Trip Report TK 738 FRA-IST-FRA
September 16, 2001 Frankfurt-Istanbul Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-8F2 TC-JFN “Bitlis”
Scheduled as an A310, this service was actually operated by a B737-800, so the Economy cabin was rather full, but I had chosen Business Class, and here only 3 from the 20 seats were occupied. Unlike most other European carriers, which have no special or just convertible seats in Business Class on intra-European flights, Turkish has a very comfortable 2-2 configuration with tastefully decorated seats. I was seated in 1A and could enjoy the view from 2 windows. Before departure, a welcome drink (orange juice, wine or champagne) was offered by the very friendly flight attendant. I later found the whole crew to be very friendly, displaying typical Turkish hospitality and defying the old “THY – They Hate You” image. English language skills of both cabin and cockpit crew also seemed to be sufficient. Shortly after takeoff (the inflight entertainment system only displayed the AirShow map, the installed audio system was not used), the menu card was handed out, and appetizers served. A choice of three meals was offered for the main course, all sounded good, but were rather European cuisine than Turkish, perhaps due to the fact that this was an inbound flight with catering from FRA. Nevertheless, the meal quality was high and also the visual presentation (design of the plate) pleasing. This was my first flight in the –800, and I appreciated the new interior, although in my opinion, it doesn’t make up for the more spacious A320 cabin. The cabin is relatively quiet in the first row, and I didn’t notice as many strange noises as on the Airbus. After a flight time of 2.5 hours we descended over the Black Sea, down the Bosphorus and a very scenic approach with the center of Istanbul at my window. After landing on runway 24, the shorter cross runway, we taxied to the new international terminal and arrived on time. I didn’t notice too many interesting aircraft, one TK A340, Moldavian Saab 340, several aircraft of the various Turkish charter carriers, a Balkan AN26 and World MD-11, which probably exchanged cruise ship passengers as a huge cruise liner was in town, so I went right through immigration and left the airport.
After ten days in and around Istanbul, it was time to return home. I didn’t attempt to do any spotting around the airport – all along the perimeter there are watchtowers with armed guards at 1,000 ft intervals – talk about a fortress airport! So for my return flight, I passed the first security checkpoint at the entrance doors and went straight into the terminal building, which is very large, modern and nice, with the adjacent old terminal now used for domestic flights only. After passing the airy checkin hall, you enter the passenger area through a large shopping and eating mall, before reaching the long linear concourse, which provides an excellent view over the apron in both main directions. I was hesistant at first, but after a few first attempts with my camera, I found that nobody intervened, so I continued taking photos, of course putting the camera back in my bag in between and trying not to act too obviously. However, I don’t know what the official rules regarding photography are, so keep this in mind. Highlights included a Tretyakovo IL62, Vaso IL86 in Transaero colors, KMV TU 134, Vnukovo TU 154 (which apparently broke down, as all passengers had to leave the aircraft again), Transjet MD80 in Air Liberté colors, Air Algerie 734 with Pegasus tails and various Turkish carriers. To the far North, I made out Top Air’s 727s plus two other ones I couldn’t identify, all of which seemed to be stored. MNG was active with its cargo A300s, and some more Russian aircraft were parked on the far stands. All major European carriers were present with mostly their largest equipment (BA 763, IB 757, AF 321, SR 321, SN 321, KLM 738 etc), intercontinental guests included a CX 343 and Malaysia 777.
September 26, 2001 Istanbul-Frankfurt Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-8F2 TC-JFF “Afyon”
My return flight was in Economy Class, which was about two thirds occupied, again with few passengers in Business. I was seated in 12A which was at the Emergency Exit; more legroom but no real armrest and no recline. Takeoff was on the long runway 36 to the North, a parallel runway is under construction – with the new terminal and three runways IST seems well placed for a growing role as a European gateway. Not much to see after takeoff, a left turn into the clouds, and cloud cover all 2.5 hours to FRA. I found the service in Economy class to be very acceptable too, three times drink services, hot meal services with a choice between beef and pasta (even though the food itself was a bit lacklustre, again not really Turkish stuff), and hot towels before arrival. Passengers were a colorful mix of Turks living in Germany, some Turkish businessmen and German tourists. All in all a very good trip and high marks for Turkish Airlines which can easily match its European competitors and probably excel over most Southern European airlines.
Aircraft and cabin appearance 5/5
Meals (choice, presentation, quality) 4/5
Inflight Entertainment 3/5
Some photos to follow (currently in the upload queue)!