Hello, and welcome to my first trip report!
I’ve been a member for over 6 years and I almost feel embarrassed this is the first time I take the opportunity to write a trip report in so many years and trips up to now. However, on this occasion I planned for it ahead of time. This meant researching how to upload pictures, opening a flickr account, the BB code stuff, etc, all just after booking the flights and while traveling I even took notes on my iphone. Like a pro!
This is also be the first trip report on TK’s new IAH-IST route (started April this year). I hope you enjoy it!!
Background: I had to go to Madrid in late June for a friend’s wedding and I decided to take the opportunity of crossing the pond to try out a new destination in Europe. Prices were a bit high (compared to what I wanted to pay or had paid before) so I went ahead a used miles for the first time ever - had lots to spare. Having both UA’s MileagePlus and AA’s AAdvantage frequent flyer memberships I had some options. At this point I wasn’t sure where exactly I wanted to go so I started browsing on both airline’s websites the destinations they offered with miles, which partner airlines, and the cost of each. AA wasn't offering anything special, as most non AA destinations were offered via BA (with a hefty surcharge and taxes even with miles) and Air Berlin. On the other hand, UA had many other options (LH, LX, US, TP). Tried a few (CPH, OSL, DME) and then I thought about the city of two continents, Istanbul. To my surprise, TK was offered via Houston, in Business Class for the IAH-IST sector, economy on MIA-IAH (UA metal) for just 50,000 miles one-way, and after quick thought I went ahead and booked it.
I searched the forums for some feedback on TK and found a couple of LAX-IST trip reports plus some news about TK’s product offering, especially the newly deployed Wi-Fi on-board which was a big selling point (movies and books are not enough sometimes for people like me who can’t sleep on planes). This was all done back in Feb/Mar this year.
The complete routing for the two week trip ended up being:
MIA-IAH-IST: Covered in this trip report
IST-CDG: TK Economy (A332) - Paris Air Show weekend
CDG-MAD: U2 (A319)
MAD-DFW-MIA: AA F (772 and 738) – both in the new American paint scheme
A few days before the trip, the turmoil in Turkey was all over the news. I was watching closely and waiting until the last minute to see if I needed to cancel my plans but, in the end, I took the risk seeing that the protests were focused in a particular area of the city (Taksim). Anyways, the point I’m trying to make is that, by looking at possible changes to my trip, I noticed that UA was now offering the MIA-IAH sector on F for the same amount of miles I used to book my flights back in March. Called them up and they upgraded me without much inconvenient, one day before the flight.
Scheduled Departure: 11.42 EST
Departure Gate: G19
Actual Take-off: 11.49 EST
Announced flight time: 2h10m
Scheduled Arrival: 13.30 CST
Actual Landing time: 12.56 CST (34 minutes ahead of schedule)
Arrival Gate: E17
The day had come, and I was going to be cheap. I took the Metrorail from downtown Miami to the Airport and got there in just under 30 min (not very ‘business’ class but it’s $2.00 compared to $25.00 for a cab). Arriving two hours before departure meant I had a lot of time to kill in the airport but, as I later found out, Concourse G has absolutely nothing good to offer. Not even lounge access for UA’s F Class pax.
Check-in was fast, even though there was no dedicated First check-in. The carpet was there for dedicated check-in but everybody was using the self-service check-in kiosk and there were not that many passengers in line either for this flight. I didn't have to wait and went straight to the next available kiosk.
The check-in agent reviewed my travel documents as I was travelling internationally and gave me my boarding passes all the way to IST. Bag was also checked all the way to Turkey and I left for the gate. Security was a breeze, but again, this terminal is ghost town…
Boarding process started on time with a bit of confusion at the gate as the agent called for: “UA 301 with service to Newark”. UnitedFirst was called for boarding and I asked the agent if in fact I was boarding the plane to Houston. He responded with a smile and said “Yes, I’m sorry, this is 301 to Houston”, to what I answered with “Just checking, thanks!”
My seat to IAH
The infamous legroom shot
View out the window
Take-off and view of MIA
Warm nuts and red wine
Lunch: Cream of asparragus and chicken burrito
Travel companion (couldn't identify the airline, looks like AA)
Our plane at IAH Terminal E
United Club at Terminal E
The plane that brought me from MIA seen from the UA Club
Transit in Houston
I had 6+ hours in Houston and I spent them mostly in the United Club at Terminal E. After a few hours reding and relaxing at the Club, I walked over to Terminal D to see if there was any activity on my flight (2 hours before scheduled departure) and I noticed one of TK's agent was starting to set-up the gate. I asked her if I needed to get a new boarding pass from TK and she said yes, so I waited until she finished setting up the gate. At this point I was crazy bored already. It took her a while to find my ticket, but after she called somebody, she confirmed the checked bag and gave me my new Turkish boarding pass. Also handed me a ‘fast-track’ pass for immigration in Turkey (very useful). I didn't go back to the lounge and walked around the terminal to see what cool/rare planes I could see.
FIDS at Terminal D
AV's new livery
SQ to DME and SIN
QR to DOH
KL 747 Combi to AMS
Aircraft: Boeing 777-35R Reg: TC-JJE
Scheduled Departure: 19.50 CST
Departure Gate: D11
Actual Take-off: 20.53 CST
Announced flight time: 10h52m
Scheduled Arrival: 15.15 Local Time
Actual Landing time: 15.45
Boarding was, in one word, chaos. People started lining up at the gate and it became too crowded too soon. It took them quite some time to start boarding. They started with passengers with special needs and traveling with small kids. 15 minutes after, no boarding call had been made for business class. After another 5 minutes the boarding announcement was made we went in.
Entered the aircraft through the second door and was very excited to make the left hand turn. At this point I realized I was flying business class!!! Two F/As were at the door to greet passengers. After a quick “Good Afternoon” I asked if the aircraft was equipped with Wi-Fi and the F/A said “Yes, of course”, to what I replied “Awesome”. At this point I knew it was going to be a great flight. The kind of small details that get me really excited…
Service started with a welcome drink and Godiva chocolate. Doors closed and we started taxiing so I turned on the front facing camera to notice that the plane taxiing in front of us was a UA 787 (sorry, I forgot to take pictures). Take-off was south bound from runway 15L with a sharp turn right (+270 degrees to get us to our N NE flight path).
Boarding pass and Fast-Track immigration pass
The TK logo at the entrance of the aircraft (door 2)
Yes, Wi-Fi on-board
The seat for the next 11 hrs
Welcome drink, no refill offered
After take-off and sharp right turn
Main dish. I chose the fish.
Fruit for me, please!
Checking where we are...
I really enjoyed the service and the hard product (although the seat doesn't provide a power outlet which I found extremely disappointing for a seat that's fairly new). I wasn't very excited about the movies available in the Planet IFE so reading and Wi-Fi were the entertainment options. LiveTV included only three channels (BBC, Sports 24, and another I can't remember at this point). I also have to say, with all due respect, that the flight attendants on this flight were absolutely gorgeous. Very professional and polite too.
Arrived to Istanbul's gate 208 (on one of the corners of the terminal) and views of the plane weren't all that great. This is all I could get of my 773 when we landed in IST:
The fast-track pass proved very valuable as immigration was very crowded. Cleared it in under 15 min and went to pick up the checked bag. I had arranged for transportation to the hotel beforehand to avoid any issues with disruptions in metro service.
Overall, the experience was very good. UA's domestic service was great for a 2 hour flight. The F/A was very attentive and polite. Turkish was also worth the try and exceeded my expectations. Keep in mind the only points of comparison I have are DL BusinessElite old seat (764) and IB BusinessPlus (A343, which is nothing to write home about). Wi-Fi did make the difference for me because, even though to my surprise I managed to sleep a couple of hours, the rest of the time I checked e-mails and did a lot of research online on local Istanbul attractions and sightseeing. Plus I was updating constantly my facebook profile making my friends very envious LOL.
By the way, plane was packed in Eco and Eco+, but there were a few (3 or 4) business class seats empty. Luckily one of them was the seat next to mine....
I really hope you enjoyed it.
Feedback is always welcomed, but please be nice, it's my first time
Some pictures of the wonderful city of Istanbul: