Turkish Airlines in India is an interesting case. As I mentioned in the previous part Turkish falls in the category of being a European Airline to some extent, and a middle eastern airline also to some extent. The former because of it’s location, and the latter also because of it’s location, and it’s rapid expansion in to several countries around the world, and I emphasize: most countries served!
Which brings me to their India ops: like most European Airlines, Turkish only really have services from their home in Istanbul Ataturk to New Delhi & Mumbai. KLM, Swiss, Air Italy, while JAL, ANA, Air China, Iraqi Airways, Ethiopian Airways and Air Canada serve these two cities in India.
It therefore makes perfect sense for Turkish to deploy the high-density Boeing 777-300ER to India: 3 of these were leased from Kenya Airways during the latter’s restructuring. Thankfully keeping consistent with Turkish’s own 77Ws these planes are in a 3-3-3 configuration back in Economy, too.
Turkish’s website was being really strange (again) when it came to seat selection, but a call to their offices helped me reserve seat 13A on this flight: the 2nd row behind door L2, and in front of the monstrous GE90 engine! I was really excited for this one, but of course! Not a whole lot of airlines that offer Economy seating so far up the fuselage of a 777! The plane for this one had to be one of the three: TC-LKA, TC-LKB, TC-LKC. These 3 planes have a pretty set rotation: one to Mumbai, one to New Delhi, on to London Heathrow or Dubai. The Alpha returned from Mumbai, the Bravo from London, the Charlie from New Delhi. Guess it was TC-LKC taking me home!
This was going to be my fourth flight in a row now. So far so good, with American Eagle (Envoy Air)'s ERJ-175 taking me from Fargo to Dallas, a thunderstorm avoidance route meant the schedule was slightly skewed, but I had more than enough time at Dallas to appreciate the big beast that is the Boeing 777 in a domestic flight to Miami, a hub to hub wide body flight. Got my first taste of Turkish Airlines with a solid 10hr flight over from Miami to Istanbul….
THE DAY OF: JULY 18TH 2018
Now back to the day of at Istanbul. I struggled to find a restroom, and when I did it stunk so bad. I couldn’t be in there for long. I started venturing up and down the concourse, trying to plane spot as much as I can. After a point however, there was just a staircase heading down. What, that’s it?! What about the pictures you see of the long sight of Turkish tails in to the distance?! Quite a few A330s around, mostly Turkish but some interesting ones.
One A330… my first time spotting an Afriqiyah airplane…
Two A330… HiFly with special 'Turn The Tide on Plastic' livery. Ironic that a plane has environmental awareness stuff on it, but the effort is appreciated!
Three A330!!! One of five refurbished GE powered A330-200s, hopefully I get TC-JNC on the way back???
CAN LAYOVERS BE THIS BAD…?
I should like to take this opportunity to talk about the WiFi at Istanbul Ataturk International: it’s shit. Worked on the laptop, but no sign of life on my cellphone. Bustling with people I was lucky to find a place at the cafeteria. Given that it was really busy I wasn’t too unhappy that it wasn’t clean. Cleared off my table and settled down with a great view of the narrow body gates. Planes were still landing on Runway 17s, so whatever it was early on with planes lining up on the 35s eventually got delayed significantly. And this showed on FlightRadar: Istanbul was ranked on top for most delays at the time. Was in the middle of what Istanbul’s core problem is? Yes, yes I was. There was still 3 hours till my flight departed, and I hoped it wouldn’t cause too many delays for me.
First time spotting Iraqi Airways…
First time spotting Iran Air tour, a Mad Dog!!
Air Moldova in the back there, among all the Turkish narrow bodies!
I figured that Istanbul Airport didn’t assign gates up until 2 hours before departure, and my best bet on finding this would be larger FIDs after security, where I proceeded to. And this was, unsurprisingly, busy. People clustered around the FIDs before dispersing towards gates. It looked like Gate 230 would be the gate: a long walk ahead by the looks of it. And that’s okay - more time to kill!
But this wasn’t easy, given the hoards of people just stopping in the way for no reason and nearly tripping in to them.
After a point it felt like it I walked in to a ‘new’ Istanbul Ataturk: this felt more open, and just that little bit more elbow-room. This part felt like Abu Dhabi’s T3, but no were near the likes of Dubai T3 or Hamad Intl - which goes back to the Middle East Airline argument, although this should change as soon New Istanbul Airport opens up.
Close to the Emirates lounge was in fact the B777-300ER heading back to Dubai. Strange to see Emirates, a formidable force, in amongst the stronger force known as Turkish Airlines at home turf - Emirates was a nobody here!
General Electric powered A330-300, one of 24 -300s in this configuration
Rolls Royce powered A330-300, one of 17 -300s in this configuration, also activity on 05, mostly landings.
Most flights were heading out with a 35-40min delay due to the continuous change in runways. But it did look like 35L/R were used for departures, and just the one runway (05) for landings, the normal operations at Istanbul. There was the knock on effect, still. Gate 230 happened to be the most-East end of the terminal, for which the long walk makes sense. And it was TC-LKB at the gate! This had come in from London, and I guess a rotation swap happened.
Turkish A321ceo & neo
Gate 230 (A/B) was completely full. Chock a block. Not a place to sit. Barely a spot by the window. I somehow managed to squeeze in there for a few pictures where I saw the Korean Air 777 come in from Seoul - and the first image I had was of the Asiana tail strike in Istanbul from a few months ago…. There was also a Mahan Air A310 that went by.
Boarding pass for this one!
WHEN DELAY REALITY HIT…
While being suffocated there due to the number of people squeezed in by the windows I noticed a somewhat alarming theme: bigger planes at gates 230/229/228 would have to wait to be pushed back because this would eat in to the space of taxiways exiting Runway 5, as mentioned before the only runway for arrivals. I guess it was to be seen….
It was well past boarding time and people were understandably getting angsty, so they lined up in front of gate 230B. Without a word or announcement, it looked like boarding was called anyway, with the agents tearing off the stubs. Interestingly, the line for 230A looked much shorter, but some passengers were apprehensive about this: gate 230A apparently led to a different plane so they’d rather line up at 230B to board TK716 to Delhi. I used this opportunity to get going from 230A, and pretty much a clear way all the way down for me. It was 1954 hours, just 26 minutes to departure.
I was onboard at 1956 hours to lovely crew members saying ‘namaste’ or ‘namaskar’, Hindi words used interchangeably to greet others. Of course, some passengers decided to poke fun at the crew members making an effort which was not nice. I took my seat 13A, and oh golly did I have a view of the massive GE90-115B engine! In the meantime, I kept a keen eye on traffic: the A330 to Nairobi had finally departed, albeit delayed, unsurprisingly.
As the cabin filled up (it was a completely full flight, not a seat open…in Economy at least) I checked out the IFE which was of a slightly older generation compared to what was onboard TC-JJY. But it would suffice just fine on this 5 hour flight to New Delhi. Some interesting wide bodies taxied by, as the sun slowly started to set and night kicked in. It was getting close to departure time, but still nothing.
RJ B787-8 from AMM
Sun is setting, but we're still not moving…
Pratt & Whitney A330-200, Uzbekistan B767-300ER sneaking in
One of very few A340s remaining in TK's fleet :(
THE DELAY DAWNS DOWN: CRUCIAL CONNECTIONS #2!
3 minutes past departure time the Captain came around with information regarding the flight: luggage & cargo had been loaded up, but it was a slight delay due to …you know it, ground traffic at Istanbul. The many runway changes and the departure gate for this flight made for the inevitable to happen. The 5hr10min flight would happen at 33000 feet. We would still make it on time with the 10-15 minute delay. Hah, or so we thought!
It was at this point I started to do some math. Scheduled time of arrival in to New Delhi: 0435 hours. the domestic departure: 0800 hours. 3hr25min in between. Same terminal. All I needed to do was go through immigration, duty free, pick up my checked baggage, and head up. Check in closes 45 minutes before departure, and gate 25 minutes before, and maybe 30 extra minutes for a compromised personal buffer, so really I wanted to be in line for check in for 0645 hours. And 2 hours seemed like a safe bet for international arrival procedures, giving this flight, at most, a 15 minute delay margin. I now realized this trip’s 2nd crucial connection had emerged, due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. I could not afford a delay, whatever happened.
It was also at this point that I realized there was no need to book this extra domestic connection, and that past experiences would show the number of times I have cancelled such extensions. I was in a nervy wreck, as I saw plane after plane line up with runway 05 and land. There was no end to this delay in sight.
Jet bridges were pulled back as the delay went up to 21 minutes and the codeshare announcements were done. Interestingly, both Air India and Pakistan International Airlines (?!) had codeshares placed on this flight! Another 20 minute delay was announced (totaling 30-45 minutes..), and I realized there was a very good chance my trip was going to go off rails.
Saudi 787-9, Turkish A340, Royal Jordanian 787, Turkmenistan 777-200LR, all went by showing that the bigger planes NEEDED till the very end of the runway to exit, exactly where we were parked, and the 777-300ER is by no means a small airplane. Once the Turkmenistan 777 went by, I noticed the landing lights came on and reflected on the GE90s rather well.
FINALLY, DEPARTURE, DEPARTING WE ARE! GE90s AWOKEN!
Finally, 2100 hours, 40 minutes late, TC-LKB was pushed back in towards the taxiways. This was going to be my favorite part of the flight, listening to the GE90s fire up. And so they did! Whatever delay fear I had went away for this little bit as the monsters were brought in to life while smaller Airbus and Boeing planes used some of the rapid exit taxiways out to the ramp, with LKB taking up 3 (!!) exits. While the engines were fired up the plane had to be tugged forward so as to delays did not pile up. Interesting! With everything all set, it was a sedate taxi to Runway 35R.
And this was a bit of a painful one. With just one runway being used for take offs in to the North, and Istanbul being in the midst of a delay back log this was going to take a while. And this is where my memories of the night flight back to me: while taxiing, the landing lights would come on. While stopped, they’d be turned off. And with that, just a little bit of power to get the 777 moving. This was pretty much continuous, so I took about seven mini 45 second naps while this occurred. Some bad pictures of abandoned planes, and a Kalitta 747..
TAKE OFF, TAKE OFF, AWAY WE GO!
It wasn’t until 2135 hours that we lined up with Runway 35L, thundered down the runway a minute later. I was so awake and happy listening to the monstrous GE90s assist us in to the air over a well-lit Istanbul. The GE90s sounded so mesmerizing at this point in night. A look at the lit up Bosphorous bridge showed we were officially in Asia at this point, and within the next 5 hours I would be in New Delhi. This take off and climb was about my favorite part of the flight.
Usual pre-recorded announcements came around as we climbed towards 37000 feet. People in the cabin had settled down and not a whole lot of movement happened. It was pretty dark out anyway, so nothing to see out anymore.
The cabin crew handed out the comfort kit - I’m still amazed that Turkish does this, for a 5 hour flight back in cattle class! Props (full forward :) ) to them.
Headsets were handed out to all passengers, but these were 2 pin headsets for the ex-Kenya Airways 777-300ER IFE. I was surprised to see WiFi on this leased plane, did not intend on using it but just for the sake of trying it out, proved to be painfully slow even on Turkish’s own website which was pretty unfortunate.
INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT - BROKEN HEADSET(s)
Lights were kept on for a majority of the flight, so I thought it was an alright time to have a look at the inflight entertainment system. The first headset I had received was broken, unfortunately. The left ear part had completely snapped off. A call to the flight attendants was responded to quickly and I got the headset from 12B - which was empty. But of course, this one had just the one speaker working. Bad bad! I resorted to getting out my own headset with the adapter that I got from a KLM flight. Thank you, KLM! :)
The IFE itself, content wise, was exactly the same as TC-JJY. Except that there were no onboard camera showing the take off and landing. The older Panasonic IFE hardware worked out to be just fine, user interface was friendly. No complaints here. Although I did use the remote instead of the screen itself. I continued watching Ferrari: Race to Immortality because I don’t remember seeing most of it on TK78.
SERVICE - DINNER!
The crew sprung in to action pretty much as soon as we crossed 10,000 feet, like I said before the handing out of comfort kits and headsets, but no menu on this flight, but that’s okay. Meal service started about 40 minutes in to the flight, the options being the usual chicken or vegetarian option. Carts were rolled from the front galley, making row 13 the 2nd row to be served. Well, not bad I guess! I opted for the chicken. So far it was one-for-one with the meal(s) on Turkish: dinner on TK78 was amazing, but breakfast was awful.
The salad was a combination of a Mediterranean and middle eastern salad with cucumber cherry tomato, olive, chickpea and went well with the dressing that had been provided. The main course was mashed potatoes with antipasti and chicken skewers. These were cooked really well and made for a delightful main course, and a solid dinner. For dessert there was a mango/tropical pudding deal which I loved. A solid meal onboard Turkish Airlines. There were the usual roll & water to go with this. I opted for Turkish’s homemade lemonade which went really well with vodka at the bottom. All in all, a solid meal on Turkish Airlines and so far so good from this airline.
SERVICE - THE SLOW DOWN…
Strangely however, the crew took their time during service. I think it was north of 1hr30min that I had my tray table down with he tray on there. Given, however, the long walk from the gate to the restroom, the delay, and the long time to get through service I really had to go to the restroom. So, I had to be that guy and make everyone pick up their trays and let me out - I still feel bad. At the same time however, there were others doing the same, and the front few lavatories were being used. Well, what better time to walk through the cabin?! The crew were collecting trays from the back moving up front, which was strange…
The lavatory over at the front was mobility friendly - hence a lot of room to maneuver around which got me thinking if the B737 MAXs have something to do with this in the future. While not the cleanest because the crew were busy serving passengers, there were the usual amenities that you’d find on a Turkish Airlines flight, so no complaints here.
The seat mates around were pretty interesting. Gentleman in 12A was talking a lot to the lady in 12C, across the empty 12B but the latter clearly wasn’t interested, the gentlemen in 13C kept to himself, while the gentleman in 13B complained about how narrow the seats are, which, y’know not a whole lot of airlines that have 3-3-3 in Economy, Turkish being one of them. But of course, not everyone is aware of this. I offered my USB multi-charger to the person in 13B out of being nice, but they stepped on it and broke it which was..impressive to say the least. Sad it had to be this way, but whatever.
Once the trays were collected, water bottles (pretty large ones at that) were handed out to everyone which was a nice touch.
For the rest of the flight the regular cabin lights were replaced with some rather extravagant eyesore that was red & pink moonlighting….I do not get Turkish’s obsession with strange mood lighting. WHY WHY WHYYYY
I resorted to listening to an album called ‘Disney Metal’ which was interesting.
MATH, MATH MATH: WILL I MAKE THE CONNECTION?
So anyway, I took this time to jog my memory of what would be around when we’d land in Delhi. Most of them would be Indian planes coming in from the middle east (Jet Airways from Dammam, Doha Dubai, Air India from Dubai, Jeddah, Muscat). My main concern was the Singapore Airlines SQ402, the 777-200ER scheduled to arrive at 0530, but more often than not showed up before time. If we beat this, immigration would be quite empty. If not, I’d be in quite the pickle in order to make the connection. I was really nervous, but I had no control over anything. I had to wait and watch.
The rest of the flight was quite uneventful in that most passengers tried to catch up on some sleep. But then there was me, a nervous wreck. I did a passenger satisfaction survey to kill time as we went in to the final hour of the flight.
Sure, why not..
DESCENT & ARRIVAL: THE NERVES!
0431 hours IST, 4hr23min in to the flight: I see the first ray of sunshine as it rises in the East. This is not ideal, for I was hoping to see this on the ground at Delhi, implying us being on time. The Captain gave their briefing - a 5am arrival (giving me 3 hours total to make the connection…) and cloudy skies with 29C of temperature awaiting me. Cabin crew prepared the cabin for arrival as the usual pre-recorded announcements came about. Everyone was set, bar a pair of spectacles found in the lavatory, and the crew announced this several times. No one claimed it, not that I know of.
The sun rose rapidly as we descended down towards New Delhi. Lined up with runway 11, landing lights on, engine power set, flaps down, all ready to go but the crew were still letting us know about the missing spectacles - we came down as several Air India, Jet Airways narrow bodies and an Etihad A330 were waiting to depart, and made a smooth landing at 0510 hours, 5hr04min in flight. Hard braking but we used most of the runway.
With 2hr50min till the next flight and still a long taxi to go I was horrified to see the Singapore Airlines 777 show up before us. Oh no, long lines at immigration awaited us!!!!! I had to make a run for it.
Given my situation, taxiing felt like it took forever. Like about 5 knots. This also included some stops along the way because of traffic. Arghhh! Announcements were made reminding us to pick up & re-check baggage for a domestic connection because reasons of customs. We docked at the gate at 0527 hours, 17 minutes after landing and a total delay of 52 minutes. Not a whole lot of time was made up enroute, well not enough for me unfortunately. I had 2.5 hours to disembark, go through immigration, collect baggage, head up stairs, check in and go through security.
RACE AGAINST TIME!
I did not take any pictures from this stint here because time was critical - the second critical connection and there was a good chance I was going to miss this one because of my own stupid decisions. As soon as the doors opened I felt obligated to bolt, but also obligated to apologize to everyone I bumped in to. Because, you know living in South Da-Canada..er…North Dakota made me do it. I was if anything one of the first to make it to immigration from this flight (given how far away the plane was parked, while SQ’s passengers did not have much of a walk!), and meddled in with the Singapore Airlines passengers. I got in to the immigration queues before it turned in to a disorganized mess at the tail end of it - there were some fights as to who got what position in line once the rest of TK716 passengers came about.
The line moved, albeit slowly. This got just a little more anxiety inducing as a shift change happened, too. But eventually, I made it through just fine within 45 minutes, skipped through duty free and went ahead to pick up my suitcase: this was already going around on the carousel, saving me so much time. Exactly 1 hour since doors were disarmed I had gone through customs and in to the arrivals section. 0630 hours, 1hr30min till departure: well within my personal buffer, but well above legal limits for check in.
Istanbul - ISL
New Delhi - DEL
So then, to go over what did go wrong on this flight, and whether or not Turkish is to blame for it: the ground delay at Istanbul, I couldn’t figure out what ATC were up to but oh boy did it get me really nervous, the headsets were broken: which happens; service took really long, which didn’t make sense but again, it is what it is. Food was fantastic, the IFE content was perfectly decent, and the seat was comfortable. And while seat 13A was kinda unlucky, oh it sure did make me smile thanks to the GE90s! All in all pretty good flight on Turkish - continuing their form from TK78. I was now looking forward to the next flight…..
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