki theater and charades thrown in for good measure. Despite this barrier, I always felt my needs were taken care of in a friendly and efficient manner.
One quirk I noticed on this flight is that despite having four staff members working the business cabin, only two of them actually did any “work”. Throughout the flight I saw two female and two male individuals in the galley area and walking through the cabin, but only the female staffers did any interaction with customers or work in the galley. Both male members of staff (I’m not sure they were actually FAs) sat in the galley chatting the majority of the flight, stopping occasionally to make short rounds of the cabin and then instruct the female FAs to do anything they felt needed to be done. This might be a cultural issue since I noticed the same behavior on my recent flight with another Middle East-based carrier – Royal Jordanian.
Overall, the service on Egypatir didn’t reach the levels I’ve seen on more famous carriers like Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines, but I was very well taken care of and felt like Egyptair delivered a quality business class product on this short leg.
Quite frankly, I was impressed with MS’s business class product on the 773. I was unsure what to expect when I booked the ticket but it surpassed the limited expectations I had in my head. It’s not a world-class product, but it does seem to provide a solid level of service to passengers. Considering MS’s flights are often noted to be significantly cheaper than many of their competitors, I’d definitely see the value in booking this seat in the future. Buyer beware though, this review is only for the 773 seat. Egyptair has many other aircraft that are rumored to be not quite as nice.
FA seemed shy and struggled with interactions in English
IFE movie and television offerings were dismal and inadequate for an aircraft meant to fly long haul routes
Business class seat was angled lie-flat which does not stack up well when compared to many carriers who are moving toward a full 180 degree flat-bed.
Despite language barrier, FA provided excellent and friendly service.
IFE’s destination guide offering was thorough, detailed, and informative. This made-up slightly for the poor movie and television offering referenced above.
Despite being angled lie-flat, the seat was spacious and comfortable. Recline was good and the quality of blankets and pillows provided was better than several other business class products I’ve flown in the past. The extended arm rest that creates a leg barrier between the two seats was a welcome addition to providing a smidgen of privacy between seats.