Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Two Faces of Egypt Air

I don't care how many miles you give me. I'm never flying Egypt Air Again.

It's usually to be expected that when you're trying to get on a flight at 4am in a developing country when there's only one airline desk open and the people from that airline are running the whole show that you're gonna need to push around a little graft, but the systematic and coordinated screw job operating at Jomo Kenyatta this evening was nothing short of appalling.  With the currency desk closed, all other airlines absent and no oversight to be found these two characters had the run of the departures hall, and were taking no prisoners:


Literally EVERY person getting on my flight was compelled to pay some sort of cash fee.  In my case, an airline container that has been taken on literally hundreds of flights, and is in fact designed to be airline-legal, was deemed oversize by 3cm, and therefore counted as two pieces of luggage (a decision that I successfully waited my way out of {crosses arms and blocks progress of the scheme to the next passenger}). When it was clear that I wasn't gonna go quietly, I was made to sit in Egypt Air's dishevelled, smoke-filled office while the two decided whether to let me off with the correct fee or to continue to anger the white giant (I think I was supposed to pay for one bag).

After a bit, they seem to have decided that they weren't gonna get anywhere pushing me too far, but the game was not over.  With the cashier and currency exhange closed and the ATM in another terminal, it was insisted that fees be paid in british pounds, even after being shown an official email with fees for different destinations listed in different currencies that did little more than prove that they could take any currency (presumably for the convenience of the customer?).

From the rest of the email, I suspect that the recent trouble in the homeland has pushed EA to crack down on fee collection to make ends meet, but the sheer number of people getting hassled was unreal.  There was, at times (and yes I was there for a while), a line out the door of the office full of riled travellers with cash in hand.

While the bag check was nothing less than draconian, security was another matter.  The simple act of declaring "I win! I win!" when going through the metal detector was enough to absolve me of any excess ferrous-ness and right onto the plane, where I was treated to a nearly unpalatable breakfast on an old plane with ceiling-mounted LCD screens that folded up and down randomly for the first 30min of the flight.

The part that's most remarkable about the Egypt Air experience is the about-face the company takes when you pass from the African to the European side of the route.  The food doesn't get much better or the staff much more patient, but all of a sudden you're on a nice new plane with mostly-professional acting staff that all of a sudden can take credit cards.

...And the entertainment system runs (RedHat) Linux:

No comments: