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Report No: 2021-306
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to this new series with Lufthansa on my way for another trip to the USA. In normal cases, I was supposed to fly with another airline on this trip, however, with the other airline providing me no options other than a full refund or a voucher, I have booked a ticket with Lufthansa which was the cheapest option for the dates I were intending to fly about 16-17 days before travel. Another option was to travel with Qatar Airways, although, they cancelled their overnight SAW-DOH flight which provided a really good connection to the morning bank of US departures so I'm glad that I didn't book them as I would have needed to leave Istanbul the evening before which wouldn't have worked with my plans for the previous day.
After a long story ( more to come ), this report would cover Lufthansa's post-COVID service onboard a flight from Istanbul to Frankfurt onboard the Airbus A321-200. I would also cover my visit to the Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Lounge in this Flight-Report.
Here is the routing for this series
Loads for this flight
Business Class: 75-80%
Economy Class: 60-65%
I was originally supposed to take this trip with British Airways & American Airlines and the trip was booked through American Airlines. As Turkey is banning arrivals from the UK, British Airways have cancelled their Istanbul flights until 17 May 2021, thus, my flight was cancelled. When I called American Airlines for rebooking, they initially told me that their rebook policy for flights are only to joint-venture partners and oneworld airlines. I initially asked them to be rebooked on QR, but after a 45 minute hold, the supervisors declined my request and told me that I would only be able to be rebooked on joint-venture partners. Unfortunately, none of American, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and Finnair flies to Istanbul so I had no choice other than to get a refund or a voucher so I could rebook for a future date. Although, American Airlines has done goodwill gestures to their own elites rebooking them to Turkish Airlines on EU legs so that they could accommodate them that policy doesn't apply for partner elites or the general public.
This ban imposed by the Turkish government regarding UK flights was lifted on late-April 2021, where two weeks later the UK government decided to red-list Turkey so British Airways isn't scheduled to operate flights to Turkey until 21 June 2021. This data was accurate when this report was published.
After booking my ticket on LH, I have bid-upgraded for the transatlantic leg and submitted a bid of $100 and was accepted 3 days before departure. For the short IST-FRA leg, I didn't inquired about a bid-upgrade thus the minimum bid from Economy to Business was something about $120.
Online check-in was available, however, a boarding pass could not be issued for this flight.
About 1h30mins before scheduled departure time I have arrived at IST by taxi.
I initially attempted to use the Turkish Airlines Priority Entrance, however, the attendant over there wasn't satisfied with my Turkish Airlines Elite Plus card and asked to see my ticket; as I was flying with Lufthansa, I was sent back to the regular entrance. In normal cases, tickets are not checked by the ground staff at that gate so I would consider this as a one-time occasion.
The regular entrance was crowded
And, I have waited 10 minutes to clear security at the regular entrance.
Here are the FIDS for the day.
The "istanbul" sign at the check-in hall.
As I arrived at the check-in desks 1h10mins before scheduled departure, only 3 desks were open but there was almost no wait. After my documents were checked and approved, I was all set and my boarding passes were handed.
My travel documents for both flights.
This time the fast-track lane was open and with the airport-operated fast track lane, I was inside the international airside area within 5 minutes.
I didn't have much time but I did head to the Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Lounge for a quick breakfast.
After registering my boarding pass at the desk ( which is required for partner airline flights ), I was welcomed into the Miles&Smiles Lounge.
The Miles&Smiles Lounge is open at this point, however, the services are pretty limited and the offerings are not wide like the pre-COVID era.
First example, the showers and the sleeping rooms are closed at this point.
And the main buffet is filled with individually pre-packaged snacks.
Rather than cakes, the dessert section has individually packaged şekerpares and revanis.
Here is my selection for the day. Also it's worth to mention that the omelette and gözleme stations remains closed due to the pandemic, however, hot lentil soup and cheese paninis ( that were previously offered in domestic flights in Y ) are offered and those are the only hot meal options for the moment.
The tea & coffee station is also open, although espresso specialities aren't served any more.
Another reminder that, in the meanwhile no alcohol is being served and cold drinks are limited to canned drinks, juices, sodas, milk, ayran and water.
After spending 10-15 minutes in the lounge, it was time to leave the lounge and head to the gate.
I don't know the logic, although Lufthansa always operates from gate D7 at Istanbul Airport.
Before entering the gate area, aviation security agents verify passports and visas one last time.
D-AISL is waiting at the gate. Surprisingly, it has been 3 days since this bird returned back to service after a long-term storage. Also, it was a surprise that in normal cases this route is operated by A320neo's or A321neo's while this time it was an A321ceo.
About 20-25 minutes before scheduled departure time, boarding has started with the respect of priorities and I was one of the first ones to board.
After being welcomed by the cabin crew and handed an hand sanitizing wipe, I have headed to my seat 8A for this flight. As usual, this aircraft was equipped with the Recaro NEK seats.
The legroom is not that bad. Also, it's notable that there are no written literature onboard. Previously, the Lufthansa Magazin and the Inflight Shopping catalogue was present in the literature folder, however, now it's limited to the safety card.
Here is the hand disinfection wipe provided during boarding.
Our neighbor was this Turkish 787-9
The overhead panel.
Also something interesting happened before departure, the crew asked to check boarding passes of passengers seated in row 7 and those passengers were actually booked in Economy Class, thus, this meant that the curtain moved a row forward so I wasn't seated in the first row of Economy Class any more. However, the middle seat next to mine ( 8B ) was empty throughout the flight.
A few minutes later than our scheduled departure time, we have started our push-back.
While we were taxiing, I had the chance to take a photo of the magnificent tower of Istanbul Airport.
After a short taxi, we have arrived at the runway and after some other aircraft has landed into the adjacent runway, it was our turn to take-off.
And, shortly, we were in the air
The terminal building of IST
After gaining altitude, we have made a sharp right turn as we were supposed to head towards the northwest.
Shortly after we have reached our cruising altitude, the service has begun with a bottle of water. Unfortunately, no other beverages were being offered in Economy Class while the Business Class cabin gets a full beverage service.
Same applies for the meals, on this flight, the meals were limited to a cold cheese sandwich and a Pick Up bar.
The sandwich wasn't bad in terms of taste and the Pick Up bar is one of my favorite German snacks so I wouldn't say the offerings were bad, however, it's ridiculous to see the COVID excuse eliminating hot meals on this route and serving a chocolate bar and a sandwich instead.
It's also notable that, if things go as planned, Lufthansa was planning to start their BoB service with the start of the S21 season, however, that didn't happen.
FlyNet was available on today's flight.
Although, there is no personal device entertainment on LH flights anymore, Wi-Fi is available with two options. The mail&surf option is €7 for the entire flight, while on the other hand, the stream option is €12.
A photo during our cruise in the air before I slept for about 1h30mins
After I woke up, I realized that this form was left to the middle seat for me. Although, Germany's COVID-19 quarantine restrictions did not apply to me as I was a passenger doing an airside transit.
Later on, I went to the lavatory which was clean at that time
When I returned back to my seat, the cabin crew had already started preparations for our descent into Frankfurt.
Shortly later, we have landed at FRA
The A380's are still there near the Lufthansa Technik hangar, I wish I will be able to fly them in the future but that doesn't seem highly likely.
Some other Lufthansa aircraft in remote stands
Some construction is going on at FRA
Qatar Airways & Air Canada 777-300ER's parked at Terminal 1B
Lufthansa A321 and Air India 787
And after a short taxi, we were going to park at gate B23 next to this Singapore Airlines A350.
Before the seatbelt signs have been turned off, the cabin crew has reminded that deboarding would be done by rows and asked people to listen to announcements. Although, there were some people who stood up when the signs were turned off, the cabin crew seated next to doors 2R and 3R for landing have kindly asked those passengers to remain seated and then the compliance rate was close to 100%. However, I am still not a fan of row by row deboarding as there is no sense as still passengers are not maintaining social distance during this process as well.
After entering the terminal, as usual, the German Bundespolizei made document checks to prevent asylum cases arriving from Turkey and shortly later I headed upstairs to the arrivals level.
This report has come to an end but the journey would continue in the next report.
Once again, thanks for reading and hope to see you in another report.
To conclude this report, I could tell that the experience in IST wasn't that best and waiting 10 minutes for entry security in the early morning with multiple lanes being open at that time wasn't the most pleasant start for the journey. Although check-in, passport control and security was smooth and I had time to have a small breakfast at the lounge. The variety in the lounge is great, although, it's sad to see that the hot food options are limited to a cheese panini and a soup in the early morning. It would be really nice to see the omelette and gözleme stations back operating. As usual in IST, the boarding started later than the scheduled time, however, priorities were being respected. The boarding process was quite fast and we were all set to go on our scheduled departure time. Yes, the seats are comfortable and the crew members were friendly, Lufthansa could have done a better job by improving the entertainment options as there are no power outlets and USB ports, plus no entertainment for free as the only entertainment provided by Lufthansa is the Wi-Fi service that you need to pay. Unfortunately, Lufthansa removed their personal device entertainment system a few years ago from their short-haul aircraft. I wouldn't comment on the meal too much as Lufthansa is now switching to a BoB concept and the free meal era is over. Upon arrival at FRA, it was nice to park at a jetbridge which mostly IST arrivals don't receive one and row by row deboarding was enforced by the crew.
So, Lufthansa was the most feasible way to fly to my final destination and I'm glad that they are still operating flights to IST, although, it's sad to see that hot meals are being converted to BoB, no more written literature onboard and a reduced service Turkish Airlines Lounge in IST. Although, if they continue to offer competitive prices, I might consider flying Lufthansa Y in the future as well.
(+) Priorities respected throughout boarding
(-) Entrance security wait time
TK Miles&Smiles Lounge
(+) Comfortable seating
(+) Friendly lounge staff
(-) Reduced food & beverage options
(-) Reduced amenities
(+) Comfortable seats and decent legroom
(+) Friendly crew
(+) Lavatories were kept clean throughout the flight
(+-) Wi-Fi being offered but no other entertainment option; no USB or power ports
(-) Simplified meal service with the excuse of COVID-19
Nothing special to mention