Review of Turkish Airlines flight Tunis Istanbul in Business

Airline Turkish Airlines
Flight TK664
Class Business
Seat --
Aircraft Airbus A321
Flight time 02:45
Take-off 01 Jan 16, 16:25
Arrival at 01 Jan 16, 20:10
TK   #12 out of 133 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 571 reviews
Nick
By 2656
Published on 15th February 2016
This is the fourth report in a series covering my trip to Europe and Africa around New Year's. The trip involved three nested itineraries (which turned into four). A OneWorld roundtrip itinerary from the US to Milan, a Tunisair roundtrip itinerary from Milan to Tunis, Tunisia, and a Star Alliance roundtrip itinerary from Tunis to Windhoek, Namibia. The return portion of the Star Alliance itinerary would turn into a one-way itinerary on Qatar Airways due to South African Airways delays (hot weather), horrible customer service by South African Airways and United Airlines, and a cancellation of the remainder of the Star Alliance itinerary. I submitted a claim to World Nomads travel insurance for the Qatar Airways ticket I had to buy because I had faced a 24 hour delay by Star Alliance. World Nomads rejected the claim (as well as my appeal). According to them, they're off the hook unless the "common carrier" is completely shut down for 24 hours due to weather or a labor strike. The verbiage in the policy doesn't include "common carrier" though. It's ridiculous to think that if your airline operated any flight anywhere in the world during your 24 hour delay, World Nomads wouldn't have to honor the contract. The California Department of Insurance is currently reviewing the case because I complained that they narrowed the scope of my policy after making a claim. I can't recommend using World Nomads travel insurance. I've bought five travel insurance policies through them; this is the first time I had to make a claim and it's not a good process.

The OneWorld itinerary was an open jaw from Chicago to Milan in Economy, and Milan to San Diego in Business. The total cost was 63,000 AAdvantage miles and $84.10. Normal cost would be 70,000 miles (20,000 for the outbound in Economy and 50,000 for the inbound in Business). However, I was able to get 10% back thanks to my Citi AAdvantage MasterCard.

The roundtrip cost for the Tunisair ticket was $182.48, bought through Vayama.

The roundtrip cost for the business class Star Alliance ticket was 70,000 United MileagePlus miles and $135.00. On the surface, this is an incredible value. However, as I'll explain later, my faith in Star Alliance has been completely shattered and I don't think I'll ever take advantage of this intra-Africa MileagePlus fare again.


—– Chicago O'Hare to Berlin Tegel (AirBerlin Economy): http://flight-report.com/en/report-13019.html
—– Berlin Tegel to Milan Linate (AirBerlin Economy): http://flight-report.com/en/report-13101.html

———- Milan Malpensa to Tunis (Tunisair Economy): http://flight-report.com/en/report-13169.html

————— Tunis to Istanbul (Turkish Airlines Business): You Are Here
————— Istanbul to Kinshasa (Turkish Airlines Business)
————— Kinshasa to Johannesburg (South African Airways Business)
————— Johannesburg to Windhoek (South African Airways Business)
————— Windhoek to Johannesburg (South African Airways Business)
————— Johannesburg to Lagos (South African Airways Business): Cancelled Flight
————— Lagos to Istanbul (South African Airways Business): Cancelled Flight
————— Istanbul to Tunis (Turkish Airlines Business): Cancelled Flight

———- Tunis to Milan Malpensa (Tunisair Economy): No Show

——————– Johannesburg to Doha (Qatar Airways Business)
——————– Doha to Milan Malpensa (Qatar Airways Business)

—– Milan Malpensa to Miami (American Airlines Business)
—– Miami to Chicago O'Hare (American Airlines First)
—– Chicago O'Hare to San Diego (American Airlines First)

I grabbed a taxi after leaving my AirBnB and walking down to a busier street. The guy was friendly, ran the meter, and even got out change to give me after I paid him, though I let him keep most of it. He asked me if I had seen a certain neighborhood in Tunis and wanted to take me there if I had time, but I told him my flight was leaving in about 45 minutes (it wasn't). Not sure if he genuinely wanted to show me something interesting or just wanted to take me to his cousin's souvenir shop, probably the latter. We pulled up outside the airport gates and I just walked through the parking lot to get to the terminal. Not sure if this is standard operating procedure but it worked out fine, didn't have to wait in any sort of traffic.




Like most African airports there's security at the very front entrance of the building. The line I went in was only about a third of the length of the others, but got me in the building just the same.

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The departures area has a couple big square areas with check-in desks and another big area with seating, a cafe, and a few airline and bank counters. This big area is where you head through to get to passport control and security. When I checked in they gave me a slip of paper allowing me to get into a faster passport control line, but security was all the same. Both were relatively painless.

I'd like to note that allowing multiple banks in the airport dramatically cuts down on the fees associated with changing money. Cairo is the same way. In Tunis and Cairo, you can change money into local currency for a total fee of approximately 1%. When I changed Tunisian Dinar into Euros at the Milan airport at the end of my trip I paid about 40% due to the cartel system in place.

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After security I headed straight for the lounge that seems to be shared by just about all the airlines at TUN.

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The lounge was comfortable, quiet, had WiFi, and was not crowded at all. However, the snacks they had were terrible. I didn't ask for anything at the bar, but the only self serve drinks they had out were a few different types of juice. Each gender had a single bathroom with a locking door and often developed a wait.




I set up camp on a couch in a corner of the lounge that had a pretty good view of the tarmac.




I went for a walk through the terminal to check out the gate my flight would be using, then came back to the lounge.




The monitors in the lounge were pretty useless. They didn't update at all and only showed flights in the very near future, so they were basically just a list of the schedule. The agent at the front of the lounge was very helpful though and confirmed my flight was delayed by about two hours and said she'd make an announcement when it was ready for boarding. The delay resulted from a massive snowstorm that had hit Istanbul and delayed our inbound aircraft.

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The airport was almost empty by the time my flight was ready for boarding and I walked over to the gate.

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Boarding went pretty smoothly as business class passengers were allowed to walk up to the left side of the desk and skip the general boarding line.

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I was looking forward to experiencing this fantastic short haul business cabin and wasn't disappointed.




Pre-flight lemonade.

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Very nice fold out IFE.

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It was nice to have a menu and a decent amount of food, but it didn't taste great.




The drop down monitors had a nice breadcrumb style flight map.

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One last shot as we deplaned.

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I paid for an e-Visa a couple weeks prior to my trip to make immigration a little smoother and it didn't take long to get through. The AirServ-type guy checking boarding passes at the front of the line for business class passengers told me at first that I wasn't a business class passenger because I wasn't dressed like one, but eventually said he was joking and showed me where I was supposed to go. Kind of funny, but also a little annoying. I made my way to the Hotel Desk to get my free room for the night (my flight to Kinshasa was leaving the following afternoon). I soon encountered the longest line I've ever seen in an airport. Not longest based on pure length, but longest when you take into account that the line was not moving at all. This was a result of the snowstorm that upended operations for several days. I decided not to wait and went back into the terminal and over to the business class lounge to see if they'd help me there.

The front desk of the lounge was a mess. I was standing front and center at the desk and it took at least 20 minutes before someone would listen to me. Law and order was breaking down as people would just push their way to the front and start yelling out their problem. There were plenty of people there who had no business occupying the time of the agents. For example, a guy trying to get access based on his credit card even though he wasn't flying Turkish, a guy from Algeria who was upset they couldn't process an e-Visa at the lounge, a lady who wanted Aspirin (a manager had to go get some out of her purse), etc. The worst was this American girl who was playing dumb trying to get access because she flew business class inbound, but did not have an outbound business class ticket. She claimed that 'they' told her she'd get access when her inbound ticket was upgraded. The agent was holding firm explaining that this was just a departure lounge and she didn't have access. She finally left after exclaiming, "I'm never flying Turkish Airlines again!" As if anyone cared in the midst of this chaotic situation.

When someone who seemed like they were in charge finally spoke with me she explained that all the hotels were full and I wasn't eligible for the day rooms inside the lounge. To be eligible, either your inbound or outbound flight has to be more than 8 hours in duration. So I settled in for my 15 hour stay inside the lounge. I'll include the lounge photos in the next report in this series.

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Verdict

Turkish Airlines

7.6/10
Cabin9.0
Cabin crew7.0
Entertainment/wifi8.5
Meal/catering6.0

Tunisair Lounge

3.2/10
Comfort2.0
Meal/catering2.0
Entertainment/wifi7.0
Services2.0

Tunis - TUN

5.2/10
Efficiency7.0
Access5.0
Services4.0
Cleanliness5.0

Istanbul - ISX

4.6/10
Efficiency5.0
Access4.5
Services4.5
Cleanliness4.5

Conclusion

The onboard experience was great except for the food. There were only four or five people in the entire business class section and the flight attendants were very nice. The seats were new and made for a comfortable experience while enjoying the fantastic IFE.

The frustrating part of this flight was the lack of information regarding the delay. I understand it was related to a snowstorm in Istanbul, but I wish the monitors in the lounge or at the gate would have give some sort of realistic expectation about when the flight would leave. It was frustrating to constantly check FlightAware or walk over to the gate to check for any activity. When I got to Istanbul, the airport was a zoo. I know snow is rare in Istanbul, but not that rare. Turkish Airlines can't control the weather, but they can certainly do a much better job preparing for it.

Information on the route Tunis (TUN) Istanbul (ISX)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 16 reviews of 1 airlines on the route Tunis (TUN) → Istanbul (ISX).


Useful

The airline with the best average rating is Turkish Airlines with 8.1/10.

The average flight time is 2 hours and 41 minutes.

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11 Comments

  • Comment 158375 by
    marathon GOLD 9514 Comments

    Facts are beyond fiction when it comes to World Nomads' travel insurance policy. I had never heard of them and wouldn't want to in the future.

    A 1% commission on currency exchange is very low, especially in an airport. Worth mentioning, indeed.

    The TUN lounge has a view on the tarmac and was very empty, but the tables looked too small for working comfort.

    The AirServ staff in IST should know that humor can be very tricky to handle with foreigners.

    TK's lounge is usually praised, but 15 hours there ! Your next report should be worth reading... this one is anyway :)

    Thanks for sharing !

    • Comment 335318 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Thanks for the comments Marathon! I wasn't expecting much out of a business lounge at an airport like this, but all it really had going for it was being uncrowded. The bathrooms were probably the most disappointing part, being so small. They could improve the food service overnight by just offering bottled water and brand name bags of chips and cookies. The heated up frozen finger food they had wasn't good at all.

      Being stuck in the lounge for that long wasn't terrible, there are certainly worse places.

    • Comment 335352 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      I should've clarified that my comment about the chips and cookies was in regards to the TUN lounge and my comment about being stuck in the lounge was in regards to the IST lounge.

    • Comment 335333 by
      lagentsecret SILVER 10628 Comments

      and alcohol are not great
      There is red wine, white wine, beer (better than Bud beer), whisky, and so on
      Did you find more for free in the US lounges ?

  • Comment 158402 by
    ilyes GOLD 1791 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this report,

    When taxis are going to the airport, they usually run the meter and give you the change. But when you leave the airport, that is another story...

    I'm surprised the entrance was downstairs. The taxi always drops me over the bridge - and then I have to go through security.

    There is another lounge that hosts Alitalia, Skyteam and Libyan Airlines. If I am not mistaken, it also hosts Priority Pass passengers.
    Members of AVS club (100% tunisian lounge thing) have access to dedicated lounges within Tunis airport.

    Tunisair lounge is... crap. It's not too crowded (let's be honest), but snacks are terrible and alcohol are not great. The staff is average : sometimes, they can be very helpful - sometimes... they don't even say hello.

    TK usually flies to Tunis two times per day : the morning flight is operated with a A330 and the afternoon with a A321.

    The cabin looks a bit old to me, but it is certainly one of the best business class cabin in a single-aisle plane.

    I'm surprised you didn't enjoy the meal : TK has an excellent reputation when it comes to in-flight catering, regardless of the cabin.

    Cheers
    Ilyes

    • Comment 335330 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Thanks for all the background info Ilyes! I bet the AVS club is a bit nicer than the lounge I experienced.

      The meal was certainly not bad and I ate most of it, but I happen to prefer simpler food when flying. I'd rather just have a bowl of pasta or a sandwich as opposed to several different fancy dishes. I know I'm in the minority in this regard when it comes to most business class passengers.

    • Comment 335332 by
      lagentsecret SILVER 10628 Comments

      I bet the AVS club is a bit nicer than the lounge I experienced.
      They are not different, the food is even better in Tunisair lounge

  • Comment 158413 by
    lagentsecret SILVER 10628 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this FR

    or just wanted to take me to his cousin's souvenir shop, probably the latter
    It's a bit cliché, isn't it ? There are people in the world who can be proud of their country and their culture and they just want to share that with the visitors

    However, the snacks they had were terrible
    Unfortunately you didn't take a picture of these terrible snacks.
    I used this lounge many times and even if the food is not the best of the world it was always better than the junk food I've found in US lounges (United Clubs or AA's clubs).

    the only self serve drinks they had out were a few different types of juice
    In the same US lounges you have to ask for the soft drinks and the juices and sometimes even for the water

    It was nice to have a menu and a decent amount of food, but it didn't taste great.
    I'd rather just have a bowl of pasta or a sandwich as opposed to several different fancy dishes
    TK's food is very tasty but not to your taste and you give the answer by yourself, that's because you prefer to eat a sandwich better
    Fortunately everyone has different tastes

    I was standing front and center at the desk and it took at least 20 minutes before someone would listen to me
    If you had a BP you didn't need to wait at all : there is a BP's bar code reader to enter the lounge

    Very bad experience at IST airport : I left IST the day before and it was already a mess with lot of delayed flights

    They could improve the food service overnight by just offering bottled water and brand name bags of chips and cookies
    After more than 30 times in IST TK's lounge I've never seen bag of chips or cookies, or any junk food.
    The usual offer is cakes, salads buffet and a lot of water, soft drinks and beers all the night.
    Because of the people not been able to take their flights or to sleep in a hotel they were certainly out of everything to eat or drink

    but they can certainly do a much better job preparing for it.
    TK's customer service is known for being terrible, rude and not efficient at all

    See you soon for the next leg

    • Comment 335351 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Thanks for the comments Lagentsecret. I totally agree that most US lounges are subpar. Later on in the series I'll review the Admirals Club in Miami, which was awful.

      When I was at the desk in the IST TK lounge I was trying to ask if they could arrange a hotel room for me, that's why I was waiting. When you're just entering the lounge, the boarding pass scanner is nice and easy.

      My comment about offering bottled water and chips and cookies was in response to Marathon's comment about the TUN lounge, not IST. I should've made that more clear.

  • Comment 158576 by
    East African 1508 Comments

    Thanks Nick for this new FR
    Too bad World Nomads did not refund your QR ticket!
    Nice to see that in the lounge you are carefully studying what to expect next in you series ;-)
    There were plenty of people there who had no business occupying the time of the agents => you've made my day with your examples, even if at that time, travellers did probably not amuse you at all!
    either your inbound or outbound flight has to be more than 8 hours in duration => according to Flightaware.com, ist-fih can often take 7h50 or so in duration, have you tried to negotiate?

    Looking forward to the next chapter :-)

    • Comment 335603 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Thanks for the comments East African! I definitely got some studying in while I was waiting in the lounge!

      Haha, the other people at the Turkish lounge were definitely not amusing at the time, but I knew I had to write down some of those so I could include them in my report.

      For the dayrooms, they have an actual list of cities with >8 hour durations from IST and Kinshasa doesn't qualify. Even if they were willing to make an exception it wouldn't matter because the rooms were full anyway.

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