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D93's Trip to Egypt Route: JFK-FRA-CAI-AMM-TLV (SQ, MS, MS, RJ)

Sunday 10/11.
I arrived at JFK 65 minutes before my flight and after about 10 minutes of me convincing the check-in agent that I can get an Egyptian Visa in CAI, I made it to the gate 20 minutes before the scheduled departure time. I was flying Singapore Business class (R was not available :( ). As far the hard product is concerned, it is arguably the best J product that exists, the seat is huge, extremely comfortable and very private. However, I was very unimpressed with the soft product, slow service, horrible drink menu, and no amenity kit (maybe I'm just too used to F ;) ). The KSML was non other than the infamous Bornstein's inedible thing they call “food”.

SQ J








Monday 10/12.
I landed in FRA on time and I headed to the Maple Leaf Lounge (I was already in the Senator Lounge a couple months ago, so I decided to check out a different lounge this time while I'm in FRA). The lounge is much smaller than the Senator Lounge but it's very nice and wasn't crowded at all. I davened shachris, took a shower, had something to eat and waited until my next flight to CAI.

The EgyptAir flight from FRA-CAI was on their 737-800 which had recliner business class seats, which wasn't too bad for a 4 hour daytime flight. They had a Koran hanging on the wall in the front of the cabin (although I'm not sure if one can actually take it down, as I didn't ask if I can use it :) ). I was happily surprised when they served me Hermolis KSML!!

I landed in CAI at 710pm. The immigration system there is very simple, you buy a Visa for $25 from the money exchange banks which are located right before passport control, then go to passport control and get it stamped, and I was out of the airport with my bags by 740pm. I got a cab from outside the airport to take me to the Le Meridien Pyramids, which was a 1 hour drive and cost me $15 (I was clearly ripped off, but I just wanted to get to the hotel). Driving through Cairo was a crazy experience, the city is absolutely nuts. There are no traffic laws, not a single traffic light in the entire city, everyone just drives and drives until they are a half an inch from a car merging into them, 2 lane highways have 5 cars driving side by side, it's an amazing site to say the least!! The hotel is very nice and big, but was quite empty, I was upgraded to a nice suite. They have a good sheesha bar on premises with classic cheap Egypt prices ($3.50 for a sheesha). After some sheesha and beer, I went to sleep.

Maple Leaf Lounge






EgyptAir on board Koran






LM Pyramids










Tuesday 10/13.
I hired a private tour guide to take me around for the day (cost $165 – all entrance fees included), he picked me up at 8am and we headed out to the pyramids. The drive from my hotel to the pyramids was about 2 minutes. There are 3 large pyramids in Giza and a few smaller ones around them. After walking around the pyramids and climbing a little bit up the largest one, I took a camel ride for 30 minutes around the area. We then went to see the Great Sphinx and a temple which is next to it.

Just a tip for any future trips – Do not go to the pyramids before 10am, it was extremely hazy out until 10am and I unfortunately didn’t get too many nice pictures because of it.

After the pyramids excursion, we drove an hour to the Egypt Museum which is located on Tahrir Square and houses all the mummies and artifacts from all the pyramids and tombs around Egypt. You can't bring a camera into the museum, but I managed to get a few pictures using my phone. Afterward we walked to the middle of Tahrir square to shoot some pix there.
We then drove 30 minutes to Old Cairo, walked around the streets there for little while and went to see the Ben Ezra Shul (legend has it that the Rambam used to daven there).
Afterward my guide drove me back to the airport, which took an hour to get to, but I arrived with more than 2 hours to spare before my flight. The EgyptAir check-in agent checked my bags through for my Royal Jordanian connecting flight from AMM to TLV without a problem at all. I went to a quiet room that they call a “lounge” and found a quiet corner to daven mincha.
















Nile River




Egypt Museum



King Tut



Animal Mummies




Tahrir Square




Ben Ezra Shul








The flight from CAI to AMM was an hour long and very uneventful. I landed in AMM and had a 1:40 connection until my next flight. The flight from AMM to TLV took a total of 25 minutes and I landed in TLV at 915pm.

Thank you Hershelsdeals and everyone else who helped me plan this trip!!

October 15, 2015, 07:11:24 PM
1
Re: AA SWU American Airlines Systemwide Upgrade
Hi, I'm posting here for a friend that has four AA system wide upgrades that are expiring at the end of February. I'm asking between $100-$250.

What's wrong with the other 3 threads you opened?

February 22, 2016, 05:58:31 PM
1
Re: credit score
With which creditor and which phone number are you using?

Chase personal 1-888-245-0625.

March 01, 2016, 06:41:28 PM
1
Re: Delta to tlv opening May 8 Travel Agent vs. OTA

Travel Agent:
 
Pros:

- The travel agent arranges everything for the passenger, from seats to meals to bassinets etc. This might not be such a big deal when booking an airline that has a functioning website (for example United), but when booking an airline without a functioning website (like Elal, Alitalia), it can be a tremendous pain to do a simple thing such as confirming a kosher meal.

- You can ask a travel agent his recommendations on which airline to fly and which ones to avoid. An agent can advise on minimum connection times, as sometimes even when a minimum connection time is valid and will be sold online, it can still be a risky connection to make (for example, 60 minutes in LHR). Some agents can also help with vacation planning and ideas. A travel agent will let you know if the country you’re visiting requires visas or other documents. I have a friend that booked Turkish Airlines online for his trip to South Africa, when he got to the airport he was not able to check in because he didn’t have his child’s birth certificate with him, which South Africa requires. Had he booked with an agent, the agent most likely would have advised him on that (as that law is very clearly written in the GDS)

- If flying with an infant and you want a bassinet, in most cases (varies by airline) a travel agent can confirm a bassinet before you pay for the ticket. If booking online, you’d have to deal with paying for the tickets, calling the airline, and if it’s not available, you’d have to cancel and start the process again. A travel agent can tell you exactly which flights have a bassinet available, confirm the bassinet, and then you can go ahead and pay for it.

- Many people (especially people flying for business) have location changes and meeting cancellations last minute or sometimes even mid-trip. A travel agent can easily change the segments and reissue the tickets. If booking online, you’d have to wait on hold and hope that a rep knows how to reissue partially used tickets.

- The GDS accurately states the baggage allowance, change fee, and cancellation fee for every ticket. You can be aware of all this information before you book and before you have to make a change and have a shock of your life when you’re told the change fee is $500 or more.

- In most cases, a travel agent is the most helpful thing you can have in case of a cancellation. For example, if there's bad weather in the winter, rather than waiting hours on hold to speak to your airline or Priceline to refund or rebook you and then when you finally get through, the rep doesn’t know if the flight was cancelled (more on that soon), you can just make a call/text to your travel agent and be done in 5 minutes. Even in the current Covid-19 situation, early in March before the non-stop flights between TLV and the US were canceled, travel agents were able to re-accommodate all their passengers from LH/LX/OS/SN to UA non-stop. Every travel agent can tell you how many calls they got in those couple of weeks from people who booked online begging for help because wait times were tremendous and the reps were beyond incompetent. I personally had someone who booked LX on United.com and when LX cancelled his flight, he called UA (the issuing airline) to rebook him, the United rep was adamant that the LX flight was still on schedule. When he finally convinced the rep that the flight was cancelled, United wanted to charge him $300 per person for the “difference in fare” from Swiss to United direct.

- Most people are not aware that having a “confirmation” alone is useless until it is “ticketed”. A travel agent will make sure that everyone on the reservation and every segment is ticket properly. It is not uncommon for OTA’s to show phantom availability and even “confirm” the space, but for it to never get ticketed. Showing up to the airport with a reservation like that is just as good as showing up with no reservation at all. I recently had a client that asked me to book him a Royal Jordanian flight. The flight was clearly sold out in the GDS. The client said it shows on an OTA and he’ll just book it there. 3 days go by and he tells me he hasn’t received an email yet and the confirmation number isn’t pulling anything up. I explained to him again what I had explained to him 3 days earlier, that it was phantom space and will never be ticketed.

- Travel agents often have special one way net fares. If you can go online and see that a one way Delta flight JFK-TLV can cost $1500, a travel agent can have nets starting at $500.

- Sometimes you need to be booked into a certain fare class for upgradeable purposes (for example, W class on United). A travel agent can book you into that fare class specifically as opposed to OTAs which will automatically book you into the lowest fare class available.

Cons:

- If you want to have the airline do a change, some airlines (such as United) will charge a small fee to “take control of the ticket” and some airlines (such as Elal) will not even touch or change an agency booking.

- In case of emergencies, not all travel agencies are available 24/7. Most airlines/OTAs have 24/7 customer service.

- Travel agents will usually add a service fee on top of the cost of the ticket, especially if it is a ticket that has no commissions.

- Disputes: As a general rule (there are exceptions which will be discussed), travel agents process your card directly with the airline through their GDS (thus earning 5x when booked with Amex Plat), not through their own merchant processor. When a passenger disputes an agency ticket, the passenger always wins and the agent has to pay for the cost of the ticket plus a small fee, thus causing the agent a loss. If he had booked online and disputed, he would only be causing the OTA/Airline a loss.
Let’s say you booked online and missed your flight. You want to dispute the charge, the chances are you will lose the dispute as it was your negligence you missed your flight. Now that you booked with an agent, would it be fair to dispute, win, get your money back and cause the agent a loss?
Let’s take a different scenario, one that is more relevant today during Covid-19. Airlines have practically cancelled every international flight and most domestic flights. Almost all airlines that fly to/from the USA are allowing refunds for cancelled flights, Elal is not. This situation, where an airline is refusing refunds for a cancelled flight is something that is unprecedented. As per the DOT, the passenger is rightfully owed a refund for his cancelled flight. If he would have booked online, he’d win the dispute and get his money back. Now that he’s booked with an agent, he is any less rightfully and legally owed a refund, should he not dispute the charge because it might cause the agent a loss? I would think he has all the right to dispute and I am even telling my clients who want their money back today to go ahead and dispute. I personally am not terribly afraid of clients disputing tickets now (where the flight is cancelled). They are owed a refund and we can’t provide it for them. Why should they lose out when they are legally owed a refund? If an airline will dare penalize agents for a flight that was cancelled, they will face a massive lawsuit. Besides, I highly doubt the DOT wouldn't protect the agents for something like that.

In summary, if he would have booked online and won, I think he has the right to dispute even when it might come at a loss to the agent. But if he would have booked online and lost, I don’t think it’s fair to dispute and make the agent eat the loss. So the next time your kosher meal tastes like cat food instead of the pre-ordered dog flavored one, please don’t dispute the charge.

There are some, but not many, travel agents who will pay for the ticket either on their own credit card or by “check payment” or with points, and then process the passenger’s credit card on their own processor. Since the charge is through a regular merchant processor, the dispute process is more legitimate. The agent will be allowed to provide documents proving the charge is legit and win the dispute. However, unless the agent has each passenger sign an authorization form, it will be very difficult for the agent to win the dispute and the passenger will come out ahead, just as I described earlier when the passenger’s credit card is charged directly with the airline via the agency.
One big difference with this scenario than the above is, in a case where the dispute is for a “legitimate” cause, for example the flight was cancelled and the airline is refusing to refund, if the agent paid for the ticket through a “check payment” or points, he will not be able to dispute his credit card charge in return and the loss will come out of his pocket. But is the passenger wrong for disputing when he is legally owed a refund? Is the passenger up the creek without a paddle because the agent decided to book him in this way thus causing him a loss with no one to turn to? I think not, but you can decide…


OTAs

Pros:

- No extra service fees

- No extra fees (besides standard change fess) if you need to make changes with the airline directly.

- 24/7 customer service

- A dispute, if you win, will not cause direct harm to another person’s pocket.

- It’s easy to quickly book with an OTA during a price glitch.

Cons:

- You might not get the seat(s) you want, the meal you want or a bassinet for your infant.

- Last minute changes, especially mid-trip can be extremely difficult.

- Many OTAs don’t offer child discounts.

- Many OTAs, especially the ones selling tickets lower than the published fare, will say “baggage allowance zero”, when in reality it is not true. They do this in order to make money on selling you a bag. Or “2nd bag fee $150” when in reality it really cost less. They do this in order to make money off selling you extras to equal out the loss they took to sell you the ticket. Sometimes they will charge you change fees that are way above the actual change fee. This is how many “fly by night OTAs” make their profits.

- You might show up to the airport with a “confirmation” only to be told it’s useless because it was not ticketed.

- I do not believe any OTAs or even airlines directly have one way nets.




P.S. Please do not turn this thread into a "Welcome back D93" thread. This thread has already underwent a drastic topic change, no need for another one :)

April 29, 2020, 03:56:23 PM
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Re: Delta to tlv opening May 8 Breaking News: Delta resumes TLV route starting June 15!
May 20, 2020, 11:42:07 AM
1