Egyptair Business Class Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur – With room for improvement
A big difference between Europe and Asia, are the large number of airlines that fly with the so-called, ‘fifth freedom rights’, in Asia. This means that an airline can land at two or more destinations, on the same flight, in which none of the cities are located in the airline’s home country, and where it is possible to book a ticket solely between two of these cities. An example of this is Egyptair’s route, Cairo-Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur, where it is possible to fly only between Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.
Egyptair was an airline I had not yet tested, and proved to be one of the cheapest options for this route.
At the Airport
Egyptair’s check-in was in the check-in area, Q, in the departure lounge at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. Check-in opened precisely three hours before departure, at 12.20pm. I was expecting, perhaps, one or two check-in counters for this last leg on the long flight from Egypt, so was very surprised when as many as four counters were opened up for the departure.
I was the only one who was waiting as check-in opened, and thus became the first to be checked-in at the business class counter. It was Thai Airways who performed the check-in, with a young man working at my particular counter. Behind him were three people who were closely monitoring what what he was doing, I suspect they were trainees.
Check in was friendly and admirably thorough. The young man who checked me in did not just make a good impression on me, but also the three female trainees who stood behind him. I had a connecting flight in Kuala Lumpur and was given boarding passes for both these flights, my bag was also tagged all the way to my final destination, not only with a red priority tag, but also a green transfer tag. Finally, I received an invitation to the fast track channel at the security check, as well as a lounge invitation, which, unsurprisingly, was to all Thai Airways Royal Silk lounges in the terminal.
There was no queue whatsoever at the fast track channel, both the security check and passport control were completed in under five minutes. I then went to the large Thai Airways lounge, in the D-pier, for a late lunch. I also made a visit to the new Eva Air lounge, which was a convenient distance from my gate. It was a really nice lounge with great food and drink and friendly staff. There is certainly nothing wrong with the Thai lounges, but all look fairly similar and it is nice to have a bit of variety.
Boarding and First Impressions
Gate E1 was used for the flight to Kuala Lumpur, and boarding had already started when I arrived at the gate, around 50 minutes before departure. To my surprise, the gate area was completely deserted, but it later turned out to not be quite as dramatic as it looked. Passengers travelling between Cairo and Kuala Lumpur were allowed to get off the plane in Bangkok to stretch their legs, and most had not yet returned to the gate. The business class cabin was completely empty when I boarded, but filled up with a handful of passengers minutes later. There was no great difficulty figuring out that they were transfer passengers, as they all had an Egyptair sticker on show. Incidentally, most were neither Asian or Egyptian, but European, including many Germans.
Two passenger bridges were used to board the plane, and business class passengers used the first. A steward welcomed me upon my entry and showed me to the my aisle, apart from this, no one took any more notice of my arrival. I quickly found my seat, 09A, a window seat in the second row, stowed my hand luggage on the overhead shelf and took my seat, where a pillow and blanket were waiting for me. This was followed by several minutes of activity, by the purser and flight attendants, in the cabin, but no attempt was made to acknowledge me. No one came forward to greet me or to offer something to drink. Nor was I offered any reading material.
After nearly 20 minutes, I was offered hot tissues followed by a welcome drink. Interestingly, they were hot tissues rather than hot towels, which is usually standard. Egyptair is an alcohol-free airline, therefore there was no champagne before departure, I was instead offered a choice of Hibiscus tea, water, or a traditional brown coloured Egyptian drink. I chose to taste the Egyptian beverage, which the flight attendant could not quite describe for me. The drink was strong, with a flavour reminiscent of dates. I found it not at all to my taste and finally chose to leave half of the glass.
With low occupancy on board, the boarding process was completed in good time before we departed the gate 15 minutes before schedule. The flight began with a prayer to Allah, followed by a safety video in English and Arabic. The flight time to Kuala Lumpur was calculated to be 1 hour and 45 minutes.
It was a Boeing 777-300ER that took us from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur. On board were seven rows of business class, in a 2-3-2 configuration, divided into a larger cabin, with four rows between the first and second door, followed by a smaller cabin of three rows, situated behind the second door. Consequently, there was a total of 49 seats. In the front cabin was 28 seats, and there were eight passengers, including myself.
The Boeing 777-300ER is Egyptair’s flagship aircraft and the seats are especially roomy, with a whole 76 inches (193 cm) of legroom. This is generous for business class and approaching the legroom commonly found in international first class. In front of the seat was the screen and the seat pocket, which was, of course, quite impossible to reach without getting up. In the reclined position, the seat was almost completely flat, but with a slight slope, about 160 degrees. The seat is quite low and gives good privacy from your neighbours and the rest of the cabin, but for a long night flight, I would certainly appreciate a quilt rather than just a simple blanket.
The biggest, and really only problem, with the seat, was that my seat was actually broken. The left armrest was loose and if I pressed too hard against it, the whole armrest would fall off.
The in-flight entertainment system on board, was AVOD (Audio Video On Demand), and it worked well even if the range was somewhat limited. The menu seemed extensive as you navigated around it the first time, but after a while I realised that most films were tagged with at least two or three genres, which meant that they appeared under several different categories. The actual range was far narrower than it looked.
Resolution through the screen was perfectly acceptable, and almost all of the titles were in both English and Arabic. During the short flight, I watched a documentary on luxury shopping, and then tried to follow the flight via the flight map, however, the map malfunctioned.
I did not find any headphones around the seat so had to ask a passing flight attendant for these. She promised to come back quickly with a pair which were unused. They were fairly simple headphones, without any noise cancelling functionality. Since I was the only business class passenger who boarded in Bangkok, I suspect that the other passengers already had headphones or did not care for them on such a short flight, but it would not hurt if someone proactively offered me a pair.
Once in the air, a cold meal was served. No menu was handed out and no option was given. A cloth was laid on the table, and meals were then distributed to those who wanted to eat, which I did. Drinks were offered, but only alcohol-free, of course. I asked for a glass of orange juice and was rather uninspired when it was served in a plastic glass. Coffee and tea were also offered by the flight attendant.
The meal consisted of shrimps with vegetables, and mozzarella cheese as an appetiser. For main course, some kind of meat with cold mashed potatoes. On the tray were also two slices of bread, and for dessert, a chocolate mousse tart.
The cold meal was okay but definitely not anything special. Had I flown the same distance with, for example, Thai Airways or Malaysia Airlines, in business class, I would have probably got a three course meal, with two or three choices of main course. Quite a significant contrast to Egyptair’s offerings.
Later, I was offered another drink, juice or coffee.
Two female flight attendants took care of the meal service, both were friendly and polite, and always had a smile on their faces when they spoke to me. Otherwise, the staff made no real impression, there was absolutely no proactivity or genuine commitment to me as a passenger. I had no contact with the male purser, who worked in the front galley two rows in front of my chair, I do not really even know what he was doing on board during the flight. On most long-haul flights, it is usually the purser who passes through the business class cabin to greet all passengers and make sure everything is working correctly and everyone is happy, nothing of this sort took place.
I received no benefits as a gold card traveller, at least nothing noticeable. Nor was I at any time addressed by name, however, the word, “Sir”, was spoken to me several times.
There was bad weather in Kuala Lumpur, which forced us to circulate north of the airport for nearly 20 minutes before we were given permission to begin our approach. With the early departure from Bangkok, we had a good margin, and despite the bad weather, we were able to land in Kuala Lumpur on schedule, at 6:20pm local time.
It took a while for the passenger bridges to be put in place, so I stood and waited at the front door, next to the purser and a steward. Just as during the flight, there was not much notice of me as I stood waiting, there was no small talk or eye contact, even to acknowledge that I was in their vicinity.
Egyptair will probably not be my first choice in the future. Above all, it is due to the service and treatment I received, a shame as the new long-haul seat is indeed quite pleasant and has excellent legroom. However, the service has great room for improvement, especially the lack of interest I experienced a few too many times during the flight. And although one can get get along fine without alcohol, it certainly is nice having glass of wine with dinner on a long business class flight.