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With a smile to Tunisia

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  • With a smile to Tunisia

    After a busy year it was finally time for a very rewarding and relaxing holiday in Tunisia, my first visit to an Arab country (would prove to be interesting). We booked our holiday through Jetair (the Belgian branch of TUI) so we ended up on a Jetairfly flight. Unlike most charter flights I flew before, this one didn't leave at some ungodly hour in the morning but provided us with a nice afternoon departure so we didn't have to get up too early.

    As the day of departure came we where happy to see that the airport service was 10 minutes early to pick us up, so we would be sure to arrive at the airport on time. when we arrived at the airport we immediatly went to the check-in counter to see an enormous queue for the Tunis flight, now this is something I'm not used to when you consider it was more than 2 hours before departure, normally you can easily check-in without a queue and still be one of the first pax to be checked in. Now we where only the 150'th PAX on a 168 pax plane to check-in, which means that the majority of pax already checked-in more than 2 hours for departure which is a first for me. Anyway after a short wait the friendly check-in agent gave us seats in row 13, some people might think this isn't a very nice number, but on TUB it means you have the exit row seats with loads of legspace . I was pleasantly surprised to see we got those since we didn't even ask for them...

    After we picked our "free" newspaper and beach bags at the Jetair desk we went to border control to enter pier B, which would be a first for me since I never flew extra-shengen from Brussels, so I always departed from pier's A and C. After we passed the control point we entered the extremely quiet shopping area, not really surprising since it's a quiet time in the airport anyway. We went to see some activities on the apron through the large windows on the upper floor, but once again there wasn't much activity here.

    Since there wasn't much to do we proceeded through security with an extremely short wait and headed for our gate B10. On the way there I snapped some pics of Pier a and an arriving BA A319 on B4.

    Once at the gate we saw OO-TUI arriving for our flight while OO-TUM (the Green one) parked besides us for a flight to hurghada.

    Flight TUB2957
    Departure Brussels 14:30
    Arrival Tunis-Carthage 17:05
    Seat 13A
    Operated by B737-4K5 OO-TUI "Innovation" cn 24125 / ln 1687, delivered to Hapag-Lloyd on 29/03/1989 as D-AHLJ, To White Eagle Aviation on 26/04/2002 as SP-KEI, back to HLF23/05/2003 to Futura on 12/06/2003 as EC-IPF, to Aero Lloyd on 27/06/2003, back to Futura on 16/07/2003, back to HLF on 16/02/2004 and finally to Jetairfly (Tui Airlines Belgium) on 23/04/2004 as OO-TUI

    When boarding was announced by rows, the entire crowd rushed to the gate and of course the people who wheren't allowed to board yet since their row wasn't called yet blocked the way for passengers that where allowed to board, resulting in utter chaos (Tourists...). This is one of the things i prefer on Scheduled flights, boarding happens much more civilized there. Anyway after everyone had fought their way on board we proceeded to the gate aswell and took our seats in the extremely spacious exit row.

    I must say that the cabin was in a very good state considering the age of the plane, it didn't show any signs of wear so it has been taken care of. You could still see the signs of the previous operators, such as the exit marks which where in spanish aswell and the texts on the seats to fasten seatbelt etc where in german. They did have the new TUI zebra style seat covers on the seats so the cabin looked newer than it actually was. At this point however i was shocked by the way how badly the crew performed, especcialy since they where training a new cabin crew member. In the row behind us (row 14 also an exit row) a young boy was seated next to the emergency exit, the Purser came around and said it wasn't really allowed for him to sit there, but that it wasn't too bad and that he could stay seated. She also didn't give any instructions to the people in the emergency exit rows about what to do in case of an emergency...

    All announcements where made in both Dutch and French while safety demo was only performed in English, but the English of the purser was extremely bad, it sounded like she was reading the English text in Dutch :s.

    After the manual demo we where pushed back and headed for a take-off on 25R. We where cleared to take-off after two SNBA flying chickens and had an extremly loooong take-off roll (probably combination of the warm weather and the heavy load) and finally rotated to start our climb up to the clouds above. Shortly after the pilot came on the PA system to give us some information and he told us the flight route of today would be Brussels - Strasbourg - Lausanne - Geneva - Maritime Alps - Monaco/nice - Corsica - Sardinia - Tunis.

    The cabin crew started serving the meal, a deliscious tuna fish salad with a ciabatta sandwich and a milky way bar, around the time we where flying above the alps, they even had to stop the service for a while due to turbulence, but after we passed that they served the remaining passengers and came round with tea and coffee. The seats in row 13 are equipped with tables in the armrests (since the seats of row 12 are too far to be able to eat comfortably with fold down tables) but unfortunatly these don't stop the trays from sliding down in case of some chop, so it was a true fight to make sure the meal didn't end up in my lap instead of my mouth.

    Throughout the flight there wasn't any entertainment shown on the overhead screens, but since you don't get headphones it doesn't really matter. While seated at the emergency exit I noticed it made a continously sissing noise, especially during take-off and landing. and the window would condensate that much during landing that it was impossible to see anything through it.

    Just before landing, after the announcement that everyone had to sit down with seatbelts fastened and tables folded up the crew passed by with the green landing cards you had to fill in prior to arrival in Tunis, now it looks like they only remembered that they had to give them on the last minute since they would have had a lot of time to give them after the meal service so that everyone could fill them in quietly during the remainder of the flight, now everyone was busy filling them in during landing which is everything but safe...

    After we bumped down on Tunisian soil the pilot slammed the brakes and we headed for our gate, one of the newer jetway equipped gates in TUN and where leaded through a seperate arrivals corridor straight to the immigration counters. Here I noticed 2 things, long slowly moving qeues and only female agents (quite exceptional in a Arab country). after we managed to pass the immigration boots we had to go through a security control (seams odd after arrival) and went to the baggage claim to see that our bags where already amongst the heaps of bags stored along the baggage belts, never had my bags this fast.

    In the arrivals hall we went to look for the jetair agent who put us on the correct bus to bring us to a wonderfull holiday in the Carribean world hotel in Borj Cedria. like most hotels in Tunisia it was surrounded with armed guards to protect the tourists, something typical for these countries I guess...

    After 2 weeks of holiday we headed back to the airport, after some confusion at the pick up in our hotel (not enough busses) we headed for the airport, I must say that Tunisian traffic gives a whole new meaning to the saying "the most dangerous part of flying is the way to the airport", a tip for people with sensitive stomachs, don't sit in the first row on a Tunisian bus...

    Since we only had a short transfer time to the airport we where the first bus to arrive and thus where amongst the first pax to check-in (sequence numbers 003 to 006) and once again received exit row seats without asking (in row 14 this time). We had the luck that at border control an agent that was just finishing his shift still accepted us as last PAX for his duty so we where through in no-time. security in Tunis also was the most thourough one I experienced, after you went through the bip bip machine you where always given a manual search in addition!!
    Tunis airport looks like any modern airport with the exception of really low ceilings in the main building, making it feel somehow a bit cramped. Luckily we where assigned a gate in the satellite extension where the jetways are which is a newer part of the terminal and has a more palace style design with higher ceilings, making it a nice place to sit and wait for your flight. Around the time our plane had to arrive at our gate, we suddenly saw an Alitalia MD80 arrive at it and it appeared we had a gate swap with Alitalia so we had to go to gate 51 next door. The good thing was that it provided us with a better view of the plane, since you could only see the tail of the plane from the gate area of gate 50.

    Flight TUB2958
    Departure Tunis-Carthage 18:00
    Arrival Brussels 20:40
    Seat 14F
    Operated by B737-4K5 OO-TUI "Innovation" cn 24125 / ln 1687, delivered to Hapag-Lloyd on 29/03/1989 as D-AHLJ, To White Eagle Aviation on 26/04/2002 as SP-KEI, back to HLF23/05/2003 to Futura on 12/06/2003 as EC-IPF, to Aero Lloyd on 27/06/2003, back to Futura on 16/07/2003, back to HLF on 16/02/2004 and finally to Jetairfly (Tui Airlines Belgium) on 23/04/2004 as OO-TUI

    Boarding in Tunis went much smoother than in Brussels (no calling by rows) and thus we where on-board in no time. I immediatly noticed that the cabin crew on this flight was much more proffesional, since they immediatly explained the procedures of what to do when sitting in an emergency exit row like we where. Once again the safety demo was only performed in English, but this time the pursers English was excellent so you could actually understand what he was saying.

    This time the overhead monitors where displaying the airshow, providing us with loads of interesting information throughout the flight. You could easily see it was formerly operated by a german carrier since the entire airshow program was in german. also the screens showed their age since they wheren't always really clear to read what they displayed.

    During taxi to the runway there wasn't much to see and after an Aigle Azur A320 and a tunisian military plane landed we started our long take-off roll to Brussels. After take-off we had a last wonderfull view of the tunisian landscape before we dissapeared in the clouds. I noticed that the emergency exit didn't make the sissing sound this time, strange...

    The routing of the flight was the same as the previous one, but in reversed order and we where cruising with a speed of 780 kph on an altitude of 10200 meters. The meal served on the flight this time was a cold pasta salad with a piece of chicken and a small ciabatta sandwich complemented with a balisto bar. Once again free soft drinks with the meal and a coffee and tea round afterwarts. During the flight they came round with a questtionnaire, of course I filled one in and as a "present" I got a nice Jetairfly pen. The crew also had a busy time when selling the tax-free items, they where nearly sold out when they reached my row, they didn't even have any model planes left. It looks like Jetairfly earned quite a lot on this flight.

    Throughout the flight we had some turbulence when flying over the alps combined with a splendid view of them now that's what I call flying. all to soon we started our descend into Brussels and my holiday ended with a hard bump on 25L. We taxied to the last gate at the B-pier, next to the Ethiopian B763. And started our long-walk through the sad arrivals corridor in Brussels.

    (note to mr BIAC: please put some windows in the B-pier arrivals corridor, it would be a lot nicer)

    We passed border control in no-time, picked up our bags which where doing their rounds on the belt already went through customs to our airport service driver and thus made it home in less than an hour (quite a big difference compared to last year)

    Summary: Jetairfly is a good company, probably one of the better charter airlines around although their cabin crew can be a bit more proffessional at times. The Cabin crew on the inbound flight was truly excellent while the one on the outbound left a lot to be desired, this is why I think Thomas Cook has a more consistent product and is a slightly better airline. This will be my last tripreport for a while, I hope you enjoy it all, any questions or comments are always appreciated.

  • #2
    Nice report. Women at work in Tunisia is not unusual. Rights started being enacted as soon as 1956 when the country became independant.

    Thanks for visiting
    *Avimage's Monthly Slide list *