This is the third report in a series covering my trip to Europe and Africa around New Year's. The trip involved three nested itineraries (which turned into four). A OneWorld roundtrip itinerary from the US to Milan, a Tunisair roundtrip itinerary from Milan to Tunis, Tunisia, and a Star Alliance roundtrip itinerary from Tunis to Windhoek, Namibia. The return portion of the Star Alliance itinerary would turn into a one-way itinerary on Qatar Airways due to South African Airways delays (hot weather), horrible customer service by South African Airways and United Airlines, and a cancellation of the remainder of the Star Alliance itinerary. I submitted a claim to World Nomads travel insurance for the Qatar Airways ticket I had to buy because I was facing a 24 hour delay by Star Alliance. World Nomads rejected the claim (as well as my appeal). According to them, they're off the hook unless the "common carrier" is completely shut down for 24 hours due to weather or a labor strike. The verbiage in the policy doesn't include "common carrier" though. It's ridiculous to think that if your airline operated any flight anywhere in the world during your 24 hour delay, World Nomads wouldn't have to honor the contract. The California Department of Insurance is currently reviewing the case because I complained that they narrowed the scope of my policy after making a claim. I can't recommend using World Nomads travel insurance. I've bought five travel insurance policies through them; this is the first time I had to make a claim and it's not a good process.
The OneWorld itinerary was an open jaw from Chicago to Milan in Economy, and Milan to San Diego in Business. The total cost was 63,000 AAdvantage miles and $84.10. Normal cost would be 70,000 miles (20,000 for the outbound in Economy and 50,000 for the inbound in Business). However, I was able to get 10% back thanks to my Citi AAdvantage MasterCard.
The roundtrip cost for the Tunisair ticket was $182.48, bought through Vayama.
———- Milan Malpensa to Tunis (Tunisair Economy): You Are Here
————— Tunis to Istanbul (Turkish Airlines Business) ————— Istanbul to Kinshasa (Turkish Airlines Business) ————— Kinshasa to Johannesburg (South African Airways Business) ————— Johannesburg to Windhoek (South African Airways Business) ————— Windhoek to Johannesburg (South African Airways Business) ————— Johannesburg to Lagos (South African Airways Business): Cancelled Flight ————— Lagos to Istanbul (South African Airways Business): Cancelled Flight ————— Istanbul to Tunis (Turkish Airlines Business): Cancelled Flight
———- Tunis to Milan Malpensa (Tunisair Economy): No Show
——————– Johannesburg to Doha (Qatar Airways Business) ——————– Doha to Milan Malpensa (Qatar Airways Business)
—– Milan Malpensa to Miami (American Airlines Business) —– Miami to Chicago O'Hare (American Airlines First) —– Chicago O'Hare to San Diego (American Airlines First)
The train ride from Milano Centrale to Malpensa went smoothly. We left on time and the train was clean and uncrowded. Despite being more expensive and taking longer, I enjoyed this relaxing ride much more than the trip from Linate on the bus.
Some sort of art exhibit on display between the train station and the terminal.
The large check in area looks like any other major airport. I could tell that some of the smaller, budget airlines to places like Eastern Europe had huge lines and no kiosks around. I was able to avoid the check in desks altogether because Tunisair offers mobile boarding passes that work with the iPhone Passes app.
Between security and passport control there are a smattering of duty free shops and overpriced food options.
After passport control, there are a few news stands and quick service restaurants around the gates. Our flight was delayed, which is usual for this route, so I had a lot of time to kill walking around here. The airport does offer free WiFi though which was came in handy for keeping an eye on the inbound flight. The monitors in the terminal weren't updating with new information.
Finally our bird arrived and we eventually boarded through gate B09.
The business class section is set up like most short haul European routes with standard economy seats and the middle seat blocked out.
Economy seating was pretty normal in terms of pitch, but the seats themselves were pretty worn out. There were three people in my row but empty rows in the back so I camped out back there for most of the flight.
They passed out these sandwiches and landing cards near the beginning of the flight.
In-flight magazine, was actually pretty good.
Was able to get a GPS signal during the middle of the flight.
It was pouring rain when we landed. No jetway so we all crammed into this single bus. The passport control was actually really easy as there's no visa required for Americans. I had read stories about foreigners being questioned for hours thanks to the current State of Emergency in the country, but I experienced nothing like that. I took a taxi to my AirBnB on the west side of town. The host said a taxi should cost €5-10 so I thought it was normal when the driver and I settled on a price of 20 Dinars (€9). I didn't even see a meter in his car, though it was nearly brand new and looked like all the other taxis. On my way back to the airport a couple days later, I hailed a taxi on the street and the guy ran the meter. The total cost was only about 5 Dinars! Maybe it's normal to charge extra for airport pick-ups, but I doubt it's quadruple so I wish the host had given me a fairer price range.
The driver spoke no English, but I was able to get by with my High School French skills and we found the place just fine. These are some shots of the street in the daylight and the view from an empty lot on the street. The apartment was huge and had fast, consistent WiFi. I wouldn't say it was up to Western standards, but I was more than comfortable and it even had a washing machine in the unit.
The morning after my flight in I set out to do some sightseeing. The AirBnB was just a five minute walk to the Medina so I walked through there then on to the main thoroughfare, Avenue Habib Bourguiba. I stopped and sipped some orange juice at one of the many sidewalk cafes that look very similar to what you'd see in France.
The Medina was pretty much what I expected based on what I had seen in Morocco, but seemed less touristy. There were some shops selling tourist trinkets, but I saw absolutely zero people who looked like tourists. I don't mean very few, I mean zero. This is most likely due to the recent terrorist attacks, all the Western travel warnings, and even Tunisia's own declared State of Emergency. Even on my flight from Milan I didn't see anyone else who looked like a tourist. Everything was fine during my trip, but there was a palpable tension on Avenue Habib Bourguiba. The police and military were set up all along the street with body armor and heavy armored trucks. I even saw one military setup that looked like something out of a movie with a defensive fighting position built out of sandbags and camouflage netting. I thought it would probably be a bad idea to start snapping pictures of that, so I just casually walked past.
I stopped at this restaurant to get some lunch and took advantage of the strong dollar to have a huge meal.
A Mexican pizza, chicken schwarma, and fries along with a Fanta and some fresh squeezed orange juice. Forgot to take a picture before I dove into the first piece of pizza. To give you an idea of what prices were like, the chicken schwarma and fries were $1.97. This was a welcome change to the high food prices I experienced in Milan.
Milan - MXP
Tunis - TUN
Overall this flight went well except for the delay. Based on what I've seen on FlightAware, delays on this route are pretty common. The frustrating part was the lack of information communicated to passengers. There were no announcements until the inbound flight was almost to the gate and the monitors in the terminal weren't updating with new information; all this despite the fact that a delay was inevitable based on the inbound flight's takeoff time.
Tunis was pretty interesting and I enjoyed walking around. The entire country was in a self declared State of Emergency (and still is) thanks to recent terrorist attacks. I wasn't too concerned about this (or the US State Department travel warning) because I had been to Egypt in early 2014 when there was no functioning government and violence all over the news. However, everything seemed fine relative to what I was expecting and everyone I met was very friendly. I saw the aftermath of an attack that had occurred a couple weeks prior and there was an attack on a bus in the Sinai while I was there, but I recognized that my chances of getting caught up in something like that were still nearly zero. In Tunis, I figured those odds were even lower since I was staying at an AirBnB in a random neighborhood, not a brand name hotel. Daily life appeared to carry on just fine in Tunis as I sat at that sidewalk cafe sipping orange juice. The point I'd like to make is that you shouldn't stop yourself from traveling anywhere based on media fervor. If anything, those places should pique your interest.
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Do you remember if you got offered a choice for the drink service?
There must be some good deals to grab in Tunisia to get the tourists back!
Thanks for sharing Nick and looking forward to more
Nice bonus pics. It good to see that life goes on in Tunis and that it's relatively safe. It's been a very long time since I've been to Tunisia--back then safety and security were never really concerns. It's a beautiful country and I hope things get back to normal soon; seems like they're on their way.
I wasn't too concerned about this - You laugh in the face of danger! Mwahaha :-P
Thanks for sharing!
Nice to hear your anecdote about Tunisia, I hope they get back on their feet as well. Thanks for the comment!
Access to MXP looks very similar to access to FCO.
Yikes, those seats look prehistoric and rather plasticy. At least they had the overhead monitors with the moving map :)
There was no drink service? Only the sandwich?
those places should pique your interest.
- Within reason, yes.
They did drink service but it was separate, that's why I don't have a picture of a drink in the picture.
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