GOING OUT OF MY WAY FOR TK
A review of Turkish Airlines on VIE-IST-JFK-IST-VIE on Comfort Class + TK Lounge Istanbul
Greetings and welcome to the first in a series of mini-reports and reviews for 2012! I have been incredibly busy recently, working on the development of an exciting new toothbrush called ReBrush. I am the co-founder of a product studio based in Boston and, as we are only a two-person team, you can imagine that there has been a lot of work to do.
Still, no amount of work will dampen my love for aviation. I have taken a few interesting trips this year that I am only getting around to documenting now. I am very excited to share these experiences with the aviation community and I apologise for the lack of detail in certain sections – I am working off memory, photos and a few rough notes. Feel free to pop me a comment with any specific questions that I didn’t cover in the write-up.
This series of mini-reports will cover the following:
- VIE-IST-JFK-IST-VIE on Turkish Airlines’ incredible new 77W
- A review of the new Vienna Airport Skylink Terminal (the new home of Austrian Airlines)
- VIE-FRA-IAD-BOS on Lufthansa’s spanking new 748i
- JFK-BRU-NBO-BRU-JFK on Brussels Airlines’ new A330 (tentative)
A. Trip Background
The first thing you might notice about this trip is the odd routing (to JFK from VIE via IST). Or perhaps you didn’t notice and accepted this as a matter of fact. As a true Anutter, I shared the latter perspective. In fact, I went very far out of my to arrange this trip, which included a slight premium over alternate routes, a 2-hour connecting flight in the wrong direction, a 14-hour layover in Istanbul and an itinerary that didn’t actually end in my target destination.
I have been “commuting” between Vienna and Boston about 2-3 times a year for the past five years and when I saw a promotion for the new Turkish Airlines Comfort Class on their JFK route, I decided to spice things up a little this time. I had also been eager to try out TK after reading so much about them on these forums and hearing about all the awards they have won over the past few years. I was glad to be flying this airline on a true flagship route on true flagship metal.
Booking was all done through the TK website, which has improved a lot in recent years.. Following the booking, I visited the incredibly friendly TK ticket office in the heart of Vienna’s first district to confirm the details of my complementary stopover (granted by TK for connections over 10 hours).
I booked a separate onward ticket with JetBlue from JFK-BOS and, in total, the entire trip ended up only around €100 more than my regular connections with LH, LX or OS. Keep in mind that this was ~€100 more for TK Comfort Class and thus, this ended up being a true bargain.
B. A note on Turkish Airlines
As mentioned, I was very eager to try TK, a rapidly growing airline on a mission to receive a five-star Skytrax rating. Like the other Middle Eastern giants, TK is connecting a unimaginably diverse range of destinations around the world, ranging from Mogadishu and Najaf to New York and Bologna. They are a force to be reckoned with and are standing strongly among the stifling competition from the Middle East. They are investing heavily in a product differentiated by quality and service. And, although they still have a long way to go, I am impressed by their progress so far.
C. Basic Flight Details
Again, I apologized for the lack of detailed documentation in this section. Unfortunately, I no longer have my registration notes etc, but here is a general overview of my itinerary:
January 30st, 2012
TK 1888 VIE-IST
18:00-21:50, Airbus A321
TK 0001 IST-JFK
10:50-14:45, Boeing 777-300ER
July 31st, 2012
TK 0012 IST-JFK
23:00-15:40, Boeing 777-300ER
TK 1889 IST-VIE
19:45-21:05, Boeing 737-800
My outbound flight from Vienna started with a bit of bad luck: a freak snow storm that hit Istanbul at the end of January. I arrived at the airport with an announced 2-hour flight delay, which eventually turned into 3 and then 4 hours. This was no problem though as I enjoyed my last time in the old Austrian Business lounge, which was soon to be replaced by the new lounges opening in the Skylink terminal in June 2012.
My outbound connection in Istanbul was chaotic to say the absolute least. As is the case with airports that are generally less prepared for snow, only one runway was in use and there was a huge backlog for de-icing. On the ground, I proceeded to the TK Hotel Counter in the arrivals hall where, under normal circumstances, I would have been collecting the hotel vouchers for my complementary stopover. This night, however, the line stretched halfway through the terminal as passengers were being accommodated after missed connections and cancelled flights. I spent about 2:30 hours before I got to the front of the line. Before proceeding, I strongly voiced my opinion to an incredibly rude mob of about 10 passengers shouting at and mocking the TK agents manning the accommodation desk. Now TK could have managed the chaos more effectively, however, the people who definitely didn’t deserve a heartless mocking with the three sole agents working as hard as they could that night to get everyone accommodated.
I am generally a patient person when it comes to situations like this and so I waited until my “group” was called to board a big bus into the city. It turns out that TK had maxed out the capacity at all hotels close to the airport and so was calling hotels ad-hoc in the city to see whether they would be able to accommodate a few dozen passengers at a time (it was 3AM at this point). Our bus driver was given an address scribbled on to a piece of paper and a passenger list that was to be given to the hotel receptionist. After a few wrong turns by the driver (who was on the phone receiving directions from a friend) we arrived at a Best Western somewhere in the heart of Istanbul. Luckily, I was sitting at the front of the bus, so I headed the crowd of 35 tired and restless passengers into the hotel lobby, handing over the passenger list to a night manager who did not know what had hit him!
My comfy bed at an unknown Best Western in Istanbul, after a 7-hour delay.
After another 40 minutes and at around 4AM, I settled into a comfy bed only to be called a few minutes later by reception with the time for my pickup back to the airport the next morning! The morning transfer was well coordinated by TK and after a short 3-hour nap, a refreshing shower and solid breakfast, I was on a shuttle back to IST.
Some views of a very busy IST:
My return flight was definitely less crazy. I enjoyed a dedicated line for Comfort Class at JFK checkin but disappointed to see the lack of a priority/Star Gold line at security during my connection at IST. Istanbul airport is bursting at the seams. It reminds me of DXB back in the days before Terminal 3, where EK was also growing faster than the airport could accommodate.
TK’s fantastic Lounge Istanbul makes up for any other area that IST lacks (see the end of this report for details).
E. The Flights
Again, I was lucky enough to be flying on one of TK’s flagship routes, on a brand-new flagship aircraft. I have heard mixed reviews about the airline, primarily from people traveling on their African services which feature older 737 aircraft.
To sum up at the start, my experience on TK was stellar.
TK’s new 77Ws are absolutely amazing. A great case study demonstrating the success of Priestmangoode’s work in the airline industry. It is this design studio that was responsible for the complete rebranding of TK including the new livery, visual branding, ground product and of course the new cabins. Along with impressive work for Kingfisher (cabin redesign), Lufthansa (new F cabin, shorthaul cabin redesign), Swiss (new F cabin), Malaysian (new F cabin), they are also the studio behind TAM’s updated in-flight product which I believe is one of the most attractive in the sky.
The cabin is highlighted with bright-colored and refreshing accents. Panels and side walls are decorated in patterns inspired by Turkish symbols and imagery.
[Edited 2012-11-04 16:57:52]