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First-timer on Turkish Airlines, personal notes on longhaul J travel (no photos)

First-timer on Turkish Airlines, personal notes on longhaul J travel (no photos)

Old Aug 31, 11, 6:29 am
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First-timer on Turkish Airlines, personal notes on longhaul J travel (no photos)

As an elite traveller on OW, I fly very little on *A and had never travelled with Turkish Airlines. So for this first time on a TK flight I didn't know what to expect and I am thinking that it could be of interest to post my experience here for others. I myself usually do some research on FT and other places before choosing a new product/airline/route and therefore my aim with this report is to share such information with others who do the same. It is not the ultimate guide to anything, it is just some personal notes.

I fly from northern Europe to Asian destinations 3-5 times a year, mainly using AY and CX. I appreciate these airlines for their efficiency, good meal services, timetables/connections and CX for their quality. I also love CX HKG first class lounge and the AY HEL spa, and I rate the complete travel experience important to me.
This time I wanted to try something different and found TK with an attractive price, interesting newly renovated IST lounge offer and a reputation for nice meal service.

My report is for r/t GOT-IST-CAN, in J on B737-800 and J on B777-300ER with new J product.

Leg 1 GOT-IST, TK1798 B737-800
TK web-checkin is a little strange. I was only allowed to do web check-in for the second leg of my flight. This made it pointless to print BP, as I still would have to do airport check-in at GOT for the first leg. When buying TK tickets online it is not possible to add any other FF-card than TKs own Miles&Smiles. At web check-in however, I was allowed to add my A3 M&B number. The deadline for airport check-in was 1 hour before take off for any kind of passengers, Y as J. I was a little surprised, since other airlines like Lufthansa manages to have a check-in deadline of 30 minutes at GOT airport. I arrived at the airport a good hour and a half before take off, and soon realized why TK needs this long deadline.

The staff seemed to have received very little training on TK check-in system, and processing was extremely slow at all desks, economy as business. The staff had one "cheat-sheet" that was shared among all the operators and most of the time they were running around looking for the sheet or asking each other for instructions on how to do a certain operation.

I was asked for number of bags to check-in and I replied that I will have only carry on, two pieces. That was OK, but she didn't want to see or weigh the bags, and I was not given any approved cabin luggage tags. This worried me a little, but as I found out later on there were never any problems with allowed cabin luggage on the entire trip.

When I received my BP, my frequent flyer number was not showing, and I asked about it. She offered to enter it manually but could not find the airline code for Aegean. I told her it was A3, and she looked baffled. She had never heard of Aegean, and I had to keep telling her it is A3. She went through several steps on the screen, trying to add the card number but failed. She looked through her instruction card, and was unable to find Aegean as an *A partner. I told her, yes, they are, and pointed to the *A-symbol on the card. Aha, she answered, then the code is SK.
(Now, SK is the Scandinavian airlines, which is the largest operator at GOT, so she clearly was confused about the different trademarks of *A and SK!). She started to enter my card number manually again but with SK-prefix and I told her "No, that just can't be right!" and asked her to leave the field blank so that I could claim miles manually afterwards.

I asked for lounge access, and I was given directions to the *A gold lounge. I also asked for lounge access at IST, and she gave me a card that I first though to be an lounge invitation, but after closer examination turned out to be a priority channel access for immigrations at IST. Surely a nice thing to have, but since I was to only transiting at IST, this was not really what I was looking for.

Boarding was not completed on time, and even after all passengers had arrived doors still were left open. There was no announcement made as to why, and we were just sitting there for maybe half an hour. Then ground personnel entered the cabin and approached me, asking if I could accept a "different meal". Apparently there was a mismatch in meals that had been delivered and number of passengers, and this was the reason why the flight could not leave. At this point I was just happy to get going, and accepted the meal offer without knowing what it was. I was a little surprised to be approached by ground personnel and not by the FA, but it turned out that this initiative was not quite approved by TK. Anyway, since this seemed to be the only way to get the aircraft off the ground, I told the FA that it would be OK with me. Around one hour after scheduled take off time, we could finally start to taxi.

I have no clue if this was a mistake by catering personnel or by TK. I was told that number of business passengers had increased very late in boarding process, so my best guess is that TK had accepted passengers to upgrade for points, but failed to get enough meals. But in any case I would have appreciated if TK had taken an active roll in resolving the issue (and preferably letting the upgrading passengers be with out J meal).

FAs did not offer any compensation or even treat me something extra. I was served something that was probably not even a TK designated meal, with a mix of plastic utensils and ceramic plates. I was served without any comments or thanks for my co-operation.

However, one fellow passengers came over and presented himself saying that he might have been the culprit and that he was glad that I had accepted the meal. He offered to arrange for me to get an upgrade on my next TK-flight. I have no idea how that will work out, but it was at least nice to get some gratitude for it all.

The plane was 3-3-configuration with blocked middle seat and movable divider between J and Y. I found the leather seats comfortable enough for a 3 hour flight, and of normal intra europe standard. There was quite limited leg room, and the screen (showing one designated movie) was not bright enought to let me actually see anything. IFE is not a big deal for me anyway, so I didn't mind. FAs disappeared as soon as normal meal service was finished and was never to bee seen again.

To summarize leg 1:
Check-in and ground services: Not acceptable due to untrained staff and inefficient boarding routines.
Inflight services: It would be unfair to rate the meal as I did not have the designated meal, but FA actions quite disappointing. All in all below my expectations, but not bad.

Next up: My first meet with TK CIP-lounge and leg 2 IST-CAN.
intuition is offline  
Old Aug 31, 11, 12:18 pm
Join Date: Feb 1999
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Wow, this trip is starting off bad what with the meal change and all. Not that I ever thought of flying Turkish, but this would help make up my mind not to fly them. Can't wait to read the next chapter...it's got to get better for you.
Nanook is offline  
Old Sep 1, 11, 7:40 am
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Nice trip report, but as a sales technique try not to put (no photos) into the title

And yes, the Aegean incident is quite sad- but clueless staff are unfortunately not a rarity (just see the US *A miles booking thread for evidence )
belfordrocks is offline  
Old Sep 1, 11, 8:39 am
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Part 2, CIP lounge Istanbul and leg 2 IST-CAN TK72, B777-300 TC-JJJ

Part 2, CIP lounge Istanbul and leg 2 IST-CAN TK72, B777-300 TC-JJJ
Coming into IST we had to circle around for a really long time. I didn't clock it but my estimate is 40 minutes. I usually travel via HEL and I don't think I ever had to circle there even 1 lap. So this was a new and boring experience for me. I am not sure if it is a temporary situation or if IST is generally an overcrowded airport, but I don't care much for waiting in the air. It is a waste of time and fuel, not to mention bad for the environment.

Once landed, there was also a shortage of gates, and we had to taxi completely across the airport to gate 101, which is in the domestic terminal. This terminal is of course not equipped for international arrivals, so we had to de-board to the ground and got bus transport back to gate 207 (circa) where we were let in into arrival floor. Getting to departure floor was easy, only showing BP and without any security screening.

The airlines I usually travel with do print lounge invitations, and on the occasional lack of such invitation I can always show my FQTVcard to get access. Since I'm not familiar with *A practices and now without a invitation to lounge, I was curious what would happen at entry at CIP lounge. It turned out to be very easy, because there were barcode readers and automated entry gates, and entry was gained by flashing the boarding pass to one of the three gate/readers. Very convenient!

The new CIP lounge have been extensively reported on here on FT, and I can only say that I found it as nice as the reports say. I also think it is a clever design, where an large and dull area (as in any airport) is converted to smaller open rooms by the arch construction. This construction also creates the feeling of a ceiling, and thus isolating the area from the naked steel roof construction of the terminal building. Very well done.
For a first time visitor it takes some time to get the hang of the place, since there are many different food and drink stations and rooms with different attitude and ambiance. After a few drinks and food in the area close to the entrance which is quite busy, I moved along to the piano section and enjoyed a more relaxed time.

Boarding for TK72 started 1 hour ahead of take off time, and I decided to not wait until the last minute to board, but to quite early get to the gate. IST has security screening at the gates (instead of having it at the transit point). I find this solution a little more inconvenient (more crowded and difficult to board late) but it worked well and I was soon boarding. All boarding took place through middle door, ie TK does not use separate boarding channel for J customers.
There was a very low occupancy in the J cabin and I think this is due to the launch of comfort class (premium econ). I guess a lot of TK customers who otherwise would prefer J is now choosing comfort class, as it is priced around 30% lower than J (this was the price difference I found when booking my ticket. I am sure it will differ over time). Good for me to get a half empty cabin, but I wonder if TK is making money on the arrangement. The trick with premium econ is to lure some econ passengers one notch up, not the other way around.

Anyway, the few passengers were scattered around the cabin and seated in row 1 I felt almost alone. The cabin layout felt modern and airy. It is a 2-3-2 seat cabin, with very large pitch. Even though the pitch, middle seat did not look all that inviting, and as a matter of fact no passenger was seated in any of the 3 middle seats! Every one had chosen either window or aisle in the outer sections.

FA offered the standard choice of juice, champagne and water but no one offered to take my jacket. Many FA passed by and noticed my jacket, but as it seems, there is a very strict work description for each person in the TK staff and they will only do the tasks that are assigned to them. This is what I reckon, because it was first when a FA I had not seen before entered the cabin my jacket was taken care of.

Take off was delayed substantially as we had to wait in line for several other flights to take off. After take off the FAs got busy in the galley. Then the full menu was presented and I browsed this for a while. It looked nice, and was also tagged with my name. What I failed to realize was that I was supposed to choose my breakfast at this time, by marking check boxes on the separate breakfast menu. The flying chef went through the cabin taking orders for dinner and also to collect the breakfast menus and I had to ask for a pen and then swiftly make some choices.
Pre dinner drinks were now offered, and very soon after the drinks were served, dinner service started. I felt the timing was off. Not on the dinner but it would have been much better if the drinks had been served directly after take off.
Dinner was served on china and with proper utensils. I think the benefits of a "flying chef" was clear at this point; Dinner service felt more personal, with good and individual timing of presenting and clearing plates, and the presentation of food was very well done at all stages.
I was enjoying the dinner service in my own pace and when I finished my main course a large selection of deserts came out on a cart (the first thing to be presented on a cart, and this was the only way to do it due to the large selection of deserts offered). "You are our special customer tonight" said the chef, and when I looked around the cabin I realized that almost all the other passengers had already turned in. We had a nice little chat, and I got pampered with a lot of different deserts. A selection of spirits were also offered, but I declined this and coffee and decided to go to sleep.

After the cabin completely settled down, water bottles were dispensed to each seat, and they were much needed as I found the cabin air to be warmer and more dry than on other trips. The new J class seats are nice and folds to a completely flat 180 position, using the "ottoman" footrest as an extension of the bed. Lengthwise very good, but I found the bed to be a little narrow. On some other products I flown, the armrest can be folded down to bed level giving a little extra wideness of the bed, but the armrest here is fixed. Anyway, I had no trouble sleeping, and soon it was morning and time for breakfast.

My jacket was still in the cupboard after landing, and I had to ask for it at de-boarding. Most travellers on this route travel without coats because of the hot weather so I can understand the mistake, but still think the routine could be better. We landed about half an hour late, which also surprised me a little bit, since the flying time was shorter that scheduled. I guess the delay out of IST was larger than what I first estimated.

To summarize leg 2:
TK have a great lounge at IST, with high capacity and great selection of food, drinks and entertainments, but still with the atmosphere of a smaller lounge. Even if I heard great things about it, I was still pleasantly surprised. Though, IST as a hub has a major drawback in the lacking flight capacity, as both incoming and outgoing flights seemed to be regularly delayed.
The concept of flying chef clearly has its benefits and meal service was up to par with my quite high expectations. The J cabin and service was also good, with some minor remarks.
intuition is offline  

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