Having been, of necessity, a budget traveller all my life, my favourite airline at any one time is the one that is the most convenient for my destination at the cheapest price. I have always flown economy class. The flight is the single most expensive item of any trip. It is logical that the less you spend on the flight, the more you will have left for the rest of the trip.
The many flights that I have taken with a variety of airlines blur into a similar, repetitive experience in my mind. If I want to visit a destination that is far away, I have to fly. It is an inescapable necessity. The space is cramped and uncomfortable and the food
is edible but unexciting. If I had the money, business class would be tempting as the
seating at least looks comfortable, but I would probably still rather use the money to travel longer and further.
In these circumstances, I have to make what is probably an unusual choice, and say that my favourite airline is EgyptAir. It has often offered the cheapest convenient flights when I have visited Europe. The comfort and service offered compares to that of any other airline. As I think it is a very bad idea to indulge in alcohol on a long flight it does
not bother me that it is the airline of a Muslim country and does not serve alcohol. I can do without that glass of wine with my airline meal. SAA is relatively expensive, and by flying EgyptAir I can feel good that I am at least supporting an African airline.
It is inconvenient having to fly from Johannesburg via Cairo airport, but this is the pay-off for the reasonable price. A decade or so ago, this transit was something of an ordeal. The toilets were in a basement down some steps. There was an old lady in black and you had to give her a tip to receive a small piece of toilet paper. Once I was caught short
after leaving the plane and needed the toilet very urgently. I rushed in, pushed a few South African coins into her hand, grabbed the paper and ran into the loo. I still wonder what she did with those coins.
At that time, you were herded into a sort of glass cage with stackable plastic chairs, and there you waited until your onward flight. However, if it was a long wait, you could arrange to go to a hotel and even see something of Cairo. I am sure this must still be the case. On one of these occasions I had the opportunity to visit the pyramids and the
incredible Cairo Museum.
The last time I flew EgyptAir the transit was very different and much better. The airport is upgraded and there is a comfortable waiting area (with decent toilets) on the first floor with more than enough padded seating. You can even stretch out if you want. There are now a number of curio and clothing shops and places to buy refreshments. I bought a very pretty dress with embroidery at the neck in a dusky pink. The same dress was available in avocado green. At that time I didn't want to go over the top, but now I am sorry that I did not buy it as well – I have so much pleasure from my Cairo airport acquisition. The same shop has beautiful embroidered Palestinian dresses. I would have loved to buy one, but much of the embroidery is along the hem and I am short and fat. The Palestinian dresses were too long for me and it would have been a waste to shorten one. By and large I had a pleasant wait.
The one thing that hasn't changed is the number of officials that check your passport – at least five if not more. When you are queuing to board you onward flight, three officials check the passports at different points of the queue. This intrigues me – is it a form of job creation, or are they checking up on each other?
Flying EgyptAir is reasonable, quite as comfortable and convenient as any other airline, and offers aspects of interest. There are many airlines that I have not experienced, some with good reputations, but of the airlines I know EgyptAir is my favourite at the moment.
by Anna, 5 January 2013.