Tagged: Aviation

Review: Vistara A320 New Delhi to Mumbai (Economy)

I have been excited for Vistara since the day it was announced as a TATA-SIA combine airline. Like most avid flyers in the country, the sad demise of Kingfisher had left a gaping hole at the premium end of the market and Vistara promised to fill that and how.

Related: Is Vistara’s Premium Economy worth it?

I was eager to the inaugural flight on 9th of January, but my birthday on the same day would have made me miss the opportunity. So on 1st of January 2015 I finally decided to do the next best thing; Fly Vistara on its first full day of operations, on 10th January, and even fly a return segment on premium economy to understand the product differentiation from a passenger’s PoV better.

My Vistara Booking & Online Check-in Experience

In the first few hours of 2015, I decided to log in to Vistara’s booking engine and book a return ticket to Mumbai, on 10th January. The itinerary was:

DEL-BOM at 0725 hours, on UK943 in Economy, and

BOM-DEL at 1745 hours, on UK996 in Premium Economy

I was able to snag a super saver in the DEL-BOM segment, but after couple of mis-attempts, the seats got blocked and I decided to call the Vistara helpline for booking. The agent sounded eager to help but wasn’t able to un-block the super seats even after I explained him the entire situation. I decided to hang up and try again in the morning. The next morning, I went online and lo & behold, those super saver seats were back. Again, Vistara’s booking engine couldn’t process my transaction (my CC was working perfectly on other websites) so I decided to call the helpline again before the other remaining seat also got blocked or bought.

The agent was different this time but equally clueless. I understand that Vistara was just getting off the blocks but having untrained agents on the phone, who weren’t able to understand a simple situation, struck me as strange. After many minutes of back and forth, and couple of conversations with his colleagues, he finally booked the exact seats I wanted, in the fare class I was looking for. and I successfully used the same credit card on the IVR booking. Phew!!!

If my @airvistara experience will be anything like my booking experience, I’m going to be seriously underwhelmed. Poor initial impressions.

— Vishal Mehra (@SimpliVishal) January 1, 2015

 

Exactly 48 hours before my flight, accurate to the minute, I received an email for Vistara, telling me that the check-in for my flight was now open, and I’m welcome to select my seat and a special meal, if required. The airvistara.com link on that email strangely took me to a parked domain, airlinesite.com and not Vistara’s own site or check-in page.

Vistara check-in email, and the spammy link.

Vistara check-in email, and the spammy link.

Common sense would tell you that the person responsible for execution of such emails forgot to change the placeholder (thus airline site dot com). For a “premium” and yet-to-be-launched airline, in a crowded low-margin industry, this was a shocking and glaring error.

To say, I had a rocky start to my Vistara experience, would be quite appropriate. Not the “New Feeling” I was promised certainly.

Vistara 943

New Delhi IGI, Terminal 3 (DEL) – Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Terminal 2 (BOM)

Saturday, January 10th

Departure: 07:22 hours (3 minutes early)

Arrival: 09:25 hours (15 minutes early)

Aircraft: Airbus A320

Seat: 14A

Waking up at 5 am on cold Saturday morning, only so I could experience what Vistara had to offer, made me wonder if I was bordering on madness. Nonetheless, as I made my way to the airport, the first positive sign came from the skies. Delhi is infamous for fog disrupting aircraft movement in winters and this seemed like a clear day so far. I reached the airport at 0635 hours and proceeded to the empty check-in counters of Vistara. Everybody offered warm smiles and were quick to help out. There were newspapers on the desk, but no chocolates, unlike the opening day 🙂

Vistara check-in counters at Delhi T3

Vistara check-in counters at Delhi T3

Not many people fly on Saturday mornings and that was visible in the Security hold area as well. It took me just 5 minutes to clear it as I made my way to the gate. I was hungry and looking at flight boards, Vistara 943 had no “Last call” signs, so I made a quick hop to the American Express Platinum Lounge. After a round of early morning muffins and cakes, I made my way to the gate, and was there by 06:55 hours. Boarding was yet to start and passengers were hanging around the beautifully decorate gate area.

Vistara Gate - Delhi T3

Vistara Gate – Delhi T3

At exactly 0700 hours, boarding started with a call to Business class passengers, and those travelling with infants, young children. There was no special announcement for premium economy passengers and boarding was resumed with row-wise calls. As I made my way to the aero bridge, I spotted the aircraft connected to the bridge.

Vistara VT-TTB at Gate 37 Delhi T3

Vistara VT-TTB at Gate 37 Delhi T3

Passengers were welcomed by three flight attendants upon boarding. As I made my way to my cattle class seat, I was able to snag couple of pictures in the Business class section, where the seats looked comfortable with pillows and leg support in tow, and Premium Economy section, which looked like Economy, with additional seat pitch. I’ll be reviewing that in my return leg.

Vistara A320 Business class seats

Vistara A320 Business class seats

Vistara A320 Premium Economy seats

Vistara A320 Premium Economy seats

I was seated by the wing, on seat 14A . My first impressions of the seat were positive as it looked good, and despite being a slimline seat, looked sufficiently comfortable for a 2 hour flight. All Vistara seats are upholstered in leather.

Vistara Economy class seats

Vistara Economy class seats

As I settled down, the first observation was complete lack of any IFE (In-flight Entertainment) on the aircraft. Not just in economy, but also no IFE in Premium Economy or Business Class. For an airline, which has been built on the USP of a Premium product, offering above and beyond what other existing airlines are offering, with the tagline “Fly the New Feeling“, this seemed like a glaring absence.

Nobody knows if Vistara will offer streaming entertainment on PEDs later, but for now this is quite shocking to me at least. For the record, some of Air India’s A320s have personal seat back IFE, and as Jet Airways also deputes some of its A330s to domestic trunk routes, they also offer personal seat back entertainment.

Vistara Economy - No seat back IFE

Vistara Economy – No seat back IFE

The economy class offers 30 inches of seat pitch, like all other operators and I found the legroom sufficient. I also took a liking to the extra shiny chrome seat belt buckles, they were surely a new feeling as compared to other airlines, which offer them in matte finish 🙂

Vistara Economy Legroom

Vistara Economy Legroom

Vistara shiny chrome seat belts

Vistara’s shiny new seat belts

All the seats also offer a nifty coat hook tag, which I thought was a nice touch, and especially useful in winter months.

Vistara Economy - Personal seat coat hook

Vistara Economy – Personal seat coat hook

The cabin service for economy was started with a bottle of water. The captain soon came on the PA to welcome us aboard, informed us of the flight duration and the expected weather conditions in Mumbai. The seat back also had an english newspaper, safety card and a copy of Vistara magazine.

Vistara economy - Water bottle

Vistara economy – Water bottle

We started pushing back at 07:22 hours and the cabin manager, Shelly, welcomed all the passengers again.

Vistara - View over wing from seat 14a

Vistara – View over wing from seat 14A

As we were pushing back, I got curious and decided to check the flight loads. Looked pretty empty to me, with about 35% occupancy across the cabins. Probably the Saturday early morning effect I mentioned earlier.

Vistara Economy cabin - mostly empty

Vistara Economy cabin – mostly empty

Did I mention that the middle seat in my row was empty? In fact barring just one row, everybody in the aircraft seemed to have an empty middle seat. Oh the joys!

We took of at 07:36 hours and as we ascended above the foggy conditions of Delhi, the view above the clouds, with a bright sun made up for the lack of IFE.

Vistara 890 - Delhi take off views

Vistara 943 – Delhi take off views

Eight minutes into the flight, the attendants segregated the cabins and the meal service was started at exactly 07:59 hours, about 23 minutes in. We were offered two options between the Paneer Tikka/Uttapam (Vegetarian) combo and Masala akuri on an English muffin, with Chicken nuggets. I chose the latter.

The breakfast was served in a box,a long with fresh fruits, a bun, curd, butter, mixed jam and the choice of Main. Cutlery was plastic, and I must mention that at no point in the flight I was addressed with my name, as some passengers experienced on the inaugural flight. I don’t know if that was a limited practice, only to impress the first lot.

Vistara Economy Box Breakfast

Vistara Economy Breakfast Box

I personally feel that serving any fried food on a flight, on any flight, is always most tricky. It usually is never crisp, like it is intended to be, and most often gets soggy, like the way I got it. The Akuri was slightly confusing at first but after first few spoons, grew on to me. I liked the flavours. It had, what seemed to me, a mixture of scrambled eggs, pulses and fine tomatoes. The Flight attendants were unable to explain the dish to me. Overall, I appreciate the difference brought in to the usual staid catering in domestic flights.

However, if you have read my last reviews, especially of the Jet flight to Jammu, I always have serious reservations about the condiments offered in airline food. The butter offered to us was Amul and perfectly satisfactory. But the mixed jam, although FSSAI certified, wasn’t of a reputable brand, and I chose to completely avoid it.

Vistara Economy - Mixed jam

Vistara Economy – Mixed jam

Post meal, we were offered tea/coffee, but as usual I respectfully declined it. Unlike the inaugural flights, we weren’t offered any dessert/premium ice cream. By this time I decided to browse the magazine and found it well designed, with couple of interesting pieces about the history of Tata Group in Aviation, as well as how SIA got its wings.

Vistara Magazine

Vistara Magazine

I had about 15 minutes of shuteye, before our descent into Mumbai started at 08:45 hours. I found the crew professional and courteous. Sheena and Divya, who were serving my part of the cabin did a very good job. We touched down in Mumbai at 09:14 hours. The Captain came on PA to thank us again, and informed us about the sunny weather of Mumbai at 22 degrees. Because Vistara’s home at Mumbai is the brand new Terminal 2, it took us a while to reach the gate.

Mumbai Terminal 2 ATC

Mumbai Terminal 2 ATC

On the way to the gate, two of Vistara’s industry friends were remotely parked, and gave us an earful as we went past them 😉

Indigo and Jet Airways at Mumbai Airport

Indigo and Jet Airways at Mumbai Airport

We also taxied past the Cargo terminal and I was able to spot Etihad and FedEx aircraft.

Etihad Cargo and FedEx at Mumbai Cargo Terminal

Etihad Cargo and FedEx at Mumbai Cargo Terminal

Passengers were also told about their baggage on the conveyor belt #2 before de-boarding, which I thought was again a nice and helpful touch.

Vistara A320 at Mumbai T2 Gate

Vistara A320 at Mumbai T2 Gate

Mumbai T2 Arrival Hall - Baggage claim

Mumbai T2 Arrival Hall – Baggage claim

How would I rate my Vistara Economy experience? Frankly nothing too special to write home about, especially considering Jet Airways & Air India won’t let Vistara walk all over them in terms of passenger experience. If priced & scheduled right, I would definitely consider being on a Vistara flight again.

But hang on for the final word, as I write about my Vistara Premium Economy experience very soon.

 

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Review: SriLankan Airlines A320 New Delhi to Colombo

As I mentioned in my last post, the check-in for the flight was quick as there was nobody at the counter and I was off in couple of minutes. Thereafter, I visited the Plaza Premium Lounge B at Terminal 3’s International Departures area.

Related Trip Review: Reviewing Plaza Premium Lounge, Terminal 3 New Delhi

SriLankan 196 - Delhi T3 Gate

Gate 15B – New Delhi Airport

I left the lounge at 1745 hours, as the gate was a short stroll away from the lounge. I arrived to see most passengers still sitting, while the gate staff was preparing their final departure sheets. I quickly fired up FlightAware to check the status of the incoming aircraft from Colombo and it showed arrival 1708 hours. After a short wait Boarding was called and the usual gate crush rush happened. As my turn came, the agent told me that I was upgraded to Business Class (SCORE!) and he issued me a new boarding pass. I was assigned seat 2D.

SriLankan Airlines 196

New Delhi IGI (DEL) – Colombo Bandaranaike International (CMB)

Friday, December 19th

Departure: 18:53 hours (18 minutes late)

Arrival: 22:02 hours (8 minutes early)

Aircraft: Airbus A320-200

Seat: 5D

As I was glowing over the late upgrade and settling down on my seat, A SriLankan couple requested if I can move to Row 5 so they can sit together. I thought about it considering the last cabin row usually has limited recline but then I was not going to come between two lovebirds. I happily obliged and shifted my wares to 5D.

SriLankan A320 Business Class Recliner Seat

SriLankan A320 Business Class Recliner Seat

This was my first time on a SriLankan aircraft, and I was looking forward to checking out their hard and soft product. The SriLankan Business Class seat on A320s is recliner type and unfortunately has no leg support. It is a 20 seat Business Class cabin in the front, with a 2-2 layout. The seat pitch is pretty respectable for regional operations at 39-40 inches, and overall I felt comfortable while seated. Fair to say this has nothing on their new A330-300 Business class product, which features lie-flat beds along with WiFi & mobile calling, but those aircraft are used on the medium to long haul sectors, with higher yields.

The economy section at the back has about 120 seats, and is in the usual 3-3 layout. This particular flight looked completely sold out to me, in the front and back cabins.

SriLankan A320 Business Class - Pillows and Headphones

SriLankan A320 Business Class – Pillows and Headphones

The seat already had a pillow, a blanket and a pair of headphones. Pillow & Blanket looked & felt comfortable, but I must put in a quick word about the headphones provided. Quite honestly, besides looking poor (for a business class headphone), they sounded poor too, I even had to replace my first pair, as they weren’t working properly.

The captain came on the PA to tell us our flight path and apologised for the slight delay in boarding and expected departure.

SriLankan A320 Business Class - Welcome Drink

SriLankan A320 Business Class – Welcome Drink

Business class was served by two very friendly and cheerful attendants. One was a middle-aged gentleman, who probably was the cabin supervisor, and he was assisted by a young lady. Both of them were great and it showed that they enjoyed their jobs. and Did I mentioned that I absolutely loved their SriLankan accents? To me it is probably up there with the Carribean accent, smooth off the tongue and a song for the ears 🙂

I digress. As final checks for the flight were ongoing, we were offered a hot towel, followed by a welcome drink. The choice was between Apple, Orange and Mango juices, and I went with Mango.

Soon I turned my attention to the IFE screen in front of me. My first thoughts were it is too small for a Business class cabin, especially considering that economy seats these days get bigger screens than that.

SriLankan A320 Business Class - IFE Screen

SriLankan A320 Business Class – IFE Screen

As we rolled down the runway and rotated towards Colombo, I had spent approximately 12 minutes with the touch-screen system, without getting much done. The lag exhibited by the system was quite a bit, and I noticed similar experience for my seatmate as well. He was a Sri Lankan businessman and later told me that he flew SriLankan mainly for their genuine service, which was definitely hard to argue against.

SriLankan A320 Business Class - Electric Plugs

SriLankan A320 Business Class – Electric Plugs

The common area between the seats also featured two USB & two electrical plug points, which is always very useful.

SriLankan Business Class Menu

SriLankan Business Class Menu – Front

SriLankan Business Class Menu - Inside

SriLankan Business Class Menu – Inside

Few minutes after we were airborne, the cabin attendants sprung into action and distributed well-designed business class menus. Little touches like this matter a lot and it staggers me to think how few airlines, notably Air India, still are so inconsistent with this practice in their premium cabins.

Weirdly, post this we were offered a selection of newspapers, which I thought should have been offered during boarding or in the earlier stages of the flight. The crew has lots going on while preparing the cabin and serving simultaneously, so I’m prepared to overlook such matters, provided it is a rarity and not a regular practice.

After few minutes, the cabin attendant came over to ask for our orders and I requested Chicken Rogini, which was served with Saffron rice.

SriLankan A320 Business Class - Dinner

SriLankan A320 Business Class – Dinner

The meal came over with Dahi Bhalla salad and a Fruit bowl. All this was plated before hand and served together. I did enjoy the taste of meal, where the Chicken and Rice were well made and tasteful. I’m personally not an Okra fan, so did not even bother to touch it. During the meal, both attendants made frequent hot bread rounds, which was appreciated. They even had thin stuffed paranthas in aluminium foil, and which were pretty decent too.

However, I did not personally liked the presentation of the meal. Serving the meal on course basis does lengthen the process, but I think it considerably ups the ante in presentation and overall impression as well. May be SriLankan ought to consider that.

SriLankan A320 Business Class - Lion Beer

SriLankan A320 Business Class – Lion Beer

All that of course was gulped down with a hearty dose of the local favourite, Lion Beer.

Post meal, we were offered a round of coffee or tea and I politely declined. Only to ask our attendant about the champagne they had on-board 🙂

SriLankan A320 Business Class - Champagne Jacquart

SriLankan A320 Business Class – Champagne Jacquart

They had Jacquart and me & my seatmate were happy to raise a toast to our journey. I had a good conversation with him spanning politics and cricket, and realised both of our nations had many things in common. The re-fills kept coming without even asking for them 🙂

As we started our descent into Colombo, the attendants came by to offer a bottle of water, an arrival form, and most important a fast-track pass. Always useful.

SriLankan A320 Business Class - Immigration Fast Track

SriLankan A320 Business Class – Immigration Fast Track

SriLankan A320 Business Class - Water Bottle

SriLankan A320 Business Class – Water Bottle

The final round of the cabin before landing was another round of hot towels. Few minutes later, we made a smooth landing at the Bandaranaike International Airport in rainy Colombo. In the words of the late Tony Greig, “They must be playing Cricket somewhere”.

Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo

Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo

Did I enjoy my business class experience, although a short three hour flight, with SriLankan? Absolutely Yes! Was it because of their hard product? Not at all.

The fact of the matter remains that SriLankan right now is running an older product on their regional routes to India, and even markets like Singapore. That is certainly not an ideal position but keep in mind SriLankan is not running on unlimited oil money. For a carrier having a limited fleet, they are doing a phenomenal job, coupled with a great soft service proposition, one world affiliation and being the only game in town, as far as direct flights between DEL & CMB are concerned.

It is certainly more challenging for them to operate out of Mumbai and other southern states with direct competition from Jet Airways and other Indian carriers. Bottomline: Fly SriLankan for their genuine & warm hospitality but don’t expect wonders in their cabin product, unless you are on one of their latest A330-330s.

Have you ever flown on SriLankan before? What were your thoughts on their service?

I will be continuing this series with reviewing SriLankan’s flagship Serendib Lounge at Colombo International, followed by UL195.

 

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Review: Plaza Premium Lounge, New Delhi (Lounge B, International Departures, Terminal 3)

In the last week of December 2014, I traveled to Colombo, Sri Lanka for business purposes. Naturally SriLankan became the airline of choice, my thirty third airline, more on that in the following trip reports. Once I completed my check-in formalities at the New Delhi Airport, Terminal 3, it was time to spend the next hour or so before boarding the aircraft. I had decided I would be using the Plaza Premium Lounge B before hand and thus made my way towards it, past the Duty Free area.

The entire airport was decked in festive spirit, complete with a massive Santa overlooking everyone and spreading cheer.

Santa Claus at Delhi Airport

Santa Claus at Delhi Airport Terminal 3

There are a total of 7 Plaza Premium Lounges at the Delhi Airport, spread across Terminal 1D & Terminal 3 (International & Domestic areas). T3 specifically has 2 Plaza Premium departure lounges for international travel. Lounge A is the smaller lounge of the two, located near the food court, and Lounge B is the bigger lounge with more facilities and a dedicated area.

One needs to take the lift up to Level 4 of the airport, where the Plaza Premium Lounge B is located. These lifts also take passengers to Lufthansa, Emirates & Singapore Lounges on Level 3, and the Eaton Transit Hotel on Level 5.

Delhi T3 Airport Lounge Lift

Delhi T3 Airport Lounge Lift

Depending on the which of the three lifts you take, you will have to turn left or right, once you reach Level 4. You will find the “infamous” T3 carpeting here as well 🙂

Plaza Premium Lounge - Delhi T3 Entryway

Plaza Premium Lounge – Delhi T3 Entryway

At the reception I was met by an efficient agent, who quickly checked me in after verifying my ICICI Sapphiro Jet Airways Visa card. This lounge is part of the Visa Lounge Access program, which earlier used to have Delhi Daredevils Bar at Terminal 3. I was also asked if I required the Wi-Fi password, which I turned down.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi T3 Entrance

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi T3 – Reception

One can also get in to this lounge through a Priority Pass Membership (the standard derivative of which comes complimentary with most airline affiliated credit cards). For the uninitiated, Priority Pass is the largest independent airport lounge access program in the world, with over 700 locations in 123 countries. The greatest advantage of the program is that you don’t need to be flying with a specific airline or in a specific class to access these lounges.

Priority_Pass_Screenshot

There are three membership plans:

  • Standard Membership: $99 annual fee, plus $27 for each lounge visit
  • Standard Plus Membership: $249 annual fee with 10 free visits; additional visits are $27
  • Prestige Membership: $399 annual fee with unlimited visits

At this point, I must also mention that this lounge is the contract lounge of choice for most international airlines out of Delhi Airport, and thus has been quite busy most of the times I have been there. As this visit was during an off-peak late afternoon hour, the lounge was fairly empty. Keep in mind, this is open 24 hours.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Seating

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Seating

One thing this lounge is not short of, is comfortable seating. There are plenty of sofas, in the forward section of the lounge, as well at the back, near to the bar and food area. The Lounge also has a flight display board near the entrance.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Sofa Seating

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Sofa Seating by the Bar

Apart from comfortable sofas, there are also tall chairs by the bar side, next to the snack section.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Seating by the Bar

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Seating by the Bar

The bar itself looks pretty stocked up, but for a beer lover like me is a big dud. The only beer they serve here is Kingfisher, although there is nothing wrong with Kingfisher, I would like to see at least one more option to be served.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Bar

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Bar

The other side of the bar counter is the food section, having soups, mains, fruits, sandwiches and sweet options.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Food Counter

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Food Counter

I was at the bar during late lunch hours and the staff was regularly filling up dishes. There were about 4 main options including chicken, mutton and vegetarian, accompanied by Rice.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Main Dishes

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Main Dishes

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Vegeterian Mains

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Vegetarian Mains

The vegetarian options included Matar Paneer gravy (Peas & Cottage Cheese, cooked Indian spicy style), and Chinese Manchurian gravy, neither of which I tried.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Beverage Fridge

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Beverage Fridge (PS: Pardon my photography skills)

Just behind the bar, there was a wooden cabinet stocked with water bottles, and a refrigerator next to it, which was stocked with aerated drinks.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Snacks

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Snacks

To its right, a coffee/tea machine was placed, along with some cookies and tea flavours.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Juices

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Juices

The juice dispenser was next, serving orange and apple juice.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Breads

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Breads

Which was followed by a bread basket, containing 5 different varieties.

Chilly Chicken with Rice and Beer

Chilly Chicken with Rice and Beer

I was feeling slightly hungry, and wanted to have a quick meal before boarding so I got myself Chilly Chicken, on top of Rice. I gulped that down with a beer. I can’t say much about the dish except the fact that it was typical contract lounge food, devoid of any flavour, with a average chicken quality. Thank god for the beer.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Dessert & Sandwich

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Dessert & Sandwich

After a while, I thought about trying a paneer sandwich, along with Shahi Tukda as a dessert. Wrong move, as the sandwich was filled with paneer (cottage cheese) only on the sides, with the insides completely empty. As far as Shahi Tukda is concerned, I would like to describe it in two words: Sweet Rubber.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Magazine Stand

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Magazine Stand

The lounge had couple of magazine/newspaper racks with a variety of publications. As a magazine/newspaper aficionado, I was quiet impressed with that offering.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Massage Room Entrance Way

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Massage Room Entrance Way

Just behind the bar side sofas, there is a small entryway which leads to restrooms, as well as couple of enclosed VIP Rooms, Massage & Shower Area

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Massage Room

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Massage Room

During my stay at the lounge, the masseur was unavailable. There were two massage sofas and two neck and shoulder massage chairs in the room.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Massage Room Chair

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Massage Room Chair

The massage service is not complimentary, and is chargeable at the following rates:

Shower Package  INR
Deluxe Shower (with full amenities) 600
Shower with 30 minutes Seated Massage 1300
Massage and Beauty Service  INR
15 minutes Seated Massage (head, neck, shoulder and back) 500
30 minutes Seated Massage (head, neck, shoulder and back) 900
15 minutes Foot Reflexology 500
30 minutes Foot Reflexology 900

 

 

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Business Centre

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Business Centre

There is also a business area, which features 4 Windows OS based laptops, and a Printer/Copier.

During my stay I found the staff to be attentive, polite and not overbearing, which is my preferable option. Ideally I’m not fond of lounge staff trying hard to please, after all, passengers are in the lounge to escape from the noise and find some down time.

To sum up, it is certainly a worthy alternative to sitting in a crowded and noisy terminal, and for Visa card holders, certainly a big upgrade from the environs of the Delhi Daredevils Bar at the ground floor. Would I pay $27 to gain access as a Priority Pass holder? I’m not sure. The food & drink selection have never enthused me too much and this lounge is certainly not in the category of Plaza Premium lounges at Hong Kong, Jamaica or London. However, if you hold an eligible Visa credit card, this lounge should be a no-brainer for you.

 

Have you been to the Premium Plaza Lounge B at New Delhi, Terminal 3, what you thought of its services?

 

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Review: Turkish Airlines A330-300 Istanbul to New Delhi

Turkish Airlines A330 - Istanbul gate

Turkish Airlines A330 – Istanbul Airport

It was hard to come out of that traveller heaven also known as Turkish Airlines Lounge, at Istanbul but the prospect of missing flight back home wasn’t so attractive either. It was a 13 minute walk from the lounge, through the maze of Istanbul’s Duty free shops to our Gate. At the gate, the scenes were pretty chaotic with no proper queues in-sight, but we were able to dodge it and the friendly agent at the gate counter helped us through quickly.

Related Trip Reviews: Tripping through Scandinavia

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Turkish Airlines A330-300 New Delhi to Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A320-200 Istanbul to Zurich

SAS Business Lounge, Stockholm Arlanda

Turkish Airlines A321-200 Stockholm to Istanbul

 

Turkish Airlines 716

Istanbul Ataturk (IST) – New Delhi (DEL)

Sunday, July 27th

Departure: 20:06 hours (11 minutes late)

Arrival: 04:35 hours (+1 day) local time (15 minutes late)

Aircraft: Airbus A330-300

Seat: 6A

The crew greeted us warmly as we boarded the aircraft. My folks turned left and I went…  to the right. I was able to secure seat 6A on the phone with the Turkish Airlines customer service. It is certainly not Business Class but it probably is the best Economy seat in the cabin. The 2-4-2 cabin layout is a big positive and the ample leg room takes this economy seat a notch above the rest of the cabin, though some folks may find the proximity to the lavatory bit bothersome.

Turkish Airlines A330-300 Economy Seating

Turkish Airlines A330-300 Economy Cabin and Seating

Turkish Airlines A330 - Economy bulkhead Legroom

Turkish Airlines A330 – Economy bulkhead Legroom

There was a slight delay in departure, though I made good use of our extended ground time in Istanbul. The aircraft scenery out of the window was beautiful, not as scenic as a Turkish evening by the Marmara sea, but the Jets around were soothing to the #AvGeek eyes.

Turkish Airlines Aircraft at Istanbul airport ramp

Turkish Airlines Aircraft at Istanbul airport ramp

Pushback started 11 minutes behind schedule and it was a very busy time at Istanbul Ataturk Airport to say the least. I could see a long queue of Planes ahead of us, waiting to jet-off.

Istanbul Airport Ramp

Istanbul Airport Ramp

Istanbul Airport - Take off Queue

Istanbul Airport – Take off Queue

Turkish Airlines A330 - Nose Cam

Turkish Airlines A330 – Nose Cam

Heavy incoming and outgoing traffic at the airport meant plenty of opportunities to put my photography skills to test and for my aviation imagery database to increase. Somehow clicking aircraft pictures always gives me a different kind of high.

Istanbul Airport Runway - Aircraft

Istanbul Airport Runway – Aircraft

One of the disappointing aspects during this delay was no incoming information from the cockpit or the cabin crew, although I could see the “reasons” in front, I doubt if all passengers were able to figure that out. We finally rotated into Turkish skies around 2030 hours local time, the views of the city and the sea were terrific.

Turkish Airlines A330 - Istanbul Aerial View

Turkish Airlines A330 – Istanbul Aerial View

After only about 9 minutes the crew was back in action and serving “Turkish delights”, a local savory which I never seem to get enough of. and Rightfully so.

Turkish Airlines Delight

Turkish Airlines Delight

Another 9 minutes later, a crew member came by my seat to give the Economy travel kit. It consists of a pair of socks, earbuds and an eye patch. For an economy cabin, this is a pretty decent offering.

Turkish Airlines Economy Amenity Kit

Turkish Airlines Economy Amenity Kit

Another 8 minutes passed before we were handed out our Dinner menus. For Turkish Airlines to do this is indeed very thoughtful, even on a medium haul five hour and forty minutes flight. The planning for these services seemed done to the T. As a traveler, I appreciate this more because being a red-eye flight I would want the “mandatories” to be done as soon as possible to get some rest before an early morning arrival in New Delhi. Of course it also helps the crew in their time/work management as well, So its a win-win.

Turkish Airlines A330 - Economy Class Dinner menu

Turkish Airlines A330 – Economy Class Dinner menu

Dinner service started another 30 minutes after the menu distribution and I ordered a Grilled Chicken Breast from the menu, which was the only non-vegetarian choice. It was served along with sautéed vegetables and some potato purée. The selection and its presentation were very average and the taste left me un-satisfied, unfortunately I misplaced meal pictures to share here. Chana Salad and Breads were served as well but what I really liked was the Mango Panna Cotta dessert, besides the Efes Beer 🙂

The vegetarians on the flight had two options between Aloo-Gobhi and Channa Colaw Paneer as their main, and from my conversations with fellow passengers, they certainly were the better tasting dishes.

The crew were friendly and attentive throughout the flight though I had to request twice for lights to be dimmed after the meal service. Every body seemed ready for their quick naps but I guess nobody in the cabin crew thought of turning the lights down 🙂

The final service for the flight was done 3 hours into the flight and about 2:30 hours before landing as everybody was given a small bottle of water. I don’t know if the crew was waiting for this only to dim lights as they were turned down after this round. Our scheduled arrival into Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal 3 in New Delhi was 04:20 hours, and we touched down with a slight delay of 15 minutes. The Long taxi from the runway to the gate meant we could only alight after another 25 minutes, marking a happy end to my trip through Scandinavia and Northern Europe.

 

 

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Review: Turkish Airlines A321-200 Stockholm to Istanbul

As we exited the SAS Business Lounge, there were still 15 minutes to go before the scheduled boarding start of our flight to Istanbul. I figured that even considering the long walk to the gate, we would do just fine. Stockholm Arlanda has passport control counters just before international gates, which should not have been a problem per say, but when you have just one agent manning an entire plane load of mostly non-EU citizens, that is a big problem indeed.

Stockholm Arlanda Airport - Passport Control Que

Stockholm Arlanda Airport – Passport Control Queue

 

Related Trip Reviews: Tripping through Scandinavia

Train on a Ferry!

Turkish Airlines A330-300 New Delhi to Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A320-200 Istanbul to Zurich

SAS Business Lounge, Stockholm Arlanda

Seeing the way our queue was moving, I decided to make a quick run to the famous Swedish hamburger chain, MAX. Now, if you know me, you know I love my hamburgers and I love trying out all of them, so I was pretty certain of letting this opportunity go. After asking airport staff, I was finally able to track a MAX & ordered a classic takeaway meal for myself.

Stockholm Arlanda - Max Restaurant

Stockholm Arlanda – Max Restaurant

I ran back across the terminal to find my family and some other passengers in a new side-queue that ultimately was merging, into the original queue itself, started after last calls of our TK1794 flight by the Turkish Airlines staff themselves. Oh crap! Another surprising element to this entire mis-management was absence of any dedicated section for passengers travelling in business. Ultimately after lots of hustle, and nasty stares, we made through the mess and were one of the last ones to board the aircraft. This experience at Arlanda was probably one of the least convenient bits of our entire Scandinavian trip and something the airport management definitely needs to re-think.

Turkish Airlines 1794

Stockholm Arlanda (STO) – Istanbul Ataturk (IST)

Sunday, July 27th

Departure: 1152 hours (7 minutes late)

Arrival: 1604 hours local time (6 minutes before time)

Aircraft: Airbus A321-200

Seat: 10A

We were among the last group of passengers to board the aircraft. The business class consisted of the traditional 2-2 layout, with approximately 50% occupancy in the front. Interestingly, it had no seat-back IFE, rather passengers were supposed to get their screen out of arm rests, which I always find more tedious and inconvenient for many reasons. I also found most seats in business class were clearly worn out and in quick need of a thorough makeover. There were tears and smudges across the cabin seats. I moved to my seat 10A, in the bulkhead row. Who doesn’t like extra legroom, right?

Economy had much better loads on this flight with occupancy of almost 80%. The legroom for a short haul flight was perfectly acceptable although I missed having a footrest on this aircraft, which was on our flight from Istanbul to Zurich. That could also be due to the fact that I was in Bulkhead row of course.

Turkish Airlines A321 - Economy Legroom

Turkish Airlines A321 – Economy Legroom

Our scheduled departure was at 1145 hours, but we started pushing back around 1152 hours, which I thought was pretty acceptable considering the mess at the Passport control. Soon we lined up and were up and airborne by 1201 hours. The view from the window looked serene and peaceful, perfectly matching with my overall view of Scandinavia.

Taking off - Stockholm Arlanda

Taking off – Stockholm Arlanda

Unlike Business, all economy seats featured seat-back IFE. I’m a firm believer of looking out of the window for the perfect IFE, but for whatever its worth, I do enjoy my constant dose of moving map. Based on my little interactions with the IFE system, I found it to be having a good enough mix of entertainment across the board. However, one of the weird things was which got my attention were various cracks near the bottom right of the screen, where the USB port should have been. This was consistent across the cabin, wonder why!

Another thing I want to note here is almost a complete lack of English language on the map screen, which mentioned outside temperature, ground speed, estimate time to arrival etc. Of course Guesstimates started working pretty well after a while, but being an international airline, Turkish Airlines should have sorted this silly issue a long time ago.

Turkish Airlines A321 - Economy IFE Screen

Turkish Airlines A321 – Economy IFE Screen

Service on all our Turkish Airlines flight was perfectly efficient without being overbearing and this flight was no different. Within seven minutes of being airborne, the crew started servicing the legendary Turkish delight. Have I mentioned in the past that I can never get enough of that terrific treat? Lunch menus were distributed in the cabin after 5 minutes, always a good touch rather than making the cabin crew utter names of dishes and explain them at every seat.

Turkish Airlines A321 Lunch Menu

Turkish Airlines A321 Lunch Menu

For this flight, I chose to order “Billur Kebap” as my main selection, accompanied by a cold can of Efes Beer. Lunch was served an hour into the flight, and my tray came with Smoked Salmon, Warm Bread (served in the second meal round), cheese cake, crackers, cheese and some butter. Thanks to my Max hamburger meal earlier I wasn’t really hungry, which also meant I could judge the taste of the food objectively, without getting lost in my hunger emotions.

Turkish Airlines A321 - Economy Lunch Meal

Turkish Airlines A321 – Economy Lunch Meal

As I have said before, I appreciate Turkish Airline cutlery in Economy class, which is faux-steel, but not cheap like regular plastic. I enjoyed my meal, even though the presentation wasn’t of the highest quality. The chicken was tasty, the salmon was well smoked and prepared, and so was the cheesecake.

The crew served Tea/Coffee post meal, which was of little interest to me. I used that time for some shut-eye before our descent into Istanbul started.

Turkish Airlines A321 - Landing at Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A321 – Landing at Istanbul

We landed at Istanbul Ataturk Airport around 1604 hours local time, and parked remotely at our stand by 1614 hours.

Turkish Airlines A321 at Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A321, Remote Parking at Istanbul

The cabin crew on our flight was respectful and courteous and I thought they were attentive to passenger needs. We got into our Turkish Airlines bus to enter the terminal and the driver drove the bus like his a$$ was on fire. I frankly thought his driving skills were unacceptable for an European airline, which may or may not have been borderline acceptable in South Asia. We entered the terminal around 1629 hours and I immediately realised I had left one of my shopping bags in the aircraft overhead bin. The customer service teams in Istanbul airport were clueless how to retrieve it and after spending 25 minutes on it, I decided to let it go.

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge at Istanbul

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge at Istanbul

And decided to take the refuge of Turkish Airlines Lounge at Istanbul, before my flight home to New Delhi in roughly three hours. There’s no review of the lounge on this blog, as there are plenty of detailed reviews for this excellent lounge already, which has now become even better with an addition of a lower floor and more space.

 

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Review: SAS Business Class Lounge, Stockholm Arlanda

Stockholm Arlanda Airport - Exteriors and ATC

Stockholm Arlanda Airport – Exteriors and ATC

Our flight from Stockholm Arlanda to Istanbul was scheduled to depart at 1145 hrs, so after having breakfast we decided to check out of Hilton Slussen at 0800 hrs to have enough time to experience SAS’s Business Class Lounge at Arlanda Terminal 5.

Related Trip Posts:  Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction

Turkish Airlines A330-300 New Delhi to Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A320-200 Istanbul to Zurich

Train on a Ferry!

Turkish Airlines A321-200 Stockholm to Istanbul

 

My family got a taxi from the hotel, while I preferred to catch the nearby metro to Stockholm CityTerminalen. We were hopping on the FlygBussarna to Stockholm Arlanda and the City Terminal was the nearest stop from the hotel. There’s a coach every 10 minutes, with “Free Wi-Fi” – useless for those who don’t know swedish language or have a local phone number. I thought that was a big let down and defeated the whole purpose of Free Wi-Fi for travellers. The website says no login is required but I can assure you of its lie. Nonetheless, the journey was otherwise comfortable and the bus dropped us in front of Terminal 5 in about 45 minutes. I had bought my tickets via Viator at 10% discount.

Flygbussarna Stockholm Airport Bus - at CityTerminalen

Flygbussarna Stockholm Airport Bus – at CityTerminalen

We quickly found the Turkish Airlines counter, and fortunately, the business class counter was free, while the economy counters had about 20 odd waiting passengers. Advantage of flying with business class passengers, even though I was traveling in economy I guess. Though I found it strange that I had inserted my Jet Privilege number already while checking-in online, it was somehow not showing up at the counter. Overall it was a quick and courteous check-in for us and we were off to security.

Call it the Sunday morning effect, but even security at Arlanda was efficient and quick. There were no preferred lanes for business class passengers, and in spite of that we were done in 5 minutes flat. The security folks were respectful, like most of the people we encountered throughout our Scandinavian trip.

Arlanda Airport seemed to be pretty well functioning. I thought it had pretty much all essentials for travellers. Sure, it wasn’t the Changi or the HKIA of the world, but for a mid-tier European airport, it ticked pretty much all boxes in my book.

Swiss Air A319 - View from the Loo at Arlanda Stockholm Airport

Swiss Air A319 – View from the Loo at Arlanda Stockholm Airport

Including great tarmac views from urinals. This is much better than those stupid little screens you see where they play useless commercials or try to be funny.

We searched for over 10 minutes trying to find the signage for Lounge and ultimately had to ask one of the airport employees. The SAS Business Class Lounge is located pretty far for non-Schengen gates, and it was almost a 12 minute walk to reach the lounge.

SAS Business Lounge Map - Stockholm Terminal 5

SAS Business Lounge Map – Stockholm Terminal 5 (Photo Courtesy: Official Website)

 

The SAS Business Lounge is open from 0530 hrs to 2300 hrs, Monday-Friday and Sunday. The Lounge timings are 0530 hrs to 2030 hrs on Saturdays.

SAS Business Lounge Entrance

SAS Business Lounge Entrance

The Access for the lounge is open to passengers holding Star Alliance Gold Status with same day flight on an Alliance carrier. Also to, SAS Gold card members with SAS or partner airline flights and Business/First Class ticket holders travelling on a Star Alliance carrier flight. As we were flying Turkish, a Star Alliance Member, the lounge reception staff warmly welcomed us.

 

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Entry and Staff

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Entry and Staff

Before I veer off to other points about my lounge experience I want to highlight and acknowledge SAS staff at the entrance. Both the ladies at the front desk (silly me forgot to take note of their names) were as warm and friendly as it gets, and it looked like they genuinely loved their job and interacting with people. Not just us, I was able to notice their conversations with other passengers as well, and they were simply fabulous. So SAS thank you for choosing such great ambassadors in your lounge. Kudos. (SAS Folks, the easiest way you can identify them would be to see who worked the morning shift on 27th July 2014)

We entered the lounge around 0940 hrs and the staff was in the process of setting up food items. The selection wasn’t fully served till 1010 hrs. The first impression of the lounge is quite fancy, and modern with its furnishings and decor.  On the immediate left, a big compartment of major world newspapers is available. Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Daily Telegraph, along with Time Magazine was some of the major ones.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Newspapers

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Newspapers

 

There are plenty of seating options across the lounge, with a mix of sofas, lounge chairs and bar stools.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Seating and Layout

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Seating and Layout

 

There are more seating options in the back with convenient access to power ports, overlooking the arrivals section of the terminal.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Seating

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Seating

SAS Stockholm Lounge - View towards landside

SAS Stockholm Lounge – View towards landside

 

There was a 40 inch television screen with local news on one side of the lounge. The breakfast cold buffet spread was middle-of-the-road in my book. Apart from a selection of breads, there was ham, condiments, biscuits, chips, greens and salad sauces.

SAS Stockholm Lounge -  Breakfast Breads

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Breakfast Breads

SAS Stockholm Lounge -  Breakfast Salad and Fruits

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Breakfast Salad and Fruits

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Snacks and Chips

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Snacks and Chips

 

For those interested, the lounge even had a menu on display, which displayed part of their selection.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Menu

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Menu

 

The drinks selection was slightly better for me. Apart from tons of Carlsberg, the lounge offered Apple and Orange juice (which kept running out), selection of tea, local beers on tap, couple of red & white wines on tap, along with the Coca-Cola family of soft drinks.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Beers and Juice

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Beers and Juice

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Beers on Tap

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Beers on Tap

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Wine on Tap

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Wine on Tap

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Soft Drinks

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Soft Drinks

 

The lounge also boasted of couple of coffee machines (which I never tried), one of them was dedicated to serving organic coffee.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Coffee Machines

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Coffee Machines

 

There were total of 5 macintosh computers with working Internet connections in the open business area of the lounge, along with printer/copy and fax facilities, which I thought was a pretty reasonable arrangement for those who still value such facilities. Needless to say, the lounge had a working wi-fi connection for private use as well. In my roughly 45 minute usage, I found it had decent download speeds, enough for a traveller/executive on-the-go. Though far from optimal if you are looking to stream HD content.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Business Center

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Business Center

 

One of the things, which stood out for me in the lounge was the small yet dedicated kids play area in the lounge. Apart from story books, it had plenty of soft toys to keep the little ones engaged. The walls also featured graffiti and drawings done by past occupants of the area, which I thought was a great touch. For families traveling together, play areas can be great comforting zones and I wish more airline and lounge operators incorporated it in their planning process.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Children Play Area

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Children Play Area

 

The lounge also had another zone, to the left of the reception, which featured more seating options and similar food/drink items. There was another large 40 inch TV, which had the local news channel turned on. I did encounter a half-functioning beer fridge and a second newspaper/magazine stand. The beer selection consisted of Tuborg Green, Tuborg Gold and non-alocholic Carlsberg (???). I went with the safe option of  Tuborg Green and chips 😉

SAS Stockholm Lounge - More Seating

SAS Stockholm Lounge – More Seating

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Beer Fridge

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Beer Fridge

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Magazines and Newspapers

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Magazines and Newspapers

 

The rear portion of this side of the lounge featured a more private, cordoned-off area, which I guessed could be designated as a quiet zone or a meeting area, depending on the occupants.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Private Area

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Private Area

 

The lounge unfortunately had no tarmac area views, barring the entry area, which has partial and hindered views of the tarmac and the runway in the distance. I was able to snap a close-up picture of a LOT aircraft on our way out.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Airside view

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Airside view

LOT Embraer 170 at Stockholm Arlanda

LOT Polish Airlines Embraer 170 at Stockholm Arlanda

Overall I would rate the lounge good mainly due to three reasons:

1) Great staff

2) Plenty of seating/Kids play area

3) Decent Wi-Fi

Although I would like the Lounge to improve its cold buffet selection, may be adding a hot item could do the trick or maybe that’s just the hot-breakfast-loving-Indian in me talking. We left the lounge around 1040 hrs for our flight at 1145 hrs. I thought we would make it comfortably to the gate, alas I never knew what was in store for us next at the Passport Control.

 

 

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Review: Turkish Airlines A320-200 Istanbul to Zurich

After a quick pit stop at the Turkish CIP Business Class Lounge, we headed to our gate. As is the case, when traveling with family, it was last call when we reached our gate, 504, to be bussed on to the aircraft. I picked up couple of English newspapers on the gate for my reading later on. Personally I won’t mind a remote stand boarding as it affords one the opportunity of checking out other aircraft on the tarmac.

Related Trip Posts:  Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction

Turkish Airlines A330-300 New Delhi to Istanbul

Train on a Ferry!

SAS Business Lounge, Stockholm Arlanda

Turkish Airlines A321-200 Stockholm to Istanbul

 

Turkish Airlines 1913

Istanbul Ataturk (IST) – Zurich Kloten Airport (ZUR)

Saturday, July 12th

Departure: 1147 hrs (2 minutes late)

Arrival: 1340 hrs local time (on time)

Aircraft: Airbus A320-200

Seat: 6E

Turkish Airlines A320-200, parked remotely at IST

Turkish Airlines A320-200, parked remotely at IST

But traveling with family is a different ball game altogether. It’s hugely inconvenient and considering the fact it was merely 90 minutes of connection, surprising too.

Turkish Airlines A319 at Istanbul Airport

Turkish Airlines A319 at Istanbul Airport

The cabin crew welcomed us on-board cheerfully and as is the norm these days in Intra-Europe flying, the Business Class was the usual row of seats, with a blocked middle seat. I headed back to my seat in the Economy cabin. The first impressions of the leather-clad seat were positive. It had a comfortable width and enough legroom for a short haul flight.

Turkish Airlines A320-200 Legroom and Footrest

Turkish Airlines A320-200 Legroom and Footrest

We had the flexible seat configuration divider a row ahead of us, and none of the seats featured personal IFE. There was however a large overheard screen that had the moving map, along with some other entertainment programme in-between.

Turkish Airlines A320-200 overhead screen

Turkish Airlines A320-200 overhead screen

We started out push back from the gate at 1147 hrs, 2 minutes behind schedule. At this time, the entire cabin was served Turkish delight sweets. Can never get enough of that delicious savoury. On our way to the runway, I witnessed some interesting aircraft, ones I don’t see often in my part of the world.

Azerbaijan Airlines at Istanbul

Azerbaijan Airlines at Istanbul

There was an un-painted aircraft parked, which probably belonged to Turkish Airlines only

Unidentified aircraft at Ataturk Istanbul Airport

Unidentified aircraft at Ataturk Istanbul Airport

And of course plenty of Turkish Airlines aircraft, in proper livery.

Turkish Airlines Aircrafts at Istanbul Airport

After taxing for about 17 minutes, we were third in the takeoff line and soon we were zooming across the runway, and airborne exactly at 1205 hours. Istanbul always offers great views during ascent and this occasion was no different.

Istanbul Aerial View during Takeoff

Istanbul city view, taking off from Airport

Our cabin crew got into action soon after take off and menus were distributed within 5 minutes. I thought that was a great touch by Turkish Airlines, considering it was a short haul, two and half hours flight. Earphones were also offered but I chose to skip them.

Turkish Airlines A320 Economy Lunch Menu

Turkish Airlines A320 Economy Lunch Menu

After another 20 minutes, meal service for this flight began. In my main selection, I went with Chicken Skewer with Arabic spice, along with sauteed leaf spinach and rice. Smoked Salmon and Vanilla Panna Cotta were the accompaniments, as well as hot bread. For my drink, I of course went with a can of Efes.

Turkish Airlines A320 Economy Lunch Meal

Turkish Airlines A320 Economy Lunch Meal

I must also point out that the cutlery which Turkish Airlines gives is this faux steel, which is not as down-market as plastic offered on many international airlines, and not proper steel cutlery as well. It is pretty reliable for stand-alone meals, without making an economy class passenger feel miserable about their food.

I started with warm bread and butter. Call it whatever you may wish but there is something special always about having hot bread with butter. It’s an unbeatable combination, which is always satisfying for the soul. I’m a simpleton like that. The salmon was also done well, where as I left the cheese and cracker combination untouched in the tray.

The catering for all Turkish Airlines flights is done by the renowned Austrian company Do & Co. My chicken and rice were lovely as well, with the right amount of spice and taste, but then…

I FOUND A STRAND OF HAIR IN MY RICE

Hair strand in Turkish Airlines economy meal

Hair strand in Turkish Airlines economy meal

To say I was mortified, would be putting it just right. After clicking this picture, I called one of the flight attendants and showed her my meal. She was profusely apologetic and took away my meal tray. The flight chef came over after few minutes, apologised and offered me lamb chops or anything else I wanted from business class menu. I politely refused and accepted their apologies. The head flight attendant also came by my seat and I requested her to have a word with their catering team later on. She nodded and promised to look into the matter.

There was of course Vanilla Panna Cotta and I gladly gobbled it up. For an in-flight dessert, it was quite well done. As I finished my dessert, one of the flight attendant brought me a platter of fruits, presumably for the hair-mess earlier.

Fruit platter on Turkish Airlines

Fruit platter on Turkish Airlines

It was insisted that I accept this small gesture and I accepted it after thanking her. Some industry folks I had a chat with later advised me to “make a big deal” out of the hair issue and write to the management but I was quite convinced it was a one-off issue which should be left to them to investigate and correct. I could see in the crew’s body language that they were genuinely apologetic about the goof-up and that was enough for me to let it go.

45 minutes before arrival, the cabin was offered a round of coffee/tea as well.

My favourite thing about landing at any of the swiss ports always is the heavenly views they bring just before landing.

Zurich aerial view

Zurich aerial view

We touched down smoothly on time at Zurich Kloten Airport and exited runway quickly to our gate, and I was glad to come across couple of beauties during this time.

KLM Embraer 190 at Zurich Kloten Airport

KLM Embraer 190 at Zurich Kloten Airport

Thai Airways A340-600 at Zurich Airport

Thai Airways A340-600 at Zurich Airport

Within 5 minutes of de-boarding the aircraft, we were in the Zurich AirportMetro, transferring on to the main terminal, and in the process of receiving kisses from Heidi, and Moos from Swiss cows. Scroll down for more info on that 😉

Zurich Airport Train Tunnel

Zurich Airport Train Tunnel

 

 

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Review: Turkish Airlines A330-300 New Delhi to Istanbul

You may want to read the introduction for this trip report, Tripping through Scandinavia.

Turkish Airlines A330-300 at Delhi International Airport. Photo Credit: JetPhotos.net

Turkish Airlines A330-300 at Delhi International Airport. Photo Credit: JetPhotos.net

We reached the Delhi Airport around 3:30 am, considering I was with my parents and did not want to rush them in the end. The economy counters had about 15-20 people waiting in queues whereas Business Class counters looked relatively empty. There were two counters and both of them had passenger’s checking-in. After about five minutes of wait we were attended at the counter. I requested the agent to credit our miles to JetPrivelege (Contributing to my target of next summer’s European holiday on award business class seats). Check-in process was smooth and we were all checked in to Zurich, through Istanbul. My folks were also handed their Plaza Premium lounge passes.

Security and Immigration took another 15 minutes, mainly because the Immigration officer decided to tell us the advantages of traveling to Andaman & Nicobar Islands over Switzerland for a holiday. I actually appreciated his passion for domestic tourism and promised him that we will certainly consider for the next family trip. I escorted my parents to the lounge upstairs and then came back down to the Delhi Daredevils Sports Bar. After all, where else would you get a full buffet meal and drinks for Rs.2? All thanks to my Visa Signature card.

 

Turkish Airlines 717

New Delhi (DEL) – Istanbul Ataturk (IST)

Saturday, July 12th

Departure: 0608 hrs (3 minutes late)

Arrival: 1003 hrs local time (22 minutes earlier)

Aircraft: Airbus A330-300

Seat: 6D

We arrived the boarding gate around 5:15 am and boarded the aircraft pretty soon after that. Turkish, English and Financial papers were placed on a cart just before aircraft entry and I picked couple of them. The cabin crew greeted us warmly, my parents were shown to the left and I turned right for economy “cattle” class. I was sitting in 6D, the very first bulkhead middle row.

Turkish Airlines A330 Economy Seat

Turkish Airlines A330 Economy Seat

 

There was plenty of leg space, but I was wishing for an empty next seat, which eventually turned out to be exactly that. I absolutely love the 2-4-2 seating configuration, especially if sitting next to the window seat. Even though I was in the middle row for this flight,  I wasn’t complaining. The flight was 75-80% full in economy class. The view on the left looked something like this.

Turkmenistan Airlines Boeing 737-700

Turkmenistan Airlines Boeing 737-700

 

Besides the proximity to Lavatory and resulting commotion all the time, my other gripe with Bulkhead seats is placement of the IFE screen inside arm rests, which makes it inconvenient besides reducing the seat width slightly. I guess nobody has found a better solution yet so I’ll shut my rant now.

Our flight started pushing back from the gate at exactly 0600 hrs and we were up and away within the next 8 odd minutes. Climb was smooth and soon seat belts signs were off. I also got to know that Turkish Airlines CEO, Mr. Temel Kotil was on the flight. He was in New Delhi for Air India’s induction into Star Alliance the day before and was on his way back to Istanbul.

The first service was the delicious serving of Turkish Delight. Can one ever get enough of it?

Turkish Airlines - Turkish Delight

Turkish Airlines – Turkish Delight

The meal service started with pre-booked special requests. I had requested an Indian vegetarian meal for my parents and they weren’t impressed with their South Indian upma meal, as I got to know later. Economy passengers were given couple of menus for breakfast, which I thought was a nice touch by Turkish Airlines.

Turkish Airlines Breakfast Menu (Economy)

Turkish Airlines Breakfast Menu (Economy)

 

I went with Turkey and Kasar Cheese Toast along with “No.1 Mediterranean Beer” Efes. I loved the crunch of the Borek and thought it was well made. I pretty much skipped most of the other items as they just did not appeal to me.

Turkish Airlines Economy Breakfast Meal

Turkish Airlines Economy Breakfast Meal

 

There was a round of Coffee/Tea and I politely declined the offer. After the meal, I thought of getting some shut eye and was about to press the call button for an eye patch when the attendant handed me an amenity kit pouch.

Turkish Airlines Economy Amenity Kit

Turkish Airlines Economy Amenity Kit

 

It had a pair of socks, an eye patch and some ear plugs. Not bad, TK! I treated that, as a sign that even god wanted me to have some rest. How wrong did that turn out to be? After 40 minutes of battling with various sleeping positions I gave up and thought of visiting my parents in the front, make them feel guilty how their son was cringing in the back while they lay comfortably on their flat beds, etc. Expectedly, the seat was actually quite nice and had a foot rest just below the IFE screen, which doubled up nicely as a temporary settee. While they were telling me how uninspiring their economy class upma vegetarian dish was, I started noticing the upkeep of business class cabin.

Turkish Airlines A330 - Torn Business Class Seat

Turkish Airlines A330 – Torn Business Class Seat

 

The fabric of the seat was completely torn from the seat and there were other elements of the seat, which were asking for attention. For an airline, which prides itself as Europe’s Best Airline, this was mighty underwhelming. While going back to my seat I requested the cabin attendant to please serve some vegetarian snacks to my parents, as they were quite hungry. I must add that all cabin attendants during this flight were warm, efficient and looked keen to help out. I was promised that she would look after them well. Later on I was told by my parents that they were served vegetable samosas by the In-Flight chef, which were quite delicious.

About eighty minutes before arrival, the second service of the flight was started, where economy passengers were given a choice between a cheese sandwich or a cherry cake.

Turkish Airlines Economy Snack Options

Turkish Airlines Economy Snack Options

 

If your answer was both, I’m happy to tell you, you were absolutely correct. The sandwich was just above average but I was happy with the cherry cake. It was just the right amount of sweet and tangy for me. I gulped both of them down with a small glass of Apple juice. Other options in beverages included tomato juice, orange juice, regular and diet sodas.

At no point during this flight I bothered with the IFE screen, and taking it out of the armrest. An initial overview told me it had enough content for a 6 hour flight, though definitely not for a 8-10 hour route. Usually I’m happy with the Live Route Map, and the big screen on Bulkhead exactly in front of me kept me busy.

On our final approach to Istanbul Ataturk Airport, the captain activated the bottom fuselage camera and he was thoughtful enough to turn it to the nose camera for fantastic views as we descended on the runway.

Turkish Airlines A330 Nose Camera - Istanbul Airport

Turkish Airlines A330 Nose Camera – Istanbul Airport

 

The landing was smooth and after about 8 minutes of taxi we arrived at our gate. The first flight of my trip was comfortable and efficient. The cabin crew was nice (presence of CEO on the flight?) and the food options were reasonable for a medium haul flight. Now it was time for me to do a quick hop to the Turkish Lounge, before catching my connecting flight to Zurich in 100 minutes.

Have you flown with Turkish before to Istanbul? What has been your experience?

 

Related Trip Posts:  Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction

Train on a Ferry!

Turkish Airlines A320-200 Istanbul to Zurich

SAS Business Lounge, Stockholm Arlanda

Turkish Airlines A321-200 Stockholm to Istanbul

 

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Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction

In the middle of January 2014, planning for this trip started taking place. I usually plan my travels well in advance, mainly due to cost benefits and the time to plan most trip components to the T. Travel planning is something, which I thoroughly enjoy, and this was going to be no different.

The only difference going to be however was tagging along my parents and convincing them. My mom is relatively easy and I won’t even try to delve on “How I convinced my Dad for this vacation”. I’ll save that for a self-help book later.

Anyways, once all that was finalised, it was time for me to decide on the destinations. I had gone to Switzerland with my friends in 2005 and since then always thought that my parents would love the Swiss sights. So the first city was decided as Zürich, where we made our base for 5 days to explore the neighbouring areas. Next up, I decided to venture up slightly north to Hamburg for 3 days, mainly because of the Airbus Factory Tour. For the remaining 8 days my long pending dream of exploring parts of Scandinavia was realised as Copenhagen and Stockholm were chosen as the last two cities. and That’s where the name of this trip came about to be.

After a through deliberation, I booked Turkish Airlines for our trip. Mom & Dad were booked upfront in the Business Class, and I resigned myself to Economy. Turkish is known for their flat beds in Business and the fantastic cuisine catered by Do & Co, although both my parents don’t drink and are vegetarian, I suspected they would still enjoy the hard product. Plus the opportunity to experience Turkish CIP Lounge at Istanbul was too good to pass.

The Intra-Europe routing was made with the help going through “Man in Seat Sixty-One” extensively (Highly recommended for train travel, especially European). The traveler in me was stoked by trying out three completely different trains, while keeping in mind it would be more comfortable for my parents as well, compared to taking short flights. Train travel in Europe is comfortable, scenic and expensive but if you book out 91 days in advance (62 days for some train companies), advance deals are great value for money.

and if your routing is good enough, you might just get your Train placed on a Ferry too 😉

 

Following was the final routing for the trip

12/07 TK717 New Delhi to Istanbul departing 0605 hrs arriving 1025 hrs

12/07 TK1913 Istanbul to Zurich departing 1145 hrs arriving 1340 hrs

16/07 Deutsche Bahn CNL 478 (City Night Line) Zurich HB to Hamburg Hbf departing 2042 hrs arriving 0828 hrs (+1 day)

19/07 Deutsche Bahn ICE 37 Hamburg Hbf to Copenhagen departing 1528 hrs arriving 2014 hrs

23/07 SJ2000, Train 530 Copenhagen to Stockholm Central departing 0828 hrs arriving 1339 hrs

27/07 TK1794 Stockholm to Istanbul departing 1145 hrs arriving 1615 hrs

27/07 TK 716 Istanbul to New Delhi departing 1955 hrs arriving 0420 hrs (+1 day)

Trip Map

Trip Map

This allowed us to check out the following

 

Turkish Airlines A330 Business Class

I had flown Turkish few years back to Paris, and had liked their service in Economy. However, during this trip I was keen to see how they will serve my parents traveling in Business Class. I was in economy but secured bulkhead seats on both A330 routes. Who minds extra legroom, right?

Turkish Airlines A330-300 - Business Class and Economy

Turkish Airlines A330-300 – Business Class and Economy

 

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge, Istanbul and SAS Lounge, Arlanda – Stockholm

Let’s admit it, each & every self-respecting aviation geek out there knows about the legendary Turkish Airlines lounge at Istanbul and has read plenty of reviews terming it one of the best Star Alliance Lounge in the world. Therefore, I decided completely skip reviewing this lounge and instead focus on SAS Star Alliance Lounge at Arlanda International. PS: Turkish CIP Lounge is indeed fantastic.

SAS Lounge, Stockholm and Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge, Istanbul

SAS Lounge, Stockholm and Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge, Istanbul

 

Swissotel Zürich 

Last time I was in Zürich, I was staying in a Hostel. I figured with family in tow, I had to look at something way more comfortable and convenient. Swissotel Zürich is right next door to Zürich Oerlikon station, has a great breakfast spread, plus every stay at the property gets you 500 JP Miles.

Swissotel Zurich

Swissotel Zürich

 

Arcotel Rubin, Hamburg

At Hamburg I wanted a hotel close to the main Hauptbahnhof station as we were using trains for both arrival and departure into the city. The city centre is also close-by and after extensive research I chose Arcotel Rubin. In fact, while other hotels were finalized more than two months in advance, I confirmed Arcotel Rubin only two weeks out.

Arcotel Rubin Hamburg

Arcotel Rubin, Hamburg

 

Bella Sky Comwell Hotel, Copenhagen

This was my first visit to Denmark, let alone Copenhagen so I was looking for something striking, modern without breaking the bank. Bella Sky Comwell was perfect in all departments. Apart from being a stunning design hotel from the outside, there were plenty of great details inside which I appreciated. While checking-in, I got a great deal on a paid-upgrade to the top 23rd floor and the views from the room more than paid for it.

Bella Sky Comwell Hotel, Copenhagen

Bella Sky Comwell Hotel, Copenhagen

 

Hilton Stockholm Slussen Hotel

To end the trip I figured it would be best to do it with some added luxury and I chose Hilton Slussen over Sheraton Stockholm. Besides getting a great deal, I also stood a chance for free breakfast, room upgrades (which happened second day into the stay) and other amenities due to my Hilton Gold status. The views from the room, the proximity to main attractions & the executive lounge access made last four days of our trip memorable.

Hilton Stockholm Slussen

Hilton Stockholm Slussen

 

This trip turned out to be exactly as I imagined it to be and beyond. Liechtenstein, Denmark and Sweden became #29, #30 and #31 in my countries visited list. I also visited two new lounges, three new train services, thirteen different beers, got my Burger King fix for the year and of course visited the Airbus Plant in Hamburg. I’m excited to share my experience in detail with all of you in the days ahead.

Thanks for reading, let me know if you have any comments or questions.

 

Related Trip Posts:  Train on a Ferry!

Turkish Airlines A330-300 New Delhi to Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A320-200 Istanbul to Zurich

SAS Business Lounge, Stockholm Arlanda

Turkish Airlines A321-200 Stockholm to Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A330-300 Istanbul to New Delhi

 

 

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A380 finally flies into New Delhi T3

On Friday, 30th of May 2014, New Delhi’s Terminal 3 became the first airport in India to officially welcome daily scheduled operations of the world’s largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380. Although T3 has received an Emirates A380 in 2010, that was just a one-off flight to celebrate opening of the terminal.

As part of their celebrations, the Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) had invited me to be a part of this historic occasion. It was an overall interesting experience (minus the hardships endured to enter initially, that’s a story for another post). It was also nice to catch up with Marcel Hungerbuehler, the COO of DIAL. One of the interesting things Marcel mentioned was that he does not see Emirates operating a A380 to Delhi in the near future, though he was quite confident of welcoming Lufthansa’s A380 to/from Frankfurt in the coming winter schedule.

I also had a chat with Karma Paljor, from CNN-IBN about the A380 itself during the event and you can watch a clip from that interview on the link below.Airbus A380 Event in New Delhi T3 - Vishal Mehra

If you are keen to check out first landing videos and photographs of the SuperJumbo, I highly recommend Bangalore Aviation’s coverage here.

Related Post: Which Airlines will fly their Airbus A380s in to India?

 

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