Friday, June 13, 2014

Turkish Airlines Business Class : TK65 Bangkok to Istanbul on the A330-200

Turkish Airlines has been rapidly expanding in recent years and now has a huge worldwide route network that rivals that of the big middle eastern carriers. I had heard good things about the airline so I decided to give them a go and visit Istanbul for the first time. The flight I am reviewing today is TK65, the daytime service from Bangkok to Istanbul. When I booked it was scheduled to be on an Airbus A330-300 with the latest business class product. Unfortunately when I went on Flightradar24 the night before the flight to see which aircraft had left Istanbul to operate the service I found out my flight had been swapped to the smaller A330-200. 

I suppose the fact that there was a military coup with strict curfews in place in Bangkok at the time meant that the flight would be lightly loaded but unfortunately it meant I would be stuck in the older and much less exciting angled lie flats for the 10 hour journey. Disappointing but there was nothing I could do about it.


Turkish Check-in counters at Suvarnabhumi Airport


FLIGHT:                 TK65 from Bangkok to Istanbul
DEPARTURE:       10.55 (Scheduled) / 11.11 (Actual)
ARRIVAL:             17.10 (Scheduled) / 17.00 (Actual)
AIRCRAFT:          Airbus A330-200 TC-JNB (8 1/2 years old)

I arrived at the airport via the sky train as I had been wanting to avoid any traffic in Bangkok. This proved to be quite convenient as well as very cost effective. I only had carry on bags so I didn't need to lug any large suitcases around the stations either. Check-in had a small queue for economy but the business counter was available so my check-in was handled promptly and I was supplied with a fast track pass for immigration and security. I used the fast track zone and was through in just a few minutes and into the departures hall.


The FIDS at BKK

Duty free anybody?
Since my departure gate was F6 (about as far away as you can get) - I headed for the Thai Airways E concourse lounges. I always use the lounge closest to the gate even though concourse D is designated business class only whilst concourse C and E offer access to economy passengers with star alliance gold status too. The food offerings are basically the same in all of them and at least on concourse C and E there are exterior views of the tarmac. Turkish do not operate their own lounge in Bangkok.

I was welcomed into the lounge at concourse E and I found a spot by the window to relax and do some work on my laptop and catch up on a couple of phone calls. It was about 9am so I had a few pastries and some orange juice. Before too long it was time to head to the gate, don't forget to monitor the time because there are no boarding announcement in Thai Airways lounges in Bangkok.

There she is - the A330-200 patiently waiting for it's load of passengers


TC-JNB named 'Konya', 8.5 years old at time of flight
Boarding seemed to be a little delayed but eventually business class passengers were called and I headed on board to take a few snaps before the cabin filled up. A young Turkish male cabin crew member warmly greeted me as I entered the cabin and I noticed the flying chef making preparations in the galley area (yes Turkish have a chef on board for business class).

My seat 2K - notice the broken wall panelling

The rather boring angled lie flats

The bulkhead seats in row 1

Another view of 1K
The seats were rather underwhelming. They are basically the same as the Thai Airways angled lie flats that are used on their B777-200/300 and B747 fleet. In other words, they are very ordinary in this day and age. I think they actually had less pitch than Thai offer as well. These seats might have been ok 8 years ago when the plane was delivered but we have moved on since then and it is time Turkish refurbish these aircraft.

A packaged blanket and pillow were placed on each seat and a pair of slippers were tucked in the seat pocket under the LCD video screen.

Welcome on board

Within a few minutes an older German man occupied the seat beside me, which made me even more disappointed at having to endure these old seats, it also meant having to climb over my seat companion anytime I wanted to get up. As it turned out, 21 out of 22 seats were occupied.

Never mind! It's time for a welcome drink... and there are several non alcoholic drinks on offer from a tray, I had a rather delicious lemon and mint drink. It was really tasty and I love the swizzle stick.

Reading materials


After the welcome drink was cleared the flying chef came around with a small box of Godiva chocolate:


And the crew handed out the Crabtree and Evelyn amenity kit:


I liked the amenity kit bag but the contents were basic with a lib balm, hand cream, socks, eye shade and toothbrush.

Eventually we pushed back and the engines were started. As we made our way to the runway I wondered when the safety demonstration would commence. To my utter amazement though, the cabin crew took their seats and the cockpit  crew took off without ANY safety demo having been played. I wasn't personally too concerned as I pretty much know the A330 and the basics of using a life vest, oxygen mask etc but I'm sure many other passengers don't. I wondered if it pointed to an overall lack of safety at Turkish Airlines. It was quite alarming and I have never experienced this before on a commercial flight.

Climbing out of Bangkok
Once the crew were released the chef came around offering everyone some turkish delight...


Basic noise cancelling headset
Hot towels were also offered:


When I unwrapped my hot towel I found it had brown stains on it.... not a good look. So far my experience was not particularly good.


The menu was handed out and it is quite large:




The chef came around to take everyone's order for lunch:




Before lunch commenced a drink order was taken. I opted for the Gosset Grand Reserve brut champagne. It came in a stemless glass, which I don't like. Some nuts in a bowl were also offered, followed immediately by some warm canapes.



The champagne was good but why don't the crew fill up the glass? It came with only a tiny bit in the glass and required continual top-ups which simply did not occur. Drink service throughout this flight was slow and inadequate. I had to continually ask for my wine to be topped up throughout the meal and each time only a small amount was poured into the glass. Don't expect to get drunk too quick on Turkish.

The table was then prepared for lunch:


The presentation was very nice although I don't understand why they bother putting electronic candles on the table. In the daylight they do basically nothing and I thought they looked cheap and tacky.




The starters come out on a trolley and you can choose which options you want spooned onto your plate:


My selection of starters
I enjoyed the starters although the chicken avocado salad was a little oily. Unfortunately as almost always seems to be the case with catering ex-Bangkok, the bread was stale and ordinary.

After a while my main course arrived which was the Chicken Brochette:


I found it fairly underwhelming, lacking in taste and dry. Still, it was edible and I finished most of it. The dessert/cheese trolley soon followed and I was fairly full so only had a turkish pastry and some apple crumble type thing.

Overall I don't see why a chef needed to be on board to serve the meal, any flight attendant could have plated that up, so I think the flying chef is essentially a gimmick.

After lunch was over I took a quick trip to the lavatory, here are the amenities offered:


After I came back to my seat the 'flying chef' came over with a coat hanger in his hand and reached over me to force down the window shades. Did I really need a coat hanger in my face? No. Could he have simply asked me to close the blinds? Yes.Besides that I don't see why I should be forced to close my window at 1pm anyway.

With nothing to look at outside I watched some movies on the entertainment system. It had a reasonable selection but the display was fairly poor and the system was sluggish. There was quite a bit of bad weather around India to navigate around and the seat belt sign had been switched on about an hour after takeoff. It remained on for the next 9 hours until finally it was turned off after the engines were shut down in ISTANBUL! Ridiculous since the last 6 hours of flight were in completely clear and smooth conditions. What is the point of a seat belt sign if you are going to just leave it on all the time, everyone ignores it anyway.


Interesting route over India
For some reason I decided to watch the Hobbit part 2 again, having done so I still found it fairly disappointing. Whilst I was watching I ordered a can of coke, notice my electronic 'candle' still flickering on the centre console:


Despite having the window shades forced down I took the occasional peak outside :


The gentleman beside me was having great difficulty getting his seat to recline so he was moved to the one other vacant seat for a while. Whilst he was over there a number of crew came over and started dismantling his seat and getting into my personal space while they tried to fix it. It was rather awkward and annoying.

I got up and went for a wander, here is a shot of the 2nd galley:


On my way back I spotted the chef in the 2nd galley (between business and economy) so I asked for a cappuccino which I had seen on the menu. I was given a look of digust and told no, I could only have filter coffee. I was handed a coffee in a paper cup and a plastic spoon. It all seemed rather not business class like so I took my paper cup back to seat 2K. After about 10 minutes the chef came back with a sheepish expression on his face and took my paper cup and said he would be right back with my cappuccino. It seems despite having served me a full lunch he had already forgotten my face and thought I was flying economy so that is why he had refused my request. Disappointing to say the least.

My cappuccino in a fancy cup 

Flying over the black sea
The second meal service started about 2 hours before arrival. The service was abbreviated with dessert and salads all placed on the tray at once. The starter was smoked salmon which I don't like. I also don't like tomato and tabouleh I only barely like. With no other choices I just picked at it and awaited my main.



Beef Fillet
Have a look at it, very ordinary indeed. A bit of beef, some rice and some eggplant puree. It was very unappealing, do they really need a flying chef to serve this slop? I know that Bangkok catering is never particularly good though so I partly blame the supplier. At least the flight attendant was a little more attentive with the drinks. They had already run out of the french chablis so I had to switch to a Turkish white wine which was actually not too bad. She did top it up without asking numerous times, thank goodness.

Flying over some nice snow capped mountains after the second meal
After a rather disappointing second meal I ordered another cappuccino. At least the coffee was rather good:


Soon we were on descent into Turkey. It was interesting seeing some new scenery that I had never experienced before. Here we are about to cross the Bosphorus:


The landing was nice and smooth and we made our way to the terminal.... wait, no.... actually we would be parking at a remote stand today. The stairs pulled up at door 2L and the crew did hold off the economy passengers whilst those in business disembarked. We were all herded on to the same bus though.


The bus ride was fairly quick but the immigration area was extremely crowded. Fortunately I found an express queue for business class boarding pass holders so my wait was reduced to about 10 minutes. I exited customs and found my driver waiting for me and was soon on my way to the Doubletree by Hilton Old Town.

I had been rather looking forward to trying Turkish Airlines business class. I had heard good things but I found my flight rather underwhelming. The equipment swap to the older A330-200, fairly poor on board service and average catering made for an ordinary business class flight. I was fairly comfortable but glad it was a day flight and I wasn't relying on the flat beds to get sleep.

I hope the lack of the safety video was an oversight (an unacceptable one regardless), and not something that happens on a regular basis. I would give TK another go given the right circumstances but I am not rushing back.

8 comments:

  1. Omy my! Im amazed at there being no safety demonstration! I dont think I've ever heard of that happening! Quite a lack of service on the chefs part with you order for a cuppacino. Food looked beautifully presented though!

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  2. Another good honest report...... Thanks Aussie

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  3. I thought every flight had to do a safety demo because if there's an emergency people know what to do

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  4. Looks disappointing.

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  5. yes this is disappointing

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  6. Hi I read on Tripadvisor, a review where a single lady travelling alone in Business Class was ignored and not served drinks? Did you see such behaviour on your flight of different treatment towards any women travelling alone?

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    1. I didn't see that happen on my flight. Maybe it was just a one off

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