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I recently surprised my girlfriend, Tamar, with a trip to Tunis in celebration of her being accepted into a Ph.D. program in Chicago. We had an incredible time, thanks to a superb tour of Carthage’s archeological sites, Sidi Bou Said, and the Medina of Tunis.
Unlike our time on the ground, our Tunisair flight from Frankfurt to Tunis was irredeemably unpleasant. From the cabin to the food to the service, everything sucked. The only good part of this flight was its length, just two and a half merciful hours.
It’s lucky other airlines also fly in and out of Tunis because I’d recommend prospective travelers take a sturdy life raft over Tunisair.
How I booked my Tunisair business class ticket
Tunisair isn’t part of a major alliance, so booking with points wasn’t feasible. Instead, I bought the one-way flight from Frankfurt to Tunis with cash for $354.
My flight details were as follows:
- Tunisair 0745
- Frankfurt (FRA) – Tunis Carthage (TUN)
- Departure: 12:30 PM, May 17
- Arrival: 1:51 PM, May 17
- Flight Time: 2h 21m
- Business Class, Seat 2D
Check-in and boarding
I was having difficulty getting Tunisair’s prehistoric website to let me check-in, so I called a helpful phone agent who told me that online check is only available on domestic flights. That meant that my first in-person experience with Tunisair was with a surly check-in agent at Frankfurt Airport who stopped thumbing through TikTok just long enough to print Tamar’s and my tickets.
After a short stop in a priority class lounge near the gate, we made our way to E3 where boarding began promptly at 11:45.
There was no business class line—or any line for that matter—and the boarding procedure was essentially a single gate agent letting passengers through based roughly on their proximity to him. The boarding order ultimately didn’t matter much because we all ended up waiting inside the same packed bus until around 12:20.
Though waiting on a cramped bus is never fun, I like remote stands because they tend to afford a better view of the plane than boarding via a jet bridge. Just as I had hoped, my patience on the bus was rewarded with a close-up view of the A319 that would carry us to Tunis.
Tunisair business class cabin & seats
Tunisair’s A319 has 12 business class seats, called “Espace Privilège” by the airline, spread across three rows in a 2-2 configuration.
The seats are large recliners, much like what you’d find in a US carrier’s domestic first class cabin 20 years ago.
They’re generous on legroom and are fairly wide, though I found them poorly padded and uncomfortably firm.
The seats are upholstered in heavily stained blue fabric and are controlled with four plastic levers. In both my seat and Tamar’s at least two of the levers were completely nonfunctional.
The area above the seat had individual air vents and was inexplicably stained with coffee or some other dark fluid.
There was an extremely dirty recessed remote control on the side of my right armrest, but it didn’t have much use because there was no IFE.
A tray table was recessed in my left armrest and can be pulled out and unfolded. It was extremely faded, scratched up, and dirty.
Just next to my right shoulder was a reading lamp. Neither mine nor Tamar’s worked.
Because of the generous legroom, our row was afforded two windows. Unfortunately, one of them was missing a window shade. How does this even happen? Did a passenger, presumably furious over the state of Tuninsair’s fleet, rip it off? Was it shut too hard too many times?
In case I haven’t made it clear, this cabin was unbelievably ratty. Even without considering the extreme dirtiness of the place, to which I’ll devote the entire next section of this review, it felt inexcusably shabby. Tunisair needs to do better; there are airlines under sanction that have far better-maintained cabins.
The atrociously filthy cabin
Just about everywhere I looked in the cabin, there was dirt. Crumbs, grime, and hair were so visible it makes me think that nobody bothered cleaning up after the previous flight arrived.
A few pieces of anecdotal evidence:
- There were crumbs on my seat when I sat down
- My armrest had a brownish-grey gunk that rubbed off on the sleeve of my white sweater
- The bathroom floor was sticky and wet even though I was the first passenger to use it
- Both our windows were covered in handprints
Tunisair A319 business class lunch service
Despite having ordered a vegetarian option for Tamar and myself, the crew informed me that the only lunch option on board was a shrimp and tuna salad appetizer and a beef main course. Disappointed and hungry, we decided to take one meal in the hopes of picking around the meat.
From the appetizer, I ate the hummus, which lacked salt, and some kind of savory egg square, which was frozen in the center.
There was nothing we could eat from the main course since the beef was served on top of the sides.
The desert was ghastly. The flight attendant couldn’t tell me what it was, but judging by the taste it comprised sweetened shaving cream atop a crust made from corrugated cardboard.
The meal service took around an hour, which seems long considering the cabin was just half full and there was only one choice of main course. I primarily attribute this to the flight attendants chatting with a couple seated in row one, whom they both seemed to know well, for around 45 minutes between the time the appetizer and main course were served (though they also chatted loudly for the other two-thirds of the flight).
Tunisair A319 business class lavatories
There’s one bathroom at the front of the business class cabin.
Like the rest of the cabin, it was dirty and falling apart. I’ve already mentioned the sticky, wet floor but what really stood out to me was that just about every piece of this lavatory was falling apart. The flush button, for example, was held together with electrical tape.
The white frame around the mirror was peeling off.
The mirror itself was heavily tarnished.
The paint was cracking on a panel above my head.
From top to bottom, the bathroom was in awful shape.
Tunisair A319 business class service
The service on this flight, like the food and the cabin, was poor. The two business class flight attendants spent 90% of the flight speaking to a couple seated in the first row, at certain points sitting in the seats across the aisle so as to more comfortably converse. I don’t have an issue with flight attendants chatting to passengers, but the volume of the conversation and the fact that it interfered with the meal service made the behavior inappropriate. This wasn’t an isolated incident either: on my flight back from Tunis on Tunisair’s A330, which I’ll be reviewing later this week, the flight attendants also spent most of the flight speaking with passengers seated in the front row.
Additionally, upon boarding, I was told brusquely by two separate employees that I was only allowed one piece of hand luggage (I had with me a backpack and a cabin bag)–once but the gate agent and once by a flight attendant. On both occasions, I told them that I was in business class–which should have been obvious from the business class tags on both my bags–and on both occasions I was asked to produce a boarding pass proving it. No acknowledgment beyond a nod of the head was offered.
From start to finish, this flight was a disaster. I wish that Tunisair wasn’t this bad, not just because I dislike writing bad reviews (though using this many synonyms for terrible has been cathartic), but because Tunisia is a gorgeous, fascinating country that deserves a proper flag carrier, not a garbage fire.
Keep an eye out later this week for my separate review of Tunisair’s wide-body aircraft. It was by no means a redeeming experience (and it was my first time ever being told off for taking photos!) but it was slightly less terrible than this flight.