Sam Chui Aviation Photography
Trip Background: My mother always wanted to visit Egypt, to see many wonders, and the ancient civilizations there. I have quit my job in March, allows me the time to take her for a tour. We've joined a local Chinese tour. They use Egypt Air, which is the quickest and easiest way from Beijing to Cairo with 1 stop in Bangkok. Egypt Air do have some good airfares, so we upgraded our ticket to First Class both ways, as I would like to have maximum comforts for my mother and check out how Egypt Air is like, as they're invited to join Star Alliance this year.
Date of Departure: 16 April 2008
Flight MS 961 schedule Departs Beijing at 2005, arrive Bangkok at 2345
Departs Bangkok at 0045 arrive Cairo at 0500
Beijing Capital Airport Terminal Three
Egypt Air, like all other Star Alliance members, used the brand new Terminal Three in Beijing, the terminal was built to expand Beijing capacity and for the 2008 Olympics. The terminal is the largest single terminal building in the world currently, it utilize natural sunlight for illumination as it is ceiling to floor glass everywhere showcasing the terminal. It contains three concourses, T3C for Chinese Domestic Flight, T3D not open yet, but reserved for Olympics special charter flights and T3E for all International flights. Currently, all Star Alliance and OneWorld Carriers use T3 plus Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, EL AL, S7 and Air Macau. Domestically, only Shanghai Airlines, Shandong Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and Air China use the new T3 while China Southern and China Eastern remain and T1 and T2 respectively.
Check In of Egypt Air, opens three hours prior to the flight. There were 5 counters handling Egypt Air Bangkok and Cairo bound passengers. Due to Thailand's Songkran Holiday, the flight was sold out and very busy at check in (Group) at 5pm. Egypt Air do have 1 counter dedicated to First Class passenger and we're expedited at check-in with lounge invitation card to the new Air China International First Class lounge.
Airside of Terminal Three, Beijing Capital Airport
After taking the concourse connecting train, we arrived in T3E, the international departure concourse. It is very quiet.as there aren't many flights leaving around 6pm. The ceiling is very high and feels very spacious. There are plenty of open space to the passenger. There are also some Chinese landscape feature include a patio in the terminal.
Air China International First Class Lounge
Air China International First Class Lounge is situated upstairs of terminal three access by escalators. The lounge is totally deserted when we arrive, my mother and I were the only 2 person inside a huge lounge, designed for 300 passengers. It is brand new and impressive from the moment you walk in, comparable to some of the highly acclaimed lounges in the world in terms of infrastructures.
Since it is almost dinner time, we decided to try out the Buffet at dining room. Here a waitress offers help to my mother. Everything looks brand new, flash and ready, we are excited and checking out the lounge features. First with the food and drinks.
Horrible looking food served ("Hot Beef")
Horrible looking Chicken dish
Being the best and latest lounge in Beijing, I expected some fine Chinese and International Cuisine which can be ordered like many other First Class lounge in the world. However, the food in both presentation and quality left much to be desired. It is unthinkable, a first class lounge provide such simple and un-genuine Chinese food, it does not even compare to the small local restaurants on the street in China. There were about 5 types of hot dish and a few type of Salad, also WonTon noodle Soup can be ordered. Given the cost of food is still relatively affordable in China, Air China catering need to pay much more attention to meet the International First Class passengers expectations and bring it up to the standard with the rest of the world.
Next, I visited the bar, it was left unattended and I asked the waitress for a glass of Champagne, much to my surprise, the answer is "No, we don't have champagne...". Asked for a glass of red wine, she replied, you will have to serve yourself in the bar. After received such answers, I was fascinated and went to the "Bar" to check out what exactly they have.
Disappointed with no proper White, Red or Champagne on offer. Only a local Chinese brand white grape wine there. No International brand of beer also. No wonder the bar is so quiet and tidy, there are no good drinks to have! I begin to doubt whether this International First Class lounge food and drinks pass the catering standard of Star Alliance.
Overall, I am quite impressed with the facility of Air China lounge, it is an improvement from the old lounge in T2, it has a 10 seat mini theatre/TV room, sleeping area with individual sleeper seats and doors, shower room and Business Center with very fast internet. While the hardware is new and inviting, they need to focus much on the software. i.e. the food/drinks served and the customer service.
Boarding MS 961 for Bangkok and Cairo
Captain: Mostafa Monem and F/O Henz Henry
Total flight time 4hs 30mins
SU-GBP Nefertiti awaits to take us to Egypt.
First Class section of Egypt Air comprises of two rows of 2-2-2 seating. Total 12 seats.
We received a warm welcome by the elderly male purser and we settled in seat 2A and 2C (window and aisle). There were total of 299 passengers out of 319 seats available (F12/C21/Y286). Only 70 passengers were traveling all the way from Beijing to Cairo while 229 gets off in Bangkok and more will be joining the flight from Bangkok. There were a total of 9 passengers in First Class section that night to Bangkok.
The seats were quite comfortable and bulky, but simply outdated. It looks more like a Business Class seat. It has 62" seat pitch, 150-160 degrees of recline and a 12 channel PTV is in between the arm rest. It is fully electronic controlled. Business Class also have PTV and electronic controlled seat , but with an inferior seat pitch of 40"-42" only. Economy Class features very generous seat pitch of 34"-35" with 3-4-2 seating but no individual PTV.
SU-GBP pushed back on time and waited on the taxiway for 30minutes due to high volume of domestic traffic and took off at 20:35 local time on Runway 18L. It climbed out fast, cruising at Mach 0.84 and Flight Level at 12000m (China use metrics)
30 Minutes after take-off, the crew were ready to serve Dinner, this is highly expected as I didn't eat much in the lounge and was feeling hungry. I was hoping for a good dinner to go to sleep with and Egypt Air delivers!
Hors d' Oeuvre: Smoke Salmon and King Prawns.
Second Course: Salad
Note: Egypt Air is a "dry" airline. I ordered a non-alcoholic beer for the dinner instead.
Main Course: Consists steam garoupa, lamb chop, braise chicken with dumplings, potato, mushroom, vegetable and rice.
Mix and Match of your own, fantastic traditional "serve in front of you" style presentation!
Very friendly crew onboard serving First Class passengers.
My dinner main course
Fruit and Cheese
Cake, Ice Cream and Tea
Overall, the meal quality on Egypt Air is very good and did not disappoint, especially the presentation and serve in front of you so you can see and choose. If only they serve a larger salad and a soup in First Class, it would be perfect. I was worried that Beijing station catering were not up to the standard (as it happened on my recent Thai Airways flight), but luckily, the catering were from Bangkok and carried on the inbound flight to Beijing.
After dinner service, cabin lights were dimmed and I have some rest until our approach into Bangkok Survanabhumi.
Egypt Air B777-200/ER First Class Cabin
Approaching Bangkok Runway 19R and we touched down smoothly at 0015 am local time, a 30 minutes later than schedule. The plane arrived at Gate G3 and Bangkok passenger were told to leave first while Cairo passenger can either deplane or stay onboard during the transit. They were advised to only spend 20 minutes before heading back to the gate to re-board. As I have been to Bangkok a ton of times, I didn't want to walk around in the weak Air Con terminal and get sweaty, I took the time and gained access to the B777 cockpit to make some picture and chat to the crew. There is a crew change in Bangkok.
Business Class of Egypt Air B777 2-3-2 seating, tight seat pitch at 42" (Row 6 , the first row have better legroom than the rest)
MS 961 Bangkok to Cairo
Captain: Mohammed Nassar, F/O Ali Roshdy and Sherif Kotb
Total flight time 9hs 20mins
After a quick 60 minutes on the ground in Bangkok, I witnessed how the cleaners cleaning the aircraft, some pick up trash, some pick up used blankets and carpets and some re-group the magazines. It was a quick and effective specialization of labor process. Within 30 minutes, the plane was serviced and ready for boarding again.
Captain Mohammed Nassar came down the aisle and personally welcome mother and myself onboard, as the previous flight captain and purser asked him to look after my mother and myself since we're guest to Egypt onboard all the way!
We were 30 minutes later than schedule on push back and eventually took off at Bangkok time 0130. With a flying time of 9 hours and 20 minutes at FL360. Total passenger onboard 309 out of 319. First Class have 11 out of 12 seats taken. I notice quite a few Western foreigner and their Thai wife are in First Class, perhaps Egypt Air offer good fares and connections onward to Europe.
Dinner Service soon commenced with fresh catering from Bangkok, one of my favorite catering station. The service from Flight Attendant in First Class are not as nice as the Beijing to Bangkok flight, there are more seniors and the older woman FA did not smile at all, just getting her job done.
Appetizers: Prawn / Smoked Halibut / Asparagus
Main Course : Prawn Brochette / Tenderloin Beef (Very large) / Roasted Duck with Fried Rice / Potato / Vegetable.
I had Roast Duck, it is filleted so no bones. It is the Best Duck I ever have onboard, beats the one I had on Singapore Airlines First Class last year. I actually took 2 servings since nobody else ask for the duck.
After dinner service, lights were turned down and everyone went into sleep mode. Both my mother and I slept soundly for about seven hours before being waked up for Breakfast. At one hour outside of Cairo, I checked the route that we flew overnight on the Air Show, we flew Westwards from Bangkok past Myanmar, then India (Hyderabad), Arabian Sea, Over UAE/Oman and Saudi Arabia then onto Egypt.
Simple Continental Breakfast, nothing more. I was told later that Egyptians don't eat breakfast :) I do like the fine China plate used on Egypt Air. Very nice drawing miniature.
Approach to Cairo, Egypt
Looking down from the air, Cairo is huge! We commenced our descend around 5:30 local time while Cairo gradually awake.
Over Heliopolis on approach to Runway 05R
Final Approach Runway 05R , outskirt of Cairo. We touched down on Egypt's soil around 05:45am in the morning, on the 17th April 2008. A short taxi to the remote stand ended our 14 hours 55 minutes journey from Beijing, China. As most Int'l flights use remote stand, ours no exception. We took a bus to main terminal (Arrival Terminal 1 Hall 3/4?)
Some of the Petroleum Air Service Dash 7 on the apron.
A nice Red Carpet Welcome.
Nefertiti on stand.
Busy Domestic scene, note many Egypt Air Express Embraer E170 Jet.
Last look of SU-GBP Nefertiti took us from Beijing to Cairo.
AMC Airlines B737-200. A rare sight for me.
This marks an end to my first Egypt Air experience from Beijing to Bangkok and Cairo. However, our tour of Egypt only just commenced, we will visit Cairo, Hurghada (Red Sea), Luxor, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Aswan, Abu Simbel and Alexandria in the following 10 days.
For those are interested in Egypt, please view my sightseeing photos and videos.
MS 960 Cairo - Bangkok - Beijing
B777-266/ER SU-GBX Neit
27 April 2008
After 10 days of wonderful sightseeing in Egypt, include highlights of:
1. Visit the Giza Pyramids
2. Snokerling in Red Sea with many fish and corals
3. Visit Valley of the Kings and Karnak Temple
4. Nile Cruise, the best way to see Egypt
5. Abu Simbel Temples
6. Cairo Marriott Hotel (Former Palace) and Khan El Khalidid Bazaar
I am deeply impressed with Egypt, its friendly people, its cultural, history, myths and many colorful souvenirs that I promise a return to Egypt for more in the near future!
Egypt Air use the old Terminal One for its International flight check-in. There will be a brand new Terminal Three opening later this year replacing the old terminal but for the time being, Egypt Air is using the former. There is a dedicated check in area for First and Business Class passengers and I receive a rather interesting Lounge Invitation Card
I was given priority and skipping the long queues at Immigration. An officer offered to fill the form for me and stamp it in his office and offer me a quick passage. I proceeded to the lounge but only to my disappointment, the lounge is a dump, one of the worst lounge I've ever visited.
The lounge is quite small, and it is in an open space, next to a food court on the 2nd floor of main terminal building. There were very few choice of drinks and food. There was a free Wifi service but no internet kiosk. There were no magazine or any kind of entertainment. I am guessing Egypt Air must plan to replace this lounge soon with the completion of Terminal three and would not invest further into the current lounge. Boarding started at 22:35 for an on-time 23:15 departure to Bangkok. I headed down to the gate and the waiting lounge is very small and a long queue (common) to board the bus to the remote stand.
There were two stairs but all passenger have to use the second one to board the A/C as part of security procedures.
MS 960 Cairo to Bangkok
Total flight time 8hs 25mins
Passenger Onboard: 209/319
Route: Initial South of Egypt, past Hurghada, cross the Red Sea, over Saudi Arabia and Oman, then Arabian Sea and India, flying over Ahmedabad and over Myanmar
As I was very tired and sleepy on the return flight, I didn't record much and will provide some simple observations and pictures.
Appetizer: Smoke Salmon and Shrimp Cocktail
Main Course: Oriental Beef / Grilled Salmon / Chicken Breast with Vegetables / Penne Pasta / Basmati Rice with Almonds
The catering from Cairo, did not compare very well to Bangkok. After the meal service, I spent the rest of the flight sleeping and also skipped the Breakfast. We landed in Bangkok ahead of schedule, arriving 1150am on 28 April.
I chose to remain onboard the aircraft while the cleaners service the plane. A few more First Class pictures:
MS 960 Bangkok to Beijing
Total flight time 4hrs 30mins
Passenger Onboard: 137/319
With new crew onboard, we left gate G3 ahead of schedule departure time, taxi to Runway 19L and a quick take off for Beijing.
Appetizers: Lobster Tail Medallion with Chicken Galantine.
Main Course: Steam Garoupa / Beef Tenderloin / Chicken Breast with Roast Potato / Pumpkin / Steam Rice
Since I skipped the breakfast service on the overnight flight from Cairo, I was feeling hungry but the lunch service didn't start for 2 hours into the flight, the purser came to explain this is to allow the Cairo originated passenger to have more time to rest and adjust the time zone changes for meals. Nevertheless, they set up the table for me and allow me to have lunch before others.
The rest of the flight were quite uneventful. We touched down quietly in Beijing new 3rd runway 19 firmly at 18:20 local time, 10 minutes ahead of schedule. I was the first person head out the plane.
Within 20 minutes I retrieved my baggage and I found my way out on the street in China. My Egyptian adventure have came to a final end.
My experience with Egypt Air
Overall, Egypt Air is a good quality airline with modern aircraft equipment. However, It is a dry airline with outdated seat in First and Business Class, justified the reason of the lower ticket price they charge. The crew, unlike most government airline, were generally approachable, friendly and helpful. Meal service remain the best thing with Egypt Air with its "serve in front of you" presentation. Egypt Air B777 do boost one of the most generous leg room in Economy Class (34-35" seat pitch) in a customized 3-4-2 seating. It took many surprises that they were invited to join the Star Alliance, hopefully we will see more improvement carried out with new Cairo Terminal, new aircraft ordered (B777-300/ER) it will provide a better premium product. My trip with Egypt Air is an overall positive and interesting experience.
Post Trip Experience: Prior to the trip, I joined Lufthansa Miles and More and hopefully I can earn 300% miles by flying a Paid "F" class. Still no mileage credit on my account as of Mid-May....
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