Old Jun 16, 08, 10:37 am
  #22  
Flying Buccaneer
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: TPA
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Posts: 2,199
Antalya to Ankara

I woke up at 5:00 a.m. to finish packing and get ready for my flight. I checked out of the Sheraton Voyager at 6:45 a.m. and the front desk clerk said he would call for a taxi. There was a taxi outside of the hotel with the hotel's name on the door. I wasn't sure if that was the taxi or not, and the driver was asleep. After a couple of minutes, I tapped on the window, and the driver awoke. "Airport?" I asked, and he nodded yes. A little less than 25 minutes later, I was at the domestic terminal.

June 16, 2008 AYT-ESB
Turkish Airlines 911 (Operated by Anadolujet)
B-737
Seat 11C (Changed to 8D)


I looked at the monitors to find the check in counters for the 8:40 a.m. for Ankara, and headed in that direction. The flight was operated by Anadolujet, a no-frills subsidiary of TK. The base fare was only 29 YTL. The flight would not earn miles on UA, or TK for that matter. However, given the low fare, I didn't mind. The only thing that I was curious about was whether my UA 1P status would enable me to use the *G/Business check in line for an Anadolujet flight.

After the two general lines came to a standstill, I walked over to the *G line and handed over my UA card, my passport, and my printed confirmation. The I placed my bag on the scale: 27.4 kg. Uh oh! The baggage handler put a "Heavy" tag on my bag, while the agent shyly (almost apologetically) explained that I was 12 kg over the 15 kg allowance. Therefore, I would need to pay an excess baggage fee at the TK office, and she motioned to it. I asked if I should leave my bag with her, and she said I should.

The excess baggage fee was 3 YTL per kg over, or 36 YTL. Not too bad. The base fare, plus taxes and fees, plus the excess bag charge, still was just 90 YTL. I went back to the *G/business line. When the agent saw me, she motioned me to the front of the line and handed me my BP, bag claim tag, passport, and UA card.

The flight started boarding around 8:20 a.m. Boarding buses, that is. Pax in rows 15 and higher were told to go in the back door, everyone else, the front door. I walked down the aisle to 11C, and found both 11A and B occupied. That was not a problem for a 45-minute flight. However, the lack of legroom was.

According to TK's website, one version of the 737 has seats with 29-30" pitch. This was it. When I sat, the seat in front of me moved forward. I sat up straight, and my knees still dug into it. However, just before the door closed, I noticed that there were many sets of three seats unoccupied. I moved over to 8D and asked a FA if it was OK. It was.

By the way, this is my biggest gripe with airlines that don't allow pax to choose their own seats, either at ticketing or while boarding. Self-selecting pax will almost always scatter themselves throughout the cabin better than a check-in agent. The pax are interested in where they sit, and check-in agents have more important things to worry about.

The flight took off at 9:03 a.m., and shortly after the seat belt sign was turned off, the FAs were in the aisle with packages of cake and mineral water. Again, this was a brief flight on a no-frills airline! However, the lack of legroom and no magazine were reminders.

The flight landed at ESB at 9:42 a.m. and took less than 10 minutes to taxi to the gate. Bags appeared within 20 minutes of reaching the gate, and I was on my way.

A havas (airport) bus was waiting outside, and I handed over my heavy bag and boarded. An agent came through the aisle collecting 9 YTL from everyone. ESB is more than 30 km from Ankara, so the havas bus is the best bet for getting into the city. The bus made a couple of stops for individuals, and then stopped at the havas terminal. About half the pax departed, and I wasn't sure if I should or not. So I asked the driver, who did not speak English. Thankfully, another pax interpreted for me, and asked me where I was going. When I told him the Sheraton, he told the driver, who said the terminal was my closest point of exit. I thanked them both, got my bag, and boarded a taxi. The taxi and bus together were 24 YTL, compared to 60 for a taxi. I was in no hurry, because I was not sure if I would be able to check in so early.

I arrived at the Sheraton a little after 11:00 a.m. The hotel is easily-recognizable, with its circular tower design. It's a lot like the Sheraton Park Tower in London, just taller and not quite as big around. As the taxi approached, security checked the back and underside. Before I could go into the lobby, I had to put my bag and backpack through and x-ray machine.

Check-in was fast. My room was ready, and I had been upgraded to a Club room on the 21st floor. The agent explained that the Club Lounge on the 20th floor was open 24 hours a day with coffee and tea, happy hour started at 6:00 p.m., and continental breakfast at 7:00 a.m. Then someone from the lobby took my bag, showed me to the room, and practiced his English with me. His English was excellent anyway. Much better than my Turkish!

I spent most of the afternoon relaxing and exploring the immediate area. The area is close to a number of embassies, and is very different from Antalya. From what I can gather, it is much different from the rest of Ankara. Were I not spending 5 more nights in Ankara, in a hotel in a different part of the city, I would explore farther. However, that will come, as I was reminded when I called the local coordinator of the program, and she said "We have a packed itinerary."

The reason I chose the Sheraton was simple. The cash and points rate of $45 + 2800 *points was tough to beat for a property that's part of The Luxury Collection. The best rate (including VAT) was $243. I didn't need the stay for requalification, so paying $49 (including VAT) and 2800 points made each point worth about 7 cents. Not a bad return. (I know, there are better deals, but I liked this one.)

The club lounge is divided into smoking and non-smoking sections. Coffee, tea, cookies, and fruit are available all day. (The tiny pears are delicious!) I went to happy hour a little after it started, and there were just three other guests there. I got a bottle of Efes Pilsner (no charge) and stood next to an open window. One of the club employees brought me a dish of three types of roasted nuts: hazelnuts, almonds, and pistachios. Then a dish of Doritos. (Yeah, Doritos. I'm sure of it!) Then a dish of sliced carrots and cucumbers dressed with lemon juice, watermelon balls and kiwi chunks, and cubes of white cheese.

If there's one thing I could change about this hotel, it would be the neighborhood. I know that's a stupid comment, but it's a little too chic or trendy for my taste. Then again, I am in what is considered the top hotel in Ankara, so what did I expect?

Anyway, feeling the cool breeze while sipping a beer and looking out over the vast city more than makes up for any issues I might have about the neighborhood.
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