Merhaba fellow A.netters,
Towards the end of January, I got more and more the feeling that our summer trip to Indonesia still would be way too much ahead. I just could not bear waiting that long for flying again. So I started looking for a short getaway around the Easter. This fact got however outdated after my spontaneous short trip to Barcelona
I got inspired by fellow A.netter Eric (aka Airbuseric). When he told me that he would be visiting Istanbul again in April, I thought, “Why don’t I just follow his example and go there myself?”
When I expressed the idea to my partner, he did not really rise to the bait. He got a bit uneasy about my mother-in-law since it had been a long time having her coming over and we were not there for her during Christmas and The New Year’s eve. He just was of opinion that we could not leave her again for another trip and had to spend our time with her somehow.
“Well, in that case, Why don’t we ask her to go with us to Istanbul?” I suggested.
My partner was not quite sure whether my mother-in-law would get interested in that kind of visit, but he let me convince her anyway.
Well, I did barely take pains as my mother-in-law had surprisingly always wanted to visit Istanbul herself. She said straightforward ‘yes’ to my invitation. Not expecting such an enthusiasm from my mother-in-law, my partner hit upon an idea to bring along my sister-in-law as well since she has been in Istanbul many times before. Hey, how about that? It had not even crossed my mind. All great ideas just came together! My sister-in-law however needed time to think.
Then the most entertaining part came. That was making a decision on which airline we should fly with to IST. Well to be honest, it was me who made the decision.
I dropped a hint to Eric earlier that we were eyeing IST. He suggested flying there with Swiss or Malev. Well, I would love to experience LX once again. MA otherwise would be great too as I have never flown with this airline. But since we would be traveling with two other people who were not into changing flight if not necessary, our choices were limited to airlines offering nonstop flights to IST like KLM or Turkish Airlines.
However, one airline was conspicuous with its advertisement about the route. It happened to be Pakistan International Airlines!
Somehow, they spoked to us.
And they talked us into it.
As PIA is not aligned with any frequent flyer program which my partner and I have already got the membership of, I decided to enroll us with PIA ‘s own frequent flyer program, PIA Award Plus. Their online benefits are not that extensive in comparison with other FF programs like Miles & More. But hey, it did not mind us and besides an enrollment would not harm anyway. So what is done is done.
During the member application process, I found out that the supporting engine had not been fully developed. Upon submitting the application form, PIA Service Center replied with a new enrollment reference number for each of us and notified that due to a high volume of applications, processing could take up to seven working days. We were not in hurry, but what if some people would wish to fly and apply for a membership within that seven working days? However within two working days, our memberships were confirmed.
When my sister-in-law eventually notified us that she would be joining the party, we could make our travel preparation. I thought it would be better to book directly with the airline as it would be less hassle than booking through a travel agent so I visited PIA website to do the online booking. Well, it did unfortunately not turn out as I had expected!
Somehow the AMS-IST segment did not appear on the drop-down menu of the online booking‘s destination list. I just had to find a way to insert our booking inquiry. Strange enough, with a detour through momondo I managed to quote our return flight anyway.
Proceeding to the next page, I had to fill out an extensive booking form with all the passenger details like passport number, issuing country, country of residence and so on. As there were four of us traveling, it was quite a lot of work to complete it. The online form itself was quite impressive actually as you would be able to pass on your preferences like special meal, advanced seat selection and even smoking or non smoking!. Unfortunately, this nice impression did not last long.
Upon the verification of my credit card, the booking process was abruptly terminated due to the fact that the quoted prices were somehow not available anymore. I tried to return to the previous page and to my displeasure, I were thrown back to the very beginning of the booking page! Oh my God, I had to start the whole procedure all over again and none of the inserted passenger details were retained at all!
I reluctantly dragged myself throughout the system again until the credit card verification page appeared. With my fingers crossed, I got the verification started once again and hoping that things would work this time. Well, no way! My credit card could not be processed this time since the name spelled on the card did not match the passenger name. In other words, the booking engine somehow could not match my first name in full with the initials on my credit card! What the hell! I then tried several combinations to get through. First jotting my first name in full as it was supposed to have been published on my credit card, and when it failed, switching the positions of my first name and surname. As a result of these actions, my credit card got blocked and I got more and more desperate! Seeing me getting het up, my partner let me use his credit card. Unfortunately, it did not work either! Not even with the similar combinations I had tried earlier with my credit card. My partner’s card did not get blocked though.
Frustrated, I consulted a particular online travel agent which had PIA tickets on offer. To my relief I could finally book our tickets there. Our E-tickets were not yet issued as the agent still had to inquire the seat availabilities with PIA. By that time I was just hoping so much that this agent could save our situation. Thank God, our booking got confirmed the following day.
Traveling with both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law meant that special meal had to be ordered. So I contacted the Dutch PIA office by e-mail to order bland meal and lacto-ovo vegetarian meal respectively. Unfortunately, a confirmation had never materialized even after I sent a reminder later on . Four days before our departure, I decided to make a phone call to the PIA office in Amsterdam. As I thought, the PIA office lady told could not find any special meal booking in our itinerary. But she proceeded to arrange it. It was not a big deal, but I wondered why PIA did not bother returning my e-mail.
Anyway, despite some issues, one thing I liked very much was, once we got our PNR-number, we were entitled to pre-select our seats. We undoubtedly made a grateful use of it. I must say that this had made up everything in my perspective and for sure, I were looking forward to experience another firsts of mine. First time with PIA and first time on board of an Airbus A310!
SCHIPHOL SMART PARKING
As there were four of us traveling, we decided to book Schiphol Smart Parking. This arrangement turned out to be cheaper than the total price of four return train tickets. Another advantage was that we could collect my sister-in-law on our way to Schiphol.
Our journey started at Park & Travel 3 where we caught the dedicated bus to the terminal which runs every seven minutes around the clock.
The bus ride took less than ten minutes. We got off at the second stop in front of Terminal 3. At 12.05, we reached the check in desk in row 20.
Since PIA does not offer online check-in facility, I wanted to make sure that our advanced seat selection would be granted. So we complied with the minimum three hour check-in time.
There were three check-in desks available. The right side was the J one. We queued in the middle row and were number three in sequence. There were eight other passengers before us.
PIA check-in desks
Our check-in desk
A line was forming behind us. As there were no J passengers showing up, the agent proceeded to attend the Y passenger in order of sequence. Suddenly, I heard some humming behind us and a man I did not see earlier made his way to the J desk. A security guy who were in charge for the check-in, stopped him while the check-in agent verified whether the man was traveling J. As it was not the case, the man got turned down and sent back to where he came from in the queue. This man had apparently some arguments with other passengers who showed their disapproval of him being pushing forward. Some people…
It took less than ten minutes for our turn. The guy who attended us, acted correctly by confirming the special meal orders for both my mother and sister-in-law while checking us in. At the end, he handed over our boarding passes and some carry-on luggage labels.
“You have to tag on your carry-on luggage. PIA supervises these sternly as some of their passengers happen to bring along too many things with them on board. But for the rest, it is a nice airline,” he said.
“I hope so. It is our first time flying with PIA,” I replied.
The check-in guy wished us a pleasant flight and we proceeded to the passport control.
My boarding pass
The whole process was actually a breeze. We were airside within less than half an hour after we got off the bus.
As PIA is a dry airline, we decided to get our well deserved alcohol before boarding.
At 13.50 we made our way to our assigned gate G5.
Date: 30 March 2010
ETD/ATD: 14.50 / 15.07
ETA/ATA: 19.10 / 19.28
Flight number: PK 762
Plane: Airbus 310-308
Delivered: First delivered 11 May 1994
In charge: Captain Muzfer Tlpur
Photo © Marc Riedel
Photo © Dimitri Steendijk
While entering the G-finger, we passed by an interesting gate advertisement.
Just like at the passport control, we passed the security quickly. It would not have been too surprising afterwards regarding the today’s load.
Somehow the gate screen showed from about 14.25 that the gate was closing, but nothing happened yet.
In the meantime, a TK A320 docked at the adjacent gate. Interesting to see that two aircrafts were both heading to Istanbul. Except that we were off to IST and TK to SAW instead.
Finally, a common boarding call was made at 14.40. Everyone just got up and proceeded to the aerobridge. We were among the last to go onboard and I noticed that the holding room ran empty within five minutes. Even though, our flight were running late.
Inside the aerobridge
THE PIA EXPERIENCE
”Namaste,” I said to two cabin attendants who greeted me at the door and ushered me to the right aisle. My seat 23L is located in the forward Y cabin before the emergency exit seat. This section was supposed to be Economy Plus, but PIA sold it as Y.
Legroom with reclining front seat
Seat control unit
The seat pocket content
Duty free guide
Service on the ground
Cabin attendant Nazar approached my mother and sister-in-law to verify the special meal order after they got seated. When Nazar left, my sister-in-law got up and tried to take a picture of me and my partner. She had some difficulties to find the right angle and apparently blocked the aisle. When she eventually noticed Salahuddin, another cabin attendant, waiting patiently behind her and stepped aside, Salahuddin just said, “That’s OK. Take your time,”
Wow, I was impressed. It was tremendously different from what I experienced with Vueling last time.
Nazar appeared again holding plastic cups and a large bottle of mineral water.
“Do you want some water?” he asked.
“Oh, yes please,” both my partner and I replied.
A welcome drink! Even it was only water, but still a nice touch!
Noaeen, another cabin attendant, appeared at our seat row holding newspapers. “Do you want some newspapers?” she smiled.
Even after I declined politely, she gave me the only English newspaper she had anyway. Well again, impressive!
At around 15.05, the cabin preparation for take-off got started with a prayer. It was followed with an announcement that our flight time would be three hours with an altitude of 11,000 meters. Pushback were conducted about three minutes later. The whining noise of the engines started to fill the cabin. Soon we made our way to Kaagbaan.
Martinair B763 in retro livery
Somehow we followed a strange pattern. Firstly we entered the displaced threshold of the Kaagbaan and then vacating through the upcoming high-speed taxiway to return to the threshold. We were the second after KLM B733.
KL B733 roaring
Entering the runway
KL B73H in retro livery
White Vueling A320
The engines spooled up and we thundered on the Kaagbaan. Finally lifting off at 15.25.
We leveled off at 15.30 and the cabin crew was released. Our routing would be Amsterdam – Frankfurt – Cologne – Budapest – Arad – Istanbul.
Noaeen started to hand out headphones. In the meantime, the heated food aroma started to fill the cabin.
The special meal were served earlier before the regular meal.
Lacto-ovo vegetarian meal
I thought it would take long before the attendants commenced the regular meal serving, so I paid an obligatory visit to the toilet.
Forward Y lavatory
Well, Noaeen was already on her way to serve the regular meal when I finished. Luckily, she could let me through. I was curious about what I was about to get.
Warm spicy triangular pie
I was a little disappointed actually. I was hoping to savor a typical Pakistani curry dish, but unfortunately it did not come out. The whole tray was not substantial either, even after Noaee distributed the pie. The dessert however, I could not really figure it out, was delicious. Moist and not too sweet, really to my liking. Noaee took the charge of the tea round. I must say, the PIA tea was delightful.
The meal trays were cleared up at 16.00. Soon enough, the duty free sale got started. Salahuddin wandered through the aisle with the duty free guides in his hand. I could not really understand the need of it as each seat pocket contained a similar booklet. Ten minutes later, Jamil, another cabin attendant, passed by with the duty free cart. He soon disappeared towards the aft galley. Noaeen appeared again to distribute blankets. The task was soon finished in the forward Y cabin.
The main screen broadcasted “Post Grad”. But I was not really into it, so I went out discovering the Y cabin.
Forward Y (Plus) cabin
After Y cabin
Most passengers were sleeping. I then decided to pay a visit to the galley and met up Nazar and Noaeen. I asked them if I could ask some details about the flight.
“No problem. But if you need some technical details, you just have to ask the flight officer,” Nazar said.
I replied that there was no need to as I just wanted to spell the name of the captain correctly. I engaged a nice conversation with Nazar and Noaeen about my first flight with PIA and that I was impressed with their service so far. I was wondering why there were so few passengers on this flight. Nazar said that the aircraft was full on the way to Amsterdam. He hoped that more passengers would get onboard from Istanbul. At the end, I asked whether they would mind having a photo with me. I was pleased to hear them saying “Yes, of course”.
Nazar proceeded to ask whether I would bother filling out the feedback card. Of course I said yes.
I returned to my seat and got dozed off. I woke up at about 18.35 when the descent was commenced. The cabin attendants started distributing landing cards and health statements.
Apparently, the wrong landing cards were distributed as those were published in Turkish. My sister-in-law notified a cabin attendant about it. She called in Nazar to clarify it. But both of them could not figure it out either. Nazar’s colleague said that she would inquire it further. Unfortunately, she never came back. My sister-in-law told my partner and me that she never had to fill out landing card and health statement before, so we decided to let those forms pass.
Full brakes were applied after touch down at 19.17 on 18L/36R runway. We vacated the runway towards the parallel taxiway next to 06/24 runway which apparently is being reconstructed.
Privately owned Turkish A321’s and an unidentified white MD80
Construction on 06/24
We said goodbye to Nazar and Noaeen and proceeded to the terminal.
From the aerobridge
I must say, I was impressed with the airy construction of IST terminal. As we made our way through the long corridor to the passport control, I could feast my eyes.
After buying 90 day multiple entry visas at 15 Euro’s each and withdrawing some Turkish lira’s, we proceeded to the passport control. Despite the horrendous arrival of intercontinental passengers, we were within minutes waived through.
Arrival duty free shop
We did not have to wait long for our checked luggage and made our way to the exit.
TO BE CONTINUED