Review: EgyptAir Business Class Cairo -> Johannesburg

Once fully showered and changed (we brought an extra set of clothing according to our plan) we arrived at Cairo International Airport about 1.5 hours before our EgyptAir flight was set to depart. We had little difficulty checking in as we had a separate line (as had been the case a lot during this trip). Interestingly, there was also a designated kids check-in counter, although no one was staffing it and we had no idea what its intended purpose was. Once we dropped off our luggage we filled out customs cards and passed through border control with no difficulty. We quickly noted the new electronics restrictions on flights towards the US.

After security we headed towards the lounges we had access to as business-class passengers. There were two on our very long walk to the gate. One was a designated smoking lounge so we avoided it. The other was near-ish to our gate and we spent a majority of time there. It had comfortable seats with internationally adapted plugs for our devices. There were private bathrooms for us to use, a small business center, and plenty of food and drink (not of the highest quality, but definitely there). Since we knew we would get food on the plane, we did not gorge ourselves too much.

The gate had an interesting added security station to pass through before boarding. It took us a bit more time to get on board because of it. Also, there was a nod to the electronics travel ban to the UK at that location (I guess sometimes planes leave from that gate to London as well).

The seat was comfortable enough, with plenty of leg room for us and an in-flight entertainment system with many options. Since I wanted to maximize how much sleep I got on the flight I decided to forego whatever meal would have been given when we reached cruising altitude and just went right to sleep. This is where my major gripe comes in about this seat: it is not fully lie-flat. There is an ever-so-slight angle to the seat, causing you to slide forward over time and have your feet become somewhat weight-bearing at times. While I was still able to sleep because of my exhaustion, it was definitely not desirable in the least.

My wife put a provided sticker on my seat as I was asleep, asking for me to be woken up for breakfast, which was not the most appetizing thing in the world, but still better than economy-class food.

Overall, the flight was uneventful because we just wanted to sleep and arrived rested in Johannesburg. Getting through customs and passport control was not as big an “ordeal” as it had been in Cairo because there was a lot of organization, but the lines were so long it took us an extra 45 minutes to get through to baggage claim. Unfortunately, our bags had not arrived with us…. but that is a story for another blog post.

Review: Shorthaul business class VIE -> CAI (with a lounge)

When my wife and I arrived in Vienna after our overnight Austrian Airlines flight from JFK we had a two-hour layover in the airport on our way to Cairo. We decided to spend it in the lounge, eating some snack food and taking a rest before our next leg. The airport was pretty quiet since it was early on in the day and the lounge was not that full. It had a host of amenities: food, drinks, magazines, and included a special area to rest. The chairs were pitched backwards with a noise machine going on in order to make sure occupants could rest. We took full advantage for the hour or so we were there.

The flight was pretty remarkable for a few reasons. Firstly, it was the traditional European business class wherein there were no larger seats but the middle seat was left empty for the two of us to have extra space. We were also given preferential treatment for meals and drinks. The plane, however, lacked in-flight entertainment options. They did give free wi-fi, however.

The food was adequate, mostly – definitely not as good as our international flight. And the seat was large enough but not much bigger than a traditional US carrier would provide. This business-class leg definitely did not feel the same.

It was a pleasant and short flight during which I ate and slept in preparation for a whirlwind tour of Cairo that was about to take place. It got us from point A to point B in moderate style, indeed.

Spring Break Review: Austrian Airlines Business class JFK -> VIE

Over Spring Break my wife and I had the opportunity to visit a small bit of Cairo, Egypt as well as spend a wonderful week in South Africa. In order to make sure that our time spent was of the highest quality I took it upon myself to make sure we had business-class seats on our flights so we could arrive rested and make the most of our time spent. Over the next few posts I will detail some of the time we spent on these flights, in lounges, and just in general in transit from April 7 – 18.

At the time I had just received bonuses from meeting minimum spending requirements for the American Expression Business Gold card, earning us around 80,000 Membership Rewards points. Additionally, we had something like 50,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points in our account, so I transferred them all to Aeroplan, knowing that I would only need 75,000 points each for a one-way business class flight from the US to South Africa.

I was able to find the following flights which – while not direct – still gave us a good view of some business class products and allowed us a nine hour layover to explore Cairo (something we have been meaning to do for some time).

Our first two flights were on Austrian Airlines, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, and an airline I had never flown before. I had done research to know that not only was their business class fully lie-flat and a comfortable product, but their dining service is one of the best in the world. We were not disappointed.

After going through security and finding our gate, we were greeted with signs for priority boarding and found our seats on the plane. They were nicely prepared with comfortable blankets, pillows, amenity kits, and headphones. There was plenty of space in the seat for my feat under the seat in front of me and the in-flight entertainment system was fully operational. Finally, there were plenty of places to plug in and charge my electronics.

Before we pushed back from the gate we were asked what food we wanted from the menu which, while simple, was robust in its taste. The chef came around himself (in his wonderful hat and clothing) to ask us what our choices were. One of the interesting choices Austrian Airlines has made is to bring around some of the menu choices on trays for you to simply choose from instead of bringing each dish out individually. It was an interesting way of ordering our food – it reminded me of dessert service years ago at the Philadelphia restaurant Le Bec Fin. Even after a brief sleep on the lie-flat bed, the breakfast service was quite tasty (although not as elaborate).

The last two comments I will make about this flight were that the bed was quite comfortable and completely lie-flat. There was a small pad they put down and the blanket was warm enough for us to sleep. There was definitely enough space for my arms. My feet were a little packed together – but I just thought of it as sleeping in a mummy-style sleeping bag and I was fine. I got about 4-5 hours of sleep and was pleasantly woken up for breakfast (they asked in advance). I checked my IFE screen before landing to see where our next flight was departing from (a very nice service, if I do say so myself).

TAM Business class review from JFK to Toronto (with Admirals Club review)

Every so often TAM Airlines offers some pretty steep discounts for the business and economy class seats on their fifth freedom route from JFK to Toronto. I’m pretty sure this is due to the fact that this plane flies mostly empty (especially in business class) on the route at the moment and they want to make sure it’s full up. I took advantage of this a few months ago and bought tickets to visit my cousins and Grandma this weekend in T.Dot. What follows is a look at my experience at JFK yesterday on my way up.

I arrived at check-in and, instead of waiting in the longer Economy lines (it was maybe 30 people long but I forgot to take a photo) I walked to the empty Business class line and was waived over immediately. I got my ticket and was told that boarding would take place about an hour before the flight was schedule to leave. I asked about TSA PreCheck but apparently TAM is not on the list of airlines associated with it (oh well). But security was not so bad at 9:30am on a Friday so I was through in about 10 minutes.

As a business class passenger on a oneworld airline I have access to the Admirals Club Lounge at the terminal. I was at Terminal 8 which has a lounge right after security up an elevator so I went directly there, reading that it had more amenities than the lounge closer to my gate. IMG_5831Apparently I was incorrect in this because the lounge is currently under construction. While the food options were the same, the space and other amenities were severely limited. I definitely had a sufficient breakfast for my own tastes but there could have been a lot more fruit, oatmeal, and savory options than existed there right now. And, the bathrooms were located a few minutes walk away from the lounge, snaking around back hallways. The one fairly redemptive aspect was that in the bathrooms were some nice soaps for use by users.

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I left the lounge and headed to the gate at the proper time only time find out that our flight was delayed and – unfortunately – they couldn’t tell us for how long. It turned out to be one hour late (which was very annoying) but then we got on just fine. I had a smaller line to enter the plane before the regular economy passengers and sat down in my wondrous seat quite quickly. It was very comfortable and had LOADS of legroom. The width of the seat was not spectacular – only 20″ – but it is wider than a standard economy seat,  so I appreciated it. The controls for the In-Flight Entertainment and seat movement were right at your fingertips as well. We also received some nice (albeit not the best quality) noise-cancelling headphones.

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After sitting down and getting myself situated (I put all my bags in the overhead compartment – there was so much room – I was offered my pre-flight drink: some nice orange juice. Once the plane had taken of I was offered a small meal of two half-sandwiches – one turkey and one ham and cheese. I opted to trade the ham and cheese for another turkey, which at first they were hesitant to do, but in the end just gave to me. It was a nice meal and fancier than anything in economy, definitely!

Overall, the flight experience was a little nicer than economy on this route. I didn’t use the lie-flat seat option because the flight was really only an hour long but the meal was helpful and the in-flight entertainment system was bigger than the one they have in economy for those flights. I would not splurge for this seat in the future but whenever you can get a deal, I’d suggest paying for it!