After a night of relatively poor sleep thanks to the rather warm hotel room and the first night of jetlag, I was up earlier than I really needed to be to start getting ready to continue my journey.
Today’s flight was at a rather reasonable 11:30, and Tunis airport is actually relatively easy to navigate, so I was hoping for a bit more in the sleep department, but that wasn’t happening.
Off to the hotel gym for a short workout to try and get rid of some of the jetlag and the previous day’s food-borne excesses, but the body wasn’t terribly interested in that so I admitted defeat and decided to head up to the executive lounge and see if breakfast was any better than the not-so-happy happy hour.
Overall, the breakfast wasn’t great, but it was reasonable. Fresh orange juice, plenty of breads and pastries, hard-boiled eggs, and a bit of cheese was more than enough to make a substantial breakfast.
One odd thing I noticed in the lounge, which I’d noticed in Accra, Ghana in an executive lounge just a couple months back, was a group of military contractors making lunches to go. In Ghana it was Americans, and in Tunis it was Dutch, but the MO was the same. Absolutely jacked guys with huge biceps making several sandwiches with sliced meats/protein (I think it was smoked salmon in Ghana?) and wrapping several of them in napkins to go. The lounge staff not only tolerated it, but accommodated with bags and boxes. I guess if you’re a long-term guest on an important contract?
Checked out, where my grumble about the non-working AC was met with indifference, and took the hotel shuttle back to the airport since I didn’t want to play two hours ahead to order a taxi which is roughly what’s needed in Tunis.
Check-in was very easy, although the agent was rather bemused by my routing, and the wait for immigration and security wasn’t awful (maybe 15 minutes for immigration and 5 for security) and I even had a bit of time to stop in the TunisAir lounge for a bit before heading to the gate.
The situation was grim, and the lounge was packed, so I just had a couple of glasses of water before giving up on the barely-functional WiFi and heading to the gate.
Wish I could have gotten a better shot of the special livery that would take me to Cairo today, but this will have to do: (if you want a better look, you can check it out on JetPhotos)
EgyptAir flight 844
Tunis, Tunisia (TUN) to Cairo, Egypt (CAI)
Depart 11:35, Arrive: 15:35, flight time: 3:00
Boeing 737-800, Registration SU-GEN, Manufactured 2017, Seat 9H
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 178,333
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,870,635
The only downside to getting a brand new EgyptAir 737-800 is that unlike the older ones they only have four rows of business class, and the seat pitch is more similar to US domestic flights. The older ones have six rows, with miles of seat pitch, and I’ve never seen them more than 1/3 full.
In contrast, today, every seat would be taken, but I was fortunate to be next to a very quiet and polite seatmate who I think only got up one time in the entire three hours. Can’t complain about that at all!
Welcome aboard TANG! If it’s good enough for astronauts, it’s good enough for me! Seriously though, the crew called it orange juice, but as a kid who grew up in the midwest in the 1970s, trust me I know Tang when I taste it. EgyptAir is still a dry airline, although there are rumours that if you BYOB crews are happy to pour it. I’ve never needed or wanted to try, however.
Lunch was served in two parts, with the first being some cheese (wrapped in plastic wrap), a couple of salads, and some chocolate cake (which was delicious actually!)
About 15 minutes later out came the trolley, where chicken, fish, or beef were offered. You’ll probably notice I wasn’t too adventurous with the salads…but the chicken was absolutely delicious. Moist, with a nice but not heavy sauce on it…and I don’t know how they made the rice but it was delicious. Seemed like normal white rice, but almost a milky consistency to it…is it possible to cook rice in milk?
Not too much to say about this flight. It went by rather quickly between lunch and watching tv on the iPad, and soon we were descending into Cairo, where I just realized I would likely have to change from EgyptAir and the bit older Terminal Three to Oman Air which was likely in the newly (a year or so?) refurbished Terminal Two. That should be interesting.
Signs in the terminal for transit were reasonably good, and soon I found myself at an EgyptAir transit desk…although since I wasn’t connecting to EgyptAir they couldn’t help me. Oman? Oman? Lots of talking in Arabic and I was lead to the “boss” in a side office who could help me “in maybe 15, 20 minutes.”
After five minutes, I decided this was nonsense, and went back to the same guy and tried the “I’m going to miss my flight!” If only I’d have known…I pushed, and pushed, and finally he said “ok, follow me.”
I was lead down the hallway and down some stairs to what seemed to be a waiting room for shuttles. Now we’re talking. The room was filled with what appeared to be Hajjis, many of them with prayer mats unrolled and praying, and I couldn’t imagine that they were going to Oman. I was told to “wait, wait.”
Soon, a big bus pulled up, and everyone bolted for the door…so I did too. The security guard at the door clearly knew what was up, and in my very limited Arabic I got “Oman, no!” from him. Did a bit of googling on the phone, and Cairo does have a Hajj terminal, so maybe this was that transfer? Either way, now it was just me and the security guy in the waiting room.
Then…this pulled up. LOL! At least they knew who they were dealing with!
The ride to Terminal 2 took all of 30 seconds (seriously, I could have walked it in under five minutes if they’d allowed me outside) and I thought the hard part was over. Oh no. The transfer van dumped me in the immigration hall, but the guy there had clearly seen this before and directed me to the elevator up one level…where there was an actual transfer desk.
They took my boarding passes and passport…and once again: wait, wait.
After about 10 minutes, another guy arrived who actually spoke a little English, and took my boarding passes and passport and said “I take you.” What followed next was a bit surreal. He walked me through passport control in the wrong direction, through security in the wrong direction, and to the check-in hall to Oman Air’s check-in desk.
Now, if you didn’t follow that, I was now outside security, and outside passport control, and inside Egypt without having cleared passport control. The check-in area was mobbed, but being business class he forced us to the front of the line, where a helpful agent managed to check me in and even change my seat at my request.
Back we went….through security (without clearing security) and through passport control (without clearing passport control) and I hoped….I would be dumped in the area with gates. Oh no….we were going back to the transfer desk….where the guy who needed to “clear” me and log my details was…on a smoke break.
About 15 minutes later, he did show up, finally sign off on me and my friend who had escorted me to check-in escorted me again…this time only outside security. He dropped me at security and said “ok, you go. maybe you have tip for me?” Bwahahah…you have to love Egpyt.
Also, in case you get lost at security, if you’re going to Moscow, there’s arrows on the floor. Is someone trying to tell me something?
Security wasn’t bad, and I even had 15 minutes for the lounge. Over the years I’ve developed a fondness for the terrible mini pizzas in the lounge in Cairo with olives…and every trip just as I’m leaving I realize there’s a microwave and they’re not intended to be eaten cold. One of these days I’ll get it right…
Got to the gate a little early, and realized this is also the terminal with a Starbucks in it. How could I of all people forget that! It was evening now and I was fading pretty badly, so a coffee would have been nice. Oh well, no time now since we were almost boarding.
Checking ExpertFlyer I noticed someone had taken the seat next to me, and there were still six empty, so I decided to ask the agent at the desk if he could move me. No problem at all, and please wait here, we are about to begin priority boarding…which shockingly was actually enforced!
Oman Air flight 406
Cairo, Egypt (CAI) to Muscat, Oman (MCT)
Depart 18:45, Arrive: 00:25 next day, flight time: 3:40
Airbus A330-300, Registration A4O-DZ, Manufactured 2013, Seat 15D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 180,048
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,872,350
I knew this was coming before boarded, but why must you taunt me so 2019? This flight was originally scheduled as a 737-800, so yes, a widebody is an upgrade, but why, oh why, must I for the THIRD time in 2019 be faced with these old Singapore Airlines A330 titling flat seats?
First time was on Norwegian (operated by Evelop!) where it was a huge upgrade from premium economy, and the seat next to me was the only empty one on the plane, so it was a giant win!
Second time was on Brussels when it was a redeye back from Ghana, which was a terrible, terrible seat. So bad that when I got their survey email I was scathing…and even got a phone call. Where they admitted they knew it was terrible, but oh sorry. We’re having fleet problems.
This time? Probably a win again. Empty seat next to me, and definitely better than a 737. Will there be a fourth time? (cue the foreshadowing music…)
Pre-takeoff juice was offered and I took the lemonade with mint, hot or cold towels (nice touch!) along with menu and socks. So far, from a service perspective, I was really impressed with Oman Air!
Tonight’s menu, with what looked to be a proper dinner. No alcohol listed on the menu, although according to a google they weren’t dry, so we would see what happened after takeoff….
Pre-departure date and arabic coffee. I love this touch. It really does feel welcoming.
I went with the chicken biryani, which was outstanding. I’ve had it on a few airlines now, and every time it was excellent. Sure, the meal was served all at once, but with three forks, three knives, and champagne….so how can you not be impressed by that, lol! I struggled to figure out what I might need three different knives for…
Even a glass of red wine with dessert, which was super tasty (both the dessert and the wine!)
The crew was fantastic, and while slightly awkward they were very warm and welcoming, proactive with drink refills, and overall I was very impressed. They managed to take a plane I wasn’t thrilled with and turn it into a really nice late night flight, and I was looking forward to my transit in Muscat and finally seeing the new terminal. The last time I was there Muscat was a horrid experience involving bus gates, temporary gates, and overall a mess.
First impressions in the arrivals area were good (although it was slightly warm) and the terminal seemed modern, welcoming, and had enough greenery to feel like there was “life” in it.
Security was needed for flights from Egypt (or maybe all flights?) but it only took a few minutes and soon I was searching for the lounge. Signage wasn’t great, but clearly I was the only one because this place was absolutely packed. Welcome to the lounge…from our 787 and from Sultan Qaboos!
It was a bit difficult figuring out where to get a drink, but the buffet was huge. I wasn’t took hungry so just got some cheese, fruits, and olives and finally found some champagne. (After at first mistaking the bubbles in the self-service area which were sparkling grape juice – ack!) I considered a glass of wine, but they were individual bottles of dubious quality, so I went with the safe bet!
Off to the gate, where I was curious to find out what had happened. Two days prior the flight only had three people in business class, and now all 30 seats were showing full on the seat map.
Getting to the gate, it soon became obvious. The flight had a group of well over 100 returning Indonesia Hajjis all with matching backpacks identifying them as a group, and the flight appeared to be very full.
I chatted up the friendly desk agent who was scanning boarding passes before letting people into the gate area, and she confirmed the flight was actually overbooked and they had upgraded 25 people from economy. Argh! Hopefully the configuration would be as it seemed online with window seats actually having aisle access, so it wouldn’t be a big deal….
Oman Air flight 849
Muscat, Oman (MCT) to Jakarta, Indonesia (CGK)
Depart 02:45, Arrive: 13:30, flight time: 7:45
Boeing 787-9, Registration A4O-SI, Manufactured 2019, Seat 11K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 183,899
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,876,201
On first impression, the configuration was exactly what I expected. The window seat was set just a little forward so both the aisle and window seat have aisle access. A very nice touch!
With the partitions down, you could see all the way across the cabin. When you put them up, as long as your seatmate wasn’t tall like me, it was pretty private. I put it up right away, and the flight attendants never asked me to put it down – even during taxi, takeoff, and landing.
What’s for noms on a 3am flight? Ok, we have a refreshment and à la carte, so I assume it’s eat what you want when you want.
Pre-departure juice was offered again, but I decided to ask if I could have champagne, and the excellent flight attendant was happy to help…bringing it along with some arabic coffee and dates. So far, I was loving this!
Shortly after takeoff mixed nuts were offered (with refill!) along with a glass of wine.
Then…I never saw the crew. For over 90 minutes. They didn’t even come to collect the nuts or the wine glass. This was getting a bit silly. I debated ringing the call button, but everyone else seemed to be asleep (except the occasional people running up from coach to be jealous of their upgraded friends) so I decided to walk to the front of the cabin to see if I could find flight attendants.
I found the helpful one who had helped me earlier, and asked him if I might at least get the refreshment. He snapped back rather nastily “I asked you, and you said no. I don’t think there is anymore.” I was floored…and went back to my seat. Clearly they’d served the front cabin and run out…so didn’t bother offering to row 5 (which is the only row in the second “mini” cabin). Just wow.
Yet, 10 minutes later, he appeared at my seat with this. I asked for a wine refill, and he grumpily replied. No clue what happened in the meantime, but pleasantness went from amazing to nasty pretty quickly.
Then, things went south. Literally 15 seconds after the food came we hit some pretty tubular turbulence and things went flying. Literally. The wine glass went at least several inches in the air during one particularly bad bump and came crashing down sideways, spilling wine all over my iPad and food. I managed to mop up a good deal of it, but to this day my iPad still smells like stale wine…
Despite all the wine-soaked napkins when the flight attendant finally came back he just took the tray and left. Sigh. Wonder who pissed in his hummus.
I decided to see if I could get some sleep, and did manage four hours or so, waking up just in time for lunch service – which was a formal service despite being advertised as à la carte. Go figure. Orders were taking, and lunch was done by the same flight attendant – who was back in a good mood again. Go figure.
Amuse bouche of pistachio and parmesan scallops with pineapple relish. Much tastier than I expected.
I went with the mezze as an appetizer, and it was good, but not great.
Braised kingfish and scallops in coconut and coriander sauce. This was pretty good. It could have been a bit more flavourful, but overall I was happy with it – and it was a bit of a lighter option.
For desert, I went with the cheese plate, which overall I was impressed with…and you can’t have cheese without wine! This was definitely above average for cheese plates, so a solid choice.
Carnage from the night before. I wasn’t kidding when I said the wine went flying:
Overall, I was really happy with this trip, especially given the price paid. The seats on the Oman Air 787-9 are fantastic, and allow you to have both a window and aisle, so it’s now one of my favourite business products – only thing I like better is 1-2-1 – which United and Air Canada both do quite well!
Time to enjoy my time in Indonesia!!