Review: Tunisair Business Class A330-200 (TUN-IST)

My trip to Tunisia began inauspiciously with a terrible flight aboard Tunisair’s A319 that had me dreading the return journey from Tunis to Istanbul. Fortunately, my experience on the A330-200 slightly exceeded my rock-bottom expectations thanks to decent food and a comfortable seat.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a huge amount of room for improvement and there’s precisely zero chance I’d fly Tunisair on a long-haul flight, but, if you can get past the wear, tear, and dirt, this is a surprisingly comfortable and affordable way to travel a relatively short distance.

How I booked my Tunisair business class ticket

Tunisair flights can’t easily be booked with miles because Tunisair isn’t part of a major alliance, so I opted to purchase this one-way flight from Tunis to Istanbul with cash for $330.

My flight details were as follows:

  • Tunisair 214
  • Tunis Carthage (TUN) – Istanbul (IST)
  • Departure: 6:45 AM, May 21
  • Arrival: 11:20 AM, May 21
  • Flight Time: 2h 35m
  • Business Class, Seat 2K


Tunis-Carthage International Airport had just a single business class check-in desk open for the whole terminal and, since online check-in wasn’t possible, we had to stand in line for about 15 minutes to get our tickets.

a group of people standing in a line with luggage

I noticed on my ticket that I was boarding at 6:55 AM, 10 minutes after the scheduled departure. When I asked the check-in agent how long the flight was delayed, he told me that the flight wasn’t delayed at all and that it had simply been “rescheduled” earlier that morning to depart about an hour later, at 8:00 AM. Not wanting to get into a discussion on the semantic differences between a delay and a rescheduling two hours before a flight, I took the ticket and moved toward exit immigration.

After 10 minutes in the immigration line, we were stamped out of the country and proceeded towards security, a laissez-faire process that didn’t require removing shoes, liquids, or electronics.


After a visit to Tunisair’s extremely underwhelming Espace Privilège lounge (review forthcoming), I made my way to Gate 52. 

a man standing in a hallway

When I got there, I saw no indication that the gate was for my flight to Istanbul–not a sign, Tunisair employee, or monitor–and ultimately confirmed that I was in the right place by asking another passenger whether they were also going to Istanbul.

a group of people in a large room

By 7:20, a full 25 minutes after we were to have begun boarding, there still were no Tunisair employees in the gate area, though a monitor at least now displayed that this was in fact the gate for a flight to Istanbul. I don’t mind delays all that much, but the fact that nearly all the seating in the gate area was occupied, that the space was warm and humid, and that there was no communication as to when we’d depart, made this experience pretty unpleasant. 

At 7:45, an hour after we were supposed to depart, a single Tunisair employee appeared and announced that boarding would begin in five minutes. 10 minutes later, I was on the jet bridge and got my first view of our A330-200.

a plane on the tarmac

Tunisair business class cabin & seats

Tunisair’s A330-200 has 24 business class seats, branded “Espace Privilège” by the airline, spread across four rows in a 2-2-2 configuration.

a seat area of an airplane

The cabin is mostly grey, with unappealing muddy ultramarine accents on the seats.

the inside of an airplane
a man standing in a plane

The seats are 21 inches wide and offer a ton of legroom, with 53 inches of pitch. I found them plenty comfortable for the short hop across the Mediterranean to Istanbul. Unfortunately, the seats are not lie flats and, though they do recline pretty far (about 165 degrees), wouldn’t be ideal for a longer journey.

a row of seats in an airplane

These seats are pretty open, but a small partition near the headrest adds a degree of privacy from your neighbor.

the inside of an airplane

On the outside armrests are dirty, worn-out seat control buttons that I could only get to work by pushing down with such force that my fingertip turned white.

a close up of a lift

Tray tables are recessed within the inside armrests.

a person holding a piece of paper in a plane

They’re not huge, but sufficient for eating or working on most laptops.

a person's legs in a chair

At waist level on the inside armrest are a series of ports and a universal outlet.

a close up of a device

There was quite a bit of dust and food crumbs beneath the ports.

a close up of a device

Next to the headrests are adjustable reading lights. Mine wasn’t working.

a close up of a seat

Considering the outdated configuration, angled lie-flat seats, and general wear and tear throughout the cabin, you might guess this plane to be 20 years old. You’d be wrong. Our plane, TS-IFN, was delivered, shockingly, in May 2015. I don’t know whether it’s low-quality cabin materials, bad maintenance and cleaning, or some combination of both, but this cabin looks worse than many much older interiors I’ve seen. Just take a look at this headrest:

a pillow on a seat

Or these cupholders:

a grey object with holes

Or this armrest:

a close up of a bag

Tunisair A330 entertainment & Wi-Fi

Movies, TV shows, games, and a moving map can be viewed via touchscreen seatback monitors. The monitor in my assigned seat was mostly unusable because of a thick vertical black bar across the screen, so I moved to an adjacent seat with a working screen.

a screen with a picture on it

I was underwhelmed by the IFE. The touchscreen was not very responsive and the content selection was paltry. If you do plan to watch something, bring your own headphones, since none will be provided.

Unsurprisingly, Tunisair’s A330s are not equipped with Wi-Fi. That wasn’t a huge issue on such a short flight but would’ve been a drag had the journey been longer.

Tunisair A330 business class breakfast service

Given the terrible lunch I had on my outbound Tunisair flight, my expectations for the onboard breakfast were low. Thankfully, while there were some hiccups, it wasn’t too bad.

The service started inauspiciously when, despite my having ordered a vegetarian meal, I was told that the only breakfast option contained chicken. Fortunately, it was a cheese omelet with two pieces of chicken on top, which I could remove. There was also a small dish of fruit, which was good, and another small dish of cheese, which was not. The omelet was surprisingly delicious, one of the better I’ve had in the sky.

a tray of food on a tray

Tunisair A330 business class lavatories

There’s one dedicated business class lavatory for the 24 business class seats on Tunisair’s A330. Luckily, the cabin was nearly empty, so I never had to wait to use the restroom. Like the rest of the plane, it looked pretty worn out, but it was generally clean.

a toilet with a sign on the lid
a sink in a bathroom

No picture policy?

Up until this point, I’d been surreptitiously taking pictures. When I photographed the lavatory with the door open, one of the business class flight attendants spotted me and loudly asked “why picture?” Soon after, I was approached at my seat by the purser, an older gentleman who didn’t speak much English, telling me that I couldn’t take pictures. I apologized and told him I was unaware of the policy.

I thought that would be the end of it, but he stayed by my seat and began to mime taking a phone out of his pocket and saying “I look.” Apparently, he wanted to see the pictures I had taken. I obliged. After looking at my phone as I swiped through my camera roll, he pointed at me and said “you delete.” Nodding awkwardly, I said I’d delete my photos. I began putting my phone back in my pocket when the purser said “you delete. I look.” It seemed he wanted to watch me delete the pictures to make sure they were gone. I again obliged.

Fortunately, he didn’t know that phones have a recently deleted folder from which photos can be recovered, so nothing was actually lost. Still, I’m perplexed by his behavior. I wasn’t upsetting other passengers and was mostly taking photos of my own seat and an empty cabin. What’s the desired outcome here? Doesn’t this mostly serve to just piss people off? 

On the other hand, I can’t say I don’t understand a little, because if I worked for an airline with planes as poorly maintained as Tunisair’s, I also wouldn’t want people taking photos.

Tunisair A330 business class service

About ten minutes after takeoff, two economy class passengers were escorted by one of the business class flight attendants to seats in the row ahead of me. The mid-flight upgrade resulted in the flight attendant spending half the flight speaking to the passengers in front of me. I’m not sure whether this is common practice on Tunisair or whether Tunisia is small enough that flight attendants regularly know passengers on their flights, but this exact same thing happened on my last flight as well.

Beyond this unprofessional behavior and being told to delete my photos, the service wasn’t terrible. The meal was served quickly and efficiently, and the flight attendants were proactive in filling drinks and clearing plates.

Arrival in Istanbul

Before long, we were descending into Istanbul.

a view of a city from an airplane window

As we taxied to our gate, I was afforded great aircraft views, including this Pakistan International Airlines 777.

a plane on the runway


Thanks to a comfortable seat and an empty business class cabin, this flight exceeded the rock-bottom expectations that were set by my previous Tunisair experience. Though I certainly wouldn’t fly Tunisair on a longer flight or on a narrow-body route, this was a relatively comfortable way to travel such a short distance, especially considering the price.

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