My Rough Night At Cairo Airport, Made Better By EgyptAir’s Osama

My Rough Night At Cairo Airport, Made Better By EgyptAir’s Osama

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The roughest part of my four flights across the Atlantic was my night at Cairo Airport. I’ve written about my experience changing terminals, and I’ve reviewed the EgyptAir Lounges at Cairo Airport. In this post I wanted to share a bit more background on how I ended up spending the night at Cairo Airport, and the one person who provided me with great (and slightly odd) hospitality…

My unenviable layover at Cairo Airport

As I’ve explained before, my goal with “pure” review trips is to review lots of experiences while minimizing my time away from home, given that we have an infant, and I’d like to spend as much time with him as possible (he’s growing so fast!).

While I’d say these kinds of trips are generally pretty exhausting (especially since I’m not a good airplane sleeper), my time in Cairo was definitely the roughest part of the trip. I landed in ITA Airways’ A320 business class from Rome at 2:25AM, and departed in EgyptAir’s 787 business class to Paris at 9:35AM.

As I get older, I value a proper night of sleep in a bed more and more. As much as I would have loved to spend a night in Cairo (and check out the mysterious St. Regis), unfortunately there was no award availability for the remaining part of the itinerary if I didn’t continue right away.

I was on the fence about what to do for my seven hour layover, especially as the Le Meridien Cairo Airport is excellent, and is right next to the terminal. I had considered booking the hotel, but:

  • If I landed at 2:25AM, I figured it would probably be 3:30AM before I was in my room
  • I don’t just show up at the airport an hour before departure for flights, but rather try to arrive very early to be able to review lounges before they get too crowded; so realistically I would have wanted to leave my room by 5:30AM at the latest

For such a short stay, it just wasn’t worth booking a hotel, or even leaving immigration. Well, or so I thought. When I landed in Cairo, I was tired beyond words. The night before my trip, I had gotten up at 2AM (the joys of being a parent!). Then the night after that I was on a redeye across the Atlantic. Then I had a very long layover in Rome, prior to taking the short overnight(ish) flight to Cairo.

When I landed in Cairo, I actually called the Le Meridien to ask if they had any rooms available, as I would have been happy even with just a one or two hour nap. Unfortunately I was informed they only had suites available, and those were $450+. At that point I just accepted my fate, that I’d be spending the night in the terminal.

I think the below picture roughly sums up how unglamorous these review trips can be at times, when I could instead just be in my comfortable bed at home. Not pictured is the freezing temperature in the terminal, as there was seemingly no heat, despite it being a very cold night.

I suppose this is all part of the fun and adventure, though…

Cairo Airport Terminal 3 at 3:23AM

Osama, EgyptAir’s great lounge ambassador

I ended up spending most of the night at the EgyptAir Almeisan Lounge, as that’s the EgyptAir Lounge at Cairo Airport that remains fully open overnight.

EgyptAir Almeisan Lounge Cairo

The lounge was deserted, and upon entering, I was greeted by Osama, the server working overnight in the lounge. He couldn’t have been kinder, and was such a great ambassador for the airline. He was genuinely friendly, and constantly checked if there was anything I needed. He offered me delicious cappuccinos, and even proactively brought over bottles of juice, encouraging me to try them.

EgyptAir Lounge Cairo cappuccino
EgyptAir Lounge Cairo orange juice

Honestly, what a friendly and awesome guy.

Things got ever so slightly weird when I started taking pictures of the lounge. I find that in North Africa and the Middle East, sometimes people will get weird about pictures, even if you are careful to avoid having any people appear in the shots.

I took some pictures of the overnight food buffet, and he came up to me very concerned. “You are taking pictures? Why?”

I explained that I just love to try different airlines, and this was my first time visiting the EgyptAir Lounge Cairo. At first I couldn’t tell if he was about to tell me to stop taking pictures, or what. But as we talked more, it became clear he was just a bit confused. He probably knew the buffet didn’t look particularly appealing at that hour, and was probably wondering what my motive was. Fair enough.

EgyptAir Lounge Cairo catering

A few hours later, I was pleasantly surprised when he came back up to me and said “you must take pictures now, it is set up for breakfast.” Clearly he just wanted to show off the best EgyptAir had to offer.

EgyptAir Lounge Cairo catering
EgyptAir Lounge Cairo catering
EgyptAir Lounge Cairo catering

In perhaps the oddest turn of events, he then asked if I could pose for a picture standing in front of the buffet. I complied with that request, so on Osama’s smartphone there’s a picture of me standing in front of the buffet. Why? I have no clue…

Bottom line

Spending the night at Cairo Airport was definitely the most unpleasant part of my review trip, especially after having taken a redeye the night before, and after not having gotten much sleep the night before that.

Unfortunately this was one of those situations where there wasn’t a great alternative — my layover was too short to get any real rest, and I couldn’t plan a longer stay in Cairo while still finding award availability for the remaining products I wanted to review.

On the plus side, Osama in the EgyptAir Almeisan Lounge made my stay all the more pleasant, with his warm hospitality. Often when lounge staff approach me about my picture taking, it’s to tell me to stop. In the case of Osama, he seemingly just wanted to show off the best the airline has to offer.

In a transit that was otherwise filled with a lot of rude people (especially the immigration officers during the transfer), Osama was a bright spot.

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  1. Allan Guest

    WORST AIRPORT EXPERIENCE!!!
    I was transiting thru CAI with Egypt Air from Paris to Madinah. Landed there around 10pm. I had a 2.5+hour layover. Wanted to freshen up before next leg. But the ****hole security guy won't let me go the the section of the airport where the lounges are. Zero English vocubolary. Supposedly my next flight leaves from Terminal S. So I can't use Lounge. Avoid CAI if possible.

  2. JetBlueFanboy Guest

    "You are taking pictures? Why?"
    I couldn't help but to have TAAG flashbacks after reading this. Those reviews were... quite something.

    Anyway, as others have said, it's always great to read/hear about great service.

  3. Steven Guest

    Lucky, did you consider asking him about the lounge temperature? It's likely turned down for the night because it was empty, but had you informed Osama that you found the room too cold, I'm pretty sure you'd have ended up sitting in a furnace, with blankets and nonstop cups of hot tea all night!

  4. Levi Diamond

    It's been a few days since this was posted... when are you planning to post the full reviews for the rest of the trip?

  5. Alan Guest

    During a quick connection that turned into a reroute seven hours later I was in a similar situation, and the LeM was completely booked due to some kind of event. I found my way to the Saudia lounge but there was nonpaid access available, and I actually sat down on the floor outside the lounge resigned to spending the night there. I looked up and realized there was a sheet of paper on a door...

    During a quick connection that turned into a reroute seven hours later I was in a similar situation, and the LeM was completely booked due to some kind of event. I found my way to the Saudia lounge but there was nonpaid access available, and I actually sat down on the floor outside the lounge resigned to spending the night there. I looked up and realized there was a sheet of paper on a door in front of me that said "TRANSIT HOTEL" Turns out there is a huge, brand new hotel right there in the terminal. Very nice, pretty high standard for something airside. It was about 80€ for up to eight hours.

  6. Jazzy Guest

    I totally agree with you. I recently traveled with Egyot Air, which was first time for me. But I find the services good and while reaching Cairo for a short layover, the staff were greeting with a smile and everything was great. While returning back to NYC, I shared the experience with my colleagues. I was skeptical traveling with EgyptAir but it turned great.

  7. Matt Guest

    Ben, you have a brutal schedule on these purely review trips. I can imagine you being exhausted and irritable. Does your exhaustion not play a role in how you perceive the service of flight or lounge attendants?

  8. BBK Diamond

    "In perhaps the oddest turn of events, he then asked if I could pose for a picture standing in front of the buffet. I complied with that request, so on Osama’s smartphone there’s a picture of me standing in front of the buffet. Why? I have no clue…" LOL
    For pieces like this I would never regret any minute spent reading your blog since a long time!

  9. ann Guest

    Headline: Millionaire refuses to spend $450 on a hotel, which would have been a business expense anyway

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      Millionaire?

    2. Ryan Guest

      He's rich because he doesn't waste money. That's how one gets rich, you know.

  10. Kai Guest

    Egyptians love taking pictures if tourists and with them. I ended up being asked to join in a few class & family photos

  11. Roundtree Member

    Maybe it's just because I don't do well with a sleep deficit, but the more I travel the more I prioritize things like departure times, layover length, etc. I'll pay more money or miles to get the flight times I need. And I just won't do a 7 hour layover in the middle of the night with no hotel option.

    Granted, you have a blog to run, so you have to make some sacrifices, but this sounds rough.

  12. Alan Diamond

    Hate to say it but Lucky you sound like such a wimp for someone who travels frequently. I always carry a small sleeping bag and in a pinch I can easily sleep almost anywhere - an empty lounge would have been heaven compared to an overnight Turkish ferry I took last October!

    1. YinDaoYan Diamond

      you sound like such a wimp

      Anon braggart commenter calling a multimillionaire who shows his face and identity a "wimp."

    2. Never In Doubt Guest

      I wish all the success to Ben on what is clearly a successful business, but "multimillionaire" is assuming facts not in evidence.

    3. YinDaoYan Diamond

      It's a public fact from a Rolling Stone feature from 7 or 8 years ago.

    4. Ryan Guest

      My thoughts exactly. Overnight in an empty lounge with an attendant eager to please is not to shabby for a long layover. I've certainly done much much worse.

  13. Dave Guest

    Yeah, no one names their kids Adolph anymore either. One guy can ruin it for everyone.

  14. Osama Guest

    It’s great to see the name “Osama” being rehabilitated

    1. YinDaoYan Diamond

      I would have changed my name immediately.

  15. RF Diamond

    It's good to see posts about great service.

  16. Donna Diamond

    It’s wonderful to hear of the kindness of strangers in a world that increasingly lacks civility.

    1. YinDaoYan Diamond

      It’s wonderful to hear of the kindness of strangers

      Yes it is

      in a world that increasingly lacks civility

      No evidence we're becoming any less civil, but plenty of evidence this perception has been going around for quite some time.

      One theory is that the baseline percentage of uncivil people has never changed, but as we grow older, we are exposed to cumulatively more people. Therefore, by the law of large numbers, we...

      It’s wonderful to hear of the kindness of strangers

      Yes it is

      in a world that increasingly lacks civility

      No evidence we're becoming any less civil, but plenty of evidence this perception has been going around for quite some time.

      One theory is that the baseline percentage of uncivil people has never changed, but as we grow older, we are exposed to cumulatively more people. Therefore, by the law of large numbers, we are bound to run into uncivil people later in life, giving us a falsely pessimistic image.

  17. Clem Diamond

    I posted a similar comment in the lounge review post itself, but this does match my experience from back in November in that lounge - except it was during the day and very busy! But the lounge attendants were super friendly and proactive the minute we stepped in, finding a seat for us and taking food/drink orders and checking on us regularly. Very very surprised by the great level of service!

  18. tom Guest

    My guess is it was an insurance pic.
    If you were to post online claiming the overnight pics of the buffet are the norm, then EgyptAir could counter that you took things out of context as they have a photo of you in front of the fully stocked buffet

    1. Levi Diamond

      I think at this point every airline employee is aware of the existence of bloggers/vloggers/tiktokers posting travel reviews, and likely also aware that there are a few of them who've found that content like "Ten reasons the EgyptAir lounge is a DISGRACE!" is what gets the views (and by extension the $$$)... I'm not going to name some of those reviewers, but if you follow this space, you can use your mind's eye. So if...

      I think at this point every airline employee is aware of the existence of bloggers/vloggers/tiktokers posting travel reviews, and likely also aware that there are a few of them who've found that content like "Ten reasons the EgyptAir lounge is a DISGRACE!" is what gets the views (and by extension the $$$)... I'm not going to name some of those reviewers, but if you follow this space, you can use your mind's eye. So if you were one of those (and Ben is one of the few that I'd say is about as far as one can get from both "this is what's a disaster about XYZ!" and "everything about XYZ is amazingly excellent because they're giving me all this behind-the-scenes access!" (not going to name names there either)), it makes sense that the airline would want to be ready in case it goes viral.

    2. Jimmy’s Travel Report Diamond

      After traveling for many years my observation is that most people have a good heart and nature. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule but I find that the exception is mostly rare. I find it is even more common for good people in the service side of the business. Having said this, a 6-9 hour layover is one I really try to avoid. It is not long enough to check into a hotel, and...

      After traveling for many years my observation is that most people have a good heart and nature. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule but I find that the exception is mostly rare. I find it is even more common for good people in the service side of the business. Having said this, a 6-9 hour layover is one I really try to avoid. It is not long enough to check into a hotel, and too long unless you have a killer high-end lounge. FWIW keep layovers to <5 hours, or 16 hours+. Now that you’re older and a father you need to take care yourself.

    3. Vancouver - Char Diamond

      yes - that 5 hours or less 16 hours or more (12? hours or more) but a 6-9 hours layover is more tricky

    4. Eskimo Guest

      @Levi

      Name names.
      Whistleblowing is a very 21st century American thing to do.

  19. Sean M. Diamond

    I've spent too many semi-nights in that lounge over the years. Usually the lounge staff just ignore you (perfect by me) as long as you don't set fire to the furniture.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Donna Diamond

It’s wonderful to hear of the kindness of strangers in a world that increasingly lacks civility.

7
RF Diamond

It's good to see posts about great service.

3
Clem Diamond

I posted a similar comment in the lounge review post itself, but this does match my experience from back in November in that lounge - except it was during the day and very busy! But the lounge attendants were super friendly and proactive the minute we stepped in, finding a seat for us and taking food/drink orders and checking on us regularly. Very very surprised by the great level of service!

3
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Review: EgyptAir Lounge Cairo Airport (CAI)