There is something ephemeral about the time between two long haul journeys. The three weeks of work between my wonderful trip to Taiwan and my week-long respite with family in India glossed over fairly quickly and before I knew it, I was giddily waiting in the queue to board Turkish Airlines flight TK 10, non-stop from Los Angeles to Istanbul, continuing onto TK 720, from Istanbul to Mumbai. So Merhaba and Hoş Geldiniz to this series of flight reports with Turkish Airlines!
Every year, around the January/February timeframe, my extended family in India hosts a week-long family get-together, bringing relatives from all parts of the country and abroad together for a week of fun and togetherness. Up until I started working last year, these months would be filled with post-break exams, projects, and, of course, the post-break sluggish work ethic ;), which would prevent me from experiencing the fun of the get-together. During a random conversation with my parents, it hit me that I was not confined to travel solely during prescribed breaks anymore, but I could take time off to go to the festival! As it falls during the off-peak travel season, ticket prices were fairly reasonable, so I allowed myself to pick an airline that I wanted to fly (even though I have a desire to experience as many airlines as possibly in my life!). Turkish Airlines offered a great $900 deal from Los Angeles to Mumbai roundtrip. However, I thought to myself that, if I am ALREADY flying via Istanbul, I might as well break the trip apart for a day and spend a day in the beautiful city! I had flown Turkish once before and was enchanted by both the airline and the city, so I knew this was the itinerary I just had to fly. The break in the journey in Istanbul added an extra $100 to the ticket, which was well worth it! As such, the routing became:
As with most other airlines, online-check in for Turkish Airlines opens 24 hours prior to departure. I checked in to my flights efficiently via the mobile application and was directed to the confirmation page where I could grab my mobile boarding pass. Due to operational reasons, I was not able to obtain the mobile boarding pass. Now, all that remained was waiting for the next 16 hours until I could finally make my way to the airport for my flight!
The full itinerary for the journey to India on January 23
Turkish Airlines mobile check-in confirmation page
Departure from Home and Arrival at LAX
The day of departure started off with a fervent packing spree, as I had irresponsibly left the majority of the packing to the day of the flight. Luckily for me, since departure was scheduled for 6:25 PM and the earliest the check in counters would open was at 3:00 PM, I had an ample amount of time to pack for a weeklong trip. A funny thing about any trip to visit family in India, though, is that there is always a list of items that family members ask for to be brought from the States. As such, for only a weeklong trip, I had almost reached the weight limit with the other bag that my parents had dropped off for me to take, brimming with items for family in India.
With the amount of stuff that I took with me to India, it honestly looked like I was moving there!
At around 2:00 pm, one of my co-workers showed up to my apartment to pick me up. With all of the clunky baggage in the trunk, it was time to head to the airport. A benefit of living near El Segundo, CA, is that, on average, the drive to the airport from my apartment can take less than 15 minutes, without traffic that is! However, since the evening international rush had not begun just yet, I was at the all-too-familiar doors of the Tom Bradley International Terminal within 10 minutes. After thanking my coworker for the ride, I felt a surge of excitement as I loaded my baggage onto one of the (expensive) rental carts and wheeled my haul into the terminal.
Ready to head inside the terminal
Once inside the expansive terminal, I was greeted with the familiar screens depicting the check-in counters for the various departures.
Departure board showing airline check-in counter locations (Note the 3:25 PM departure to Paris, still showing the Jet Airways codeshare!)
Location of the Turkish Airlines check-in counters at LAX
As one of my bags was quite literally brimming full up to the 23 kg weight limit for Economy Class on Turkish Airlines, I decided it would be best to have my bag wrapped in plastic so as to minimize any damage in case of rough-handling during the loading and offloading processes. What is interesting is that LAX (unlike SFO) does not offer a baggage wrapping service, so the plastic wrap must be purchased from the Hudson store located in front of the check-in counters and baggage must be self wrapped. After a dizzying couple of minutes running around my bag to fully cover it with the plastic, I set off again in the direction of the check in counters.
A minor nitpick I have with most airports is how they tear the boarding pass during boarding and only hand back the ticket stub. While I understand that that is the entire function of the perforation on the pass itself, I like having the full cardstock as part of my collection. As such, I went to one of the kiosks to see if I could get one of the flimsy paper boarding passes to use during boarding before I went to the counter to retrieve the card-stock pass. I realized that since I was not able to check-in online, I probably would not have been able to check-in using the kiosk, yet I tried any way to no avail. With that, I headed to the main check-in line.
Seat-selection portion of the kiosk check-in for the upcoming flight from Istanbul to Mumbai
Turkish Airlines check-in signage
Economy class and online check-in counters
Surveying the list of departures out of Tom Bradley while waiting for the check-in counters to open
Wanting to maximize my time airside, I was happy to have arrived at the check-in line while the line was still quite short. There were three groups of check-in lines dedicated to the airline, which were divided into one for premium check-in, one for online check-in, and the rest for economy class. As I had already completed most of the formalities online, I stood in the line for online check-in. Right on the dot at three hours prior to departure, check-in for Turkish Airlines began. My bags were under the weight limit, so the rest of the process went smoothly, although a slight, 15-minute delay was announced due to the late arrival of the inbound aircraft. With a courteous smile, the check-in agent handed me my boarding pass to Istanbul and for the onward connection to Mumbai, along with the new, plastic baggage tags (I feel like a Turkish Airlines poster boy with the amount of these tags that I now have LOL)!
During this relatively quiet time of departures at Tom Bradley, I used my TSA pre-check benefits to circumvent the already-not-crowded general security check lanes and enter airside within 5 minutes of getting in the line for security check.
An overview of the check-in area post-security
Greeted airside by the beautiful facade inside the terminal
An overview of the airside main lobby of the Tom Bradley Terminal
Once inside, I had more than 2.5 hours to walk around and explore the air traffic movements out of LAX. One of the joys of traveling for me is to people watch and to be a witness to people of all walks of life, heading to different parts of the world for their own reasons. A manifestation of this is the various departures from LAX Tom Bradley that never cease to amaze me, with how close the world is, regardless of its physical vastness. So here's to a couple of hours of plane watching!
Whenever I fly out of the Tom Bradley Terminal, I always make sure to take a leisurely stroll all the way to the end of the United Terminal to view a variety of aircraft movements, along with stretching my legs before a long flight. The variety of traffic movements I saw was no exception to any other day and I was as mesmerized as I usually am when airside at LAX!
A sampling of the various traffic movements at LAX
Having walked half of the entire airport and bussed to Terminal 2 and 3 to view the movements at the Delta terminals, I slowly made my way back to the Tom Bradley terminal to watch my chariot gracefully arriving from her home, Istanbul.
TC-JJY arriving from Istanbul
A quick Starbucks run was in order as I made my way to Gate 134 to board the flight soon. (Needed that caffeine boost to stay awake long enough to experience at least half of the flight!)
Gate 134 is located in the north concourse of the terminal
The beauty of the terminal was accentuated by the late-afternoon light from outside
Information for TK10 at Gate 134
"Kınalıada" being serviced for her long journey back home to Istanbul
Prior to it being time to board, signs depicting groups of seats were placed at strategic locations near the boarding gate. Passengers lined up behind these signs as each group was called to board the aircraft. Boarding was done in an organized and orderly process, with business class and Star Alliance high-tier passengers boarding first, followed by economy class from the rear of the plane. It was finally time to experience Turkish Airlines again after almost 4 years!
Boarding TK10 with service to Istanbul, Turkey
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Scheduled Departure: 18:25 (LAX Time)
Actual Departure: 19:11 (LAX Time)
Scheduled Arrival: 18:25 (+1, IST Time)
Actual Arrival: 18:22 (+1, IST Time)
Scheduled Duration: 13h 00m
Actual Duration: 12h 11m
First Impressions and Departure
What I first noticed when I stepped into the aircraft were the big smiles on the flight attendants' faces as they helped passengers find their seats. Along with their new, red and black uniforms, the flight attendants had an air of both friendliness and elegance that certainly elevated the experience during the flight. Making my way down the aisle, I was instantly drawn to the calming color scheme of the cabin, that consisted of light and dark blues, along with pops of red. Coupled with the artful Turkish Airlines logo on each of the bulkheads, it made for a very pleasing aesthetic for the eyes, making the experience both playful and elegant at the same time. Probably one of my favorite elements of the boarding process was the boarding music, (which I think is, by far, my favorite boarding music piece I have heard to date) which added another layer of joyful calm to the cabin atmosphere, exciting me even further for the experience ahead. I am glad to have found a link to the boarding music on youtube, as I listen to it almost every day during work now!
The new Turkish Airlines Boarding Music soundtrack, courtesy of "Turkish Airlines Fan" on Youtube
Turkish Airlines new Boeing 777-300ER economy class seating (Picture taken on return flight, TK9)
The stylishly lit logo on the bulkhead, surrounded by traditional Turkish designs
To add to the level of comfort even further, Turkish went with a 3-3-3 cabin layout in economy, which allowed for slightly wider seats. I walked down the aisle to find my seat, 36A, just behind the wing.
Row 36 on TC-JJY
A pillow decorated with Turkish Airlines' new branding scheme was placed on the seat along with a blanket and a pair of headphones, both of which were sanitized and wrapped in a shroud. When I opened the shroud containing the blanket, I was pleased to find a freshly laundered scent emanating from the blanket.
A perfect view of the wing from seat 36A
The seatback consisted of a crystal clear, 11.1" screen which contained a single-prong headphone jack and a USB port to charge devices. I had learned from my mistake on my China Airlines flight to Taipei in December of 2019, so I brought my old pair of Beats headphones and the corresponding cord to connect to the inflight entertainment system. Later in the flight, I decided to test out the quality of the over-ear headphones provided by the airline and I was surprised as to how full the sound quality was! Turkish had gone a step above by providing headphones that were of much better quality than that of the cheap earbuds that most airlines provide nowadays.
Directly underneath was a handheld remote control for use with the entertainment system (even though the screen was perfectly responsive to the touch). A coathook was also located to the left of the PTV. The tray table was located underneath the remote control and was the type that could be folded in half and could hold a snack or a drink without taking up too much space. The only flaw I noticed with this design was that when the table was completely unfolded, it created a sort of rise in the middle, which made the meal tray wobble when placed on the table. There were two instances when the tray wobbled precariously enough that it slid toward me just in time for me to catch it without all of the (delicious) contents falling on top of me!
At the very bottom was a footrest that, personally, I only found comfortable with certain seating positions, so most of the time it was tucked away in its stowed position. The armrest of the seat contained two buttons, one of which controlled the recline feature and the other controlled the lumbar support. These helped tremendously to aid with comfort during the flight. I especially found the lumbar support feature useful as I like to change seating positions throughout the flight and when activated, the lumbar support would contour to the shape of the body to allow for good support. The seat pitch was also sufficient and I found no issues with my comfort during the flight, although a taller person might find the seat pitch slightly restrictive.
Sufficient legroom along with the stowed footrest
The entire environment of the cabin carried the "Widen Your World" spirit which Turkish Airlines embodies. I particularly saw this in the welcome screens cycling through various images of the wonders of the airline's home, Istanbul.
Welcome on board!
Once the doors were closed, I breathed a sigh of relief as the seat next to me was empty! (Throughout the flight, I did have great conversations with the wonderful Greek lady that sat in the aisle seat in my row.) Pushback and engine start commenced, followed by a short taxi to runway 24L, from which we rocketed in the sky on the way to Istanbul!
Pushback and taxi to Runway 24L
A flight time of 12 hours and 11 minutes was announced by the crew, with the flight taking us over the Northern Rockies through Canada, where we would leave the North American continent and make subsequent landfall over Greenland then over Iceland. Upon leaving Iceland, landfall would be made again over Denmark, where we would traverse Eastern Europe for the rest of the duration of the flight, until we started descent just before the border between Bulgaria and Turkey.
Post-flight route of TK10, courtesy of flightradar24.com
Once the aircraft leveled off, the crew sprang into action with the service. Characteristic of Turkish Airlines, the crew did a first pass of the economy cabin and handed out well stocked and beautifully designed amenity kits (containing socks, slippers, eyeshades, earplugs, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and organic lip balm) and the menu for today's flight.
The amenity kit and menu (picture taken later into the flight)
Just prior to reaching Kalispell, Montana, the savory scent of dinner heating up started wafting through the cabin. Starting from the front of each mini-economy cabin, the flight attendants started distributing the meals along with drinks. I had no issues in receiving my choice of meal and a cheery flight attendant handed me my choice of the cod fish with a glass of Sprite to accompany the meal.
I enjoy any meal aboard an aircraft. Give me a cup of coffee and a pack of biscoff cookies on a Delta flight, and I will gladly enjoy that as part of the experience. Turkish Airlines elevates that experience through the quality of the food. Sitting on the tray was a very filling dinner, consisting of two starters, a main meal, dessert, and some bread to tie all the components of the meal together. The fried eggplant in tomato sauce and white cheese was a wonderful way to start the meal, with the creaminess of the cheese cutting the delightful acidity of the eggplant and tomato sauce. I was surprised to find out that the second starter was a chicken caesar salad, as the seasoned chicken complemented the uniquely flavored caesar dressing, all on a bed of wonderfully crunchy lettuce to form a different, but flavorful take on a classic salad. The texture and the flavors of the main meal did not disappoint as well, with the flakiness and the bounce of the cod pairing perfectly with the celeriac puree. I was amazed at how the carrots and zucchini that came with the fish still retained a slight crunch, owing to how fresh they were. The dessert, again, was no exception, and the smooth, vanilla cream filling went perfectly with the bite of the puff pastry exterior and the silky smooth chocolate sauce that blanketed the pastries. All in all, it was a delightful dinner service that could rival that of even some restaurants. My only regret? With a full bar service on the meal cart, I could have paired the main dish with a dry white wine… Oh well, on the next Turkish Airlines flight then… ;) Once all of the trays were collected, a hot drink run was conducted, to which I selected a nice cup of tea to round out the delicious meal. To my delight, the cabin crew passed by once more to hand a packet of peanuts and a bottle of water to every passenger to enjoy during the flight.
Aircraft location during dinner service
As expected, a delicious meal onboard Turkish Airlines!
A cup of tea to end the wonderful dinner service
A snack and a bottle of water as the last component of the dinner service
One of the main milestones of the flight passed, so I decided to explore the Planet entertainment system. The entertainment selection is vast, with a huge library of movies, TV shows, games, and more to choose from. I settled in for a guilty-pleasure Harry Potter marathon, sprinkled with some episodes of The Middle in between to break up the theme. However, what enchanted me the most about the Planet entertainment system was the customizability of the moving map display. From multiple views of the routes, to various information displays, and even displays showing the current state of the aircraft (I became so nostalgic to the days spent slogging through aerospace engineering in college when I realized that the pitch and roll diagram correctly reflected the right-hand rule from physics :'D), I spent a bulk of the flight fawning over this particular feature.
The full-route display option
The HUD style display option
The PFD style display option with a graphical depiction of the aircraft state
A closeup image of the really cool graphical aircraft state display
The mid-flight display option
From the beginning of the flight to around halfway the pleasant din of the GE90 engines would be shattered every couple of minutes with the screaming and crying of a toddler girl whose family sat two rows ahead of me. While, at first, the racket she caused resulted in passive-aggressive responses from fellow passengers (I was initially annoyed as well), it quickly became apparent that a long-haul flight may not be the most comfortable situation for a toddler who is just beginning to discover freedom in movement. In the end, it was quite resounding to see the toddler's mother, older sister, cabin crew, and some of the the surrounding passengers help to try to provide comfort and care in ways that they could. Soon enough, it will just become another story her mother can regale her with for when she is older! :)
Around the time we were passing Churchill, Canada, it was time to catch some shuteye after an eventful day. Armed with the ear plugs, eyeshades, and the blanket, I drifted off into a comfortable and sustained sleep.
Good night from over Churchill, Canada!
After a couple hours of sleep, I awoke just as we passed the eastern coast of Iceland to the call of nature and decided to pay a visit to the lavatory. Most passengers were asleep, so the lavatories at the rear of the aircraft were vacant. The inside of the lavatory was maintained neatly and the surfaces seemed like they had been cleaned recently. A nice detail about the design of the lavatory was that there was no need to touch the faucet since it was operated using a sensor. Placed right next to the sink were a bottle of lotion and a bottle of a similarly scented perfume, which passengers could use to freshen up during the flight. I appreciated the small touch of having the scent which went a long way in allowing me to feel fresh throughout the flight.
An overview of the basin and the amenities provided to even economy class passengers to help feel fresh throughout the flight
On the way back to my seat, I stopped by the galley to pick up a sandwich and a muffin to fuel the rest of my movie marathon back at my seat. It was wonderful to have one of the flight attendants actively spring up from her seat and hand me the snacks while smiling. Just to start a small conversation, I asked the flight attendant as to how long of a turnaround they had in Los Angeles from their previous flight. I honestly did a double take when she said the crew stayed in the Los Angeles area for only 24 hours before they had to work this flight. I found it amazing that they still had the energy to courteously care for the passengers even with such a short period to rest and to recover. After thanking them for their wonderful service, I made my way back to my seat, snacks in hand.
PSA: Be nice to your cabin crew! They perform their duties actively regardless of the amount of rest they received!
Back at my seat, I snacked on the sandwich and the muffin, both of which just hit the spot and satisfied my mini hunger pang.
Cucumber and cheese sandwich with a blueberry muffin
We were beginning to make landfall over Europe when passengers started waking up. As it was daylight outside, it was the perfect time to check out the ongoings outside the metal tube, a mere inches away from my own eyes. No sooner as I had opened my window did a massive, Boeing 747-8 freighter of AirBridgeCargo pass directly underneath our aircraft, presumably at the minimum vertical separation limit of 1,000 feet. I fumbled to reach my phone to take a picture, but the aircraft slipped below our own as fast as it had appeared. Definitely a sight I was fascinated to have witnessed! Other than that, evidence of other aircraft movements could be seen as the European skies were covered in contrails of planes that had just passed. Occasionally, other planes could be seen heading to their destinations, although none were as close to our aircraft as the 747 that had passed underneath. The skies above Europe transitioned from being covered in a thick layer of clouds to becoming clear, which made for interesting scenery throughout the rest of the flight.
…But always a beautiful landscape underneath!
Nearing 2 hours until the end of the flight, the familiar smell of food started wafting through the cabin, signaling that the breakfast service was just around the corner. The cabin crew made their way down the aisles to start serving the single choice of scrambled eggs. As was the trend through the flight, the meal was served with a smile in addition to the cup of hot coffee and the cup of refreshing orange juice I had asked for.
The tray was set before me and I unraveled the foil to uncover a dish of steaming scrambled eggs with fried potatoes, tomatoes, and mushrooms to accompany the main dish. Elements of a traditional, Turkish breakfast were also on the tray in the form of two types of cheese, a cucumber slice, and a marinated olive, which were a very fresh and flavorful way to start the meal. The scrambled egg portion of the main meal, however, left a little to be desired due to the high moisture in the eggs, although this is personal preference since I like my eggs cooked over-hard. The rest of the main dish hit the spot, with both taste and texture. A small bowl of fresh fruits rounded off the meal in a very satisfying way, as I sipped my coffee while watching the landscape unfurl beneath.
A nice way to start the day, even if we were going to reach Istanbul in 2 hours, where the local time was 4:30 PM!
Descent and Arrival
Around 30 minutes prior to arrival and just after the aircraft crossed the border from Bulgaria into Turkey, the cabin crew started making preparations to secure the cabin for arrival. Seatbacks were set to the upright position, tray tables were stowed and locked, armrests lowered, window shades pulled up, and my camera at the ready.
The entire descent happened in the early evening timeframe and the scene outside the window was bathed in a beautifully golden light.
After an aerial tour of part of the beautiful city of Istanbul, the landing gear was lowered and the flight crew conducted a smooth landing into the new Istanbul International Airport.
İstanbul'a hoş geldiniz!
Having been to the old Atatürk International Airport, the first thing that struck me about the new airport was the L O N G taxi time. It took at least 20 minutes for us to reach our assigned gate. However, the intricate taxi course provided a view of the stunning airport that is now the new home for Turkish Airlines.
The famed "tulip" design of the new control tower at Istanbul airport
The brakes were set as the plane nosed into its final position for this flight. The seatbelt sign was turned off and the cabin buzzed with action, as people got up to retrieve their baggage to exit the aircraft. With a "Teşekkür ederiz," to the amazing cabin crew, I retrieved my backpack and disembarked the aircraft, only to get to relive the Turkish Airlines experience in a few hours, this time with excited family at the end. Thank you for joining me on TK10 from Los Angeles to Istanbul. Stay tuned for flight TK720, with non-stop service from Istanbul to Mumbai!
The final position of the aircraft at the end of flight TK10
One last look at TC-JJY's cabin for the evening
Istanbul airport's awe-inspiring terminal
Just in case you did not know whose home this is!
Turkish Airlines has had a solid track record for meeting high expectations even in economy class. From the demeanor of the cabin crew and the soothing cabin environment to the variety of the IFE and the supreme quality of the Do&Co catered food, the flight was near perfect. It is always a joy to fly this airline and this flight was no exception. Teşekkür ederiz and I will see you on my next flight!