Report No: 2020-701E
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to this very new post-COVID series and after 4 months, I am flying long-haul again and a new series is starting. As I would head to the USA, with the quarantine for passengers coming from and transiting at some countries I didn't have that many choices and my options were Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Emirates. When it comes to price, Emirates was the most expensive one so I directly eliminated that option.
When it came between Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways, at the time I bought the ticket, TK still hadn't adjusted their post-COVID schedule and the full pre-COVID schedule was available for sale and they were known for their last-minute ( T72-T108 ) cancellations and Qatar Airways was $500 cheaper than TK so I didn't hesitate and booked with QR. In addition, after I booked the ticket, QR started a status match challenge and I matched my Turkish Airlines Elite Plus status to Qatar Privilege Club Platinum.
The first leg of this series would be a flight onboard the Qatar Airways 777-300ER from Istanbul Airport to Doha Hamad Airport. In this report I would also cover the iGA Lounge in Istanbul.
Here is the routing
The following parts of this series would be revealed later on;
Loads for this flight
Business Class: %10-15
Economy Class: %30-35
There were 98 passengers onboard this flight
Normally I start my reports with online check-in but this time I would like to mention about the upgrade offers that I received. The first offer was $629 for IST-DOH and $749.
There was also a $165 discount if I upgraded both flights at the same time.
48 hours before departure, I checked if OLCI is available but it was not as for flights to the USA, online check-in opens 24 hours before the Doha-USA leg. At that time the upgrade offer was renewed.
Despite the upgrade offers being fluctuated all the time, I wouldn't take any offer as during these days flights are not overbooked and it's easy to get a free extra legroom seat in Economy.
24 hours before the Doha-USA leg, I tried to check-in online and I received the error that I would be considered as a no-show. Later on, I called the QR hotline and they told me that it should be a website error.
About 2 hours later, I was able to check-in successfully.
However a mobile boarding pass wasn't issued, I guess that this is related to the extra security measures for flights to the USA which is quite understandable.
And I kept my seats that were already selected.
The morning of my flight, I received the notification my gate number from the Istanbul Airport app,
A few hours later, I received the notification about the check-in counters dedicated for our flight.
And tracking the incoming flight
The first glimpse of IST before entering the airport
And the airport entrance
As the designated check-in counters for my flight was in check-in island B, I used door #1 which is the closest door to the check-in counters.
At the entrance, the security guards were checking tickets as only passengers are permitted inside the terminal. A thermal temperature screening is followed right after entering from the sliding door below.
The massive terminal in IST
Here are the check-in counters for QR which was empty at the time I visited.
After handing my bags to the agent and the agent checking my documents, I was all set. Also a reminder that the Turkish SHGM ( Civil Aviation Directorate ) does not allow cabin bags that could not fit under the seat and those bags should be checked-in at the counter. This only applies for flights to/from Turkey and not to be confused with other QR flights.
As July 15th, Democracy and National Unity day was coming, a car damaged by a coup soldier in July 15, 2016 was being demonstrated in IST.
And now, it's time to clear passport control and security. They were both like a breeze as there were multiple lanes open and there were no wait.
After passing security, you would realize that some of the stores are open and some of them are closed. This also apply for food outlets.
The Turkish Airlines Business Lounge is closed and the East Duty Free area is closed. As there are not many flights only the West Duty Free area and the A&B concourse is being used at the moment.
Although the Miles&Smiles Lounge is open
It's time to head up to the lounge
Floor markings are visible at escalators
The SkyTeam Lounge was closed.
But the iGA Lounge was open, Qatar Airways contracts the iGA Lounge in Istanbul Airport.
After a temperature check at the entrance I was admitted inside, the lounge was super empty and there were only 5-10 passengers inside the lounge.
The food bar had items that were packed in single-use boxes.
This included fruits, desserts, sandwiches, yogurt, and mezzes.
Hot meals were also available. Today's choices were chicken döner, yellow rice, and börek
There was also a soup available. Despite the signs that meals are served by an attendant, the buffet was 100% self-service.
The cutlery was plastic
Alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea, and soft drinks were available.
My selection for the day. Both the döner and the börek were both delicious.
And my dessert menu, the mini-muffins are for the flight
The food court visible from the lounge, some food outlets were open but the majority of them were closed.
The child zone in the lounge was also closed.
Same thing for the pool table and the bar
The lavatories were kept clean. Both a male and female attendant were present in the hallway and each cabin was being cleaned after single-use. Showers were also available for use but I didn't use them.
And it's time to head to the gate. While exiting the lounge, I've realized that the Istanbul Airport Museum would be opened soon in the mezzanine level across the iGA Lounge. The museum opened 3 days after my flight on 17 July 2020.
The mini-duty free stores at the concourses were kept closed, however, some food outlets were open. Also, there was a mini-exposition of July 15 when entering concourses A&B.
I've arrived at the gate 1h5min before scheduled departure time, as the flight wasn't full, there were enough seats in the waiting lounge.
A7-BAC would be the one taking me to Doha.
Another photo from the waiting lounge
Before boarding has started, the ground staff has distributed each passenger a face shield which is mandatory to wear on QR flight.
And our neighbor at the gate
At 17:50, 50 minutes before scheduled departure time boarding has started with the respect of the zone numbers. Priority boarding was only offered for Business Class passengers.
During the boarding process, there were some passengers not observing social distancing measures, however, the majority of them did observe them. I've boarded with Zone 4.
After being by the crew at the aircraft door and seeing these wonderful QSuites, I've headed to my seat.
A cabin crew member greeted me at my seat and helped me to stow my items to the overhead lockers.
As I was seated in the bulkhead row, the legroom is extremely generous.
A few minutes later than I boarded, boarding was completed and doors were closed. At that time the cabin supervisor came to me and introduced herself, she asked me to call her whenever I need something.
A Turkish Airlines A321-200 was our neighbor.
Before starting our pushback, the cabin crew handed refreshing towels and a hygiene amenity kit.
The hygiene amenity kit had a replacement mask, gloves, and a mini hand sanitizer.
Headsets were also distributed
At that time we started our push back.
The terminal is filled up with TK aircraft
And more of them
The 17/35 runway sets are closed so we are heading to the 16/34 runway sets.
And some more
And a 8Q A320, Onurair and Turkish Airlines are the only two carriers that operate domestic flights from IST at the moment
Some more TK aircraft
And finally, we have arrived on runway 34L.
The magnificent tower of IST
Getting ready for takeoff
And we're in the air
An apron that has TK and 8Q aircraft that were grounded because of COVID.
After takeoff, interestingly we have turned left rather than right
Beylikdüzü and Büyükçekmece area
Bayrampaşa and Esenler areas
The Golden Horn
Ataşehir district and the construction of the new Finance Center
After the seatbelt signs have been turned off, I've opened the IFE screen but it was not working.
I tried the one in 16J but the moving map was not working
At that time videos related to the charity program and onboard Wi-Fi were screened.
After these videos, I have called the cabin crew and they have successfully reset the IFE system in my row and the problem was solved. Then I decided to watch a movie for this flight.
And shortly, the meal service has started. There were no printed menus available but the options were chicken, beef, and pasta. The meals were served with a starter, a dessert, a bottle of water, and bread. For a drink, I've opted for a mango juice.
Despite the food being cooked and prepared in Qatar, it was delicious and one of the best aircraft meals that I have ever had.
Penne Pasta, Tomato Salsa Sauce
Cheddar Cheese Grated, Green Peas, Parsley
At that time, the view from the window
Shortly later, after finishing my meal, I've opted for a coffee with Bailey's which was promptly served.
Flying over Southeastern Turkey
While watching a movie, the cabin crew came to my seat and offered me pretzels as a movie snack. This was a nice gesture from them and I didn't decline this offer.
Flying over Iran
After my movie has finished, I decided to use the complimentary 30 minute Wi-Fi plan
The paid version is $10 for the entire flight, which isn't that bad.
Unfortunately, Qatar Airways does not offer free unlimited Wi-Fi for their elite customers but as most airlines need extra revenue at the moment, this is understandable.
Flight-Report.com had opened perfectly.
And a shot from Flightradar24
Before we arrived at DOH, I decided to visit one of the lavatories, it was kept clean.
After heading to my seat, the cabin supervisor came one more time and asked if I enjoyed the flight. Both she and the other cabin attendant that helped my area did a perfect job that day and they were above my expectations.
And we've landed at DOH far ahead of schedule.
The cargo hangar
And within two minutes, we parked at remote stand E17. The reason why we've parked at a remote stand was that the aircraft's next flight was a cargo-only flight to Singapore.
After the seatbelt signs have been turned off, we have waited 5 minutes for the buses to arrive. First Business Class passengers left the aircraft, which was followed by Economy Class passengers.
At the bottom of the stairs, an Al Maha stewardess greeted me by a name board and asked me to board the regular Economy Class bus.
After the first bus was filled %50, we've headed to the transfer security area. The Al Maha hostess has escorted me towards a dedicated lane and I was in the airside of Hamad Airport.
The journey would continue in the next report.
Hope to see all you there.
Thanks for reading and stay in touch with Flight-Report for my upcoming reports.
This was my first international trip after COVID and I was really amazed that Qatar Airways maintained a close-to-normal service and their service was excellent. The journey at IST was smooth and nice with the checkpoints and the counters being almost empty. Shops were also empty, however, almost no sale was going on in most outlets except the duty-free store. The iGA Lounge seemed much better than the current TK Lounge offerings as there were hot meals, tea/coffee, and alcohol available. The seating at the lounge was comfortable, however, I would also like to tell you that the children's area, the pool table, and the bar area was closed due to COVID. The boarding process was smooth and zone boarding was exactly followed. Priority boarding for passengers requiring assistance and Business Class passengers were available, however, not for elites seating in Economy Class. During the current circumstances, this is understandable. Once I stepped into the aircraft, I was greeted by a cabin crew member at my seat. The seat was comfortable and the bulkhead row had enormous legroom. That day I was going to enjoy the entire block of seats. After boarding was completed, the cabin supervisor introduced herself and asked me if I need anything. After takeoff, I have realized that my IFE screen was malfunctioning and I notified the cabin crew; the crew has rebooted the system immediately and they apologized for the issue which was solved within 2 minutes. The meal service was done about 30-45 minutes after our takeoff, the tray was similar to what I've received pre-COVID, however, no menu cards were distributed, the bread was packaged and butter was available on request. Otherwise, the tray was similar to pre-COVID and the meals were delicious. After the meal service, tea/coffee service was offered, plus until while enjoying my movie the crew offered me pretzels and drinks which made the flight more enjoyable. The Wi-Fi was also working perfectly and the $10 price for a full flight and the 30-minute free package was a generous offer from QR, however, in this case, I really enjoy TK's free Wi-Fi for their elites, but this is also acceptable. Also during my visit to the lavatory, it was clean and while I left the lavatory, the cabin crew offered me a hand sanitizer which was also a nice gesture. Before landing, the cabin crew came and thanked me for choosing QR and asked if I was satisfied with the flight. After landing in Doha, we have arrived at a remote stand and I was greeted by an Al Maha stewardess at the stairs, however, with a private welcome, it was strange that I was asked to board the regular Economy Class bus to the terminal. Although social distancing was observed in the bus with reduced capacity.
(+) Efficient check-in process
(+) Passport control and security wait times
(+) Zone numbers respected during boarding
(+) Hot food and beverage options
(+) Comfortable seating areas
(+) Comfortable seats and decent legroom in the bulkhead row
(+) Delicious meals
(+) Amazing crew
(+) Free Wi-Fi for 30 minutes
(+) Lavatories were kept clean throughout the flight
(-) IFE screen issues
(+) Free Al Maha greeting at the aircraft door for QRPC Platinum members
(-) Passengers who even purchase an Al Maha package would have ended up boarding the regular Economy bus to the terminal