Turkish's A330 fleet
There are 68 Airbus A330s in Turkish Airlines’ fleet. Of those, there are 10 Rolls Royce powered A330-300s, 20 General Electric GE CF6 equipped A330-300s, which have a configuration of 28 seats in Business, and 261 in Economy. There’s 7 more RR A330-300s with 40 in Business and 265 in Economy, and 3 RR A330-300s in a much more high density configuration.
TK31 would be operated by the long(er) range A330-200 aircraft, and it is almost clear as mud here: there’s 10 -200s with the Pratt & Whitney engines, 10 Rolls Rolls Royce equipped -200Fs, so they are freighters making it easy. That leaves us with 8 A330-200s with GE CF6 engines. 3 of them with 30 in Business & 190 in Economy. Sound familiar, team India? Yes, because TC-JIL/M/N are the ex VT-JWH/L/N. Jet Airways A330s. With the herringbone configuration on those in Business, it was fairly unlikely I’d get one of those A330s. Fun fact, two of the PW A330s (TC-LNA & LNB) were ex-Kingfisher Airlines, another Indian airline that went down….
Which leaves us with the last 5. the refurbished 5: TC-JNA/B/C/D/E: 18 seats in Business Class, and 250 in Economy. Of course, with this trip report being as late as it is, the information I share here will be a little dated: these refurbished A330s flew some of the longer missions: Atlanta, Bogota, Panama City, Bogota, Havana, Caracas among others. Some of these even being a long triangular routing. The A330-200s would fit perfectly for these missions, only for them to be changed to the B787-9, but more on that later.
THE SHEER SCALE OF TK'S OPERATIONS
Having explained Turkish’s position as a global airline (which they well and truly are!), I found out of a thread from December 2018 talking about biggest hubs for a single airline that month. Talking strictly about number of flights on average during a day, Istanbul Ataturk ranked an impressive 6th place with 444 Turkish Airlines departures during the day. In good company too - Turkish was the only Asian airline ranked in the top 10, with 8 of them being either AA/UA/DL and their super-hubs in North America, and Aeroflot's operations in Moscow. Heck, Emirates and their impressive fleet of only 777s and A380s was only 29th!
Anyway, back to the flight itself. There I was at Istanbul Ataturk Airport’s international arrivals/transfers zone. 1050 hours local time, 3hr15min to departure. A whole 1hr40min less than the inbound. A bit of a walk towards security, not without a bit of spotting, in the form of this lovely Azerbaijan 787!
Transit security was quick & efficient, no issues.
Up the escalator to departures! While IST did not assign gates up until within 1.5 hours (or 2 hours?) prior to departure, I knew I had to go to the ‘new’ eastern part of the terminal, where spotting opportunities would be better.
I started out with a visit to the smoke terrace. Yes, the views were there. Yes, there were all these wires in the way (and for good reason, I suppose…).
Staying away from the big crowded duty free areas, I headed east for some spotting. This was thankfully very empty. And warm, very warm.
Good to see TC-JJY again! She’d head to San Francisco as TK79.
Runway 5 was still being used for landings, so most all planes had to taxi past this part of the terminal. A decent places to set shop for about an hour :)
GE A330-200, RR A330-300
Haven't seen an Aeroflot narrow body, up until now..
More narrow bodies
Invest in Turkey special livery A330
Needs of living in the 21st century meant that an internet connection was much sought after. A small can of pringles & a bottle of water was the cost of acquiring the WiFI password, because the free WiFi did not work on phones. With the WhatsApps replied to, and Facebooks notifications checked, and the Snapstreaks sent, TK31 to Atlanta was assigned a gate! It was 1hr50min to departure.
Boarding pass for this one - SSSS!
It would be a bus-boarding departure for this one. Barring the one boarding, TK716 to New Delhi, everything was through coaches. I did not mind at all :)
With boarding time of 1305 hours, and having being hand picked for the SSSS extra-checks, I decided to waste no time and down to gate 504. My observations from the other USA departures from IST that day showed that pretty much all passengers on USA bound flights were subject to SSSS checks, regardless of what the boarding passes said.
1305 hours, boarding time. I joined the not-too-long line. Questions asked almost felt like it was the visa interview all over again. Did not appreciate how they assumed my visa was a fake just because it was issued in Colombo (Sri Lanka). Seriously?! Anyway, had to update APIS at another desk, where they were kinda rude about asking me for my address (they did not know where North Dakota was, too…). And of course, checking the bags and hands for bomb residue. Don't get me wrong, I completely understand the need for SSSS: then again, it was every passenger boarding the flight AND they were awfully cold about it. All of this took a solid 25 minutes, but hey just 35 to departure!
The line of intimidating questions await you!
All SSSS'd up!
Anyway, gate 504 had it’s own coach which was filled to the brim with passengers as they got screened at the gate. The proper sardine can (air)bus experience! Unfortunately I was on the wrong side of all the action, but that isn’t a surprise with my record anymore.
Did get to see some as we went across the ramp…
I did not get a picture when disembarking from TC-JOA after flying in from BOM, but there was a GE CF6 equipped A330-200, TC-JNE 'Kayseri', parked right beside. One of the five planes those would fly the ultra long haul flights. A quick search on flightrdar24 yielded that she flew in from Havana and Caracas as TK183, 0840 that morning. Being a ramp boarding, putting two and two together, I kinda figured it would be TC-JNE taking me to Atlanta. Ah well, TC-JNC would’ve been nice but then again, beggars can’t be choosers.
Pulled up beside the A330-200, named Kayseri. The 12.1 years old bird was delivered back in 2006 but had undergone refurbishment in mid-2017 to have the latest product, at least in economy. I took my time, savoring the sights, the sounds, and I suppose the smells of burned fuel too!
Always a fun time remote bay boarding :)
Onboard at 1342 hours, with just the one flight attendant showing the aisles.
I requested a seat towards the front for this one: a quick exit at Atlanta was priority, just to maximize rest when there. Seat 7K, by the GE CF6 engine. An Egyptian gentleman was seated in 7H. Passengers slowly boarded, in groups. The frisking followed by the single coach. It would be a full flight over to Atlanta.I checked out the IFE quick, same as on the B777-300ER from MIA to IST. In flight entertainment does make quite the difference on long flights such as this one.
I checked out the IFE quick, same as on the B777-300ER from MIA to IST. In flight entertainment does make quite the difference on long flights such as this one.
Turkish's only A321neo at the time
5 minutes to departure as the ground operations were winding up, the Captain came around giving information about this flight. It would be a smooth one, albeit 11hr45min long. This was quickly followed by the usual before departure welcome announcements by the crew. The Lego safety video, of course..
We pushed back a touch late, at 1416 hours: 11 minutes late. Both GE CF6 engines were brought to life just fine, following a bit of a wait we taxied to runway 35R.
The departure line wasn’t too long thankfully, but as always it was fun seeing several planes take off.
Tunis Air A330..
Another USA bound Turkish flight, a 777-300ER this
Departure & arrival
Lined up at 1436, and took to the skies just fine at 1437 hours before banking towards the north/northwest. A few small turns, if anything.
Etihad's blue A330
As the heavy A330 claimed up, I found the impressive New Istanbul Airport under construction, and ever so close ready to go! While operations started in late October 2018, all operations moved in April 2019, a monumental task that we have read about. Hoping the documentary is a good one.
Took a solid 25 minutes to get up to 34000 feet, the crew handed out the amenity kits which were a bit different than those handed out on the India sectors, and the same as MIA-IST. This was quickly followed by the menu cards - these were missing on the India sectors. Warm towels were offered, too.
Menu - looking good!
The little details go a long way
First round of service came in the form of drinks - 40 minutes in flight. I opted to try out raki for the first time, and it went pretty alright with TK’s lemonade. A pack of peanuts to go with it. I think I settled on finishing up I, Tonya from TK721 and then watching Avengers Infinity War.
Another window view - enjoying it while I can
Lunch started an hour later, 1hr40min in to the flight. Sitting towards the front, I was confident of getting my first choice, the Turkish style grilled minced beef. A fairly full meal tray with Eefes beer was placed in front of me.
To get started there was hummus & a fairly basic garden salad.
The main course contained beef, tuscany vegetables and buttered rice. This was absolutely delightful - beef was tender & just that little bit of a grilled taste, just the way I like it. While the rice & vegetables were a little on the rich side it was nothing overbearing, I liked it.
To end this all, there was a fantastic coffee mousse. Hmm, was this the best airplane meal I had just consumed in my life?! Possibly, quite possibly!
Fairly soon we were flying past the Swiss Alps, the crew were finishing up service by clearing trays: it was time to put all window shades down.
SO WHY NOT KICK THE BACK OF THE SEAT?!
I tried to fall asleep for the longest time, as I had initially planned on. Little did I know not catching some shut eye on TK721 would be a critical mistake. My old nemesis, kids kicking the back of the seat! The two siblings in 8H & 8K, not more than 10 years old - found it very convenient to kick the back of both my and the seat mate’s seat. No way we were going to get any form of sleep at all. Did not help that the parents were seated further behind them, so it was not worth getting up, telling them and hoping for the best… Hmmm, 9hr15min to go, but it would be forever, I guess. I spent my time listening to Bon Jovi (still not sure why I did that) and looked at the information section which had most of the gyroscopic instruments digitalized. Love it!
5 hours in to the flight, I decided to take my ‘free joker’ inconvinience-the-seat-mate card and headed for the lavatory. It was pretty well stocked and cleaned for the most part, no issues. A self service bar was set up for the folk sitting in the back. The usual juice, water, etc. A strange red + blue mood lighting was put on for this flight, but then again after having flown TK during this trip enough I knew mood lighting was going to be all over the place anyway! :D
Self service bar
Mood lighting set
While the window shades were down, it did look like most people were awake and watching movies or TV shows. I picked up a rather unimpressive sandwich from the galley for consumption later. This would be the only ‘bad’ part of the meal on the flight. The flight got uncomfortable thanks to the kids in the back, but they fell asleep about 7 or 8 hours in. Whew, only took them most of the flight! I watched a few more movies during this time.
Just over 9 hours in the welcome sign of lights being turned on in the cabin suggested they crew were preparing for service! Just under 3 hours to go. Started out with another hot towel, before carts were rolled up with dinner. There was just the one chicken option, but I appreciate this over just mac n cheese.
The meal started out with a shepherd’s salad with white cheese: this was much better than the salad in the first meal.
For the main course itself, it was chicken paprika with more buttered rice. This was very well done as well. And to finish off, banana nougat, I loved it. I had another beer to go with it. Overall, yet another fantastic meal on Turkish Airlines, and barring the one weird breakfast on TK721, I was more than happy with Do & Co’s catering. Well done!
While service was being completed and trays cleared, the seat mate dashed for the lavatory. I took this opportunity to freshen up as well, for who knows how long the queues in Atlanta would be. The last movie for this flight would be Pirates of the Caribbean.
Just under an hour to go!
Lines grew long for the lavatory, both in front & the back: we were closing in to Atlanta, and passengers I suppose were anxious to freshen up before arrival. Soon, the captain came over the PA to give us information about our arrival: it was exactly 1900 hours Eastern, we’d be there soon. Part cloudy skies, temperature 22C, and some light winds. No issues for the A330, or even a Piper Archer.
Came down pretty steadily, the crew prepared the cabin for arrival. Being the world’s busiest airport it was not long before I recognized planes coming in via the STARs, or departing with the SIDs. We lined up with Runway 26R as I saw downtown Atlanta in the distance.
Touched down at 1932 hours, after 11hr55min in flight and boy was I glad! There was the FedEx & UPS hub to the right of us, and the rest of the field to the left.
Turning off the runway, and there was Atlanta’s hometown airline: Delta, Delta everywhere! And in all shapes and sizes too: from the tiny (regional operated) CRJ-200s to the B767-400ERs, they were all there, lined up, like an army ready to go on a mission.
With Atlanta being as busy as it was it was no surprise that we had to hold short of Runway 26L: I spotted a Delta B737-700 for the first time at least :)
Once we were cleared to taxi across the runway, there were 3 other airplanes crossing. Ground had their work cut out, for sure! Steadily made our way to Concourse F with some more stops along the way.
We were to park at Gate F3 - it was at this point did the pilots retract the flaps: a little late?! Engines cut at 1946 hours - at the gate 15 minutes after touchdown, but 4 minutes before time.
Wasted no time during disembarkation to maximize rest: that, plus a brisk walk to immigration meant I was through the procedures fairly quickly. I was at baggage claim just 16 minutes after engines were turned off. Nice & efficient!
Baggage on the other hand, took solid 30 minutes, but that’s not surprising. Found a Lyft, and headed to the Bnb - where sleeping was quite an easy task! :D
Just a few more flights to go, and I would back in ND soon enough.
Just as I was going going to bed, catching up with social media showed me that Turkish Airlines had just announced the B787-9 to operate Atlanta! Well… with it’s 2-4-2 seating, it kinda makes the A330 a more comfortable airplane in coach, but economically speaking the 787-9 makes perfect sense to send to Atlanta.
And just like that, my experience with Turkish Airlines had come to an end. To be honest, it was some of the best flights I’ve had as far as things go within the airline’s control. For this flight itself, while it was a slightly older A330 they were at least refurbished up to industry standards. Food was just awesome, and the crew were warm. The kids behind me pretty much ruined what should’ve been a perfect flight, but again - not TK’s fault there.
Consistently across the board - TK impressed me with the soft product such as the crew & the amenity kit. Awesome stuff! The in flight entertainment system was fine on the India sectors, but pretty awesome on the USA sectors. For the most part, food was simply outstanding, barring TK721 of course. WiFi on the other hand was consistently bad. Suppose it is a good thing I didn't use wifi onboard, helped save that little bit of money AND it sure is refreshing to enjoy the very notion of flight for a day. I would rate Turkish high up there with the likes of SQ, EK & QR: the benchmark, arguably.
With the operational inefficiencies still apparent at the new airport, it was quite a contrast on the ground compared to the flights itself. It is this that makes me consider not flying Turkish Airlines again. Hopefully with time the issues are figured out, but 45 minute ground delays sounds a little ridiculous to be honest. With that, I was looking forward to a flight on some fairly old airplanes!