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Back in the Air after 77 days

Back in the Air after 77 days

Old Jun 3, 20, 2:15 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Nov 2018
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
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Back in the Air after 77 days

Dear folks,

Welcome to this special trip report where I would share my short day trip within Turkey which does only involve airports and flying but nothing else.

After not flying for 2.5 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic; on Saturday, 30 May 2020, I've read the news that domestic flights in Turkey would resume on Monday, 1 June 2020. With this occasion, I decided to take this special flight to Ankara which would be the first scheduled flight in Turkey after the flight restrictions have lifted. That day, I was going to take 3 different flights in order to be back in the air.

The first report of this series would be the report of the first scheduled domestic flight in Turkey after the restrictions have lifted. This flight was TK2150 from Istanbul Airport to Ankara Esenboğa Airport and here is the trip report of it.

Turkish Airlines TK 2150
Istanbul Airport to Ankara Esenboğa Airport
June 1, 2020 10:00-11:20
Airbus A330-300
TC-LNG ( Mersin )
Economy Class


A video report of this flight would be served to a YouTube channel soon, when that video is posted, I would attach the link in this thread below.

Loads for this flight:
Business Class: No idea
Economy Class: %50-55

There was a total of 156 passengers onboard, the aircraft has 289 seats.

ONLINE CHECK-IN
Due to social distancing measures, online seat selection was unavailable. That might be the reason why online check-in wasn't available; however, having OLCI open, would reduce the amount of people using self check-in kiosks or the people using physical check-in counters.

This was the error I received

Same situation for the mobile application, online check-in was unavailable and I was asked to check-in at the airport.

However, the CEO of Turkish Airlines, Mr. Bilal Ekşi has encouraged people to use online services but at this point online services were unavailable.

Never mind, the day of the flight, early in the morning, a relative dropped me to Istanbul Airport.

I was really happy, coming back to IST after 77 days.

And here we head to the departures level. There is a significant improvement in the construction of the airport mosque.

Construction is still going on for the airport metro

ISTANBUL AIRPORT - IST
As the airport was not at full capacity, only doors 1 and 3 were open for entrance.

Sanitizers were available everywhere in the airport, including at this point.

It's sad to see IST this empty.

Before entering the airport, police officers checked my e-ticket and matched with my ID as no-body except passengers and staff are permitted inside the terminal. Later on, my body temperature was checked with thermal cameras. After that, I passed the initial security checkpoint, almost all lanes were kept open in order to keep the social distance as much as possible.

Today's flights: Some military charters and 4 scheduled flights to Ankara, Antalya, Trabzon and Izmir

And international flights: A repatriation flight to Uzbekistan and another one to Romania. That's all

Check-in could either be made via kiosks or via desks. There were almost 20-30 desks open that day including 2 for Business Class and status passengers.

Stickers regarding where to step were clearly indicated in the queue areas. All check-in staff was wearing masks and face shields for protection.

At check-in, I was served by a friendly agent and all 3 boarding passes for my flights were printed. Also, I didn't hand my ID card to her; instead, I showed her and she entered the details; she also entered the necessary HES code ( health code ) to the system in order to fly. ( Turkish citizens require one, foreign citizens are exempt ).

My boarding pass for this flight. Also a reminder that carry-on baggages are not allowed inside the cabin and +8kg baggage allowance is added to all passengers instead. Bags that fit under the seat ( handbags, laptop bags, etc... ) are still permitted.

Later on, I did a mini-tour of the landside. Some parts of the landside area were closed with barriers and closed. Here is a photo of unused check-in counters.

International departures area

And, here is the domestic departures area. The café before security was already open. Chairs and tables were placed with attention to social distance.

Security was fast and quick without any wait, there were many lanes open at that point. Every passenger was directed to body-scanners in order to avoid physical contact when a search is needed. Most of the stores were still closed.

However, some of them were open.

There was a desk allocated for the Ministry of Health but there was no medical staff present at that time. I guess that medical staff would be present later on and a thermal camera would be installed here.

The food court was entirely closed

However, Starbucks, Çay Saati, Simit Sarayı was open.

I had my breakfast at Simit Sarayı and there, tables were allocated according to social distance measures and the necessary precautions were taken at the counters.

After having my breakfast, it was time heading downstairs to the gate level. At escalators, disinfecting devices were placed for handrails.

And, heading downstairs to the gate level

The international terminal was empty with no flights at that time.

FIDS

And here is the aircraft that would take us to Ankara

TC-LNG named Mersin, the newest Airbus A330-300 in the TK fleet, would be the one operating this special flight.

While waiting for boarding, it's time to explore the terminal; here are the bus gates.

And here is how an example jetbridge gate was prepared, floor markings are visible in order to maintain the social distance.

The podium has glass windows in order to protect the staff over there.

And, the seating areas. Most seats are blocked and not available for usage.

Many aircraft were parked at the terminal; these aircraft are waiting the day for when they would be back in the air.

Gloria Jean's Coffees was opened to service.

And most of you would wonder about lounges, the elevators for the lounge was working.

However, the lounge was closed. Although, seats were placed in observance of the social distance.

This applied both for the Elite&Classic Plus section and the Elite Plus&Business section.

After heading back upstairs, I've headed to one of the toilets and it was kept clean with the necessary precautions taken.

GATE AREA & BOARDING
And, now it was time to get back to the gate. The gate agents and supervisors were there 1 hour before departure. At that time, there were announcements reminding to keep the social distance and that boarding would be made with the observance of seat rows.

The crew has arrived at the aircraft

And catering is being provided.

There were staff checking and warning people if they observed the social distance in seating areas.

This includes this guy with a helmet that has a thermal camera measuring people's body temperature.

Live music was available to celebrate the first scheduled flight after the restrictions have lifted.

Mr. Kadri Samsunlu ( CEO of Istanbul Airport ) briefing Mr. Adil Karaismailoğlu ( Turkish Minister of Transportation ) about the precautions taken inside the airport. Owner of Onurair, Mr. Teoman Tosun is also visible in this photo.

Mr. İlker Aycı ( TK Chairman of Board ) was also there with other government officials and protocol.

TV reporters were also joining this flight.

The TV reporters interviewing the couple that was warned because they didn't observe social distancing. The airport staff was super cautious that they even wanted people from the same family to maintain the social distance.

Boarding was made with the respect of social distancing and passengers were called with their seat numbers. Boarding started with people sitting in the rear of the aircraft. No priority boarding was available for Economy Class passengers who hold status, however, passengers sitting in Business Class had a separate lane as they were going to use door 1L rather than door 2L.

Mr. Adil Karaismailoğlu ( Turkish Minister of Transportation ) was the honor guest of this flight.

A significant difference in boarding was that people were asked to scan their own boarding pass and the large part of the boarding pass was not collected.

TC-JGT was there next door, which was going to operate a military charter to Van, later in the day.

People maintained the social distance, even inside the jetbridge.

At the gate, the hygiene expert of the flight ( a dedicated crew for hygiene ) was asking people to take their complimentary hygiene kit.

The hygiene kit contains a replacement mask and an antiseptic wipe. Also, it's mandatory to wear masks onboard all domestic flights within Turkey and inside all areas within the airport.

TK 2150 ISTANBUL AIRPORT TO ANKARA ESENBOĞA AIRPORT
After being welcomed by the crew at the door, I took my seat.

A photo of the cabin

As this aircraft is originally designed for long-haul flights, the seats are comfortable

And, the legroom is decent

Also, it's noticeable that onboard magazines were not available. There were announcements made before departure that the Pressreader application is free for Turkish Airlines passengers and asked to download it before the electronic sign has been switched on.

Most seats in the aircraft were empty including the seat next to me.

The news-reporter of Show TV was also going to join this special flight.

A view from the window

The IFE system was open throughout the flight which is actually a nice point, however, people should bring their own headphones for domestic flights ( this was the protocol before COVID ) and live TV is not available.

After boarding was completed, the safety video was played

And we're leaving on time, the doors are closed.


But wait a second, the captain realizes a minor technical issue and the technical team has came onboard.

The issue was fixed within 5-10 minutes and we were all set to go.

And then, the TK TV ad, and the promo video of the Zero-Waste project were monitored like all TK flights.

And, the stairs are gone.

And we're pushing back

While taxiing, all these grounded aircraft is visible. Some of these aircraft are still used for cargo operations.


And I'm in the air, after 77 days.

And finally over the clouds

The Wi-Fi network was working on this flight

Internet connection was available

However, it was not working and I was unable to connect to the internet.

Shortly after takeoff, a video about coronavirus was played.

And, news-reporters have started filming after departure.

A view from the window

And shortly after takeoff, the service has started.

Only, water was served and trash was not collected to minimize the contact between the crew and passengers.

And shortly later, we were descending.

And we've landed to ESB, many TK and AJet aircraft were still parked.

And after our taxiing, we have parked at gate 107.


And deboarding was made according to seat numbers, first, Business Class passengers left the aircraft, then passengers seated in rows 6-10 were asked to deboard, other passengers were asked to wait at their seat.

ANKARA ESENBOĞA AIRPORT - ESB
As there were many protocol greeting the Minister of Transportation Mr. Karaismailoğlu, the jetbridge was a bit crowded.

The final photos of our aircraft


However, in the terminal, the social distance was easily maintained.

And, now, it's time to follow the transfer flights sign for my next flight to Izmir.

Some other news reporters were interviewing passengers at the baggage area.

The transfer desk was unaccompanied, however, there was a security checking boarding passes.

After my boarding pass was checked, I've headed to the departures level for my next flight.


Conclusion:

This was a really special flight for me and it was my first time flying with masks. I actually find the precautions in place, however, in some places things are exaggerated. Both IST and ESB were prepared for post-COVID travel and I have nothing to criticize the airport operators. For the airline, it's ununderstandable why a CEO encourages online services and closes online check-in; it's probably because they don't want people to choose their seats and they want to maintain social distancing as much as possible. It's also acceptable that the meal service is removed on domestic flights, although the hygiene kit is a nice touch.

IST
(+) Minimum wait at security checkpoints
(+) Hand sanitizers available throughout the terminal
(+) Many check-in counters were kept open
(+) Social distancing measures were taken within the terminal
(+) Boarding made in respect of seat numbers
(-) Social distance measures were taken at lounges but it was closed
TK 2150
(+) Comfortable seats and decent legroom
(+) IFE system on
(+) The distribution of hygiene kits
(+) Deboarding made with respect to social distancing
(-) Reduced service due to COVID-19
ESB
Nothing special to mention

The next flights would be reported below, whenever their reports are ready.
Feel free to leave a comment below or ask questions. I'll be happy to answer them.

Once again, thanks for reading.
ISTFlyer is online now  
Old Jun 3, 20, 3:50 am
  #2  
 
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Thank you for taking the time and effort to make this Trip Report.
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Loose Cannon is offline  
Old Jun 3, 20, 7:37 am
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Very interesting. I liked the individual hygiene kit they passed out.
brandie is offline  
Old Jun 3, 20, 9:13 am
  #4  
 
Join Date: Sep 2019
Location: Ankara, Turkey
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I was wondering about the carry-on bag you can bring into the cabin with you. I am possibly going to fly in July and it is a big question for me. I will have 2 laptops, camera, etc which I cannot put into checked-in baggage. A medium-large backpack which could easily fit under the seat is allowed? Or what was the largest bag you saw in the cabin brought by any passenger? Thanks.
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Old Jun 3, 20, 9:25 am
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Thanks for the report. The carry-on restriction makes no sense. Not giving me reason to want to fly on TK anytime soon.
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Old Jun 3, 20, 11:02 am
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Thanks ISTFlyer!
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Old Jun 3, 20, 11:10 am
  #7  
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Originally Posted by fenerlee1907 View Post
I was wondering about the carry-on bag you can bring into the cabin with you. I am possibly going to fly in July and it is a big question for me. I will have 2 laptops, camera, etc which I cannot put into checked-in baggage. A medium-large backpack which could easily fit under the seat is allowed? Or what was the largest bag you saw in the cabin brought by any passenger? Thanks.
I've seen someone with a carry-on size duffel bag ( more than 40x25x20cm ) being rejected at the gate and forced to gate check-in; however, no one did say anything to larger backpacks.
So, a medium-large backpack should be acceptable.

Originally Posted by PresRDC View Post
Thanks for the report. The carry-on restriction makes no sense. Not giving me reason to want to fly on TK anytime soon.
Same, as I didn't have any cabin baggage and even a backpack, this didn't matter to me. However, when flying somewhere on an international flight, I would prefer an airline which would allow carry-on bags and have a close-to-normal standard. It's because of the same reason as fenerlee1907 mentioned above, I don't want to check my personal electronic devices or valuables.

By the way, as there was almost no item in the overhead lockers, the boarding process was smooth and the aisle and the jetbridge were not blocked during boarding.
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ISTFlyer is online now  
Old Jun 3, 20, 11:49 am
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Join Date: Sep 2019
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Thanks ISTFlyer for the important info.
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Old Jun 4, 20, 1:08 am
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I'm at 79 days now and reading this does not make me keen to resume until things have calmed down a bit. The carry-on restriction makes plenty of sense to me and is one step that would make travel more pleasurable in the long term.
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Old Jun 4, 20, 1:36 am
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Thanks for this. Absolutely bonkers to see IST so empty.
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Old Jun 4, 20, 6:19 am
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Join Date: Apr 2020
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Thanks for your efforts!
It is great to see that TK and the authorities are taking the situations seriously and implementing the right measures to combat the virus. It looks to me pax are obliging to the rules and regulations..
shockingly only water as catering! Certainly not happy with the new TK catering strategy..hopes they will reconsider rhis failure of judgement! Otherwise premium pax will not fill their planes and nobody will want to transit in IST..
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Old Jun 4, 20, 6:27 am
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Originally Posted by Redmax View Post
Thanks for your efforts!
It is great to see that TK and the authorities are taking the situations seriously and implementing the right measures to combat the virus. It looks to me pax are obliging to the rules and regulations..
shockingly only water as catering! Certainly not happy with the new TK catering strategy..hopes they will reconsider rhis failure of judgement! Otherwise premium pax will not fill their planes and nobody will want to transit in IST..
You're very welcome.
Just to clarify, the water-only catering protocol is only valid for domestic flights and international flights under 2 hours. I've shared the relevant information about catering on longer flights here in the TK Miles&Smiles board.

I'm also not happy with the new catering strategy, forcing passengers to check their carry-ons on hold, not able to select seats etc... and potentially I would choose other carriers ( mostly Qatar Airways ) in the next couple of weeks/months.

I also have very exclusive information ( nobody shared it yet anywhere in the internet ) regarding transferring at IST and I would reveal it soon in the third part of the report.
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ISTFlyer is online now  
Old Jun 4, 20, 6:37 am
  #13  
 
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Originally Posted by ISTFlyer View Post
You're very welcome.
Just to clarify, the water-only catering protocol is only valid for domestic flights and international flights under 2 hours. I've shared the relevant information about catering on longer flights here in the TK Miles&Smiles board.

I'm also not happy with the new catering strategy, forcing passengers to check their carry-ons on hold, not able to select seats etc... and potentially I would choose other carriers ( mostly Qatar Airways ) in the next couple of weeks/months.

I also have very exclusive information ( nobody shared it yet anywhere in the internet ) regarding transferring at IST and I would reveal it soon in the third part of the report.
shocking indeed, I still do not understand the reduction of catering, the absence of online seat selection and prohibiting carry ons on board..have something to do with the virus directly?? I get it that airlines like TK are bleeding money right know but..treating your premium pax like..one of those in the back of the plane..severly unaceptable!
Good you mention Qatar, they are one of the few stills hold the word "premium" as it is! Shades to the others who failed poorly!
Can't wait to hear those new things about transferring in IST!!
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Old Jun 4, 20, 6:51 am
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Originally Posted by Redmax View Post
shocking indeed, I still do not understand the reduction of catering, the absence of online seat selection and prohibiting carry ons on board..have something to do with the virus directly?? I get it that airlines like TK are bleeding money right know but..treating your premium pax like..one of those in the back of the plane..severly unaceptable!
Good you mention Qatar, they are one of the few stills hold the word "premium" as it is! Shades to the others who failed poorly!
Can't wait to hear those new things about transferring in IST!!
At the moment, TK is trying to market their airline stating maximum hygiene rather than their service; but they didn't consider the point that people super-cautious about hygiene prefer to self-isolate themselves rather than flying. It's pretty obvious that TK would need to revert back to its old standards soon.

By the way, I'll share the second part of the report soon in the upcoming hours.
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Old Jun 4, 20, 7:05 am
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God bless you, you are so kind and reliable!
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