TK First Class Trip Report 2010
As promised, here is another trip report regarding my recent flight on Turkish Airlines First Class from Istanbul Atatürk International Airport to New York John F Kennedy on TK 1. Flight “1” is always the airline’s signature route, and using my BD miles, I am able to issue this ticket about six months ago. Reading many other trip reports here has given me some ideas on expectation, and most of the folks are right. TK really tries very hard in creating this new premium class product and you can see the advertisement and signage and the F/As onboard try very hard. However, the service still needs certain refinement and the hardware is fine including the Jet Airways’ suites, AVOD entertainment system, amenities, and DO & CO catering. However the software including various service procedures, being more attentive, and ground service still needs refinement, especially the last item. My journey started in a wrong foot, but thankfully it turns out to be a good one.
Trip report - http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8QbNHDNy5bqRnw
Planespotting – http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8QbNHDNy5bqRpI
Istanbul was raining heavily during my whole stay, but is still a very beautiful city. Hilton Park SA is okay, and I get a decent rate including couple perks. I arranged a car service pickup at 7:45am from Backpackers Travel agency. They charged me 25 Euros, which was way cheaper than the 80 Euros that the hotel wants. Not sure if it is a good deal or not though! I arrived at Istanbul Airport at 8:30am, and then proceeded to the entrance of the airport, and there was a checkpoint in the entrance and there was a separate first and business class/premium checkpoint. The airport was relatively quiet this morning and was very organized with clear direction to check-in counters. I spotted the first class check-in line soon and of course it was closed. Not sure if I am too early, but the flight was scheduled to take off at 11am, and for most USA bound flights, you should be there at least three hours in advance. So I went to the business class check in lines instead, and as expected, there was separate counters for the US flights, and a security officer checked your passport, ticket (you should print out your e-ticket receipt), and asked the usual questions about your trip and how long have you been out of US, and really nothing shocking here. The agent immediately checked me in and tagged my bag “first class”. She was very attentive and polite. There was no mentioning of the first class lounge or any special service, and despite given a invitation card, there is no direction to which lounge I can use.
The passport control was quick because there was once again a premium lane. I was on my way to the lounge, and of course, I can’t find any first class lounge, except signs to the TK lounge, HSBC lounge, BA lounge, and “Prime Class” lounges. After a quick visit to the duty free shops, alcohol and cigarettes are very expensive and I regretted not buying them at Dubai a couple days earlier. Then I just went to the main Turkish Airlines lounge and asked the lounge attendant, which seemed uninterested and just told me that this was the right lounge. Of course, it was the main Business Class lounge, which was very large, and busy this morning. There were still ample of sofas to relax on. I quickly checked my email and then paid a visit to the main bar/buffet area, which there was a selection of sandwiches, pastries and breakfast food available, as well as hot soup, which was a creamy tomato soup. I got a glass of Coke Zero and explored around. I was pretty sure that it was not the first class lounge, but then there were no other entrances. Then I left the lounge and decided to find a few plane-spotting areas, which were not quite available. I finally found a seating area next to gate 214/215, which had direct access to windows. It was pouring quite heavily so the pictures did not come out well. I spotted a number of interesting TK planes, other than the usual 737-800 in Europe. I spotted a Kuwait Airways VIP aircraft, as well as Ariana Afghan Airlines’ A310 (I think). After a while, I decided to head over to my gate, 219, and waited for the arrival of my aircraft, which was coming from JFK and running late. If there was a special First class service, they will just look for me.
Being a USA gate, there were additional security measures, such as document checks, but the checkpoint was typical of an average international airport and there was no hand search at all. I assumed some passengers would get secondary if they come from other suspicious countries and some random drawing as well. Finally around 10am, TK Boeing 777-300ER TC-JJA “AKDENIZ” arrived at gate 219 and I assumed there would be some delays in departure. They finally paged me (of course can’t really pronounce my last name) and an apologetic TK agent approached me and regretted their absence. She told me that I was welcomed to exit the gate and use the “Prime Class” lounge, and they would escort me back to the gate once the boarding was near complete. Things become better and soon I was on a golf cart racing towards the Prime Class lounge, which I ironically missed by a few meters on my earlier visit to that area. If I know TK First uses the “Prime Class” service, I would have stepped into the lounge earlier. Yes Prime Class is a separate company and anyone can purchase their VIP service in and out of the airport. After bring me to the lounge, the agent told me that I could just relax and they would pick me up when boarding was ready in about thirty minutes.
Prime Class Lounge:
Well there was only one passenger at the lounge, and he was sleeping in the couch. The lounge itself was not particularly large but good enough for a full load of F passengers from TK Boeing 777-300ER. It would be crowded if there were more than 16 people though. I was escorted to the restaurant area, but after a hearty breakfast in the hotel earlier, I declined and headed to the one of the sofas. The waiter immediately asked for my beverage order and poured me a glass of water, as well as passing out a three tier trays of biscuits and mini pastries. You would never be hungry at any stage of your TK F journey. I immediately logged on to my computer and the attendant immediately told me the domain and password of the lounge wifi service. I spent about forty-five to fifty minutes in the lounge before being escorted back to the gate by the wonderful gate agent and the beautiful but quiet Prime Class attendant. The way she drove the golf cart was rather funny and I don’t think speeding through a busy concourse was a good idea. Going through the security check the second time was a charm (haha), and with boarding almost completed, I was not hurried. Indeed the gate agent welcomed me and asked me to take a seat and he would call me after the line disappeared from the jet way – very good service and other airlines can take notes. I spotted the next door Azerbaijan Airlines Airbus A320 and took my time in snapping a couple shots of this rare bird in either the US or Asia.
I boarded the plane around 11:10am, and if I was correct, I was the last one, and a first class F/A immediately escorted to my seat and hot towel was provided, as well as a welcome beverage (choices of champagne, orange juice, lime juice or water) was immediately offered, followed by a bowl of mixed nuts. An amenity kit, a PJ, and a pair of slippers were immediately offered, and the purser also welcomed me aboard soon. She checked on me a couple of times throughout the flight, and I immediately offered the F/As a box of Gayle’s chocolate that I bought from Detroit a week ago. They were quite shocked and pleased, and I used it as a “bribe” to get some menus from other cabin class, as well as a nice thing to show appreciation for a group of hardworking crew. Unlike the Delta crew a week ago on the inaugural flight, the TK crew seemed to be more appreciative of the gesture, and the other male F/A, Jan, brought me a small tray of the goodies I got them, and thanked me. He is actually quite cute. Anyway, paperwork was shuffling around and the ground staff was trying to close the aircraft door soon. Due to the late arrival, you can’t really push thing and I am more than happy for a longer flight in first class. A quick cabin check, there was only one other person in first class today. Door was closed at 11:18am and nine minutes later, pushback commenced and we headed towards the takeoff line for R/W 36L. At 11:51am, we lifted off from a rainy Istanbul and immediately headed towards Continental Europe.
Flying time was estimated at nine hours and forty minutes, and we ended up only flying six minute longer due to some vectoring in Long Island for the arrival sequence into JFK. The routing was typical of those Europe to East coast flights. We flew towards Veliko Tarnovo and slowly climbed to 32,000feet, which we remained all the way before reaching the New Foundland coast. We flew past cities of Belgrade, Osijek, Maribor, Graz, Passau, Bamberg, Dortmund, Amsterdam, before crossing the UK Channel towards the UK cities of Lincoln, Sheffield and Manchester. Then we flew over the North of Dublin and entered the Atlantic Ocean airpsace after passing the Irish city of Westport. We finally climbed to 34,000feet as we entered North America by crossing over the cities of Clarenville, Sydney of Nova Scotia, Antigonish, North of Halifax and Argyle. Then we flew towards the US by passing Cape Cod, Providence, Long Island, and then JFK. It was rather a smooth flight until we need a few patch of rough air over Canada and the Northeast.
There were two flight attendants assigned to the first class cabin and the purser helped out with the back, rather than up front. With only two passengers to look after, the two F/As had no problems serving the cabin. The male F/A mainly worked in the galley preparing the carts and the female F/A served the meals. I started with a glass of French white wine, Pouilly Fume La Grande Cuvee 2007, which was recommended by the crew. It was quite nice and I stuck with it for the rest of the flight. The meal service began with nice trio canapés, which was lobster, smoked salmon, and red pepper cream cheese roll. Everything was set up individually with no tray used. Appetizers and desserts are all served via a trolley and you can choose what you want. The female F/A was quite alright but a bit on the hurry side, and the beverage refill was a bit on the lacking side until I ask. My wine glass was empty after the appetizer course and that was the refinement and personal attention that is a bit lacking compared to my Asian and European airlines’ F/As, who would always remember to refill the wine and water glasses. The male F/A was a bit more on the relax side and did consistent beverage checks throughout the flight. In general, the female F/A was a bit in the rush side, and she was friendly and polite, but was just a little bit forgetful (due to the lack of training from TK side too) and wanted to make the bed as soon as possible. However, that is perhaps more TK responsibility and they still need to refine the service procedures for first class.
Meals and Beverages:
After food was abundant and was of high quality, Do & Co definitely does not disappoint anyone. Lunch service was spread out with appetizer, soup, entrée (freshly plated in the galley), cheese, dessert, and aperitif trolleys. You could choose anything or everything from the trolley. It was very traditional and definitely a good feature. My only recommendation is to provide a few more courses. Caviar service should be separate from the appetizer trolley, and there should be a separate cheese/fruit and dessert trolley. Especially for a daytime service, the first main meal service can be served in a more extravagant manner and relaxingly. It was a bit on the rush side, as the whole lunch service was completed within an hour and forty minutes after takeoff (of course serving two people make it easier too). A separate digestive service will be nice, and for some reasons, they bring you wines from the galley and never show you the bottle, which is a bit strange, as most airlines likes to display their excellent premium wines and champagnes. There was a snack pantry featuring Turkish Delights (Candies), Viennese Chocolates (excellent and melt in your moth), mini Chocolate bars – Bounty/Mars/Twix, Fruit (Banana & grapes), and potato chips. A supper/second service was served two hours prior to landing, and the service was a bit simplified, but no tray was used, and service was still good. The Turkish Mezze was nice and salad was served in the same time (which should be separate), and then the artichoke soup was interesting and served with an olive toast. Entrée was the highly and the prawns are just cooked perfectly and just like a upscale restaurant. The female F/A almost forgot to serve the dessert until I asked. She was just a bit in the hurried side, and she immediately brought me a nice fruit salad and a “mousse” like dessert. I ended the meal with more tea with lemon. There was only two hot towel service during the whole flight – once at the pre-takeoff, and then a second one shortly before lunch. I was a bit surprised that there was no hot towel service before and/or after the second meal, or pre-arrival.
Just another comment regarding meals, I got the business class menu so I found out that the first and business class meals are identical mostly especially the first main meal service. First class gets an additional caviar service, as well as an additional main course choice. These days, most airlines adopt this approach, which I am a little bit annoyed. I feel that first class service can see a bit more differentiation with business class, especially departure from home country. The second meal was a bit different though, which was good.
Here is the full menu transcript and wine list!
1. Pouilly Fume La Grande Cuvee 2007
2. Pinot Grigio Collio 2008
3. Gruner Veltliner Smaragd “Rotes Tor” 2008
4. Sarafin Sauvignon Blanc Doluca 2008
5. Chateau d’Amailhac, 5ieme Cru Classe 2006
6. Brunello di Montalcino 2004
7. Tignanello 2006
8. Vina ARdanza 2000
9. Graham’s 2003 Late Bottled Vintage Port
10. Karma Cabernet Sauvignon-Okuzgozu 2006
11. Roederer Brut
Aperitifs, Digestives & Beers
12. Martini Extra Dry
13. Martini Bianco
14. Chivas Regal 18 Years
15. Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Years
16. Macallan 12 Years
17. The Glenlivet 15 Years
18. Jim Bream
19. Jack Daniel’s
20. Grey Goose
21. Smirnoff Black
22. Gordon’s Dry Gin
23. Bombay Sapphire Gin
24. Raki – “Efe Yas Uzum Raskisi”
25. Grand Marnier
27. Tekel Turkish Liqueur Special Product (Sour Cherry)
29. Hennessey XO
30. Beers – Efes Pilsen, Carlsberg, Heineken
Istanbul to New York
Welcome On Board
Salted Mixed Nuts
Ossetra Malossol Caviar
Classic Garnish/ toast Melba
Hors d’Oeuvres from the Trolley
Smoked fish roe paste
Chicken Caesar Salad
White eggplant salad
“Haydari” creamy yogurt with garlic and herbs
Fried Zucchinis and peppers
Potato Leek Soup
Catch of the Day
Grilled Sea Bream Fillet
Tomato and black olive salsa with zucchini
Grilled Lamb Chops
Oven roasted red peppers
Homemade Mushroom Ravioli
Sautéed fresh mushrooms/cherry tomatoes
Fresh Seasonal Fruit
Coconut Ice Cream
Selection of traditional Turkish Sweets
“Samsa, Hosmerim, Sam Tatlisi”/ clotted cream
Oven fresh bread selection
Espresso, Turkish Coffee, Regular Coffee, Selection of teas
Before landing or any time you like
Turkish style “Meze”
Stuffed eggplant in olive oil/ air-dried beef
Grilled chicken breast/ “Cerkez” chicken
Red pepper stuffed with goat cheese
Lettuce salad with mozzarella and tomatoes
Oven roasted red peppers/ grilled zucchinis
Fresh Fruit platter
Olive and pepper croutons
Made to your order
Mediterranean vegetables/ rice
“Manti” Turkish Style home made tortellini
Mango strawberry vanilla macciato
Oven fresh bread selection
Freshly brewed coffee or tea
Turkish uses the original Jet Airways first class suites and business class herringbone seats, so I can’t really comment more. The first suites are comfortable and the seats are well padded for both sitting and sleeping, There are no overhead bins, and the coat hanger on the side is a bit on thin side. There are two side storage bins for small items, as well as books and magazines. Having the door closed was cool, and in general the seats are nice. Of course, they are also showing their “ages” with some chirps on the door and side wood panels. If TK will stick with a real first class in the future, as well as buying their own Boeing 777-300ERs, it will be nice to use seats that reflect the Turkish Airlines’ branding, rather than still Jet Airways.
At least Turkish Airlines uses its own interface in the entertainment system, and there are ample choices of movies, videos, music and audio programs. Of course, they are still not as extensive as the Cathay Pacific, Emirates, and Singapore Airlines entertainment library, but the choices are good, and there are PIP (pictures in pictures) function, and AVOD (audio video on demand). BOSE headsets were provided for each first class passenger. They worked excellent of course.
The flight went by rather quickly and descent soon began at 1:54pm New York time (8:54pm IST time) over Long Island, and the flight attendant was busy preparing the cabin for arrival. The BOSE headsets were collected, and soon we were over Long Island. We landed on R/W4R at 2:37pm, and soon we began the ground tour of JFK by waiting at the threshold for quite a while before allowed crossing R/W4L. It took us forty minutes to taxi to our gate in terminal one. Even for a JFK frequent flyer, 40 minutes is a bit excessive, and gate 6 was our gate this afternoon. Terminal One was thankfully not too busy. They were only clearing the remain of an Austrian Airlines Boeing 777 flight by the time we arrived at the INS and thankfully the AF A380 had not landed yet. Sometimes I wonder if T-1 can handle two A380 arrivals at the same time. Bags came out shortly after passing INS, and first class bags came out first (well of course crew bags got the first priority), and soon I was heading towards Terminal seven for my connection flight to SFO.
Turkish Airlines is an impressive airline, and I am extremely satisfied with this flight. I have read about different things regarding TK continuing the first class service or not. However, if TK chooses to continue offer first class on its own Boeing 777-300ER, they need to further refine the service and give the F/As a bit more training. They need to be a bit more attentive to details, as well as differentiating the meal service between first and business class a bit more. The meals are excellent in all cabin classes, but first class should be a little bit more special especially on daytime or flights that can feature a more extravagant main meal service. The quality of meals are already high, but a few more courses or different entrée choices will not hurt, but improve the product. I think Jan and his colleague for a wonderful “first” flight on Turkish Airlines, and I look forward flying more with TK in the future.
Carfield[Edited 2010-06-12 17:16:35]
[Edited 2010-06-12 17:17:01]