A (Mostly) Dry Trip: EgyptAir, Royal Jordanian, And Royal Brunei Business Class!

Earlier today I wrote about my seven favorite airlines I flew for the first time in 2016. I’ve really loved trying new airlines, so in 2017 am hoping to review even more new and interesting airlines than I have this year.

I’m also making a point of trying to visit as many new countries as possible, and in 2017 am hoping to make it to my 100th country (I’ll have a separate post with my progress towards that).

With that in mind, I’ve planned my first major trip of 2017, which I’m really excited about! I think some of you will be interested in the airlines as well.

EgyptAir 777 business class

First I’ll be flying from North America to Cairo in EgyptAir business class. I have pretty low expectations of EgyptAir — they’re a dry airline, I’ve heard service is hit or miss, and apparently their pilots give China Eastern a run for their money on the smoking front. EgyptAir has a ton of very reasonable business class fares between North America and Europe, so let’s see how good of an option they really are.

Royal Jordanian 787 business class

From Cairo I’ll be picking up a cheap Royal Jordanian business class fare to Asia. The best part is that even though it’s a one-way ticket, I’ll have a stopover in Amman, so can visit for a few days. I’ve never been to Jordan, so am looking forward to visiting.

This will also be my first time flying Royal Jordanian since the flight that made me scared of flying. I said I wouldn’t fly Royal Jordanian again, but I think I’ve conquered my fear enough, and it’s time to give them another try.

Royal-Jordanian-787-Business-Class-1

Royal Brunei 787 business class

From Asia I’ll be picking up a cheap business class fare to Dubai via Bandar Seri Begawan. Best of all the fare allows a stopover in Brunei. While I’ve been wanting to review the airline, I’m especially excited that this fare allows a stopover in a city I might not otherwise ever visit.

Royal Brunei’s flight from Bandar Seri Begawan to Dubai to London is an interesting one, so being able to do the first part of that in business class on a cheap ticket is exciting.

Getting back to the U.S.

I’m still trying to figure out how to get from Dubai back to the U.S., and am trying to decide between a few options, including business class on Middle East Airlines, Ethiopian, Emirates, Etihad, and Kuwait. I’ll have a separate post about that altogether.

Has anyone flown longhaul on EgyptAir, Royal Jordanian, or Royal Brunei? What should I expect?

Comments

  1. I’m from Brunei if you have any questions Ben. I highly recommend staying in The Empire Hotel when you’re there.

  2. Flew RJ to Israel from US via Amman. Was not particularly impressed by Amman. Though had a great Lebanese dinner (dry) at a place recommended by the Hyatt concierge. Protip: Do not assume you can walk around Amman just because everything looks close on a flat google maps image.

    As for the 787 business class, I got one of my better sleeps I’ve ever gotten (though that is frequently a personal taste as to how you like your bed, among other things). Food was not good on plane but the crew was very nice. They also have no clue how to pour a scotch. Note: They fill the glass.

    The Amman Club was ok comfort-wise but the food was not good and beverage options likewise lacking.

    But otherwise it was a great use of AAdvantage miles to get to Israel.

  3. @ R — Awesome, thanks for the tip! Was thinking of doing the Radisson. If I have limited time and want to sightsee, which hotel has a better location, in your opinion? Appreciate your insights!

  4. Sounds like a great trip but are you sure it’s wise to a) fly EgyptAir and b)fly out of Cairo? Not sure they have fixed all their security problems there.

  5. I would love to see a review of Etihad’s latest business suite product if that is an option for returning to the US? Might be hard knowing how close those First apartments are though!!

  6. How about DXB-AMM-TLV then ElAl back to the US from there? Maybe just add Israel to the trip once you’re in the area and make it your 101st country.

  7. Have done the TLV-AMM flight several times, great use of Avios, since it is terribly expensive for such a short flight. I have used that flight to position for EY and EK flights as they do not serve TLV (for obvious political reasons). Also have used LCA as a positioning airport for TLV as well. The RJ crown lounge, while very nice looking, is not all that exciting and the only airline operated lounge at AMM. It’s also a Priority Pass lounge too. Visit Petra in Jordan if you can! And its easy to cross over to Israel from there too to stay in Eilat.

  8. @ JoshR — Hoping to do EL AL soon (have a specific idea for trying them), but they have no award availability around my dates.

  9. When are you doing this? If it’s before late Feb, fly Virgin from Abu Dhabi to Sydney, then fly out Brisbane or Sydney to Los Angeles! This way you can test their new reverse herringbone seats.

  10. You may technically visit 100 countries, but you really don’t experience them in my opinion. You jump from a first class flight to a 5 star hotel. And then you tend to stay only for a few hours or a day. I hope your 5 hour layover in Delhi this year also doesn’t count towards those 100 countries, because that would be a joke.

  11. make sure that in Jordan you don’t just go to Amman. The real thing to see in Jordan is petra and wadi rum, which is a few hours away from Amman and worth 2-3 days. There’s nothing in Amman that’s particularly noteworthy.

  12. Some of the best networking opportunities can be found on EgyptAir, Royal Jordanian, and Royal Brunei flights

  13. Royal Jordanian onboard service stunk but I will say the quality of the catering tastes home made and everything was delicious. Better than ME3 /SQ or CX. They roll a cart down and serve you (air India 1st class style ). They have great ground service as well with desperate private security for Business /Emerald. Inflight entertainment was weak and I don’t remember if there was wifi. Overall a nice flight due to the food and the classy looking 787 but no reverse herringbone and poor attitudes means it may not be Luckys fav! Come home on one of those dirt cheap EX-Cairo emirates fares. 4500 BA Avios to go AMM-CAI

  14. If you only have a few days in Amman and no time to go to Petra and Wadi Rum (a pity if you can’t!) then a day trip or an overnight at one of the Dead Sea Resort hotels, such as Marriott or Mowenpick, would be well worth your while. I liked the Marriott in Amman if you are deciding on an hotel there.

  15. @ IMO — Appreciate your opinion. I’ve spent about two weeks in India, and look forward to returning again soon.

  16. @Lucky – best price to fly ElAl to the US (if you would like to pay for a ticket). I take the direct out of LA to TLV often but it is very expensive for premium cabins. Boston seems to be the cheapest premium cabin out of the US on ElAl (they only do LAX, JFK, EWR and BOS).

  17. @Luck – if you do go to TLV, make sure to spend a night at the Waldorf in Jerusalem. Great property and not too many Hilton points.

  18. Just flew RJ’s 787 biz class from HKG to AMM via BKK. wasn’t impressed at all as the service was lacking, food kinda crappy and their beds- super small. Qatar’s regional Boeing 773s do a much better job than RJ’s 787. Would
    Not recommend. You can check out my review when searching my page. Vol The Travel App

  19. Ben — Brunei is fantastic and spending 4 days there was a highlight of my travels this year (14 countries and all continents except Antarctica). Didn’t see a single other traveler for 3 of those 4 days. Definitely spend the money for at least a day or two to rent a car from Avis (they’ll meet you at the airport) as some of the highlights can’t be easily visited without a vehicle. Truly wonderful people.

  20. I’m also wanting to hear comments on Egyptian Air business as I was looking at flying them back from JNB via CAI. I think I have talked myself out of it. Too many issues with security etc.

  21. Just flew last week on Egyptair business class on their 330 and 738 with transit in Cairo. It is not a First Class service as on Qatar for example, but it is still nice, with very helpful crew. I like their stickers they give for display in order to be woken up for meal or not to be disturbed while sleeping.

    The lounge Gienah in Terminal 3 in Cairo, which is the terminal used by Egyptair, is terrible in my opinion, small and cramped. Egyptair has several lounges throughout the terminal instead of one large unique lounge. Not sure if the Priority Pass lounge is better, I will try to check it out next week.

    Security in Cairo is good. On transit there is a first check with a scanner. At the gate a thorough check with another scanner and then on the jetway random checks.

    I have to admit that I chose Egyptair business class as they have very good fares to the Middle East. IFE on the plane is not that special with not that many movies and the 738 offers a limited recline. Next week I will travel on 738 from Madrid, I wish I could get a 777 or a 330 (the 330 is not that special either, but seats offer an almost lie-flat seat).

  22. Ethiopian from DXB-ADD on their A350 and onwards to LAX via DUB?
    Recently saw that ET also has an A350 on their ADD-LHR route.

    Do their A350’s have the same hardware as the 787’s?

  23. Lucky – you didn’t specify how long your stopover in Amman was, but if you have 2-3 days and want to unplug, I would suggest bypassing Amman and going straight to the Dead Sea for some R&R. There’s a new Hilton I havent tried yet, alongside a reasonably good Kempinski. My personal favourite Dead Sea hotel is an jnlikely choice in the Jordan Valley Marriott Resort. You can easily do a day trip to Petra, which is just soectacular and be back in time for a weightless float in the Dead Sea. My review if it helps:
    http://travelhighlife.com/hotels/jordan-valley-marriott-resort-spa-dead-sea-a-place-to-relax-and-unwind/

    If Amman is your confirmed destination, I would suggest trying one of the club rooms at the Sheraton. Its in a fairly central location and I find it has better service than the tired Four Seasons across the street. Sadly the St Regis wont be open for another year. The reviewer who mentioned that Amman is not a walking city was spot on, but you can easily get around by basing yourself in the 5th circle (Amman, like Rome is built on 7 hills – or circles as theyre referred to). Make Rainbow street a stopoff point and visit Cantaloupe for lunch and amazing views over the citadel. You can also pop into the Jordan River Foundation’s artisan store nearby to pick up some great handcrafts in support of their social mobility initiative. And if youre looking for a superlative Lebanese meal and jight out, go to Fakhredin where they serve a mean mix grill and mezze (with alcohol). The best in Amman by a mile. Have a great time!

  24. I’ve been to Amman a few times. Not much to see. By all means do a day-trip to Petra. You won’t be disappointed! I normally stay at the Sheraton in Amman, though I’ve stayed at the Hyatt, too (Sheraton is better IMO.)

  25. @lucky

    The Royal Brunei A320s have WiFi. The raddison is in the city and is will in walking distance to most things. You might want to order a hotel car as taxis from the airport are expensive and non existent.

  26. Flew BI on their 763 ZRH BWN. J was excellent for the time and may even have had a flat bed (this was 1992/3) and was one of the first carriers to have AVOD (the Thales system). F/A were usual FE service levels and there was a distinct Brit influence in things like afternoon tea which had its own distinct little teaspoon. Dont remember the food so may have been UK influenced too (lol). I would definitely try the 788 in J and Brunei is a sleepy little backwater (different from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding countries).

  27. I personally think the dry airlines are underrated especially in the blogosphere. I rarely drink and don’t think I need alcohol to enjoy a flight so my perspective may be biased. I’ll admit it’s been a lot easier finding award space on dry airlines than airlines known for premium spirits in its drink menu 😉
    I’m particularly interested in reading your review of Brunei’s 787 business class offering. Have fun! Also, I hope you do try Mahan Air and Iran Air as well, which I believe are both dry airlines.

  28. I spent a week in Jordan earlier this month. Please don’t stay in Amman, unless you simply can’t get enough of urban traffic jams. You’re as close to the airport at one of the Dead Sea resorts—I stayed at the Marriott and loved it. You absolutely should try to find time to make it down to Petra. I stayed at the Marriott there, and it was very nice, but it’s 15 minutes outside of town, and the Crowne Plaza is right by the site. After Petra, my favorite place was Jerash. I’ve seen plenty of Roman ruins, but Jerash is special.

    I drove myself around, which isn’t too difficult for English speakers, but I know that’s not your style.

  29. I flew egypt air business class a lot to KUL from CAI as it is cheap. They have a solid full flat product, but no alcohol. Just buy champaign in the duty free and they’ll serve it to you. Like this you’ll be the only one with booze and the others will be your best friends! Awesome 😉

  30. @Lucky – I would actually avoid staying at Empire in Brunei unless you want to experience tacky 90’s luxury and bland food. Plus it is far away from Bandar Seri Begawan so if you’re intent on exploring the city, then id stay closer to town. You really only need a day in Brunei to cover the place unless you want to head into the jungle and nature hiking.

    Also, if you’re in Dubai why not head up the road to AUH and take Etihad A380 residence to Mumbai like you were pondering the other day? Seems like the perfect opportunity.

  31. Forget Emirates, Etihad and Qatar. Try something new like Kuwait or Middle East.

    If you didn’t like the smoke on China Eastern, you won’t like the lounge at AMM. Also, be sure to shower at your hotel since they charge $15 for a shower at the AMM lounge and it ain’t too clean.

  32. You haven’t actually reviewed Emirates A380 business class yet, so I guess most of us would be excited to read about that. If the prospect of being on a plane with a shower suite without having access hurts too much, try AUH-IAD first/business on the Etihad 787-9 or DXB-AMD on the Emirates 777 and AMD-LHR-EWR on Air India.

  33. @Lucky Pretty easy to get El Al F awards. Any travel agent can waitlist them. Usually clear on any midweek or day flight to/from NYC

  34. Brunei is a very homophobic country, with homosexuality being punishable by imprisonment and death, so please, be careful!

  35. I traveled return on Royal Brunei business class in January from Melbourne to London. Firstly the beds are a good length and width, I am 6ft 1inch and had no trouble lying flat out in it.

    The flight was very comfortable and the staff are well trained very professional and efficient. The food was of good quality with a great selection and you can order it any time you want. I did notice that it changed for each leg of the flight which just added to the variety. Just remember its a dry airline, so order the ginger beer and pretend.

    Love to see what you think of the sky lounge in Brunei – its a little different, though I loved it.

    Flying to London again in a month and after my experience they were my first pic for the journey.

  36. Israel! You keep visiting these homophobic countries – visit the one place in the Middle East where gays can live free as themselves.

  37. @Lucky – glad to hear you’re trying to get LY / Israel in the works, finally! Look forward to reading that review, and hoping you get to spend some time in the country.

  38. How about this for the return?

    DXB-Casablanca on EK A380 J class (something that you havent reviewed yet)
    Casablanca – Europe
    Europe- US

    (and yes Casablanca to be served by EK A380 soon)

  39. Ben, I would recommend you take ET from DXB to ADD on their new A350.
    From ADD you may opt to fly to EWR via LFW or take the routing tonLAX via Dublin.

  40. I’m a frequent traveller to Brunei. Definitely stay at The Empire, it is a palace like, beach resort. The Radisson is situated in town, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be disappointed. The Empire all the way! You’ll get some peace and quite.

  41. Plzzz. Ben take the Emirates flight in business class back to the US. I am dying for yr review on Emirates business class and a comparison of it with QR business class as it will be very interesting. Emirates as a brand is very famous but i know they lack alot and can improve their business class so plz give us a review

  42. @Roberto

    I doubt Ben is planning on cruising the streets of Bander Seri Begawan, though that would allow for a fascinating addition to the trip report.

  43. @Wolfgang ET A350 has the latest hardware, same as their three newest 787 (ET-ATJ, ET-ATK, ET-ATL) from 2016.

    ET has now 3(!) different business class hardware on their 787.

  44. Ben, what if you travelled from BWN-MEL (also operated by the 787) instead of DXB and from MEL-LAX via SYD with VA’s 777? IMO that’d be more interesting than any other Middle Eastern airline you could potentially review

  45. @Lucky, the Empire Hotel isn’t really located inside the city (centre) of BSB. No doubt it is a sight in itself, though for you, with your experience of so many hotels, you may not find the grandeur anything special. I would actually recommend the Radisson – it is not an especially amazing hotel, very much geared towards business travellers. The lounge is decent, the restaurant and breakfast borderline acceptable for Asian standards. But if your stopover is short (mine was just over 24 hours), it is a great place to be based in.

    BSB city centre is very compact. With the Radisson at the edge of the inner city, it only takes ~10 minutes to walk to the ?river, where you can visit the floating village, etc. Of course, there are a few sights along the way. If you turn the other way (and walk away from the river), there’s a park (Tasek Lama) around 5-10 minutes from the hotel (the Radisson provides a map for morning jogs – just follow that map), which can make for a decent walk too. The very large mosque (Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah) can also be reached on foot, but I’d recommend a (reasonably cheap) taxi instead. 30 minutes ish from the Radisson on foot.

    While in town, I’d also recommend having dinner at Kaizen Sushi on the riverfront. Excellent sunset views (make sure you book a window seat in advance) and excellent value as well.

    I found BSB a nice place to just have a very relaxing day with not much to do.

  46. Oh, and don’t forget to make sure you change all your Bruneian dollars back to Singaporean dollars (1:1; mutually accepted only in Brunei and Singapore) before you leave the country! I found that most shops and taxi drivers were quite accommodating and did try to give me as much change in Singaporean dollars as possible.

  47. As you have already reviewed Etihad business class an Emirates (A380) business class review would be great. (A trip report about your Laos and Cambodia journey would also be very nice.;-))

  48. @Lucky – haha my bad on that, I wish you posted more on your time spent in the country, not just the first class airlines and hotels

  49. Kuwait are flying the 777 from Kuwait to Heathrow 3x weekly so… You could fly either business or first there. To get there you could fly with FlyDubai maybe? And from Heathrow you could fly to Dublin and then to JFK or LAX with Aer Lingus. I know it’s a bit unorthodox but you could review many new products that way.

  50. Just to follow up others – why not Rwandair to Kigali? Then return from Cairo to USA for cheaper Business fare on EK, which gives you an opportunity to try both 77W and 380 and also review the newly renovated Business Class Lounge at Concourse B in DXB. I think many of the readers here would love to see you reviewing EK C 🙂

  51. @Lucky: I would suggest trying Air Algérie (AH) on the way back from DXB to North America (YUL to be precise). I seems you have to stop at least for one night in ALG, which requires a visa, but one of my friends recently visited and was excited … so perhaps even stop for two nights …

    As far as the AH J product is concerned, it seems to be reversed heringbone on their (new) A330, although I couldn’t find a confirmation that all of their A330s have the same …

    In terms of fares, the ALG-YUL segment is quite competitively priced if you have to pay a cash fare. Unfortunately there’s no AH throughfare from DXB, which means you have to combine two AH oneway or use a IATA fare – which both are a bit pricey … I’m not aware of any FFP you could use for redemption, except their own.

  52. So, I flew RJ from Chicago to Amman in October. It was not an experience I wish to ever repeat. I can understand apathetic and milquetoast service. People just don’t want to do their jobs? Whatever. But I’m very much staying away from Royal Jordanian forever. Rude doesn’t begin to cover the crew at the terminal. Business class check-in consisted of someone from behind the counter coming out and insisting I head to the economy line, even though I was booked business. I held my ground and insisted I was in the right line. When I finally got to check in, and they pulled up my name, I showed my passport, which garnered a lot of scrutiny. And then my driver’s license. Which seemed to attract multiple people to look over and ask me questions. When I finally got my boarding pass, the agent was ready to dismiss me. I had to ask about lounge access. And that required another round of discussions with her coworkers in arabic faster than I could understand.

    When I got on board, two of the flight attendants asked me how I got a premium seat. Another flight attendant asked me why I was flying to Amman. When I said I was going to a wedding, I’m guessing she misheard, because she walked away asking “who would marry you?” The only saving grace seemed to be that all the other passengers in business class were subjected to their judgmental attitudes. Asking for a glass of water seemed to be too much work for them, because they huffed and would walk away. I didn’t get to sleep much on the flight, so I was already up when they came through to wake people for breakfast. Even people who had the little cards on their seats asking not to be awoken for breakfast. The gentleman across the aisle was apparently difficult to wake up, because I heard the flight attendant say “ya kalb” to him while shaking him. That’s not nice at all.

    I was supposed to return to the states on Royal Jordanian and cancelled the return flight, opting to lose the cash and fly back on Emirates.

  53. @lucky please update your trip reports. From visiting the site every day, Ive now started coming once in two days. Its great to hear about your upcoming trips, and your greatest fears. Your Garuda TR has not been updated in a few days.
    No angst or anger, just a a request
    Cheers

  54. I’ve flown Royal Brunei return from Heathrow to Perth back in 2010 and Heathrow to Melbourne last year. Will more than likely use them to fly back to Heathrow again. Not only are they cheap, but they have great service, good food and good in flight entertainment. The fact it was broken down into three 8 hour flights made the journey a lot easier too.

  55. For the return, I would appreciate an Emirates Business Class review. Perhaps one leg on an A380 and one on a 777?

  56. Would you please make a stop at MRU in between just to try Air Mauritius Business Class if possible?

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