Trip to Europe – June 2007
Around the end of April I booked a ticket to attend a Jeppesen training course in Frankfurt, at the same time combining it with a short visit to my parents in Holland.
After surfing around on the net and asking some travel agents, I concluded that Turkish Airlines offered the best fares and most convenient schedules. I could easily book the outbound leg to Amsterdam and inbound from Frankfurt. Also I would have the chance to fly Turkish Airlines’ new Airbus A330.
1 June 2007, BKK-IST
Turkish Airlines TK061
Airbus A330 TC-JND ‘Antalya’
Economy class seat 24K
STD 23.35, STA 05.50
ATD 23.25, ATA 05.30
This time I decided to take the bus to the airport, which went smoothly. For a mere 150 baht (USD 4.50) I reached Suvarnabhumi after a two-hour drive. The Turkish Airlines check-in desks were already open and I was checked in in a matter of minutes, although I couldn’t get the boarding pass for the Amsterdam leg as the flight wasn’t open yet in the system, or so they said. My bag was checked through to Amsterdam however.
The security check for the E-gates was extremely crowded. All hand luggage was opened and searched for liquids, gels, aerosols and other items which are not allowed to be taken on board according to the new rules. Once after passing the check and as I approached gate E9, the flight was already boarding; it was only 22.45 or so. I settled myself in seat 24K, which I had reserved online, and the seat next to me was taken by a Korean gentleman. As the doors were closed, the two rows before us were completely empty so I figured that he would get up and grab another seat for himself. However, he remained seated where he was. We got headphones and an amenity kit containing socks, a face mask, toothbrush with tooth paste, comb and shoehorn. I noticed there was no in-flight magazine, I presume because it was 1 June and they didn’t have the new month’s issue on board. I think it would have been better to keep the old issue in the seat pockets though to provide the passengers with some reading material.
We pushed back ten minutes before our scheduled departure time and made our way to runway 19L for take-off. Once we were airborne and the fasten seat belt signs were switched off, the Korean gentleman still remained in his seat and started to make himself comfy. So before he settled in for the night, I asked him whether he would like to sit in the row in front so that he would be more comfortable, could eat more easily etc, and fortunately he thought it was a good idea. I think he had a true light bulb moment there.
Instead of the harsh white lighting, THY’s A330 has mood lighting with blue in the middle and red along the sides. While especially the red colour looked a bit tacky at first, it does its job. There is still enough light for reading but it is much easier on the eyes. Later on there was also some green mixed with the red and blue.
Service started with a first drink, where I had an orange juice. After that, dinner was served. The choice was fish or pasta. I had the fish, which came with rice and vegetables, salad, a bread roll and crackers with butter and cheese, and a chocolate mousse for dessert. To wash it all down I had a Turkish Efes beer.
The A330 has a nice AVOD system with a large screen (7 inches I think) and a good selection of programmes to choose from. The menu is divided into information, entertainment and communication. The information section contains fleet info, something about TK Cargo, short destination guides on various major cities Turkish flies to, detailed destination guide to various parts of Turkey, an interactive map of Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, the Miles & Smiles frequent flyer programme, the external cameras (which didn’t work on this flight) and the moving map display. Communication includes sms/email, text news and information about connecting gates at Istanbul. The entertainment section includes a range of movies, tv shows and documentaries, radio, games and the on-board shopping catalogue.
I started off with Casino Royale, which I had seen before, and soon started to become a bit bored of it. Only as I am writing this I realise that I forgot to check whether THY also shows the edited version where Sir Richard Branson has been semi-deleted and the Virgin Atlantic titles blurred out. I then went on with Garfield 2, which was so-so, and switched to The Wild, which I thought was quite funny and done very well. Next was Cars, but I must have fallen asleep somewhere in the middle.
I think I slept for three or four hours until picking up the scent of warm bread. Breakfast time! This consisted of a mushroom omelet, sausage, two bread rolls with butter, cheese and marmalade, fruit, orange juice, and I had tea with it. I am not a tea person, but Turkish tea is delicious, even when poured from an airline thermos can.
The Princess Islands, located southeast of Istanbul
We started descent into Istanbul, our approach path taking us along the southern shore of the Gulf of Izmit, over Yalova and turning north towards Ataturk, followed by a very smooth landing on runway 36L and a long taxi to gate 212.
Once off the plane I went to the transit desk to get my boarding pass for the flight to Amsterdam and then walked around for a while in the terminal to get the blood circulation in my legs going again. The gate for my next flight was 201, which is the very last gate right next to the domestic terminal. It was a good location to hang out for a while as practically all arriving traffic to the international gate and the departing domestic traffic to runway 36 passes in front, giving lots of opportunities to take pictures.
'Antalya' being taken to her remote stand for the day
2 June 2007, IST-AMS
Turkish Airlines TK1951
Airbus A321 TC-JRB ‘Sanliurfa’
Economy class seat 7A
STD 07.45, STA 10.35
ATD 07.55, ATA 10.05
Boarding started on time, but our departure was delayed by about ten minutes, apparently because of a combination of late passengers and a minor technical issue in the aft galley. I had seat 7A, with a Turkish gentleman sitting in 7C and the middle seat remaining free. We took off from runway 36R, turning left and following a routing that took us through Bulgarian, Serbian, Hungarian, Austrian and German airspace. It was again a very comfortable flight. Breakfast was a typically Turkish one and consisted of a spinach börek, olives, yellow and white cheese, bread rolls, butter and marmalade, yoghurt with muesli and water, topped off by tea. Our approach into Amsterdam took us over the province of Flevoland, overflying Lelystad Airport, then turning southwest towards the closed Valkenburg Air Base flying a right downwind to runway 06.
Lelystad Airport. You can clearly see the retired KLM Boeing 747-300 in the left of this picture.
Once off the runway, it was a long taxi all around the terminals, which gave me a good opportunity to take some pictures. We then had to hold for a while on a remote stand because our gate wasn’t cleared yet. I wonder how often this happens with this flight? After all, a scheduled block time of 3 hours 50 minutes is way too long for this flight. So while the captain happily announced that we landed 30 minutes before schedule, this didn’t help much as we had to wait another 15 minutes to get a gate, did it? Anyway, we finally parked at the G-pier.
'Sanliurfa' sitting at the gate at AMS, preparing for the trip back home
Immigration was extremely crowded and it took ages to get my bag. On top of that, as expected, I got picked out of the line to open my suitcase. This ALWAYS happens to me in Amsterdam and this time I was a double suspect, coming from Istanbul with a bag of Bangkok Duty Free on my trolley. I met up with my parents, we had a coffee and went to the car for the drive to their home in the province of Zeeland, in the southwest of Holland.
The next day my parents drove me to Brussels Zaventem Airport, where we had some coffee with Belgian waffles in the cafeteria overlooking the satellite terminal and runway 07L/25R. Check-in was very quick and efficient and I then made my way through the tunnel linking the main terminal building with the satellite terminal (A-gates), where I walked up and down a couple of times taking a whole bunch of pictures.
3 June 2007, BRU-FRA
Brussels Airlines SN2613
Avro RJ85 OO-DJQ
Economy class seat 14F
STD 17.15, STA 18.20
ATD 17.15, ATA 17.55
Boarding was at gate A59, and there were only 20 passengers on this flight. There were also only two flight attendants, which I suppose meant that the load from Frankfurt back to Brussels would also be quite light. This particular aircraft was in a sort of hybrid livery, still with the large S on the tail and the yellow (or is it orange?) cheat line but the new logo and airline name on the fuselage. I presume the priority was to get the Virgin Express 737s painted in the new colours first. The cabin of the RJ85 looked a bit worn, but nevertheless the seats were very comfortable. I once flew on a CityFlyer Express (BA) RJ100 with a 3-3 seating layout which was a real nightmare; Brussels Airlines’ 2-3 layout came as a blessing. Very comfortable with plenty of leg room as well. The front four rows or so were reserved for their b.flex product, which has the same seats but includes in-flight service and flexible conditions with the fare. In b.light, which I had booked, food and drinks are for purchase. Of course you don’t need much on such a short flight anyway, but I did have a ‘menu’ consisting of a large ham sandwich, fruit salad and Coke for 5 euros. The flight time was announced as being 50 minutes, but the runway usage must have changed during the flight as we landed on 07R after only 40 minutes.
Despite of the light load, the two flight attendants had to keep working in order to have the cabin prepared for landing in time. They were both very professional and friendly and the male purser made almost all announcements in four languages: English, Dutch, French and German.
The RJ85 taken from the bus at FRA
Landing was followed by a looooooooooong taxi to the remote stands on the eastern side of the airport, where we parked between two Eurowings BAe 146s. We were then taken by bus to Terminal 1, so again a long drive in the opposite direction, which I profited from by taking lots of pics of the huge variety of aircraft at FRA. I then quickly made my way through the old, crowded arrivals hall of T1 and jumped into a cab to my hotel in Neu Isenburg.
After the week-long Jeppesen course and a Saturday in Frankfurt, it was time to head back home. I took a taxi to the airport and made my way to the Turkish Airlines check-in counters in Terminal 1. This was the first time I checked in for a flight here – the few times I passed through FRA were transiting – and also on the landside I found the facilities to be cramped and outdated. I checked in my suitcase and got my boarding pass fairly quick, but when I walked away I was called back because the check-in agent wanted to weigh my carry-on. Of which she not only said it was too heavy, but also too big! Rubbish. I told her I always travelled with that bag, but the not-so-ladylike lady was quite stubborn. In the end I had to take out my laptop and check in the now almost empty bag.
Next was the security screening, where there was a huge queue. I think it took about 30 minutes to get through. Families with small children were let through via another line, which I think was a bit unfair to the others. Anyway, once through I walked around the shops a bit, bought some German aviation magazines as the English ones were ridiculously overpriced and sat down in a bar opposite my gate, B48. A guy sitting next to me ordered a coffee and wanted to pay by credit card because he didn’t have enough euros left, but the bar girl informed him it couldn’t be accepted because the amount was too low. So then he wanted to pay in dollars, and the bar girl said it would be 6 (as opposed to 3.50 euros, so way overpriced). The guy handed over a 5 dollar note and four quarters, upon which the bar girl said she couldn’t accept any coins. So he asked how he should pay for the coffee and she said ‘I don’t know’, shrugging her shoulders. I told him he could give me the money in dollars and I would pay his coffee in euros; the bar girl for some reason didn’t seem very pleased with me offering to help. Maybe I undermined her authority or something…
'Mardin' just arrived from Istanbul
9 June 2007, FRA-IST
Turkish Airlines TK1590
Boeing 737-800 TC-JFG ‘Mardin’
Economy class seat 7F
STD 18.00, STA 21.50
ATD 19.10, ATA 22.45
Once the gate opened I went through and sat down near the window, which gave me an overview of the western part of the airport and the opportunity to take some pictures. Boarding started on time, but as we were getting on the plane a huge thunderstorm cell came rolling in, so we had to sit in the plane and wait it out. There were lots of kids on board who started to become bored and annoying, and lots of babies started to cry. What a joy… On top of that the plane was completely full, and next to me sat a huge Turk in the middle seat who seemed to think that having to sit in the middle seat entitled him to use both arm rests exclusively. We finally were pushed back and started our taxi towards runway 18, followed by a long take-off roll and left turn.
The cabin crew wasn’t very enthusiastic on this flight. They did their job alright but without a smile. I suppose they were a bit pissed off because of the delay in Frankfurt. The choice of meal was pasta or chicken; I opted for the first, which came with a salad, bread with butter and cheese, and chocolate mousse. The rest of the flight was uneventful. We landed on runway 06 and parked at gate 222. Walking towards the transit desks where the entrance is to the departures area, I passed the gate for my connection to Bangkok, where I saw ‘Bursa’ being prepared for the journey. I walked straight on towards gate 219, where boarding began about ten minutes after I arrived.
9 June 2007, IST-BKK
Turkish Airlines TK060
Airbus A330-200 TC-JNC ‘Bursa’
Economy class seat 25A
STD 23.50, STA 13.05
ATD 23.55, ATA 13.00
The load on tonight’s flight was very light. In the rear section of economy, where I was seated, only all window seats were taken, with just a few people scattered in some seats in the middle of the cabin. The forward section of economy appeared to be much more full, including two large groups of Chinese. We pushed back and taxied to runway 36R, followed by a powerful and short take-off roll and a right turn.
The in-flight entertainment system first showed a programme called Airobics about exercising during the flight, which basically was a long advertisement for some trendy fitness club in Istanbul. The funny thing is that the opening screen showed a Boeing 747-200 in the current Turkish Airlines livery, kind of a blooper if you ask me.
The first round of cabin service was for a drink, followed by dinner. There was no choice this time, which surprised me especially as the flight was so empty, but it was nevertheless very tasty. The meal consisted of cold turkey, shrimp, a salad, bread rolls with cheese, and a piece of cake. With this I had a nice cold beer.
The Chao Phraya river north of Bangkok
Having been pretty busy all week, I managed to sleep some more during this flight and woke up as breakfast was being served, about 1.5 hour before landing. Both the approach and landing were smooth, touching down on runway 19R. It took more than an hour from leaving the plane until getting through customs; immigration took ages, doubtlessly because of the new visa rules in Thailand – they have implemented a new rule where people without visas, who get a permit to stay on arrival, can stay a maximum of 90 days within a 180 day period. The rule is understandable, but they don’t have the tools to implement it efficiently. In other words, the immigration officers have to go through the whole passport to check entry and exit stamps and count the number of days one has stayed in the country. And I am not kidding by saying that most Thais seem to need a calculator for even the simplest of calculations…
Once that ordeal was over, the next one began. It took a huge amount of time for the first suitcase from my flight to appear. I was hoping to catch a bus at 14.00, which under normal circumstances would have easily been possible, but this time I could forget that. Still, I suppose I should be happy just to have gotten both my checked bags.
Once all was done I jumped into a taxi and was home again in 1 hour 45 minutes.
6 Jul BKK-DOH-MAN Qatar Airways
9 Jul LTN-SAW EasyJet
10 Jul SAW-BSL / GVA-AMS EasyJet
12 Jul AMS-EMA Bmi baby
14 Jul MAN-DOH-BKK Qatar Airways