So, there is a interesting story… my round the world flight tickets are issued by Air Canada, a member of Star Alliance and one of the stopover is Cairo. Since I am filming Israel and Palestine, I needed to get to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, which is Israel’s only international airport. Initially, I wanted to film the entire Egypt than cross to Israel through Taba Crossing through the Sinai, but our production insurance will not cover me in event of a terrorist attack and due to huge drop in tourists, bus the services are very limited. In other words, the cheap option of land crossing is out of the question. I also thought it will be a bad idea if there is any delay when coming back to Egypt and ending up missing the Cairo to Kuala Lumpur flight. So the decision is go to Israel first by plane, then land crossing to Jordan and then Jordan to Egypt. Unfortunately, the route options are very limited given the political situation in the region and not many people travel from Egypt to Israel. The easiest way is to book a Royal Jordanian flight with a 18 hours stopover in Amman, given our tight filming schedule, there is not a option.
The only way you can fly directly from Cairo to Tel Aviv and vice versa is through a non-exist airlines called Air Sinai owed by Egypt Air. This airlines is pretty much a faked airlines since it only exist on paper, it doesn’t have a website, a telephone number, or any form of contact information, not to mention own or lease its own aircraft or have any employees. It is not monitor by Egyptian authorities over their airspace, in other words if the plane is in trouble, you better pray Israel’s Navy will come to your rescue. But the problem is you CAN NOT book a flight on any reputable online travel sites such as Expedia, only on few of the smaller sites which I heard horrible stories from their reviews. So, I decided to set out a journey to buy that tickets from a local travel agency here in Toronto… most of them are able to confirm a seat for me but won’t accept my payment since they do not have agreement with Air Sinai. But eventually, I did manage to purchase a ticket through Egyptair’s Toronto office as seen in the video below.
After spending few days filming in France and Ethiopia, I arrived on Cairo in the middle of the night and ended up sleeping inside the transit zone in the VIP Lounge. Unlike other flights, there is no boarding calling announcement for this flight. Therefore, I had to make sure I set my three separate alarms to wake myself up.
Once I arrived at the departure gate, there is few Arab looking passengers waiting and I know right away that this flight will be pretty empty. The gate display, pretty much the same… 4D is the only thing that is displayed.
After a short wait, a bus shuttle took all the passengers to a small Embraer E-170 on a tarmac far side of the airport. On the ground is the all the luggages where each passengers must identify before allowed loaded on to the cargo bay of the aircraft.
Now, here is what I think why Air Sinai is much a mysteries and secretive:
- Israel experienced many terror attacks, therefore plane is high level of precaution is needed, including having a unmarked aircraft.
- To avoid political tension at home and in the Arab countries given the current tension over Israel in the region
Once aboard, all the staff are dressed in the Egyptair’s uniform along with their logos found on every seat. With exception that of the passengers welcome announcement, which do not mention the name of the airline.
Even though the flight is only 1 hours and 20 minutes, Air Sinai offers a simple breakfast consist of two croissant, a lemon cake, cheese, and jams, along with a choice of water, soda, tea and coffee. After all, the ticket for this flight is not cheap $400 each way or $600 roundtrip.
Unfortunately, one of the flight crew saw me taking photos and videos with my professional NX1 camera, and politely ask to see the footages. They required me to delete footages inside the video, but luckily, as soon as I landed, I tried to undeleted it on my laptop with a recovery software. Despite loosing most of the footage, I still managed to recover few good minutes of it. The flight is pretty much unremarkable, overpriced and I guess I did it because of curiosity… and most importantly the experience flying on a faked airline.