This is the fifth 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. I submitted a complaint to the California Department of Insurance, but they don't actually do anything besides forward the information to the insurance company, who had already ruled on it anyway. My only recourse left is a small claims lawsuit, which I'm considering. I can't recommend using World Nomads travel insurance. I've bought five travel insurance policies through them. This is the first time I made a claim and it was 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.
————— Tunis to Istanbul (Turkish Airlines Business): http://flight-report.com/en/report-13349.html ————— Istanbul to Kinshasa (Turkish Airlines Business): You Are Here ————— 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)
After I accepted my fate that I'd be getting no hotel or dayroom during my layover, I took a few laps around the lounge and eventually settled in with my laptop on a table downstairs. Much of the seating was covered with people sleeping. The WiFi was very flaky, but I think this was mostly a consequence of how many people were on it. I tried to watch the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, but at times the internet was almost unusable just trying to load web pages let alone stream video.
I got on the wait list for a shower and they quoted me a wait of about an hour, fifteen minutes, which I didn't think was bad at all considering how crowded it was. I didn't have anything else to do besides wait anyway. I've had better lounge showers, but this was more than adequate and it felt good to get clean.
I decided to go for a walk through the terminal around 2 AM, thinking the place would be empty, but it was still a zoo.
The hot food was a little sparse when I first got into the lounge and it was still really crowded. But I had a great experience once breakfast started around at about 5 AM. I must've had at least three custom omelettes.
In the early morning hours, the place started to empty out a bit, but there were still a bunch of people sprawled out and sleeping.
Once the sun rose I set out for another walk to get a look at the snow situation.
Always interesting planes to spot at the crossroads of the world.
I killed a few more hours in the lounge then grabbed one last shot as I left for the gate.
The gate was a mess. Very confusing manner of checking passports and visas before boarding started. Even after they started scanning boarding passes we had to just wait for a little bit between the counter and the jetbridge until they finally let us go. Not sure why. There were also people waiting in this weird no-man's-land who weren't even on our flight. A lot of the people occupying the seats at our gate weren't on our flight either.
We had a pretty diverse group of passengers. I saw a decent amount of people with passports from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a handful of white passengers who seemed to be NGO types, and a large contingent of Pakistanis. Some of the Pakistani passengers had tickets to Kinshasa, others for the continuing service to Libreville, Gabon.
I was hoping to see the newer Turkish A330 business seats with lie flats, but instead I was greeted with this very old, tired looking cabin.
I had to call Turkish Airlines to get a seat assignment since I bought this ticket through United and they're still living in the stone age when it comes to computer systems. This seating plan was not available anywhere I looked, whether it was Seat Guru, the Turkish Airlines website, or just Google searches. There ended up being one row of first class (four seats) that were totally unoccupied, a bulkhead, then two rows of business, then a galley, then four more rows of business class. Obviously you want to avoid being near a galley when choosing a seat, but I had no way of knowing what the layout was going to actually look like so I just picked 6D. They didn't even tell me about those first two rows of business when I was on the phone. In the section that made up rows 5-8 (physically 4-7), there was me, an Indian family of three, a young African couple, and a Turkish employee by himself. I was seated next to the Dad of the Indian family and we had a nice conversation during boarding (apparently he works in Kinshasa and they were on a trip to New York), but I ended up moving so we could both spread out a bit. There were 24 seats for 7 people. I took 7A, giving myself a window, but also had the aisle seat open.
I got a little nervous when it started snowing again, but we still departed. Our overall delay was about an hour which the pilot told us was due to ground traffic.
I watched The Martian before lunch. Critically acclaimed, but I thought it was full of cliches and wasn't good at all. Unbelievable that The Martian was nominated for Best Picture and Beasts of No Nation was not.
The flight attendants did a pretty good job keeping the cabin dim while the sun was still out.
Menu, first dinner course, and snack before landing. Somehow my photo of the main course showed up blank, sorry.
The IFE wasn't bad overall, but I couldn't find a map anywhere.
I snapped these pics of the seat in 'angled' mode after they turned on the cabin lights before landing.
Shot of our neighbor as we pulled into our parking spot.
Snagged a couple more shots of our plane and our Air France neighbor before walking over to the bus.
We drove over to the new terminal and headed into passport control. I'll cover the new terminal and the transit process in the next report. It was a very African experience.
Turkish Airlines Lounge
Istanbul - ISL
Kinshasa - FIH
Overall this was a pretty comfortable flight since the business cabin was only about a third full and I had two seats to myself. The soft product was pretty average. My overnight stay in the lounge went well, especially after it emptied out in the early morning hours. I wasn't happy about being denied a hotel room, but there are worse places to spend 15 hours. Though there were some frustrating parts of my transit through IST, I consider myself lucky because neither of my flights were actually cancelled. I saw plenty of people enduring worse travel headaches than I. Turkish Airlines can't control the weather, but I hope they prepare for it a little better in the future.
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