The last time I posted this, the pictures were causing all sorts of problems for people as I forgot to resize them. I’ve resized the pics so hopefully people will be able to view it without trouble but if there are still problems let me know.
Hi and welcome to my first trip report. In early July I was told by a friend of an opportunity to go on a trip to Shanghai University in China for a cultural exchange. Accommodation and expenses would be covered so only flights and visas needed to be paid for by applicants. I jumped at the opportunity. First things first before any visa letter from the university of Shanghai could be issued, my flights needed to be booked. Using various websites there appeared to be loads of potential routes and airlines. Cheapest I could find was transiting through LHR and using Aer Lingus and Virgin Atlantic at around €850. Second cheapest was Turkish Airlines at about €950. The rest appeared to be a good bit more expensive than this so I ruled them out. Having heard mixed reports about Virgin and not wanting to use LHR, TK seemed like a viable option. Moreover, transiting through IST seemed like a fun adventure. I noticed that the new comfort Y+ product was being offered for only €250 odd more by gohop.ie in comparison than Y and both were cheaper than the actual TK website. However, rather unfortunately when I went to book it, the gohop website had crashed and as I had to email my ticket the following day for visa purposes, I ultimately ended up using ebookers. So I booked to leave on the 11th of August and arrive back on the 27th, with a 6 hour layover on the outbound and 2 hours on the inbound. After that, visas were got, vaccines taken and everything else prepared for the 2 week trip the time had come to set. Because it was an ebookers booking, it is not possible to view or amend the booking on the TK website. However, online check-in is possible 24 hours beforehand. This meant I had to wait till exactly 24 hours before my Shanghai flight to check in. Once that was possible it was simple to login and view the booking and choose my seats for both sectors. It’s not possible to print boarding cards for Dublin flights so I didn’t bother printing off the Shanghai one for later. So the morning of the 11th came and I was packed and ready to go.
Date: 11 August 2011
Airline: Turkish Airlines
Route Dublin (DUB)-Istanbul Ataturk (IST)
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Registration: TC- JGR
I woke up at 7 to be fed at home as opposed to using the overpriced food at DUB. I left for the airport at 8 and reached Terminal 1 with a helpful lift from my parents at 8.30. I headed to the TK check-in area which had 1 business and 2 economy desks.
There were not too many people in the queue and it appeared like an eclectic mix of people was taking this flight and that I wasn’t the only transit passenger. After a short wait I was called by a friendly Sky Handling agent. She was pleasant and cheery and tagged my bags through to PVG and printed both TK branded boarding cards while confirming my seat selection from the night before. It was a quick, efficient and pleasant experience in contrast to my flight with US Airways at Christmas time.
Then it was up to Starbucks for a coffee with the parents before I headed.
I then went through the new security check point. There weren’t too many people queuing and I made fairly quick progress. With plenty of time to spare I decided to head to T2 to have a look and waste some time and buy some reading material from WH smith.
Then I went to the gate, gate 304, to see if anything interesting was happening outside at the airfield. Air Canada was pushing back to Toronto but there was no sign of my aircraft and the gate area was fairly empty like most of the airport.
I came back at 11:20 and there was a more sizable crowd waiting now. Soon after that my plane arrived from IST.
While I waited to board, some market research lady asked me to fill a questionnaire about transport to and from airport. It was a poorly designed survey in my opinion but I was going on a trip, I wasn’t in a political science methodology class so I said nothing and played nice .
Boarding started at 10:50. There was priority for business class passengers but no mention of star golds but in a way it was no big deal as the load seemed light enough. Reaching the aircraft it became apparent that I need not have bought my own newspaper as there were free ones, Turkish and Irish, on a trolley at the door. Entering the plane I was greeted by a smiling flight attendant. First impressions were good, the cabin looked well for the most part and the seats were comfy leather. There were however some signs of wear and tear but nothing too bad. Leg room wasn’t bad at all either.
The 2 seats beside me were free which was nice and provided a little more space for the flight.
We pushed back at 11:19 while the safety video was played on overhead monitors. It features a selection of Man United players reflecting TKs sponsorship of the team. It was interesting take on the safety video but quite long though. We were airborne by 11:27. Once released the flight attendants gave out earphones and blankets and pillows if wanted and a small menu. It was a bit of a shock to be offered a meal on a medium haul flight when used to Aer Lingus and Ryanair. I had flown with a charter airline to Izmir in June and got only a drink so I was pleasantly surprised to be fed and watered for free, including alcohol if I wanted. The captain also came on the PA at this time to give detailed flight info. The choice was chicken or beef and I went with the later.
The food was well presented for an economy meal (real cutlery as well) and didn’t taste too bad at all, the beef wasn’t too tough and the plum cake went down real well, it was not too sweet and not too soggy. I was quite impressed both with the presentation and the taste. Another drinks service followed the food. Throughout the flight overhead screens displayed the airshow but after the meal it showed a movie. I didn’t note what it was and spent the rest of the flight enjoying the best entertainment on board; the views of Europe below.
At 16:40 we began our descent into IST however I suddenly noticed we were beginning to turn gradually and constantly. Sure enough the captain came on and said we had to hold due to congestion. Luckily we only did one large circuit of a holding pattern before weaving through some weather.
The descent into IST was long and slow but got some nice views of the coast. We touched down firmly at 17:30 and quickly taxied to the stand.
Overall it was a good start to trip and was a pleasant flight.
Originally I intended to stroll into Istanbul to explore during the 6 hour layover but the weather took a turn for the worst so I ruled that out. TK offer a free tour of Istanbul for transit passengers if you arrive before 12:00 but I was arriving well after that. It’s a good idea but obviously not useful for everyone. Transiting in IST is easy enough. Beside passport control there is a transit desk to get your boarding card if you don’t have it already and across from that is an escalator up to departures after showing the boarding card. Once I reached departures I decided to just stroll around the terminal to get my bearings and see what was around. The terminal is quite long and filled with shops of different kinds. It is spacious and modern however it does have some weird design quirks most notably the fact that the food court is quite small and cramped and acts almost as a bottle neck.
After this it was time for a coffee pit stop at starbucks which is opposite the TK lounge and was something to longingly look at. I then decided to go to the information booth and ask if there was a lounge I could pay into later. The lady there said I could use the Primeclass lounge which is upstairs and only €15 for entry but that was for later. All this walking had used up an hour and so my next priority was food- I didn’t fancy anything in the food court so I headed to Greenport restaurant for food. It was ok and not too badly priced relative to home but the biggest perk was free wifi . From there I decided to head to the lounge. The majority of lounges are in the same end of the terminal as the food court and they are either above or below it. The Primeclass lounge which can be paid for is upstairs opposite several other lounges. I think it is also the TK first class lounge which is a bit odd. Anyway I went to the reception and asked could I pay in and the nice man said no problem, 15 euro by credit card only. After I had paid he said it was best if go downstairs to the other Primeclass lounge as the lounge was full (pretty easy since it’s so small). So he called down to reception to let them know I was coming and I made my way down two levels and went into the Primeclass Wings lounge
The lounge is small enough but there was hardly anyone there. It offered various snacks and soup and numerous drinks as well as free wifi, tvs and laptops and a printer. Plenty of Effes beer here too. The best aspect it offered and what I valued most was the peace and quiet away from the mass crowds while I waited for the flight. Some little signs of wear and tear but it was pretty well maintained.
With that I settled in for the next 3 hours or so. Got some tea and water and beer, read my book and surfed the web.
There was a flight info screen at the top of the lounge. After about three hours in the lounge I saw my flight was displaying wait in lounge so I decided to stroll to gate 209 at 22:45. It was a fair walk but I took my time. An annoying aspect of IST and other Turkish airports is that you have to clear security and enter a holding pen for each gate. It’s annoying as I had stocked up on free water in the lounge and had to give them over. There seemed to be a bit of a crowd going into my gate and I feared chaos but it turned out the majority of people were queuing for another flight at an adjoining gate. When I got to my gate, boarding had already commenced at 23:00 and there was no queue at all.
Airline: Turkish Airlines
Route: Istanbul (IST)- Shanghai Pudong (PVG)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Registration: TC- JJJ
Entering the plane I was greeted by a smiling FA and there were also 2 skychefs greeting passengers. I was directed the end of the plane to my seat. There was a blanket and pillow there and I got into what I thought was my seat. My first impressions were pretty good. The 777 interior is pretty cool, the bins, windows and toilets all convey space and the seats seemed good and were comfy enough. The IFE system, Planet, was good also. Each seat is equipped with a touchscreen tv and remote with AVOD. The system has movies, music, games and tv programmes and documentaries as well as the airshow and flight camera section. There is also a pay text and email inflight service, which I used for the novelty. There will be live tv and internet in the future.
Just before departure, a pair of Chinese men came to my seat and it turned out I was one row too many back. Oops- I had to ask a lady who had sat in what she thought were two free seats to move. The seat beside me would remain empty for the flight which gave me more for the 9 or so hours. The load was pretty much full in Y class and there were loads of Chinese people on board which was not something I was expecting. We pushed back right on time and taxied to runway for take-off. With a wonderful roar and purr, the GE 90 lifted us off runway 36R into the Turkish air and almost immediately we hit turbulence. It was some of the worst turbulence I’ve experienced ever and lasted for well over an hour during our entire trip over the Black Sea. Service couldn’t be conducted until it subsided after an hour.
Once the flight attendants were released we were handed an amenity kit and headphones, a Chinese immigration form and a menu. The kit had socks, toothbrush and toothpaste, earplugs and lipbalm and eyecovers. I was surprised to get one in economy and they were useful items for the long flight. After this a drinks and meal service commenced. I went with the chicken and pasta. It looked ok but the pasta was dry and I didn’t really eat much. After dinner and another drinks round I settled in for the night, watched 127 hours and dozed while spreading out over the two seats. I struggle to sleep while travelling so no matter how much I twisted and tuned I couldn’t get any real sleep.
I woke up with about 3 hours to go as we were entering China and the sun was rising and got my first glimpses of China down below.
With 2 hours to go, we were served a breakfast which consisted of yoghurt and scrambled egg and tomato.
The egg was actually really good, moist but not sloppy and good flavour. A warm roll accompanied it which was nice. TK really like their warm rolls . Thereafter I messed around with the music on the IFE system. There were actual some pretty good choices, well at least they were choices that suited my tastes.
Descent commenced at 14:08 from 39000 feet. As we approached PVG I got my first glimpses of shanghai under murky skies and I was amazed at the sheer scale of it.
We made a hard landing on runway and taxied to the stand in terminal. Deplaning was quick and there were little or no queues for immigration which was quick and efficient. I didn’t have long to wait for my bags and I noticed there were plenty of transfer passengers also arriving into Shanghai with TK. I met up with the person I was supposed to and we took a taxi into Shanghai.
Overall I was impressed by TK on both short/medium and long haul. The hard product is very good. The seats are comfortable and the food for the most part good too. The 777-300ER economy seats are comfy enough and the IFE system and the ability to charge ipods and use laptops very good also. The soft product needs a bit more work. Flight attendants sometimes seemed to be just going through the motions and could smile a bit more. An extra drinks round on the IST-PVG flight would have been appreciated also but overall I think they got the mix right and by being expedient and allowing people to sleep on an overnight flight I think it’s better than constant interruptions. Transferring at IST is easy enough and the long layover was ok I guess although it might not be for everyone’s taste. Checking in and tagging the bags and getting boarding cards in DUB is also handy and saves another bit of hassle.
Here is a selection of pictures from my stay in Shanghai. I had a pretty incredible time there and it is an amazing place to visit.
After 2 weeks it was time to make the long trip home. All my friends in Shanghai who I had met during the trip had all left for morning flights and I was the last to leave as my flight was on Friday night. I checked in online to confirm my seats for both sectors.
This doesn’t look to full but it would be different by Saturday.
I decided to take the metro and maglev to the airport as opposed to forking out 200-300 yuan for a taxi. I took metro line 1 from Yangshang road to Peoples Square at 17:00, the manic busy station, and then hopped on the famed Shanghai Airport Maglev at Longyang road which is just across from the metro station at 18:05.
It’s a bit of a mad process with so many people and two transfers but it’s cheap and convenient. (more people use the metro in one day than there are living in all of Ireland :O).
Reaching the maglev there was hardly anyone around. It costs 40 yuan for a ticket if you have an air ticket that day so I showed the ticket guy my itinerary on my ipod and bought my ticket. You pass through a security check and ticket check and then go up an escalator to the platform to be greeted by a shiny sleek picture. Boarding commenced shortly after and we were away soon enough, accelerating to 300 km/h. there are set times when it goes to 400 km/h but I was too late. It was a bit louder and more bumpy than I was expecting though but was fun none the less.
Boarding commenced shortly after.
At 18:15 we began our journey and began gaining speed. Within moments we were travelling at 300km/h.
It was a bit louder and bumpy than I was expecting but still pretty fun way to get to the airport.
After only 7 minutes I reached the airport.
Then made the longish walk to terminal 2.
Terminal 2 is huge and spacious. I had to walk all the way from domestic section to check in area C for TK.
I was 4 hours early so check-in wasn’t opening for another hour. I had a few things to get in the pharmacy and other places so just strolled around taking in the terminal which is quite impressive.
I went and queued at 19:20 and check-in began at 19:30 a little earlier than it was supposed to.
There was a sign advertising upgrades to Comfort class, TKs new premium economy product and also upgrades to business class. Upgrading to Comfort from economy cost 2000 kuai or about 220 euro and from economy to business 5000 kuai or about 500 euro. I decided to go for Y+ to try it out and have a little more comfort. The check-in agent told me to go to the ticket counter 3 desks down which I promptly did. I told the man I wanted to upgrade, he asked how and I said credit card and he directed me to an office across the way to use the credit card machine. Then it was back to the ticket desk for my receipt and then back to the original check in agent. It was a bit convoluted to be honest but I wasn’t complaining since I got the upgrade. The friendly check in agent helped me pick my seat although I think he misunderstood somewhat as he gave me an aisle seat with someone beside me when I didn’t want anyone beside me. He gave me my two TK branded boarding cards and tagged my bags all the way to DUB. He was helpful and courteous. I then went straight through immigration and security to the other side. I wandered the huge terminal gawking at planes and using the free internet terminals located throughout.
It was then time to get rid of my last 100 kuai courtesy of Burger King. Ironically the Emirates lounge looks out onto BK, oh to be one of them.
The food selections airside were quite poor, they seemed better landside.
And finally I did some exploring of the shops. I was sorely tempted by the Remy Martin XO for 700 kuai but alas I resisted and instead went chocolate shopping bringing back fond memories of my time working in Brussels last year.
I don’t mind waits, I had about 3 hours but the place is so huge walking eats into the time. I headed for the gate around 21:50 and freshened up. Boarding was called at 22:05.
Date: 26 August 2011
Airline: Turkish Airlines
Route: Shanghai Pudong (PVG)-Istanbul Ataturk (IST)
Class: Comfort/ Economy +
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Registration: TC- JJN
Seat: 15J- moved to 18K
There was no real order or priority I don’t think but everything was orderly enough. There were newspapers in the jetway as before.
Getting to my seat, a pillow and blanket were waiting. First impressions were good, lots and lots of space, and comfy seats. The seat is equipped with a reading light, in arm tray and tv and folding out foot rest and lumbar. There is also a plug and usb point and isdn point although this is currently redundant I think. The Y+ is arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration and the seats are nice and wide.
I love the 777 windows, so huge and some views out the tarmac
During this time, the flight attendant handed out an amenity kit, slippers and noise cancelling earphones. The amenity kit is bigger than the standard Y and has socks, lip balm, cream, ear plugs, eye covers, toothbrush, comb.
There was a slight delay in pushing back as they kept counting comfort class passengers. Turns out someone had snuck up from Y and was politely told to go back. We pushed back at 22:58 and we taxied around for take-off at 23:17. I noticed that the flight attendants didn’t really do a final sweep before take-off as there was a guy in front with his screen out at take-off. It is something I noticed on TK flights and probably needs to be addressed. With a wonderful purr we slowly rose and gracefully skirted the clouds over Shanghai. When the seatbelt signs went off I asked if I could move back to 18J and 18K and there was no problem. Next phase was to get to grips with the controls and get settled in.
The seat had decent recline and the foot rest can help get into a nice position. While not a lie flat sleeper, this is an economy product so it’s really very good especially considering the space you get and the price you pay.
Warm towels were then handed out soon after take-off with a menu and they proved lovely and refreshing . Another twenty minutes after this canpes and drinks were served. Don’t know what they were but they tasted good.
My flight attendant was very polite and smiley throughout and I think she appreciated my courtesy towards her, after all I’m not there to boss anyone around and a smile and a thank you never hurts anyone.
Then it was dinner time. I went for the fish. The meal in Comfort is bigger than standard Y and comes in two lots, main meal and then desert. I was somewhat disappointed with the initial presentation of the fish but it tasted really good, soft and flavoursome and the potato puree was just as good. I was surprised it was plane food. The roast beef was not too tough and had a nice flavour also while the salad tasted no worse than what I would make at home although if I had to nit-pick it was perhaps not as fulsome as it could have been. I had a glass of red wine with it which was a nice French red and it went down perfectly. Overall it was a very good meal for airline food and was noticeably better than normal Y both in taste and presentation. Again it was served with a smile and pleasantries if somewhat rigidly.
Next came dessert which consisted of a platter with a selection of cheese, sweet and fruit.
A nice idea and pulled off quite well, it tasted nice and looked well. I could say there was some blandness to some of them but again its nit-picking. Both dinner and desert were well presented with real cutlery although the glasses were plastic. Then tea and coffee was offered as well as more drinks which I went for more wine. Then a bottle of water was handed to everyone. Then the lights went out and I tried to get some sleep after finishing my dinner movie derailed. The service was prompt but I suppose you don’t want to hang around if you are tired. All done before we left China.
The crew kind of disappeared then and did fail to answer my call when I needed rubbish taken away. I then dozed for quite a bit, getting up every now and then to go to the bathroom.
There was a little turbulence throughout the flight but nowhere near as bad as the flight to PVG. With about 2 hours to go, I woke when I heard the flight attendants serving breakfast preceded by a warm towel service.
There was an egg and sausage breakfast with yogurt. The egg this time was to gloopy though the sausage ok. I took some tea as well to help wake me up. Lights went out again after breakfast and I watched some family guy.
With about 40 minutes to go, we began our descent. It was a long gradual descent skirting the coast.
At this stage activity picked up in the cabin, headsets were collected and preparations for landing made. It was still dark out
We landed firmly on the centreline at IST at 0524 and made a long taxi to a remote stand. We were then bussed a short distance to the terminal.
It was cool being so close to the 777, they are amazing machines.
The transit area was a bit manic as there were loads of transfer passengers but I got through the queue quick enough and was airside by 6am. I headed to starbucks for a coffee. I headed to the gate at 645 since it said waitinlounge on the screens. Gate 304 is a remote stand and the holding area is downstairs in the terminal. You have to enter a holding area through security. Having done this with the screen saying boarding I was unsurprised to see we weren’t boarding. We did have to get a boarding passes stamped after a passport check. I just looked out on the tarmac.
Date: 27 August 2011
Airline: Turkish Airlines
Route: Istanbul Ataturk (IST)- Dublin (DUB)
Aircraft: Airbus A321
Registration: TC- JRF
Eventually we got on the bus at 07:15 and I was on board by 07:25. It soon became apparent why the A321 had been subbed, the flight was nearly full and I had two occupied seats beside me this time. Seats were grand and legroom ok too.
Pillow and blankets were available if need be. We pushed back at 07:55 and were airborne at 08:07. The flight attendants did do a sweep though. I don’t really have much to say about this segment, I was tired and didn’t really take any pics. 2 drink services as well as breakfast were served. The breakfast was similar to economy long haul and the egg was actually pretty good this time as well as the yogurt. For the rest of the flight I dozed and watched my ipod although Rio was shown overhead as well as the airshow.
We commenced our decent over Manchester at 09:28 and were on the ground at 09:56 with a gently landing.
We taxied to pier B and deplaned quick enough. However there was a 20 minute wait at passport control as there was no EU line and there were two flights and only 2 desks open. Not what you want after 24 hours travelling. Eventually I got through and found my bag was waiting on the carousel, it almost seemed like transfer bags got out first. I exited through customs to be greeted by my family and made my way home.
Overall I must say I was rather impressed with TK. The hard product on both short and long haul is good. The upgrade to Y+ is well worth it and very well priced if for the space alone. I think it can be only 2-300 more expensive than normal Y in many cases and it is worth it for long haul. I’ve heard it compared to some business classes of old. TKs catering is quite good, well presented and the food tasted good for the most part. The IFE system is good itself but there could have been a more varied choice, especially in the tv section. The soft product could do with some work though. Flight attendants can be inconsistent and a little harsh although they are professional for the most part. Also, boarding procedures can be a little inconsistent also.
I’m glad I tried TK, they were competitively priced and transiting through IST made for an interesting change. Transferring at IST is easy enough and armed with through boarding cards and baggage made easier. IST itself is grand, some faults but I’ve seen worse and I recommend buying into the lounge if you have a long layover and can’t make it into the city itself.
So that’s the end of my trip report. Aside from the flights themselves, Shanghai was an amazing city to visit and I really want to go back to China to explore some more. I also have a new love for the 777-300 and can’t wait to get back on board one . Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it. Any questions or comments are appreciated. Next up for me is the short hop to LCY from DUB next month to begin a new chapter in London.