Today’s reader review is from reader David.
Flying in Business on Turkish allows one to use the Star Alliance lounge at Charles de Gaulle T1 (that’s the ‘original’ circular terminal with lots of escalators). The latter has had a recent-ish re-vamp, following its closure during and immediately after the Covid pandemic, and Business Class passengers have a dedicated route called ‘Accès No. 1’ which is wonderfully élitist in a very Gallic way, but also hard to find and even harder to follow.
I did a couple of laps of the terminal before identifying the ‘correct’ route. Still, the experience allowed me to witness with growing horror the huge numbers of Economy pax queuing for admission to Passport Control and Security – snaking round the confined spaces like worshippers at an oversold Taylor Swift concert, waiting to have their tickets scanned.
The lounge – which I had not used before – is bright and airy, with lots of wood-effect surfaces and different zones for eating, relaxing, working, etc, but I found the food offering (I was there from 8.30 to 10.30 am) inadequate and tired, other than a fruit salad of pineapple, grape and melon, where somebody had bothered to cut the pieces of fruit into small enough pieces to look appealing. Very few grapes, however . . .
Boarding for my TK flight was impressively organised, with a dedicated Business Class line, scrupulously policed. The A330 boarded all passengers from Door 2, which meant that you turned left to Business Class and didn’t have hordes of other passengers walking past you, often trying to sneak their carry-on luggage into lockers before reaching Economy. It’s an old trick that I’ve used myself on occasion when ‘down the back’, but it is often unnecessary as space can become available towards the rear of the plane anyway.
The cabin – and service – was ‘old school’. The upholstery is rather tired, but the ‘straight on’ seating is a real joy for someone like me who always goes for a window seat with a view to being able to look out easily, and not obliged to strain at the seat belt and crick the neck from an ‘angled’ window seat such as most airlines seem to favour.
Pre-take-off drinks were prepared behind a sort of altar of a bar, but here I think the crew missed a trick – one of them should have been there, taking an interest in the passengers, making eye contact, smiling generously, throughout the boarding and pre-take-off process. Instead, the two attendants disappeared for long periods, leaving the half-full cabin to sort itself out. The pre-take-off check – and indeed the pre-landing one – was cursory, the gentleman next to me was allowed to swop seats and occupy 1A on the other side of the plane with little or no regard to ‘weight and balance’ etc, and passengers’ possessions such as shoes were left on the floor around the seats.
My remote control was far from pristine, my USB port – like those in nearby seats – wasn’t working, but the ‘homemade’ lemonade offered as one of the drinks choices was delicious, and almost as ‘good’ as the QR offering in the category. The cabin was less that half full, but another TK Istanbul flight followed within an hour or so.
The food trays were set out on a trolley by Door 1, uncovered, for what seemed like ages after take-off before being served, and the main courses were taken down from luggage lockers prior to heating, rather than originating in the galley, all of which I thought potentially unhygienic.
The automated announcement before the safety video started with the phrase “Ladies and gentlemen and dear children”, which I thought rather sweet. The safety video was of the cartoon kind – I’m not sure that passengers pay it any more attention because of this. Quite the opposite, I suspect, in most cases, and it rather undermines the seriousness of the message, in my view.
The Captain gave a totally incomprehensible announcement – why they’re not trained in proper diction and public speaking is beyond me – but I presume that he expressed an intention to get us all to Istanbul safely and more or less within the three-hour timeframe allocated to the flight. And so it proved.
Despite the above observations I liked the food, which was both flavoursome and moist where it needed to be. Odd-looking menu, no washbags or pyjamas as this was a shortish day flight, but some good films on a generously-sized TV above an equally generously-sized storage bin, which contributed to a feeling of relaxed comfort throughout.
Incidentally, if you get the chance to enjoy the Business Lounge at Istanbul airport, then do. It’s like a small city, and for my money – back in August I paid around £1,400 for a CDG-IST-MCT-IST-CDG ticket in J class, booking with TK themselves – it equals and perhaps knocks spots off the comparable Qatar lounge in Doha.
It has various interesting food stations including a salad bar of impeccable variety and quality, lots of comfortable seating, a Scalextric track for children (and nostalgic adults like me), a gentleman who’ll iron your clothes for you, and really classy showers. Minor criticisms would be that it can feel impersonal (not helped by the fact that you can enter using only your boarding pass at a machine, thus eliminating any human contact), some of the serving utensils are way too small, so that the food falls off them easily, and the ‘Flight Tracker’ wasn’t working on the night of my visit, but don’t let any of that deter you. The whole experience is positively Branson-esque in its wacky opulence and architectural imagination.
In Istanbul, I stayed at the MGallery near the Galata Tower, in Karakoy, on what I think is referred to as the ‘Asian side’ of the city. Recommended, both the hotel and the area, although you’ll need a taxi to reach it/them. The MGallery’s street has a number of inviting lodgings, of which The Bank Hotel and a Marriot looked sophisticated. If money is no object, the Newish Peninsula overlooking the Bosphorous (around £850 a night, rack rate for a ‘standard’ room), may be of interest and was a short walk away. It has an agreeable terrace with a swimming pool to the side and an outside dining area directly in front of the main building.
The days of the ‘old’ Istanbul airport out to the west, with its relaxed tram ride into town, are long gone. Every taxi driver I travelled with gave the impression of wanting to scare me to death, or at least engender a heart attack so he could divert to the nearest clinic and charge waiting time while I was assessed. Mobile phones should be forcibly de-activated on such rides, in my view . . .
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