I flew 7 hours in EgyptAir economy class and it showed me even the most basic flag carrier can be better than most American airlines
- EgyptAir is the flag carrier of Egypt and a member of Star Alliance, operating in 75 cities around the world.
- While EgyptAir isn't known for winning awards and has a spotty history of accidents, I decided to take a chance on the international flag carrier for a recent long-haul flight from Cairo to Morocco. I wanted to test my theory that any flag carrier is better than most US-owned airlines.
- EgyptAir can't compete with top flag carriers like Etihad, Emirates, or Singapore Air for luxury, but it was certainly in the same class as second-tier flag carriers like Turkish Airlines or Air Astana. The service was excellent, the food was good, free newspapers were distributed, and the plane was clean and new.
EgyptAir wasn't my first choice of airline.Usually, when looking for airlines to fly, I'm searching up and down the list of consumer-aviation website Skytrax's list of the world's top airlines and cross-referencing that with the best deals.
But when I was searching for a flight from Egypt to Morocco this winter, there weren't a lot of good deals to be had. I was due to fly right around Christmas, one of the peak times for visiting Morocco. The pickings were slim.One could understand why I was a bit nervous when I punched my ticket for an economy-class ticket on EgyptAir. EgyptAir isn't known for winning tons of awards like other flag carriers. Instead, it's probably better known for the various incidents and accidents it's had over its 86-year history, the most recent being a crash in 2016.
Here's what I thought of my flight on an Etihad Airways Airbus A320, departing from Abu Dhabi International Airport to Cairo International Airport.
My day with EgyptAir started early with a short flight from Sharm El Sheikh to Cairo. That flight, on a 76-passenger Embraer 170, landed on time. After spending a few hours in the Cairo Airport lounge (Thanks, Priority Pass), I went to my flight.
My flight was on a 737-800, otherwise known as the 737-NextGeneration. Despite the Star Trek-esque name, the plane doesn't look too futuristic. There are 24 recliner seats in Business Class. They looked nice and roomy.Advertisement
Thankfully, my flight was only about half-full, which meant there was plenty of room in the overhead compartments. I had no trouble getting my backpack up there. I checked my suitcase as EgyptAir gives all economy passengers one free checked bag. Business Class gets two.
Another benefit of a half-full flight? I got a row all to myself. Not only that, but it was the first row in Economy, which meant I got a few extra inches of legroom.Advertisement
737-800s are EgyptAir's most-used aircraft, making up 29 of the airline's 147-plane fleet. The oldest 737-800s EgyptAir uses date only to 2006, while some new ones were only just delivered.
Judging by how fresh the leather seats looked, my plane had to be on the newer side. The seats were very comfortable, but beware that they are tighter than many airplane seats. While economy seats on EgyptAir's 737-800 get 32 inches of pitch — good enough legroom for most — the width is only 17 inches. That's less than some United planes I've been on.Advertisement
With a flight time of around 7 hours starting around 7 p.m., it was likely that I'd need some shut-eye. EgyptAir provided some standard blankets and pillows.
The in-flight safety video is standard, though it plays in Arabic first, then English. Not that I need translation for these at this point. I could probably recite every one by heart.Advertisement
One of the stranger parts of the pre-flight ritual — for an American, anyways — is the Muslim prayer that plays after the safety video. Some international customers have complained in the past that the prayer is played to uncomfortably loud volume. I did not experience this. It was fairly unobtrusive.
See ya later, Egypt!Advertisement
Shortly after take-off, a flight attendant came around to offer up newspapers in a variety of different languages. It's a nice touch that gives the airline that "golden-age of flying" vibe.
I took a copy of The Egyptian Gazette, the Middle East's oldest English-language daily newspaper.Advertisement
Let's be real, though: I wasn't reading any newspapers. I just figured out how to turn my OnePlus 6T into a Super Nintendo emulator. Goodbye, productivity on flights.
With so many open seats, I could hop around from seat to seat like Goldilocks. The entertainment system was a new touchscreen-style monitor.Advertisement
Flight attendants came around to offer up free earbuds for the plane. It's always a treat when these are single-pronged instead of double-pronged.
As with many new Boeing aircraft, EgyptAir's flight featured some very nice mood lighting. This soft blue that lit up the cabin after flight was very relaxing.Advertisement
One of my big pet peeves of the flight, however, was the cabin temperature. Even with my little fan blasting on me, it was far too warm. I don't know if this stretches across EgyptAir flights or was an anomaly.
When you start up the entertainment system, it flashes with information about some of Egypt's top tourist destinations. There are many. Hurghada, on the Red Sea, is gorgeous.Advertisement
The system has one of the better user interfaces I've encountered. Very clean and easy to navigate.
The movie selection wasn't the biggest I've encountered, but there was a strong mix of Hollywood movies and films from India, the Middle East, and Asia. A little something for everyone.Advertisement
You could also watch a ten-part series on the Qu'ran. My flight wasn't long enough to binge-watch the whole thing, so I decided not to.
The in-flight meal was very good. The rice was moist and tasty with lots of flavor and the chicken had a spiced brown sauce on it.Advertisement
There was a cucumber, olive, and corn salad. There are a lot of ways for a salad like this to go wrong — too much dressing, old vegetables, etc. — but this was very fresh.
The finale was a scrumptious red velvet cake. While Egyptians are known for their sweet tooth — one guide told me he drinks sugar with tea, not tea with sugar — I hadn't had a good Western-style cake during my month in the country. This hit the spot.Advertisement
One of the best parts about the new-style touchscreen entertainment systems is the inclusion of the USB charging port. Any airline that doesn't have these at every seat these days is a no-no for me.
There's a standard duty-free catalog. About halfway through the flight, the flight attendants come by to see if anyone wants to make any orders.Advertisement
The in-flight Horus Magazine isn't worth reading, except perhaps to look for wacky articles translated from English to Arabic and then back to English. The magazine had to apologize last year for a bizarre "interview" with Drew Barrymore.
While I didn't end up watching any movies on the entertainment system as I was too busy playing Zelda on my phone, I kept my eye on the flight map. The screen is sharp and bright. The movies other passengers were watching looked very good.Advertisement
I kept trying to adjust my air vent, but there was no respite from the oppressive cabin temperature. Some people may like it that warm, but not me.
When it comes down to it, though, the only thing that matters to me is landing on time. On this flight, we landed 11 minutes early. EgyptAir placed 31st out of 900 airlines on punctuality in 2017.Advertisement
And that was it for my flight. Deplaning was obviously quick with so few passengers on board. Overall, EgyptAir definitely exceeded my expectations.
- India records 11,666 new COVID- 19 cases in last 24 hours
- Apple says one billion iPhones are now active around the world
- Delhi hit with a low intensity earthquake of 2.8 magnitude
- FMCG: The trends to watch out for in 2021
- Railways Budget 2021: Faster trains, higher funding and support for green railways — here’s what’s on the experts’ checklist