Tagged: Travel

Review: Is Vistara’s Premium Economy worth it?

I reached Mumbai’s glitzy new Terminal 2 at 4:30 pm for my Vistara Flight. Right now Vistara is the only domestic carrier using this terminal to push their “premium airline” tag.

If you are keen, and would like to know more about the Vistara Economy Experience, as well as the background to this flight, please read my earlier trip report.

Mumbai Terminal 2, Kerbside

Mumbai Terminal 2, Kerbside

 

Vistara 996

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

Saturday, January 10th

Departure: 17:56 hours (11 minutes late)

Arrival: 20:10 hours (10 minutes late)

Aircraft: Airbus A320

Seat: 6A

Vistara offers a convenient option of a return check-in which I used during the morning inbound flight. Basically passengers, who are returning with Vistara, within 48 hours of the original departure, can have the boarding pass for the return flight as well. This worked well for me and I requested my return boarding pass as well at Delhi T3.

Vistara check-in counters at Mumbai T2

Vistara check-in counters at Mumbai T2

I was able to pass the check-in counters at Mumbai T2 and move straight to the security area, as I already had my boarding pass, though I must mention that Vistara offers separate check-in counters for Premium Economy passengers.

Mumbai T2 - Interiors

Mumbai T2 – Interiors

Vistara, to their utter credit, has pre-empted other full service domestic carriers and started operations from Mumbai’s Terminal 2 while having the entire domestic departures area exclusively for them, till June-July 2015, when Air India and Jet Airways will also shift. This is a big coup for Vistara, as the feeling of exclusivity really draws down on passengers while traveling through T2 & seeing “Vistara Departures Only” signage. Apart from avoiding the mess and confusion of shifting here 6 months later, they have also secured a great terminal for exclusive use, which may influence even my future travel decisions.

Vistara exclusive departures area at Mumbai T2

Vistara exclusive departures area at Mumbai T2

After turning right, down the escalators, is the security area for domestic flights. Only two counters were open but I pretty much breezed through it within 3 odd minutes.

Mumbai T2 - Post security

Mumbai T2 – Post security

After crossing the information desk and another corridor on the right, the large expanse of Mumbai’s T2 gate area opens up. I have read reams and reams about the terminal but one realises the caliber of it all in flesh. It impresses and how. I realise this piece is supposed to be on Vistara only, but indulge me for a moment or couple of pictures. After all airports are vital cogs in the wheel of the entire travel process.

Mumbai T2 - Gateside sofas

Mumbai T2 – Gateside sofas

The entire area had plenty of natural light, loads of comfortable seating including sofas, and chairs. Did I mention that the whole terminal is a museum in itself? With 7000 art works on the walls by 1500 artists, GVK (airport operator) fittingly calls it “India’s largest public art program”.

Mumbai T2 - Gate area

Mumbai T2 – Gate area

Mumbai T2 - Wall art

Mumbai T2 – Wall art

Mumbai T2 - Gate side seating

Mumbai T2 – Gate side seating

This interactive musical water fountain was probably one of the more fun installations. As you put your hand through the water streams, it sounded like the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Sargam of the Indian classical music. Some kids and their parents were going crazy over it 🙂

Mumbai T2 - Interactive musical fountain

Mumbai T2 – Interactive musical fountain

I reached Gate 87, the departure gate for my flight by 4:45 pm. I couldn’t see the aircraft, although the scheduled boarding time was mentioned as 5 pm. The gate area also had plenty of power ports, very important for the connected travellers of today.

Mumbai T2 - Seats and power ports

Mumbai T2 – Seats and power ports

Premium Economy passengers on Vistara, like most other airlines, don’t get access to lounges, and unfortunately, only the GVK operated Business Class lounge is accessible from this terminal. Other contract lounges, like Clipper, were not accessible as far as I was able to evaluate. The novelty of a brilliant new terminal, and the floor to ceiling views of the ramp kept me busy at the gate.

Mumbai T2 - Views from terminal

Mumbai T2 – Views from terminal

Our aircraft arrived at 5:12 pm. I must admit I wasn’t a big fan of the livery initially but it is definitely growing on me. I think I like it more every time I see it. Aircraft are anyways such a romantic piece of engineering, right?

Vistara 996 A320 at Mumbai Terminal 2

Vistara 996 A320 at Mumbai Terminal 2

Boarding commenced at 5:35 pm with a wrong announcement that the flight was for Ahmedabad, which was corrected after confused passengers asked the gate staff about it. The first call, as usual, was for Business Class passengers, and passengers travelling with infants. To my disappointment, the call for Premium Economy passengers never came, which I noticed during the morning flight to Mumbai as well. Remaining passengers queued up together and I was in my seat few minutes later.

Vistara A320 Premium Economy seats

Vistara A320 Premium Economy seats

Vistara Premium Economy - No seat back IFE

Vistara Premium Economy – No seat back IFE

As I settled into my seat 6A, a familiar sight from morning greeted me. Vistara currently does not offer any sort of IFE across all three of its classes, I certainly hope that changes soon as the current situation puts them in the league of LCCs, and that’s certainly not what they are aiming for. On the flight load aspect, this seemed like a full flight in economy and premium economy.

Vistara Premium Economy - Personal seat coat hook

Vistara Premium Economy – Personal seat coat hook

The Captain of the flight immediately came on PA to apologise for the delay, caused by late arrival of the incoming aircraft. I always chuckle when airlines offer that as a reason, its like saying that “the incoming aircraft was operated by a different company, and we couldn’t do much about it”. That of course is applicable to all airlines, not limited to Vistara.

He also informed us of the flight time and mentioned high winds may help us speed up our journey, may also cause turbulence. I appreciate when Captains give slightly more information to passengers than needed, gives me some food for thought as the plane taxies to the runway 🙂

El-Al Airlines at Mumbai Airport

Spotting El-Al Airlines at Mumbai Airport

We pushed back at 5:56 pm and as a premium economy perk, we were offered a hot towel. Another supposed perk of Premium Economy is a water bottle and packed juice service as a welcome beverage, which wasn’t served strangely, definitely not in my entire row, and the one adjacent. It seemed they wanted to hasten up the departure and forgot about it later.

Vistara 996 - Taking off from Mumbai views

Vistara 996 – Taking off from Mumbai views

After approximately 15 minutes of taxi, we lined up on the runway and took off. It was a comparatively clear day for Mumbai and the Sea-Link was visible during the ascent. 

Vistara Premium Economy - Leg room

Vistara Premium Economy – Legroom

Vistara offers 33 inches of legroom in Premium Economy, which makes stretching your legs an easy affair. At 4.5 inches, the seat recline is also an inch more than the usual economy recline. Personally I don’t recline often, but those who like to, will probably appreciate the extra inch. Vistara also mentions about extra seat padding in Premium Economy, which I honestly did not feel or notice, especially considering I flew in economy earlier that morning. There’s also a personal coat hook on every seat in Economy and Premium Economy. The headrest of the seat is also height adjustable.

Vistara Premium Economy Dinner Service

Vistara Premium Economy Dinner Service

The meal service began at 6:31 pm, with two options of a Vegetarian Masala Kathi Roll or Chicken Pizza as the main dish. I chose Chicken Pizza, and my meal tray also had a Jhulmuri as a starter and Pina Colada (Pineapple based) as the dessert. I chose Orange soda as my drink with the meal.

Personally I liked the Jhulmuri starter as the tastiest course of the meal. I’m not sure being a Mumbai specialty whether it is served only in flights originating out of Mumbai or not. The first and the only time I have seen a Pizza served on a flight so far was my Iberia flight from Barcelona to Madrid. I really appreciate the intent behind this, to serve something that is not usual for Indian air passengers, however I found the base of the pizza slightly raw. I did the next best thing and ate the entire layer of cheese and chicken toppings, which were yummy in their own right 🙂 I also think it is difficult to maintain the quality of a pizza for long after reheating it, but that’s just me.

Vistara Premium Economy - Chocolate and Condiments

Vistara Premium Economy – Chocolate and Condiments

On my morning flight, I took the exception to the fact that Vistara being a premium carrier was offering unbranded condiments. Fortunately, this flight had no such problem, in fact +1 to Vistara for serving a Swiss dark chocolate along with the meal. Unsure if that is a Premium Economy perk or given to everybody.

Passengers were also served Tea and Coffee after the meal. Around 7:28pm the Captain came on the PA to update us about our arrival times, temperature in New Delhi and apologise again for the delay in departure. It was Vistara’s first day of full operations, and I think most people would have let it slide because of that.

We made a smooth landing at 8:02 pm and were at our gate just 10 minutes behind schedule.

My Thoughts on Vistara’s Premium Economy Service

Vistara is the newest kid on the block that most people want to see succeed. I’m not sure about competitors though. The flying public wants a healthy, successful and a better product than what is served today and Vistara has promised that since the day the idea itself was born. My first flight on Vistara’s economy cabin was overall a pleasant experience, and I would fly them again given certain factors.

But, I’m not convinced about the Vistara Premium Economy product in its present avatar.

The present avatar where the only difference is 3 inches of extra legroom, a hot towel, a separate check-in queue and an adjustable head rest. Let’s add the welcome drink/juice in tetra pack also for good measure. Surprisingly there is no difference in meals.

The same choice of mains was served in the Economy cabin as well and I confirmed that twice with two different flight attendants. In fact, during the second time I also asked the attendant a rather pointed question: Besides three inches of extra seat pitch what am I getting in Premium Economy? The attendants, as I found in the earlier flight too, were most professional and courteous, but the reply did not convince me one bit. I don’t blame them.

The cutlery used for meals is plastic, even in Premium Economy, which is a self-goal to me. May be Vistara can take some inspiration from Turkish Airlines which uses faux-steel cutlery even in economy flights, looks and feels way more upmarket than staid old plastic. The only difference between Vistara meals in Economy and Premium Economy is pretty much a Box and a Tray. Economy passengers get their meals in a box, while Premium Economy passengers get it on a tray, which to be fair is an age old practice adopted by every airline, for all cabins.

To put all this in context, I paid roughly 2.5x the cost of my economy ticket to be in premium economy, price differences for other passengers may vary slightly but the value proposition is still not attractive enough for short-haul domestic flying.

Besides meals, Vistara also needs to ensure that priority boarding for Premium Economy passengers is implemented across all its stations, which can be a huge psychological sell for the service as well. Another important addition can be In-flight entertainment. Looking at the current seat layout, I doubt if seat back screens will be added later on, so Vistara would probably have to do what no other airline in the country currently does: offering IFE on Passenger’s electronic devices. Potentially another popular service if the content availability can be tiered right. and I won’t even mention in-flight internet due to archaic regulations imposed by government agencies.

These are early days for Vistara but we all know about the importance of first impressions in a searingly competitive industry. Vistara has a lot going for it, including great WoM & the well deserved goodwill of Tatas & SIA, lets hope it makes good on all the promises made soon.

 

 

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The Full Service Transformation of Jet Airways

The transformation of Jet Airways, from a (Premium) Full Service Airline to a confused brand, and back to a Full Service Airline happened recently. The public announcement of the last bit at least. Industry watchers expected the switch after Etihad & Jet made their partnership public last year.

Jet Airways Domestic - Delhi Airport Gate

Jet Konnect – Boeing 737-700 at Delhi Airport

“I give you my commitment, that by the end of the year, Jet Airways will have the best domestic full service product in the country. We will always be competitive to ensure our customers get the best value for their money,” Chairman Goyal had thundered. He had even welcomed Vistara, saying it will make “us stronger”.

It is a different matter that Vistara’s AOP certificate is still stuck at DGCA.

For long time Indian air passengers (and the impassioned frequent flyers over at FlyerTalk), Jet Airways was like one of their own gone astray. The Airline which had strong credentials to be among the very best in the world for service, had switched to the cut-throat game of lower cost (not low cost) operations. Multiple brands made things even messier which confused consumers to no end. A return to the full service product roots was welcomed with a prayer, and a quiet approval.

Thus, I was excited to sample Jet’s hospitality before the official FSC switchover date of 1st December 2014 and check out if the transformation was already under way. I chose to fly Jet’s low-cost-confused-service-brand, Konnect last month, for my trip to Vaishno Devi, Jammu.

 

Jet Airways 7008/S2 4607

New Delhi (DEL) – Jammu (IXJ)

Departure: 1317 hours (2 minutes late)

Arrival: 1423 hours (2 minutes early)

Aircraft: Boeing 737-700

I was running late for my flight but the ICICI Jet Airways card came handy and I was able to check-in quickly at the airport through the Premiere lane. The security check took few minutes and I made my way to Gate 39 for boarding. The occupancy was quiet light for the flight, with a guesstimate of 55%.

You know that moment when you step into your flight and the “Hello” from cabin crew tells you this is going to be a great, friendly crew. That happened.

Jet Airways Domestic - Economy seat

Jet Airways Domestic – Economy seat

I soon settled into my seat and the pushback started around 1309 hours, with an almost on-time departure. It is always fun to check out airports from the sky and Delhi’s Terminal 3 provided interesting scenery.

Delhi Airport T3 Aerial View

Delhi Airport T3 Aerial View

The legroom in the economy cabin for an average/athletic built passenger is enough, especially considering this was a very short 45-50 minute hop, to India’s northernmost state. And Yes, I was wearing fancy pants 🙂

Jet Airways Domestic - Legroom

Jet Airways Domestic – Legroom

Soon the curtains were drawn and service started exactly 13 minutes after the takeoff. As this was a Jet Konnect flight, meals were charged.

Jet Airways Domestic - Movable curtain

Jet Airways Domestic – Movable curtain

I ordered a Malai Paneer Tikka Sandwich, which I thought was poorly presented and came with an iffy quality ketchup from an unknown brand.

Jet Airways Domestic - Paid sandwich meal

Jet Airways Domestic – Paid sandwich meal

The sandwich tasted better than it looked. Gaurav on the flight was especially helpful, along with the other crew members. Our descent into Jammu started around 1357 hours, a mere 40 minutes into the flight. The Captain came on the PA to announce that we were 3rd in sequence to land, with expected ETA of 1425 hrs.

Jet Airways Domestic - Landing at Jammu

Jet Airways Domestic – Landing at Jammu

We landed at exactly 1423 hours with quite a big thud and more-than-usual speed. The disembarkation was quick due to a low flight load.

Air India Star Alliance Livery at Jammu

Air India Star Alliance Livery A320 at Jammu Airport

Besides the pleasant Jammu weather, another sight to behold at the Jammu Airport was Air India’s special A320 aircraft with Star Alliance livery.

My return flight couple of days later was slightly more eventful.

 

Jet Airways 7009/S2 4608

Jammu (IXJ)  – New Delhi (DEL)

Departure: 1543 hours (33 minutes late)

Arrival: 1644 hours (19 minutes late)

Aircraft: Boeing 737-700

I reached the airport almost 90 minutes before my scheduled departure of 1510 hours as there are multiple, extensive checks at the Jammu Airport. The Airport/terminal itself is pretty barebones but I was able to snag a quick check-in. When I asked the agent at the counter about the flight, I was told it is on-time.

Jet Airways Domestic - B737 at Jammu

Jet Konnect Domestic – Boeing 737-7 at Jammu

As it turned out the flight arrived late from Delhi, and boarding (done on a remote stand) started only at 1520 hours, though it was fairly quick. Pushback started at 1539 hours and we were airborne by 1543 hours from Jammu’s single runway number 36. The first officer apologised for the delay as we reached 10000 feet.

Jammu Airport Runway

Jammu Airport Runway 36

The all male cabin crew on this flight was friendly & attentive. As I saw on my earlier flight couple of days back, the aircraft seemed to have many empty seats, with a similar guesstimate of 55% occupancy.

Jammu Airport Takeoff - View

Jammu Airport Takeoff View

While I was trying to fix the overhead knob that kept leaking cold air directly on my head, I happened to overhear an amusing yet typical conversation in the adjacent row behind me. It seemed to me that the lady, imported straight out of a Page 3 party, was trying to convince an attendant to upgrade her to the business class in front. Her reasoning was that her travel agent misunderstood her and booked her in economy for a 1 hour flight. Oh the horror I tell you. Anyways, the attendant politely declined and I guess with that my IFE for the flight was over 🙂

Jet Airways Domestic - Faulty overhead knob

Jet Airways Domestic – Faulty overhead knob

As this was a late afternoon flight, I wanted to grab a quick bite. By the time, the service cart reached me, they were only left with vegetarian sandwiches. Knowing fully well how good their vegetarian sandwiches are, I chose to go for a mango drink and eat something after landing in Delhi.

I’m guessing the attendant gauged my disappointment and came back later to ask me if I wanted to buy a vegetarian Indian meal for 300 bucks. I readily agreed and it was brought over in couple of minutes. It had Rice, Chapati, Spinach Curry and Lentil as Main, along with a Cake. Although the mains were packed in recyclable tray and tin foil, the cake was served on Bone china, along with proper steel cutlery and a hand towel. I would hazard a guess that it was a spare business class meal.

Jet Airways Domestic - Economy Paid Meal

Jet Airways Domestic – Economy Paid Meal

As I was about to finish the meal, the FA came by again to thank me for my patronage to Jet Airways and offered to give the meal charges back to me. I politely declined but thanked him for the gesture. Few minutes later he appeared again and insisted on me taking it back saying the cabin manager wasn’t happy with him for taking money. Ultimately I had to relent.

The descent into Delhi started around 1620 hours, with the cabin manager appearing on my seat and thanking me. I told him I appreciated his kind gesture and the attentive service done by his team for the flight. He asked me if he could do anything else to make my flight better, and I requested for a little peek into the cockpit once we land.

We touched down at 1644 hours and were at our gate by 1654 hours. DGCA inspectors were in the cockpit for a while and once they got out, I got a good look into the Boeing 737-700 cockpit. Overall pleasant, if not a perfect flight experience.

BOTTOMLINE

There needs to be a tangible service differentiation to be a full service carrier and not just an extra free meal-on-board. Jet Airways definitely has the pedigree and the legacy to offer fantastic service, but the hard product to go with it also needs improvement. Needless to say, it will be tough for Jet to compete with the likes of Vistara in terms of aircraft equipment. but at the same time, Vistara will take time to become a national player and Jet can take that time to get more competitive. Another emerging school of thought on the other hand stresses on Jet’s increased and obvious focus on international operations, rather than lower margin domestic ops.

The Indian consumer has evolved a lot since the last time Jet Airways operated as a single brand. VFM remains the key but the definition varies from consumer to consumer. Some may want the cheapest possible transportation, while some may want extras like lounge access, frequent flyer benefits, better meals, Enhanced seating and IFE etc. If Jet Airways is able to solve that equation, with the appropriate cost structure to go with it, this transformation to “Full service operations” may very well work wonders.

And yes, don’t forget to change that lousy ketchup brand 9W. May be some inspiration to package the offering can even come from the lower cost stables of 6E.

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

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 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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Train on a Ferry!

During my travels last month in Scandinavia, one the more interesting experience was something I had never experienced before.

(The background of this trip and more information can be found here – Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction)

Basically, our ICE train from Hamburg HBF to Kobenhavn (Copenhagen) got inside (YES!) a ferry to cross into Denmark from Germany. This happened at Puttgarten to Rodby ferry, one of the few remaining routes in Europe where trains go onto ferries. Never knew that!

This crossing over the Baltic Sea took us about 45 minutes and we were required to leave the train and our luggage, to go up into the ferry whilst it is at sea. The ferry had many cruise ship like facilities: Bars, Restaurants, and Duty free shops (liquor is very expensive in Nordic countries).

I was able to capture my experience and video graph the various parts of it, and put it together,  from going in to coming out of the ferry, in 2 minutes and 16 seconds.

This is certainly something off my bucket list which I never knew existed, and that’s what makes it even more special.

Have a look and tell me what you think?

Picture courtesy: Tiexano

Picture courtesy: Tiexano

 

Related Trip Posts:  Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction

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

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Arun Rajagopal

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

“I’m crazy about planes. And mad about trains”. That’s how Arun Rajagopal explains himself as simple as possible. I have been in touch with Arun on twitter for as long as I remember and have had some fascinating conversations with him both online and offline.

Arun has been a top-notch marketer for over 8 years now and for the past 16 months or so he has been at Emirates, carving and executing their social media strategy and loving his dream job, where the worlds of marketing and aviation meet.

Inviting Arun to be a part of the GlobeTrotter series was one of the easiest decisions I have made, partly because he is a passionate globetrotter for real and partly because I selfishly wanted to understand his mindset about travelling. Arun has been on the pages of this blog in the past, we had a great conversation for this series and I hope you all enjoy reading it as well:

777 fanboy to the dough

777 fanboy to the dough

  • What is your greatest motivation to travel? I vividly remember reading one of your tweets few weeks back where you couldn’t hop on a BOM flight but you still flew, albeit on some other flight. That is astounding enthusiasm. Tell me your motivation for that?

Arun – I love the sheer joy that comes with getting on a plane. I belong to the school of thought that the journey is as important as the destination, sometimes more important than the destination. In this particular instance, I was supposed to fly to Mumbai, but I couldn’t get on my flight. As I walked out of the airport, I realised that it was not me to not get on a plane when I had made my mind to do so. As luck would have it, I just remembered that there was a flight to Ahmedabad, which was leaving 10 minutes later. I walked back, got myself on that plane and eventually reached Mumbai. When I want to get on a plane, I always manage to get on it because I really, really want to. It’s also a mix of karma, luck and persistence.

  • Do you enjoy the aviation/flying part of your travels or the sightseeing in cities? Of all the hundreds of flights that you may have taken, any particularly memorable experience you would like to share?

Arun – I love the flying part more. I have two very memorable experiences topping the list. One is the Emirates inaugural flight to Seattle in March 2012. I’m a huge Boeing 777 fan (Vishal’s note: See the cake in the picture above) and it was a dream come true

for me to be on that first flight (a 77W) to the home of Boeing. I bit the bullet one day before the trip, deciding that the high-fares wouldn’t stand in my way. The dream turned even better when I got to see A6-EGO, the 1000th 777 with its paint coat fresh on a Boeing factory tour, right before its delivery ceremony.

A6-EGO

Emirates A6-EGO, Photo credit: Mark Harky

The other one has to be celebrating my 30th on an A380 upper deck, which was another big dream come true. On the B-day, all Emirates A380 flights were full, but I scored a seat to Hong Kong, and then did a turn-around to Dubai via Bangkok. My flight touched down at Suvarnabhumi exactly when the clock struck midnight and I got my first birthday call. The crew even had a special birthday surprise for me. I was away for 30 hours, most of them spent on a plane. I’ll take that day with me to the grave.

  • Which is your favourite airport and airline? And why? (Barring DXB and Emirates)

Arun – My favourite airport has to be Muscat International. I grew up in Muscat and I flew out of MCT for a good part of my life. It’s a not a huge airport, but I’ve some very special memories.

My favourite airline is a very tough question, because I love most airlines out there and some even more such as Emirates. Any airline that makes flying more personal and special always gets my vote.

  • Nicely played there Arun, Tell us about your favourite city, and any memorable experience you had there?

Arun – So many cities, many visited and many more yet to visit. Again hard to pick one, so I will go with New York, Seattle, London and Bangkok. As to a memorable experience, seeing snow for the first time in my life in Seattle was super special. I only had to wait 29 years for it to happen.

  • High five, I haven’t seen a snowfall ever myself. When you travel, is there a particular website, guidebook etc. you consult before making plans? What’s your research like?

Arun – I’m not a Lonely Planet guidebook toting kind of person. Where I stay is massively important for me – so I do my hotel research via TripAdvisor, Hotels.com or Booking.com. I talk to people who have been there before and once I’m at the destination, I try to get local insights. But the most magical moments are spontaneous and happen when you are not expecting them. In many of the cities I travel to, I try to connect with friends or acquaintances I have there, which adds a whole new personal experience to my journey.

Aerial view of Incheon International, at Seoul. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Aerial view of Incheon International, at Seoul                     Photo credit: Wikipedia

  • Talking bit more about the journey part, Is there any particular addition that you would like airports to adopt? (Besides Wi-Fi)

Arun – Airports play a huge role in enriching your travel experience. I wish more airports had showers. Also, airports are often the first point of contact between a tourist and a foreign country – so smiling; friendly immigration officials would always be welcome. Muscat and Jakarta get my votes there. San Antonio has some amazing rocking chairs where you can lounge on and watch planes. One of my favourite airport experiences has been pausing for a minute to watch a musician perform at Atlanta, in the midst of milling crowds. Give me anything in an airport that makes the travel experience more relaxing and welcoming. I hear Seoul Incheon is amazing and I look forward to a trip soon, only to check out the airport.

  • Spoke like a true #AvGeek there. You have a successful career, what advice would you give to all those who might not be financially sound but still harbour dreams of traveling the world?

Arun – I firmly believe that one can make things happen when you are passionate about something and you give 100% to pursuing your dreams. I was not financially sound when I decided to become a globetrotter. As long as you put your goals ahead of you and work towards them, you can make it even to space.

  • We know you’re a social media expert, what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel?

Arun – Social media has not only enabled travel brands to connect better with their customers, but has also fuelled a massive appetite for travel and made the world a smaller place. There is a very active aviation community on Twitter, sharing common passions, interests, knowledge and information.

  • And finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your three favourite twitter user accounts to follow?

Arun – Very hard to pick 3, but I’m going to run with

@JonOstrower, @Simpliflying and @RunwayGirl. They, amongst so many others, have made me love aviation more.

 

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