Review: Cairo Airport Ahlan VIP Service

Introduction
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Cairo Airport Ahlan VIP Service
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US Airways Business Class A330 Frankfurt To Philadelphia


For a bit of background, I had flown into Cairo on Etihad’s redeye flight in business class, which I’ve reviewed before, so I won’t write about it again.

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Etihad A320 business class cabin

I then stayed at Le Meridien Cairo Airport, which I’ve also reviewed before. I had an identical experience, so won’t write about it again, other than to say that it’s one of my favorite airport hotels in the world.

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Le Meridien Cairo Airport Panoramic Suite living room

In Cairo I met up with two German friends, as the three of us were flying from Cairo to Doha to Frankfurt together. We were booked on the 6:40PM flight from Cairo to Doha.

But this time we decided to mix things up in terms of departing Cairo Airport. My friend Sven had arranged for us to use the “Ahlan Exclusive Service,” which is Cairo Airport’s VIP ground handling service you can pay extra for.

Ahlan-VIP

Not to be a drama queen, but the normal Cairo Airport departure experience is actively unpleasant, between the horrible queues for immigration and security (not sure you can even call them “queues,” since it’s just people shoving as hard as they can) and the awful themed Cairo Airport VIP Lounge. (the lounge has “English,” “Italian,” and “American” sections, though I’m not sure which part is supposed to be which).

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Cairo Airport VIP Lounge Terminal 1

So we figured we’d give the VIP Service a try.

The confusion started when we left Le Meridien and asked to be driven to the Ahlan Exclusive Service building. The driver had no clue where that was, so we had to phone the Ahlan phone number so that they could give directions to the driver.

The Ahlan Exclusive Service building is just to the left of Terminal 1, and it’s huge. I’m not sure what’s actually in the building above the first floor, though it’s oddly impressive given that Terminal 1 otherwise sort of looks like a big trailer.

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Cairo Airport Ahlan VIP Service building

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Cairo Airport Ahlan VIP Service building

Once inside the building you first have to go through security. It’s not an actual “sterile area” screening, but rather they just scan your bags to make sure there are no weapons, etc. Once inside the lobby we headed to the reception desk on the right, where we had to pay for the service.

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Cairo Airport VIP service entrance

Here’s the pricing list for the service:

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As you can see, Egyptians pay half as much as foreigners, and “servants” only have to pay $25. Despite me carrying bags for all three of us, I unfortunately didn’t qualify as a servant. ­čśë

So the cost was $100 per person, which I charged to my Chase Sapphire Preferred — interestingly it didn’t count as a travel purchase, so I didn’t earn any bonus points (though at least I didn’t have to pay any foreign transaction fees).

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I did love the Ahlan service brochure, especially the part about how their services “should contradict with the security regulations, overweight or customs fees.” Guess I should have brought more bags to check. ­čśë

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Once our payment was squared away — which took about 10 minutes — we were escorted into the actual lounge, which was to the left.

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Cairo Airport VIP service entrance

This isn’t the Lufthansa First Class Terminal, and for that matter it’s not even nice compared to many business class lounges. But comparatively speaking, it’s so damn peaceful, unlike the terminal.

The lounge consisted of a single long hall, with some seating in the middle area.

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Cairo Airport Ahlan Service Lounge

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Cairo Airport Ahlan Service Lounge

There was a manned desk near the entrance.

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Cairo Airport Ahlan Service Lounge

Then at the other end of the lounge is more seating, the dining area, as well as the exit you go through when it’s time to catch your flight.

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Cairo Airport Ahlan Service Lounge

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Cairo Airport Ahlan Service Lounge

In addition to the main lounge area there are a handful of private rooms. We were escorted into one, which had a bunch of seating. It was actually really nice, with a flat screen TV and seating for about a dozen people.

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Cairo Airport Ahlan Service private room

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Cairo Airport Ahlan Service private room

Once inside the room, the associate took our passports to go check us in and deal with immigration formalities for us.

I headed over to the buffet to take a look at the food spread, which didn’t look appetizing in the least. The food was quite similar to what’s on offer in the standard Cairo Airport VIP Lounge. That being said, this lounge isn’t about luxury, but rather about convenience.

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Cairo Airport Ahlan Service food selection

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Cairo Airport Ahlan Service Lounge food selection

I simply ordered a Coke Light, which was served in a can with a straw.

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Cairo Airport Ahlan Service Lounge drink

We hung out in the lounge for about 45 minutes. I tried to get some work done on my laptop, though the wifi was on the (very) slow side. It was still usable for email, etc., but don’t expect to watch any YouTube videos.

At around 5:45PM we were fetched, as our flight was ready for boarding. The associate had our passports and boarding passes waiting for us.

Immigration formalities had already been taken care of, so we simply exited, went through a private security channel, and were directed into a Hyundai, which would be driving us to the plane.

Terminal 1 flights all leave from remote stands, and while we were checked in for our flight, we didn’t show as boarded. So we had a driver and an “escort” taking us to the plane.

We first had to drive to the actual gate (from which they bus passengers), where the escort had to get our boarding passes scanned. That was sort of funny, since it resulted in quite a bit of honking due to us blocking the service road, though there was nowhere else for us to park. We also got several mean glares from people crammed in the buses.

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Driving to plane Cairo Airport

A short three minute drive later we arrived at the stairs of our Qatar Airways 777-300ER, which would be taking us to Doha.

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Driving to plane Cairo Airport

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Driving to plane Cairo Airport

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Driving to plane Cairo Airport

We boarded through the forward stairs, where we were the first aboard (shortly thereafter a bus arrived to load passengers via the rear stairs).

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Qatar Airways 777-300ER Cairo Airport

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Qatar Airways 777-300ER Cairo Airport

Cairo Airport Ahlan VIP Service bottom line

Is this some exclusive experience whereby you’ll be served chateaubriand and Krug and then you’ll be driven to your plane in a Porsche? Nope.

But it’s really, really convenient. To some degree I think you have to experience Cairo Airport to fully appreciate how much value this service adds.

Not only does this save time, but it saves a lot of aggravation as well. It’s rare that I get worked up at airports given that I seemingly spend half my life at them, though the last time I transited Cairo Airport I felt myself getting more stressed than I’ve been at any other airport lately.

Meanwhile by using the Ahlan VIP Service I had a stress free start to the journey. I’d consider this a no brainer if they charged the $50 fee even to non-Egyptians, though even at $100 I think it’s probably worth it, and I would probably use it again.

Do you see value to services like this, and would you like to see it expand to more airports?

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Comments

  1. Yipee.. my favorite review! The flight I’m planning to take this service with leaves from T3, so it’s a hit or miss since if it leaves from a gate they’d get me to the gate in a club car rather than a tarmac drive (which is always appreciated ­čśë )

    Thank you Lucky for the review, helpful as always!

  2. I will always use a service like this in certain non-US airports (Hello, Indonesia!).

    Thanks for this tip. Should I ever find myself in Cairo, I would absolutely sign up for this service. I can handle uncertainty and change, no problem. Chaos? Not so much.

  3. Personally I think I would be really stressed out sitting in the lounge if I hadn’t had any direct contact with the staff of the airline I was flying, and would be worried that my passport got lost or the agent forgot to go get me checked in. I think I’m even getting a panic attack sitting here at my computer at the idea of sitting in an international airport lounge without my passport in my possession for an extended period of time.

  4. @ lucky — The “Italian” section is clearly the area made to look like an outdoor cafe, replete with ashtrays. Clearly.

    @ Bgriff — Don’t transit between airlines at Cairo then. I’ve done it, and the immigration officers call a man using their cell phones who takes your passport away, sends you off to the lounge/retail area, and tells you to come back “just before flight” to reclaim your passport and get your boarding pass.

  5. One quick question: Do you know if one can use this service if one has checked luggage for any carrier? Will Ahlan see to it that checked luggage goes to the correct carrier and tagged correctly?

    Apropos of nothing, this post inspired me to start looking into a service for an upcoming trip to Jakarta, and I found a company that provides this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35NMKej5uuc&app=desktop While part of me loves the idea of the expediency, as a human being who was born with a shame gene, I just…can’t. I don’t think.

    I suppose if I were to use this service it would be on the condition that we lose the police escort as well as any and all sirens two blocks before we arrive at the hotel. Hm. I think I’ve solved my problem. If I do it, I’ll report back.

    Anyway, thank you for letting me make this all about me! ­čÖé And seriously, keep up the great work, Ben.

  6. We travelled thru Cairo in Feb & can attest to the messy process to get thru terminal one at Cairo International. We actually lucked out by talking to a janitor
    At the terminal, he spoke English and after a $5 tip he pushed his way thru the crowd with my wife & I in tow. I tipped the officer at the entrance & we were in!

    My wife was totally terrified with the process, looking back on it the janitor really
    Took care of us. Really an amazing experience looking back on it. I would definitely use the VIP service knowing the difficulty to negotiate that God awful
    Terminal!

    We flew into Amman, Jordan to meet a tour group. Really liked Jordan & the people there. I would really like to see the pyramids at some point do

  7. @ TravelinWilly — Yep, they’ll check your bags for you. And OMG, there’s a VIP service that provides police escort?!?! Count me in! ­čśÇ

  8. Yes Lucky you can get police escort for CGK, for a fee. It can be a boon in peak traffic if you have tight timelines. It’s not uncommon for Indonesian police to perform secondary jobs in uniform and use issued equipment – they are fairly relaxed about such things.

    I have to say you’ve sort of killed any enthusiasm for a Cairo visit, but if I did I’d certainly make use of the VIP service. I wish such options were available at more airports – I’d happily give a hundred or so not to experience delays greater than a few minutes in getting to the lounge or getting onto the aircraft (anything that reduces the stress of travel is an absolute boon!).

  9. I attempted to use this service for a transfer at CAI from an incoming international flight to a domestic flight. I reserved the service on their webpage and received a confirmation. No one was there to meet me at arrival. Never again. At least I didn’t pre-pay.

  10. I’m heading to Cairo for the first time this November, so this post was especially on fleek (as was the QR 777-300 business class review). Thanks!

  11. I will be in Egypt with my family soon and they told me it would be 2x $250 for the incoming int’l / outgoing domestic service. . Essentially that is an extra $250 for simply taking us by car to the domestic flight since all of the other benefits are already part of the incoming fee! I told them that it was too much and that I would use their service for some additional amount, but not that much. No dice.

    @MSPpete, I know Ahlan didn’t show, but how much did they quote you for the transfer?

  12. Terminal 1 remains something of a challenge but is quite manageable if one can deal with a bit a chaos and considerable “colour and movement”
    Terminal 3 is very easy for Star alliance arrivals: fewer touts, agents and hangers-on allowed in the arrivals area than in the past; a designated *Gold immigration line ( although the gate keepers of that (very short) queue initially tried to turn me away from it ( arriving on MS from Munich in Y but TG Gold) but relented when Inpointed to the sign and flashed the card.
    So visa sticker from bank booth ( $25 US cash, Australian passport), through immigration and over the walkway to Le Meridien in 15 minutes from touchdown.
    Departure from Terminal 1, looks worse than it is but could be confronting for those not familiar with older style airports and the rubbery queues. To get into the terminal luggage is X-rayed, then again to get to the Qatar checkin desk ( a tiny space) to the sharp left of the terminal entrance, then hand carry checked again after immigration, then again to get into the departure gate.
    I wouldn’t use the “VIP” service: the so-called first class lounge (English, Italian, American) is kind of fun ( in a dreadful way).
    So long as Qatar is offering cheap J deals ex Cairo I’m happy to put up with the eccentricities/frustrations of the airport. The Egyptians are working on making it better but very much a work in progress.

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