gabrielchew From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 3311 posts, RR: 12 Posted (4 years 1 week 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 17930 times:
Turkish Airlines Business Class from London to Istanbul.
This trip, as with so many others, started with playing around on Expedia, looking at bizarre routings using random airlines to places nobody wants to go to. After my 2006 trip to Yerevan in Armenia (with a bargain GBP 121 fare from London on Austrian), I really fancied a trip to Georgia, Armenia neighbouring Caucasian state. Of course, I found it hard to justify a trip seeing as I knew next to nothing about it and in 2008, there was a Russian Invasion – hardly a tourist hotspot! However, my salvation came in July when a friend of mine moved to Georgia to teach English. Finally, my chance (and reason) had come.
My friend moved to Batumi, Georgia’s second city, on the Black Sea coast, not far from the Turkish border. This meant that I’d be able to use both of Georgia’s international airports, the other being the much (comparably) busier Tbilisi Airport. From Tbilisi, I would be flying back to London on bmi on the direct service (via GYD, Baku, Azerbaijan). I’d have 10 days to get from one side of the country to the other.
I booked the flights with my bmi miles. Diamond Club, bmi’s FF programme, for those of your unaware, is probably the most generous scheme in terms of redeeming miles. A round trip London – Istanbul – Batumi, Tbilisi – London in Business Class cost just 12,000 miles + £150 cash (+ tax). A similar journey booked with Lufthansa miles would have been 60,000 miles (miles + cash not available). Quite a difference. I’ve split the report into three part (LHR-IST, IST-BUS (both on Turkish Airlines Business) & TBS-GYD-LHR on bmi British Midland).
I originally booked to fly LHR-IST in First Class on one of the Jet Airways’ leased B77Ws. Unfortunately, three days before leaving I found out (via flightstats.com) that the flight had been changed to an A343, meaning no First Class. Bmi, however, didn’t feel like notifying me until the evening before I left. I got a call around 1530, but I asked them to call back as I was driving. No call back, so I called back later that evening. I explained the situation of a pleasant but incompetent agent. After a 25 minute hold, she said she’d reissue the ticket, and her supervisor would call back regarding a refund of the cash portion of the fare. Guess what? No call back, and no reissue….
As with so many of my journeys, I started this one with a trip on the tube. I just missed a LHR T123 train, so had to wait for the next one, which was annoying. Everyone kept tripping over my bag, even though I had moved it out the way of the morning commuters.
From the tube station at Heathrow, it was a ten minute walk to the check desks.
Thinking that my ticket was ok to travel with, I went up to the Biz desks. The lady there (SAS staff) apologised for the lack of First, but then said that as there was a problem with the ticket - I had to go to the ticket desk. After 5 minutes queuing, the stressed out lady at the desk gave bmi a call, and asked them to reissue it. Once that was done, I went back over to the check in desks, where my bag was tagged, and I was issued my C class boarding pass (that all sounded very quick and easy, but took a long time). The TK station manager came over and said that it was bmi’s fault for not reissuing the ticket. When I said that TK was the one that caused the change, she looked a bit confused, then said yes, but she blamed bmi for not telling me in enough time. Not terribly professional to blame your partners when you are both culpable. She did arrange my complimentary transfer to my hotel in Istanbul (in line with F pax), so that was something. I was also told that I could use the Singapore Airlines F lounge, and that they were aware of the situation. I’m currently in discussion with bmi and TK about a) the refund of the miles for the difference in C and F fares, and b) to get my 50% compensation from TK for downgrading me (EU directive 261/2004 section 10). We’ll see how that goes!
Time to check in for an F-ticketed passenger? 30 minutes. NOT impressed.
As always when using the ‘Fast Track’, I ask if it’s quicker than the normal lines. The staff always say yes, but today, as often is the case, it was faster in the normal lines.
I headed to the SQ lounge, but passed the SK lounge on the way. I went in for a quick look (TK get charged for access, and I was in a really bad mood with them at this point, so when in for the hell of it). 2 minutes later, I headed on to the SQ lounge. The SQ lady said that with a C boarding card, access to the F lounge was impossible. I got her to call TK, and after a quick argument, I was told it was C or nothing. I was fuming. TK really manage to piss people off. I know I’m on a ‘reward’ ticket, but I’m hardly likely to pay full price now for the privileged to be treated like this.
The SQ lounge was very busy, and not at all what I was expecting. The food selection was ok though, and the Champagne served was nice.
Sorry, no photo of the lounge itself. I needed to print off my hotel voucher before leaving, but after a bit of hunting, I was told that they had no printer, but the SK lounge did. Off I went (third lounge visit in 30 minutes), only to be told that SK didn’t have one. By now I was very angry, and stalked off to the gate.
Nice and sunny today. Lots of AC and AA aircraft about
Flight now “boarding”
To infuriate me further, at the gate was a called over by a UK immigration officer, who decided he needed to go through every page of my passport. I told him he was free to waste his time, and went and got a seat. He followed me over, and asked questions trying to figure out why I fly so much, and why I have umpteen Chinese visas. After a few monosyllabic answers and a few rolled eyeballs, he thanked me and left me to fume in peace. Next time he’ll pick someone with a smile on their face I think - easier to deal with!
Not long after arriving in the departure lounge, a call is made for Star Gold and Business passengers to board. After a bit of a kerfuffle in the airbridge (no idea what’s happening), I finally board.
Turkish Airlines TK 1980
London Heathrow (LHR) – Istanbul Atuturk (IST)
Airbus A340 (TC-DJK)
Scheduled: 1125-1715 (3h50m)
Actual: 1158-1737 (3h39m)
First impressions of the staff and cabin are good. The cabin in bright and welcoming, and the crew seemed friendly. A welcome drink of either juice or water was offered, as well as newspapers and magazines.
On every seat was a pillow, and on nearly every seat too (mine excepted) a blanket. The load in C today was around 15 out of a possible 30 (?) seats, so plenty of room.
We pushed back late (no reason given), and the safety demo was played. For the first time (as far as I recall), there were no staff standing at the front of the cabin to point out the exits. I’m sure normally, even with a safely tape, the staff will manually point out the exits, then check everyone’s belt?
We taxied past the edge of T3, past the Irish Terminal and then the rest of T1
TK A343s have a forward and downwards facing camera, so everyone got a good view of the runway. We rotated half an hour late, with no apology.
After take off I had a look through the entertainment guide. Very impressive! There was an enormous number of both new and old films (and sit coms I think) to watch, all AVOD. I choice The Pelican Brief (I know, it came out decades ago!) which was pretty good. I brought my own noise cancelling headphone so didn’t have to wait for the cabin crew to give them out.
Once the seatbelt sign came off, the staff came through with menus.
TK is catered by Do&Co Turkish, the same company (different branch) that does Austrian’s excellent catering. Perusing the menu, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have been disappointed if my first, or even second choice hadn’t been available. However, here’s where things went wrong again (at least for me). By the time the starters came out, we had been flying for around 50 minutes, however, there had still been no offer of drinks.
Starter: aubergine, chicken and couscous. Very tasty
I noticed, however, that everyone else had been offered a drink with their tray. Hmmmm. The crew were nowhere to be seen. A it would happen, the AVOD system went down, so the purser came around saying that she’d have to reset it. I took my opportunity and asked for some water which duly came, although I’d have like to have been asked for a drink. When the main courses came out, I asked for a drink (the small glass of water didn’t last long – the starter was a bit salty), but the FA said I’d have to wait til she’d finished serving everyone else their food. I said I’d never been offered a drink, and she just shrugged.
The main course: Salmon, sea bass and prawn (singular). Also very good
Once I’d finished my main, the FA who didn’t get me a drink tried to take away the tray. I had to stop her as I still had my dessert to go. I asked if I could get some water and champagne, and she went off to get it. So, it took 1 hour 20 minutes before I could get a glass of something fizzy, and that wasn only by asking twice. By this time I was pretty fed up, so decided to fill out the complaints/comments form in the back of the magazine. I handed this back to the purser.
About five minutes later, she came back saying that she was very sorry that everything had gone wrong today. She seemed very concerned, especially with the onboard service. She then asked me (very politely) if I’d be able to reconsider haindg in the form saying that the onboard service was poor, and she gave me another form to fill out. From then on, the service was incredible. I was given a plate of small cakes (not sure where they came from, no one else got them as far as I could see), and my glass was never empty for the rest of the flight.
Just goes to show, that having a word with the purser really can make a difference. Whenever one of the crew walked by, they smiled and asked if they could get me anything else. The form I ended up handing in said I was very disappointed with both TK and BD, but that the onboard service was good.
The AVOD came back on, I reclined my seat, and for the first time started to enjoy the flight.
The cabin mid-flight
The views leaving Europe for The Sea of Marmara were beautiful. We passed Istanbul in a series of very wide loops giving some great views of the city and the Black Sea.
Ataturk Airport from the air. We would dock at the far left hand side of the terminal.
The three parts of Istanbul. Europe on the right, Asia on the left.
The Bridge linking continents
We finally touched down 20-odd minutes late. The taxi to the gate was a long one.
No 'Welcome to Istanbul' message on the TVs!
I was half expecting there not to be an escort at the gate (my faith in the LHR ground services team was in tatters). However, at the end of the jet bridge was a gentleman holding my name on a board, along with the other downgraded F passenger. We were welcomed to Istanbul, and invited to take a seat on the buggy.
Another Biz passenger asked if this was the Biz shuttle, but he said no, and promptly zoomed off. The buggy ride saved a good 10-15 minute walk. The escort took our passports and £10 cash (for a Turkish visa) whilst we waiting on the buggy, before he drove us to a fast track immigration. We then walked down to the luggage belt, where we were met by a porter with a trolley, and a luggage handler (not sure if he was around because of us or not). Within a minute of two, two bags arrived, mine and the other passengers, then no more bags. We were then brought outside to one of the car parks, where we were introduced to our driver, and we took our seats in a very comfortable Mercedes S-Class.
This was, without doubt, the BEST arrivals service I’ve ever experienced. Time from the plane to car was around 10 minutes, including buying a visa, immigration and waiting for bags. I think normal passengers would take a minimum of 40 minutes. Well done TK, something you CAN do right!
Luckily we were going against the traffic, so the ride into downtown Sultanahmet took just 30 minutes.
What started out as a complete balls up by TK and BD was finally resolved by a quick chat to the purser, and a brilliant arrivals service. The incompetence of the BD staff to reissue the ticket (especially given the extraordinarily long hold times whilst they played with the booking) was awful. And why, TK, did you have to downgrade us to an A343! That was my first chance (and probably last for a long time) to get a proper F cabin (complete with private cabins). Grrrr. The poor onboard service went from bad to wonderful, but it took at least half the flight. The second half of the flight shows that a bad crew and a good crew are often one and the same.
So, I’m now in Istanbul, but will be flying off to Batumi in the next day or so. Not sure how easy internet access will be, so it could be another few weeks for the next instalment. Hope you enjoyed reading!
AI151 From United Kingdom, joined Dec 2009, 303 posts, RR: 15
Reply 3, posted (4 years 1 week 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 17507 times:
Hey dude great 1st part of the series and looking forward to reading the rest.
Quoting gabrielchew (Thread starter): A round trip London – Istanbul – Batumi, Tbilisi – London in Business Class cost just 12,000 miles + £150 cash (+ tax). A similar journey booked with Lufthansa miles would have been 60,000 miles (miles + cash not available). Quite a difference.
Sounds very, very generous indeed.
I have to say its a shame that the customer services part was a total sham from both airlines. Look's like they don't know how to treat a person who has been unlucky enough to been downgraded. If that's how they treat their premium passengers, then I dread to think how they treat the Economy Class passengers.
But like you said, it proves that after having a talk with the purser things can change. It was funny to read how the turnaround happened but it shouldn't have even had to take place that way in the beginning.
PlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6858 posts, RR: 77
Reply 4, posted (4 years 1 week 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 16672 times:
Very interesting report about TK's J Class service. There have only been positive reports about TK here recently, so it's a bit disappointing to hear what went wrong on your trip. TK has been growing very quickly, so there may be some problems with consistency.
The catering looks good in general, but the main course presentation is quite poor.
Quoting AI151 (Reply 3): But like you said, it proves that after having a talk with the purser things can change. It was funny to read how the turnaround happened but it shouldn't have even had to take place that way in the beginning.
I wold never normally hand a comment card directly to the purser, but I was so angry about everything I was quite but for a bit of a rant! As it turned out, it made the flight a lot better, and the purser was a really nice lady. She obviously talked to the rest of the crew about it to make sure nothing else went wrong. To be honest, I wouldn't have been half as mad if they'd just done a drinks service before the food. I mean 15 pax, 3 staff, how long would it take?
Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 4): The catering looks good in general, but the main course presentation is quite poor.
Yes, the main course didn't look great. It was served from a nice clean trolley though, so I suppose that would be the only complaint to be made of the food service.
Quoting MaverickM11 (Reply 5):
I did an overland trip from GYD west to TBS and it was awesome. GYD is surprisingly not a dump and quite nice!
Cool, did you enjoy TBS? I'm only in GYD for 40 mins on the way back, and I think I have to stay on the plane.
Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 6): Nice looking trip & as you say, bmi are very generous with their mileage redemption, hope it lasts as I've still a good number of miles in the account.
Well, I think once LH gets their teeth set into bmi, the generosity will vanish very quickly. I did, however, notice that LH have started doing 'bargain miles' rewards (or something like that). Rtn Germany - UK flights for 10,000 instead of 30,00 putting it more in line with bmi. Currently only available ex-Germany and on certain dates.
Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 6): Sounds like the initial airport experience was poor and to top it off refusal to the SQ F lounge after bring told you could have access, amazing lack of comunication!
Not getting into the F lounge was the final straw. The TK supervisor said she'd called ahead to confirm, but the SQ lady said she understood that they'd called to say that F would be busy on todays flight. Incredible!
Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 6): Have to say the onboard service before your comments was pretty bad too, good job you filled out the comment card, does show these are not just taken with a pinch of salt.
To be honest I'm surprised that they didn't just smile, then throw away the card. I assuem that the second one I filled in actually got given to Customer Services in IST. I'll enquire when I go back to IST tomorrow.
Quoting 797 (Reply 7): Did you have Chefs on board?
Not as far as I was aware - were they very obvious on your flight? I imagione LHR-IST is too short a flight to have them
oa260 From Ireland, joined Nov 2006, 27162 posts, RR: 60
Reply 9, posted (4 years 1 week 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 16002 times:
Hey great report. Your comments on BMI and their Indian call center is exactly my experience. You prepare yourself for the stressful conversation before you lift the phone. As for the comments by the station manager in LHR for TK she should have been saying sorry for TK's failure to provide the service you booked so I agree with you totally.
I feel sorry for you that you didnt get to experience F class as it is amazing. We knew that there was a chance but it obviously was larger than we thought! I cant understand why TK keep doing this as it only annoys people. Its a shame as I never had a bad experience with TK and crew have been always good. It was embarassing that you had to complain onboard to get a decent service for the rest of the flight , I kind of cringed reading that. Should not happen. When it was brought to their attention of the drink it should have been promptly dealt with and an appology.
Anyway its seems to have got better from then on and your right the Limo service is an amazing experience. TK do that really well.
Just to comment on the SQ experience they should have let you into the F lounge and done a favor for TK just as a goodwill gesture. To be honest I have experienced snobbery in the SQ LHR lounge before and its not warranted as the lounge is sub standard IMHO. You didnt miss much dont worry , an F lounge it is not.
Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 1): And before I forget, thanks very much OA260 for your help and advice when booking this trip!
Your welcome I was wondering when you would post and was looking forward to it . Cant wait to read the rest.
FlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1706 posts, RR: 30
Reply 10, posted (4 years 1 week 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 15875 times:
You sure are as fast as me getting these reports up! Great stuff again, very interesting to read about your experiences with BD and TK. Shame about missing the First class suite experience, but unfortunately this kind of things happen. I sure hope you get part of your miles/money/both back as you certainly are entitled to it!
The service from the Indian call centre seems to be inline with the stories I've read about them, so no real surprises there. That ground handling at Heathrow sure was another letdown, sounds bad for a J class experience and horrible for an F passenger!
Also the initial onboard service sounds very bad - but again inline with some of the reports I've read about Turkish. I just can't understand why an earth do you have to file a written complain in order for the service to change course? At least the food onboard looks good.
Love those approach pictures into IST - you got lucky with that free airborne sightseeing tour!
Looking forward for the next installments - you owe me that for missing that special day at London!
AlwaysOnAPlane From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2010, 305 posts, RR: 2
Reply 11, posted (4 years 1 week 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 15723 times:
Thanks for posting this enjoyable report. What a tale of two halves.
Shame you got downgraded, those TK F suites look a nice way to spend a few hours. Biz class looks good, though i have to say the food serving looks a little bland and small.
Certainly an inspired move by you to post a complaint. Its amazing what talking to the right person can do.
Ground service is a nice touch and good to see it honoured, even after the a/c downgrade.
BTW, my experience with the BD call centre has been a real mixed bag. Everything from complete incompetence to amazing. I found that if your not getting the answers you want, hang up and try another agent (i learned this from FT). My last 3 award trip bookings through diamond club have been quite effortless, so lets hope this is becoming the norm.
Im burning through my remaining balance before DC switches to Miles+Less.......
Quoting oa260 (Reply 9): I cant understand why TK keep doing this as it only annoys people.
Neither do I. TK must be subsituting this flight a couple of times a week. Why not schedule it for an A340, then upgrade when necessary. Why did they decide to put the B77W on the LHR route in the first place?
Quoting oa260 (Reply 9): Anyway its seems to have got better from then on and your right the Limo service is an amazing experience. TK do that really well.
It really made everything else pail into comparison
Quoting oa260 (Reply 9): Just to comment on the SQ experience they should have let you into the F lounge and done a favor for TK just as a goodwill gesture. To be honest I have experienced snobbery in the SQ LHR lounge before and its not warranted as the lounge is sub standard IMHO. You didnt miss much dont worry , an F lounge it is not.
Well I already knew about SQ and their lounges, so expected it to be honest. SQ are without doubt the most pretencious company! (although to be fair they do have an awesome product, just not quite a fantastic as they want everyone to believe. I mean, no C &F redemptions for non SQ frequent flyers!?!)
Well, I had a few spare ours last night (giving my liver a break!) and I have free wifi in the hotel, so thought I might as well do it now.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 10): That ground handling at Heathrow sure was another letdown, sounds bad for a J class experience and horrible for an F passenger!
To be fair to TK, I think for a normal C pax, everything would have been fine. When I turned up at check in, the lady patrolling the line asked me if I was in C, and I said F, and she immediately said hello, and got me the first agent that was available (telling a Y pax to go back to the Q in the process - quite impressive). But yes, for a real F pax, the situation was dire.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 10): Love those approach pictures into IST - you got lucky with that free airborne sightseeing tour!
Well, I was orginally booked in 1A in First, but then was moved to the K side when I was downgraded, which was lucky as K got a better tour than A!
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 10): Looking forward for the next installments - you owe me that for missing that special day at London!
They'll be out if the wifi in Georgia holds up! And you should have told me about London before I booked this trip! I so would have been there!
Palmjet From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1223 posts, RR: 17
Reply 13, posted (4 years 1 week 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 15583 times:
Very much enjoyed your trip report and seeing some great pics. Your arrival into IST was rather strange - but great for you to be able to see so much down there.
Sorry to read you had such a crummy experience on the ground at LHR - not a great way to start your journey. I was also in the SQ J lounge last year and thought it was actually quite average. Was not what I expected from SQ.
HA! Brilliant. I bet he wasn't too happy with that reply?!
Quoting gabrielchew (Thread starter): For the first time (as far as I recall), there were no staff standing at the front of the cabin to point out the exits. I’m sure normally, even with a safely tape, the staff will manually point out the exits, then check everyone’s belt?
I noticed this also on TK. Thought it a bit strange.
My expeience of TK wasn't too pleasing, mostly down the crew onboard the aircraft. No smiles and everything seemed so half hearted. I know I was only in Y but still not a good impression to give off. But then again I've read reports where there has nothing but good things said about TK. Guess they need to work on consistency.
eastafspot From France, joined Jan 2008, 806 posts, RR: 20
Reply 15, posted (4 years 1 week 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 15433 times:
First of all congratulation for this enjoyable TR on TK. this airline is often higly rated on this forum, and your experience confirm this. catering looks apparently great, despite the long wait for drinks.
Was the seat angle-lied or full flat?
Quoting gabrielchew (Thread starter): bmi’s FF programme, for those of your unaware, is probably the most generous scheme in terms of redeeming miles.
do you mean that miles can be redeem on any other carriers? as i have also some to spend
b707forever From United States of America, joined Dec 2007, 459 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (4 years 1 week 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 14945 times:
When airlines pay minimum wage to reservations agents, we end up with minimal service. It doesn't make a difference if you were on a free miles generated ticket or not, you earned the right for first class treatment and didn't get it. Miles are equivalent to dollars, perhaps worth even more so don't be shy to complain.
I'm glad the service got better and the arrival experience was good. The food looked disappointing from the positive TK reports I've read. It's odd how sometimes a trip just seems to go wrong, and often for a dumb error on one person's part who starts a chain reaction, though in your case it was a couple of errors.
TBS was great; it's like if a beautiful Eastern European city was actually a bargain to visit. I was surprised how good Georgian food was, since generally speaking Caucasian and Central Asian food can be bland.
infodesk From Switzerland, joined May 2006, 1464 posts, RR: 33
Reply 19, posted (4 years 1 week 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 14377 times:
Thanks for this TR. What a chain of events and what a huge disappointment for you after having looked forward to a flight in F. The lack of notification by BMI, the shambles at check-in and in the lounges (surely every lounge should have a printer the guests can use?) and the onboard service on the first half of your flight leaves a lot to be desired.
Quoting gabrielchew (Thread starter): She then asked me (very politely) if I’d be able to reconsider haindg in the form saying that the onboard service was poor, and she gave me another form to fill out
It shouldn't get to the stage that you have to fill in a complaint form in order to get good service in C, especially when you've been downgraded from F. As you say, it doesn't inspire you to pay full fare for such a ticket.
Love you pics taken on descent into IST, particularly the one of the airport.
Hope you get the compensation issue sorted to your satisfaction.
"Do nothing in haste, look well to each step and from the beginning think what may be the end" - Edward Whymper
Quoting b707forever (Reply 16): When airlines pay minimum wage to reservations agents, we end up with minimal service
Well, the staff are normally very polite (which is something that most call centres don't have), it's just that the staff seem a bit, um, slow.
Quoting b707forever (Reply 16): The food looked disappointing from the positive TK reports I've read.
The food was great - it's probably just my photography skills!
Quoting 767747 (Reply 17): Nice that you got on an A340 though! Love this type of aircraft ..
Mmm, I'd rather the B77W! Although the A340 is a nice aircraft.
Quoting infodesk (Reply 19): surely every lounge should have a printer the guests can use
I agree completely. I've got use to all the BA lounges having them, I thought they were standard. The TK lounge (where I'm writing this from) in IST has one.
Quoting infodesk (Reply 19): It shouldn't get to the stage that you have to fill in a complaint form in order to get good service in C, especially when you've been downgraded from F. As you say, it doesn't inspire you to pay full fare for such a ticket.
I thought there might have been an annotation on the manifest to say that I'd been downgraded. Maybe there was, but the staff didn't care//read it.
Quoting infodesk (Reply 19): Love you pics taken on descent into IST, particularly the one of the airport.
Quoting infodesk (Reply 19): Hope you get the compensation issue sorted to your satisfaction.
Quoting MaverickM11 (Reply 18): I was surprised how good Georgian food was, since generally speaking Caucasian and Central Asian food can be bland.