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The LA Times is reporting that approval has been given to build an additional station on the new Crenshaw Line, near the entrance to LAX. This new station, costing $200 million, will connect to a new people mover system destined to connect a new single Car Rental location, a transportation hub and the airports terminals. So Light Rail is coming to LAX!

The new station will be at 96th and Aviation streets quite close to the airport and many of the hotels on Aviation. The Crenshaw line will link to the current Green Line at the existing Aviation LAX station.

The report also suggests that the new station might offer services beyond tickets and trains. It indicates that there will be check-in desks, currency exchange and information boards. A study on baggage handling in similar locations has been commissioned.

The Crenshaw line, destined to be finished in 2019 will not be delayed by the new station, although it is expected that the station will open later than the new line.

All around a good day for travellers to and from LAX – there is at least some indication that rail is coming to LAX.

The LA Times article is here.
There is also an editorial on the plans here.

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | No Comments

Swiss fly an A340 to and from Cairo once per day from Zurich. An oddly large plane, which when flying on its normal routes, offers a 3 class service. On this segment it is sold as just Business and Economy. The First Class cabin is a crew refuge. The business class cabin has the full flat beds installed.

The aircraft compares well to the smaller airbuses flown by Lufthansa and Austrian.

Lounge

Swiss uses the Egypt Air lounges at Terminal 3 in Cairo. Not the most luxurious, they do provide a haven before the flight.

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The novelty of old fashioned ring-pull cans was the highlight.

The clocks had changed so I was one of the last to board the plane, passing through an additional, and pretty strict security check at the gate.

The Business cabin is divided in 2, with two rows in front of the exit row and the balance of the seats behind the exit. I did not manage to get a seat in the mini cabin on the way out from Cairo, but did on the return.

Seating.
There are basically two types of seats – singles and doubles. Having said that they are arranged in a large number of different ways. The singles, can be next to the aisle with a table at the window or next to the window with a table at the aisle or in the middle with tables on either side. The really nice seats are held back for Senator status passengers but can sometimes be picked up at check-in.

This is a view of the double seats in the centre of the large rear cabin:

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This is the single seat adjacent to the window, in the mini-cabin.

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View of First Class from the mini-cabin

Entertainment

The screen is quite small but there was a decent range of films and TV, especially for only a 3 1/2 hours flight.

The plane pulled back on time and taxied to the runway fairly quickly. The crew came around to take meal orders and I have to say where universally pleasant. They were in the cabin all through the flight, offering more drinks and making sure everyone was OK.

The meal was served as below:

Starter and Cheese – and yes they let me have two rolls:
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Entree:

This was pretty tasty in fact, although not a large portion.

Dessert:

Chocolates – selected from a big box – when did you last get that! Plus, the crew came around with them several times.

We landed at the E gates in Zurich and had to take the train to my connecting flight to London, going through Zurich security. They were chatty and helpful, especially as I was the only one using the x-ray at the time.

On the return, I had connected from Newark and the flight was an early morning departure. There was priority boarding for Business Class and I was quickly in my seat. This time in the mini-cabin at the front.

The menu this time was interesting, as I had expected breakfast but they served lunch:

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I passed on the meal and slept most of the way to Cairo.

There were super views as we left ZRH.

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Summary:
All round a great product. It’s nice to fly large planes on relatively short segments and I hope that Swiss keep this up. There is often United award availability from Zurich on this flight mid-week. Both my segments were mid-week which might explain how quiet they were.

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | One Comment

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Over a period of two weeks I took 6 flights with Qatar Airways. About 13,500 miles were flown on a mixture of aircraft types – A330′s, 777 and 787′s in the mix.

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Qatar Airways bills itself as a 5* Airline.

My experience with Qatar was pretty mixed, but if there is a theme it was that the service in the air was superb, whilst the service on the ground was awful. Not just bad you understand but some of the worst I have ever experienced. So, let’s concentrate on what went well – in flight service.

The segments to and from Cairo are operated by the same 2-class aircraft but the up-front service is branded as First Class. The food is pretty much the same, but they do stock Krug.

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This pretty much the standard layout and seating that I found on my flights – except the 787.

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2-2-2 with the centre 2 having aisle access. I noticed a small trick whereby the staff layout the purple menu books for occupied seats before the passengers board. This often gives you a clue about empty seats if you want to move. Check with the staff as they have iPads and can see in real-time whether someone has already snagged the seats.

Most of the seats have the TV screens in the back of the seat in front. However, the front row has them in the arm rest.

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The seats are equipped with blanket, pillow and amenity kit around the seat.

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Row 1 window seats have plenty of leg room to get around a person sleeping on the aisle.

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The seat controls are in the arm of the seat.

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The other trick I noticed is that Qatar often release seats in Row 1 about 36 hours before departure, when check-in opens. Worth snagging if you can as often you get a spare one next to you. With the exception of one flight there were empty seats on each of the planes I took.

787 seats:

Food and Drink

This is a typical menu from one of the breakfast flights:

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The table layouts were done superbly, a lesson for many other airlines.

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Breakfast

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Pre-Landing snack/dinner

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Soups – which was superb I have to say

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Dinner – overnight departure from BKK

Arabic Mezze

Pasta – not the best dish

Pudding

Summary
The staff were invariably attentive, with nothing being too much trouble. They addressed by name on almost every encounter and worked hard to make sure even the most demanding passenger was content.

The seats are comfortable to sleep in and I would recommend the inflight service.

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Posted by MilesFromBlighty | No Comments

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I wrote yesterday about my super upgrade at the Grand Hyatt Bangkok.

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The view above is from the recently refurbished Grand Club located on the 17th floor. Over on Flyertalk many people have complained that the room has lost its local flavour. I understand what they mean, but the new club matches the new look and feel of Hyatt. Providing Breakfast and evening service, there are lots of seats in different combinations.

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The view back to the pool from the Grand Club – my room is a little out of view.

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The Club offers a wide range of cereals, fruit, yogurt, cheese, cold meats, salmon, pastries as well as warm items. The chef, behind the counter, happily made me an omelette, which was fresh and tasty.

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The evening service had a selection of small tasty items, salad and a couple of warm dishes.

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The staff in the lounge were (for the most part) absolutely lovely and very keen to assist when needed. There is a PC where you can print your boarding passes. The food was tasty and I loved being able to select an bespoke omelette made before my eyes. The food was self-service otherwise, and be sure to check the fridges as there are lots of tasty options in there. It was nice to be able to pick a table with a view or without. The hotel WiFi runs up there so I could download newspapers to read on the iPad, although there is a selection of English language papers available in the lounge. Tables were cleared quickly and any request was answered promptly.

Other view from the Grand Club:

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A thunderstorm approaches:

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Posted by MilesFromBlighty | No Comments

 

I wrote yesterday about changes that British Airways has made to the policy about electronic devices that could not be turned on when required.

Now, the UK Government has extended this ruling to include multiple destinations but will not specify which routes this applies to. Presumably it will be to more difficult areas of the world. It appears that the UK Government has fallen for the layers of security approach favoured by the USA’s TSA.

However, BA has relaxed its policy about what happens to passengers whose device will not turn on. The policy has removed a single, but significant paragraph from its web site.

If, when asked to do so, you are unable to demonstrate that your device has power you will not be allowed to fly on your planned service. -

This will be a relief to many who were faced with not only losing their uncharged device but also being denied boarding.

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | No Comments

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I stayed two nights at the Grand Hyatt Bangkok on my recent trip. Arriving in the early evening, during the period of the recent curfew, I hopped a taxi to the hotel. The cab was about GBP£10 and took a little over 30 minutes. There were checkpoints visible but not operational when I travelled. The driver said that he had waited 4 hours for his fare.

The hotel is in a pretty good location near two of the subway lines in Bangkok but honestly for the cab fare it wasn’t worth taking the train.

About two weeks before I arrived the hotel has reached out to ask when I was coming on Twitter, after I replied to someone asking a question about the hotel. I though this was nice and told them about my arrival date in reply to their question. When I got to the Reception desk, the agent was expecting me. I had applied a Diamond Gold Passport to my room and so was expecting a suite, and the hotel told me that they had further upgraded me – well beyond the call of duty. The agent escorted me to my room. I was a little disappointed when we only went to the 5th floor, although sometimes this happens with the upgrades. However, as we walked through the spa I was a little unsure what to expect when the double wooden doors opened:

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Outside there was a dining area for the spa and pool:

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To the right I was taken through a planted area:

to a set of five bungalows, located at the end of the pool area. I had been given the middle one!

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Whow !

I had booked some spa treatments for the next morning and the agent confirmed that the staff would come and collect me from the bungalow in the morning.

Entrance doors:

On entering the hallway there was a large sitting room to the right with the bedroom beyond. To the left was the massage room and beyond that bathroom and sauna. It was one of the largest hotel ‘rooms’ I had ever experienced. For about £90 per night and a suite upgrade.

On the desk was a letter warning about expected protests the next morning, but as I had planned the spa I wasn’t too concerned. I looked around the rooms that were going to be home for the next couple of days.

Checking the web site I found that I had been upgraded to:

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The Living Room
Had a large sofa, desk, rocking chair and TV. There was a huge fruit basket also.
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Many of the US/UK channels were not available:

The Treatment Room
The large bench was the focal feature of the room, but there were also two sinks on the far side.

The units along the side called out to be explored:

The was an espresso machine, and milk in the fridge!

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There was a wide range of fruit juices (all free), and in the top freezer compartment, there were two tubs of ice cream and a scoop!

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Bedroom
The large king bed was the feature of this room. The large picture window provided a lot of light during the day. A great place to read was the mattress on the window edge.

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The was a walkway, past the toilet to the bathroom, with a super bath.

Bathroom
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There were controls on the side of the sauna allowing me to set time and temperature.

Located off the bedroom there was a secluded patio area with several chairs.

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If there was an issue it was how far the train tracks were to the room. If you had been a light sleeper it might have been a problem.

You can see the location of the bungalow in conjunction to the swimming pool – you can see how large the suite was from the plan!

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This is the main part of the hotel, as seen from the 5th floor.

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The next morning I found that there was a problem with the drain from the bathroom after the huge thunderstorm of the night before. It caused the bath to empty in to the room. I put down the large towels and told the staff at the spa desk as I went for breakfast. They could not have been nicer. A cleaner turned up almost right away to mop up the water and then a handyman came. I swear every member of staff knew I had a problem – they kept apologising. When it came time for my massage, the Manager of the Spa came over, apologised again and then arrange for a free lunch after my treatment as an apology! Now that is service.

Overall
A great stay where the staff absolutely went out of their way to make it perfect. I hope to be back in 2015 when things should be more stable in the city. Certainly the best upgrade I have ever had at Hyatt and it truly made my stay enjoyable and memorable.

Tomorrow – Grand Club at the property.

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | No Comments

British Airways has announced an extra twist in the new rules for electronic devices. Amongst the advise not to bring broken electronics with you to the airport, the advise that if you bring a device that will not turn on – “Please do not bring any broken devices in your hand luggage to the airport as you will not be able to fly as planned.”

This is the whole article, which bears careful reading if you are travelling to the US on BA:

Summary

British Airways is complying with the new security requirements from the US Government on flights from the UK to the US.

All British Airways flights continue to operate as normal and we would advise customers to arrive in good time for the various stages of their journey including check-in, main security search areas and at the boarding gate. Customers may be subject to additional searches and questions.

Customers are advised to keep checking our website for any additional information regarding their specific flights.

More information

Customers on flights from the UK to the US must be able to comply if asked with the following requests:

Customers may be asked to turn on any electronic or battery powered devices such as telephones, tablets, e-books and laptops in front of security teams and/or demonstrate the item’s functionality.

If, when asked to do so, you are unable to demonstrate that your device has power you will not be allowed to fly on your planned service.

Please do all you can to ensure that items you bring with you are fully powered before you arrive at the airport.

Please do not bring any broken devices in your hand luggage to the airport as you will not be able to fly as planned.


Transfer customers flying to the US via the UK:

If you are flying to the US as a transfer customer, especially those on long journeys, please make sure that you not deplete power in your devices while on the first part of your journey.

There will be very limited charging points at airports.

Customers are still able to use their electronic devices on board subject to the normal operating rules. Read our guide on how you can use your electronic items on board.

The safety and security our customers remains our top priority at all times and we continue to work very closely with governments and airports around the world.

We thank you for your patience and understanding in helping us to comply with the additional regulations.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

What electronic devices are covered by this change of security regulations?
All electronic devices and mains powered electrical items such as tablets, telephones, e-books, laptops are included in these additional searches. If the security teams ask you to remove the item from its case or turn the device on you will be required to do so.

What happens if I don’t have any power left in my electronic device?
If you are unable to power up your electronic device you will not be allowed to fly. If it does not power up then it cannot be placed in your hand or hold luggage. Please do all you can to ensure that any electronic device you have is fully powered before you arrive at the airport. There will be very limited facilities at airports to charge electronic items.

I am transferring through London on a flight and then onto the US, what happens if my electronic device has run out of battery power by the time I arrive?
All electronic devices must have power and if you are unable to power up your item you will not be allowed to fly. Please use your electrical and electronic devices sparingly if you are going to fly on a long journey before getting to London and then transferring onto a US destination.

If my electronic device doesn’t have any power, will I be allowed to rebook?
If your device doesn’t power up when you are requested to do so, you will not be allowed to fly to the US on your original service. Our customer services team will look after the rebooking of your travel arrangements.

Will all customers on US flights be subject to the additional security measures?
All customers flying to the US must be prepared to have their electronic items searched and they must have sufficient power to be used.

I have just purchased a new electronic item from an airport shop, can I carry it on board if it has no power?
Customers must be prepared to demonstrate that the item has power. The item and its packaging may also be examined by security teams at the boarding gate. Please do all you can to ensure that any new electronic items you purchase at the airport have power before you reach the boarding gate.

Will there be extra charging points at the airport?
There will be some extra charging points, but customers need to ensure that their own devices have enough power at all times. Please do all you can to ensure that your electronic devices are fully powered before arriving at the airport.

Can I use my device on board?
Customers can use their devices on board. Our normal guidelines of using electronic devices in Flight Safe mode continue. Read our guide on how you can use your electronic items on board.

I no longer wish to travel, can I change my flight?
We expect to operate a full schedule of flights to and from the US and therefore normal ticket rules apply.

Can I use a mobile boarding pass as normal?
Yes, customers will still be able to use their mobile devices as boarding passes. Please ensure that any electronic devices, you have your mobile boarding pass on, have sufficient battery life and power before arriving at the airport.

I am flying to a destination outside of the US, what will I be required to do?
We comply with all the required security regulation on each country we fly to. We will continue to conduct additional random security processes on a wide range of destinations

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Posted by MilesFromBlighty | 2 Comments

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On my recent trip from Cairo to Bangkok I had a long layover in Doha and decided to stay at the Grand Hyatt. This is my review of the Grand Hyatt Doha. Another Hyatt to add to my list of properties visited. (One day Hyatt will give me the free night they award randomly for people who have stayed at more than 50 different properties!).

Whilst the property is a long way from the airport, I didn’t really mind. The car picked me up at the airport, and although it was about a 30 minute drive, I did get to see a little of the city on the way.

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I was welcomed on arrival as a Diamond Gold Passport member and they confirmed I was upgraded to a room on the Grand Club floor. The agent had already set up the room for registration and so took me right there. The room was reminiscent of the Grand Hyatt in Berlin with a separate pod for the bathroom, toilet and shower with doors to the corridor or room.

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The room had a balcony with two chairs, although in the dark it was not terribly useful.

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I slept well in the excellent bed.

The bathroom had a large bath, separate shower room and basin.

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The sun rose early the next morning, and I ventured back out on the balcony. A very warm wind blew, making it feel as if I was standing in front of a hairdryer. However, the early morning light was special and enjoyed the views.

The adjacent shopping centre was visible:

The chairs would be have been pretty comfy if I had more time in the room.

I did visit the Grand Club the night I arrived but have misplaced the photos. It was large, dark with a very good selection of wines and beer and a decent selection of food. A very unhappy toddler pretty much dominated the room, and I stayed for a little while. The staff were excellent, especially when my key would not work as I get back to the room. It was fixed in no time.

Overall
A good stay, but the property is some distance from the airport. My second stopover was planned to be here but it was too far so I changed plans and booked a property nearer the airport.

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | No Comments

2014-07-06_06-36-10

 

The long awaited partial opening of the Silver Line is due on 26 July. This will get you nearer to Dulles Airport but not quite there. The extension to serve Dulles is due in 2018. There will be a reduction in the Blue Line service to accommodate the extra trains using the tunnel.

However, the previous cost-effective option of taking the Washington Flyer bus to West Falls Church is changing to becoming an option to take the same bus to Wiehle-Reston East and then the new Silver Line in to Downtown.

The fare to West Falls Church is currently $10. It will be $5 to/from Wiehle-Reston East station.

The ribbon opening for the new station is at 10am on 19 July – details here.

A map showing the new route and stations is here.

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | One Comment

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I had a short overnight stay between my flight to London and my onwards connection to Doha.

There is a limited choice of hotels at the airport (read just one!), and so I decided to book the Hyatt. Of course it adds to my target of 25 stays this years for elite status and as it was somewhere I had never been it was an interesting change.

A few weeks before the hotel reached out and asked whether I wanted them to book a car. This seemed the easiest thing to, and it worked well with the driver being ready for me just outside immigration. (Just be aware that the sign has a relatively small logo for the Grand Hyatt, so put on your glasses.)

The drive took about 20 minutes to the hotel. Once you exit the car you have to go through a metal detector and have your bags x-rayed. This seems fairly standard for many hotels in the more troubled parts of the world.

The reception desk dealt with me promptly and I was quickly on my way to my room. A fairly standard room, although on the Grand Club floor. (The Grand Club had closed when I arrived, and would not open in time for the morning.) Reception booked a normal taxi for the morning which was about half the price of the car from the hotel.

The bathroom was lovely (see the gold loo wall above!) and a nice stone-clad bath:

I slept well and was awoken by the prebooked alarm call. A quick bath (ahhh!) and then off back to the airport in the cab. There was no traffic and the road goes through the countryside, so you do get to see a little of the country.

I arrived, without problem, with plenty of time, for my onward flight.

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Summary
A great nights stay! Will be back in August for a second visit.

Posted by MilesFromBlighty | No Comments

On my last stay in Doha I needed a hotel close to the airport. The Hyatt is a 30-45 minute drive away from the new airport. I solved this dilemma by booking the Crowne Plaza which is close to the old airport, and so about 15 minutes from the new airport.

And I was so pleased I did.

I had arranged a car from the hotel as their shuttles were infrequent late at night. The driver was a little hard to find, but once located we had a short walk to where he had parked the car and then were off to the hotel.

Located in an office building, the Crowne Plaza is pretty new.

The lobby is bright and airy

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The charming check-in agent, noted my Platinum status and advised that they had upgraded me to a suite. (Of course this always happens when I have only a few hours of sleep. In fact the hotel had called me earlier in the day as they were sold out; I suspect they were full and looked for upgraders).

I took the lift to the third floor

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The door opened on to the living area:

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The bedroom opened from the joining door with the bedroom to the left, and the bathroom to the right:

The rooms featured the signature Crowne Plaza red in lots of aspects as you can see. There was a wide of TV channels, including several from the BBC.

The bed was really comfortable, the surroundings quiet and the alarm call on time. View from the window next morning:

My rate included 5,000 bonus points and breakfast and so I popped down when the restaurant opened at 6am. What a spread. To be fair, had I paid it would have been 20% of my room rate!

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The food was varied and fresh, and as it was buffet you can have as much as you liked.

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I popped back to the room, and checked out. A few minutes later I was back at the airport for my next flight, back to Cairo.

Summary
A great stay at a property well placed for the airport. A super room, and worth paying for breakfast in your room rate as it’s expensive otherwise.

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Posted by MilesFromBlighty | No Comments

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