Tunisair Business Class: Where Paying Passengers Come Second

Filed Under: Other Airlines, Travel

Well, I guess my trip of shockingly good service had to take a turn for the worse eventually. After great flights on Saudia and Jet Airways, I just flew Tunisair from London to Tunis. The flight was just 2hr30min and was operated by an A320 with a typical European regional business class product, where you just get an economy seat with a blocked middle and better service… well, at least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

There were originally just five passengers in business class, but as soon as the door closed the captain moved a guy up from economy to business class.

Less than five minutes after takeoff — while we were climbing steeply and the seatbelt sign was turned on — two more people self upgraded from economy to business class, clearly with the permission of the crew, as they saw it happen.

Let me be clear about something — I’m all for airlines giving perks to employees and their families, as they deserve it. But I also think the published rules need to be followed, whatever they may be. If family of crew get unlimited business class upgrades on a space available basis, I say great for them. However, clearly this was outside the rules, since it was only done after the door closed.

But here’s the thing — if that were the end of the story I’d mind my own business. The problem is that the two guys who self upgraded right after takeoff have been talking really loudly the entire flight. That’s not to say you can’t talk loudly on a plane, but if you’re going to upgrade people outside of the rules, at least make sure they’re well behaved, in my opinion.

But much worse is the guy who was upgraded right after the door closed. I’m drafting this post “live” from the flight, and for the first 60 minutes of the flight the purser was sitting “on” the aisle seat in my row with her back to me, chatting with this guy. The only interaction with her I’ve had so far is seeing the back of her for an extended period of time.

He got served his meal 15 minutes after takeoff. An hour into the flight I hadn’t received any service or acknowledgment.

At that point I went to the lavatory, and saw the other flight attendant sitting in the galley playing with her phone. We made eye contact, and based on her reaction it was clear she didn’t realize I was even in the cabin. Then before I could even return to my seat, my meal was on my tray table.

She didn’t even let me finish the appetizer before she brought out the hot main course and put it on the tray next to me, probably a minute after I returned to my seat.

Of course in the meantime my tray has been sitting next to me empty for about 30 minutes, and we’ll soon be descending. Now the guy who was chatting with the purser the entire flight from his seat is in the galley talking to her.

I’ve pushed my call button twice to ask for some more water and a cup of coffee, but that has gone ignored.

It sure is a shame that Tunisair makes their crews fly with paying passengers. It seems really inconvenient. Maybe they should only accept friends & family as passengers going forward…

By the time this post publishes I’ll be flying them from Tunis to Montreal. I can’t wait to see what an eight hour flight on them is like.

  1. That’s just absolutely terrible. Would you say this is one of the worst experiences with a crew ever?

  2. It’s amazing to me that more airlines don’t know who you are. You have gotten a lot of press the last year and you publish your general itinerary weeks in advance. How do they not check to see when you are flying and tell their crews not to be absolutely wretched. Also, if airlines we’re better run your reviews would be less useful.

  3. I wonder what deference most airlines give to pilots upgrading friends and family, regardless official policy. I had a BA Captain upgrade me to Club Europe when the door closed after we were chatting on Grindr the night before and realized he would be flying my plane!

  4. It might be a national airline that the crew got a “golden rice bowl”, what we call in a communist country. LOL

  5. I didn’t think you were much for rules based on previous posts, but I guess you just meant only when it comes to you lol. Impressed that just through eye contact alone you managed to get your missing meal (although from the looks of things, I doubt it was worth the wait).

    Long and short of it is, this thing goes on all the time – just depends on the crew (and mostly importantly whose in charge – sounds like the senior supervisor was the one doing the in-flight upgrading). It’s what happens when people think the rules are just “suggestions”.

  6. I’m trying to understand your problem, honestly. But first you need to explain where did service fail to meet expectations for crew performance. 🙂

  7. I have heard the same stories over and over for Tunisair, rude staff, clapped out A330’s, staff giving themselves seats to relax in, having their food first.

    There is a good trip report on flyer talk and it looks like things have not changed much.

    Like you I think airline staff are welcomed to have upgrades, but be more discreet about it.
    I will probably never fly Tunisair and if I do just stick to Economy.

  8. You are hardly a “paying passenger” on most of the flights you take so I wouldn’t feel so offended if I were you.

  9. The “heads up” you’ve given them on your upcoming Tunis to Montreal flight should pay dividends for you. You’ll probably get white glove service on that one.

  10. @discount I believe he did pay for this one. And those using miles for tickets are indeed paying customers. Miles earned through flights or credit card payments are hardly free. And if you are using AA or UA or DL miles for a partner airline, rest assured that the partner is getting something in return.

  11. @BrewerSEA that so? Maybe I need to start chatting up pilots more and see if I could be so fortunate myself..

  12. @Charlie McMillan

    You need to read the post. READ THE POST. THERE WAS NO HEADS UP.

    “By the time this post publishes I’ll be flying them from Tunis to Montreal. I can’t wait to see what an eight hour flight on them is like.”

  13. Terrible service for sure but I honestly don’t think it as bad as that flight you took last year with China Eastern and the smoking pilots every 15 minutes. That was a wreckless disregard for premium passengers, this is a case of ignoring the premium passengers. Hopefully your next flight is better.

  14. That’s a damn shame, whether you paid the ticket in cash or miles. No excuse for that kind of service.

  15. That sucks. A similar situation presented to me a while ago on Aerolineas Argentina, where some crews may self upgrade someone from time to time (depending on the crew, as there are some great ones too). In my situation, the funny thing is that they didn’t load enough food for the “new guests” sitting in business class. And, as I was seating in the last row, the crew just served me the same as economy without even apologizing.

  16. @Josh.

    Why would Ben stay the night in Tunis?

    He doesn’t need a rug, and he doesn’t want to get shot.

    Have YOU ever been there?

  17. I don’t agree is “ok” to speak loud on an airplane. Same thing when talking loud on a cell phone while boarding.

    People need to be more respectful, especially when in close spaces… That includes noise and smell.

  18. It should make NO DIFFERENCE whether or not he paid for his flight or used points. Service should be the same for ALL passengers in the cabin. This “civil servant” type attitude where the entire air crew feels they don’t owe anybody anything is luckily going out the window. People are getting more conscious of what they should expect and when its not available they don’t fly that airline anymore! Countries with a lack of competition in aviation are more liable to have these problems. Perfect case in point is India before the aviation industry got thrown open in the 1990’s. I grew up in India and was flying regularly since 1958 and the kind of behavior witnessed on this flight was endemic all over Indian Airlines. Not any more!!!!

  19. The curious thing is that you take the time to write these remarks, but were apparently happy to have no service for an hour before doing basically nothing except looking at a flight attendant who then takes action.

    While nothing can excuse poor service, there would seem to be no reason that you couldn’t have got your meal when the first passenger did, instead you did nothing but take a photo, so I really don’t think there’s too much to complain about. Perhaps you should have changed airlines in Tunis to say, Emirates and received better service.

    I hope the flight to Canada was better and respectfully suggest that next time things like this occur you get out of your seat immediately and look for the cabin crew so you can get the service you expect/pay for.

    This seems a “relatively” minor issue like your recent post about the Korean Airlines NYC lounge. In that case, most people would leave the lounge for the public toilet and then, happily relieved, return to the lounge explaining why they had to do so.

  20. @william yes I have indeed been to Tunis. Not the most exciting place in the world, but worth a day or two if you are passing through.

  21. Get off your high horse about following the “published rules.” You don’t know their story on exactly why they moved up classes. Relax

  22. I flew Tunisair Business Class two months ago on their new A330 & the service was excellent. Like every airline, restaurant, hotel, etc., the staff working that day truly determine the service levels. It’s true that the planes, particularly their A320 are quite dusty / dirty inside and they really didn’t invest in the best seats in the market but the service was genuine and hospitable. Tunis is fun and I had a great four days there exploring the city and the roman towns further to the south.

    Don’t tar & feather the country for a single incident of shooting four years ago: if so, people would never visit the US either! As an Aussie, I thoroughly enjoyed North Africa and felt very safe in Tunis.

  23. I’m assuming you flew business on them for a short flight because it was included in your mileage redemption? Anything under 4 or 5 hours I wouldn’t bother with a First or Business class redemption.

  24. Oh! Wow! Such a terrible experience. Come on, you just got a slightly late service. Don’t be such a diva 🙂

  25. Ben you should have intervened and scolded them. You are a paying passenger. Explained to them they were being too loud. You fly so much that if anyone ever deserves to go off on an airline employee it’s you.

    I had a terrible flight once shortly after the US Airways American merger.
    Instead of flying from LAX to Boston I opted to change planes in CLT and fly directly in to MHT where my dad lives instead. So after a two hour layover and redeye into CLT. I flew in First on an embraer regional jet to MHT. No pillows or blankets and after takeoff an off duty employee moved up front and they were speaking very loudly. I asked them to keep it down and they immediately did. I was well dressed and maybe they thought I was going to report them. They didn’t even check the manifest to realize I was on a buddy pass.

  26. Boo Hoo Hoo, another cry baby post. So stop flying around the world and do something productive with your life. Most of us fly not as an end but as a mean. Flying for you is the end, not the mean. Grow up and stop thinking your entitled to the Elite Club

  27. @ Travel With Leo — It was a cash ticket, but yes, I was on a single ticket from London to Montreal.

  28. @ John Clements — The reason I take these trips is to review the experience. My priority isn’t eating the first second possible, but rather seeing how long stuff would take naturally, etc. After an hour I figured I’d take it into my own hands.

  29. @ DiscountEconomyFlyer — Alrighty, if that’s what you’d like to think, but this was a cash ticket.

  30. @ Josh — I did spend a night there, which is the most I could on that fare. Had a great time, though only so brief.

  31. That sucks …i also had a terrible experience on south African air… just leave an awful in your mouth …after paying so much for terrible service

  32. @marc you are the crybaby it seems. You read his blog for a reason.

    It is disgusting and disrespectful to behave like that and the crew should be reprimanded.

  33. Fair enough Lucky, i can see that angle too. Hope the other flight was better- thx for the response.

  34. I wonder why people have to leave negative and quite personal comments on this blog. Most times I enjoy the posts but when not I certainly don’t feel the need to bag people. I wasn’t aware that it was compulsory to read this free information. Relax everyone ☺

  35. Sounds par for the course for a north African airlines. Never flew Tunisair, but had similar experiences with Air Maroc.

  36. It’s completely your fault… who in their right mind would fly such a terrible “airline”. If this happens in the cabin what could possibly be going on in the cockpit! UGH…

  37. @Lucky: Great review of their a320 product, I can’t wait to see the a330 review. The food looked decent, but why no mention of any alcohol? Were they dry?

  38. “I had a BA Captain upgrade me to Club Europe when the door closed after we were chatting on Grindr the night before and realized he would be flying my plane!”

    Just think…a BJ could have gotten you into first!

  39. @Bri

    “…i also had a terrible experience on south African air… just leave an awful in your mouth …after paying so much for terrible service”

    One should avoid flying SAA at all costs. One of the worst airlines service-wise. And on domestic/short-haul within southern Africa they are the worst, even in business class. I only fly British Airways when flying domestic/short-haul within southern Africa if BA is an option. SAA is the “last resort” carrier for me (and a lot of friends).

  40. Unless there is turbulence, there us no reason to wait an hour after takeoff for service. No matter what class of service you are in, the Golden Rule should apply. Treat others,as you want to be treated. All cabin crew would loudly complain if this happened to them or their family member. In the US we cringe at crew shaming, but maybe this needs to happen to improve service, consistency and accountability. I hope you have a much better flight on the next one! Otherwise write the company and don’t fly them again if no resolution or response.

  41. I for one thank you for posting your reviews, be they positive or negative. I learn from them. Such is the case with this review about your experience on Tunisair. Your not-so-positive recounting of a particular experience allows me to be prepared if I ever encounter service like this, and realize what I would do or not do. You have educated me.
    What makes me truly nauseous, however, is reading the comments by negative trolls who use personal attacks to make themselves look or feel…what…better? It saddens me that there are so many people online who have such ugliness inside and have lost all sense of civility.

  42. Hello,
    I must agree that Tunisair service is really bad but the one exception is their long haul from Tunis to Montreal . I don t know what it is but I took the that route twice in 2017 and I must say it compares favorably with air France, air Canada
    I think you will be shocked by how good it is

  43. Ben is 100% in the right here. While it might be a touch hypertechnical in delivery, the point is that non revs should always be behind paying (cash, miles, contest winner, whatever) in getting meal choices and the service levels delivered to Ben were CO short haul level appalling.

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