This report marks my first trip on TK back in March 2012. Compared to IB T4, T1 which is a darker and older terminal with lower ceilings that makes you want to leave as soon as you set foot in it. I walk up to the TK counter and the agent issues me my boarding pass, an invitation to the Cibeles lounge and a fast track pass to be used at IST immigrations.
The security line moved quickly and the staff were much more pleasant than at T4. I head up to the Cibeles lounge and upon entering I am reminded of a school cafeteria. Leave any notions of style behind because you won't find it here. This is a lounge that is more utilitarian in nature and it gets the job done. You can help yourself to drinks and some wrapped sandwiches, bags of snacks and olives. Some of the furniture seems slightly worn and when I used the men's toilet, the light by the urinals was broken and it was dark, which can be slightly uncomfortable or welcoming depending on your perspective. After sitting for 15 minutes I stocked up a few bottles of water in my bag and proceeded to the gate. Given the nature of my late arrival in IST and my precarious health condition, there is no way that my lips will touch the tap water in IST. The last thing I needed was to succumb to the sultan's revenge and I was going to take my precautions. Besides, a few credible publications state that the locals don't drink the tap water and suggest that travelers refrain from doing it as well.
Unfortunately I did not take any pictures of the VIP Cibeles lounge so these are courtesy of Aena airports website.
Excited at the prospect of flying a new airline, I take a picture of the plane parked at the gate and wait in anticipation for boarding to commence. A line starts forming as soon as the gate agent starts to talk on the microphone. Boarding is orderly and upon reaching the aircraft's door, the male purser greets me and wishes me a pleasant flight. The seats are in a 3x3 configuration covered in aquamarine leather with the middle one blocked and the tray down. A female crew brings a tray of drinks and I take a glass of water. There are a lot of Japanese passengers boarding and I suspect that they are connecting on a later flight to NRT. Later on I found out that my seat neighbor is connecting to PVG so it seems that TK is efficiently using IST as a hub to connect passengers between Asia and Europe. Throw in a free stopover in IST and you got a winning deal.
Once airborne, FA's sprang into action by offering a printed menu, hot towels and food trays from a cart. I was surprised that they did not start with a drink service with some sort of snack before the meal but it was not a big deal. I was presented with a hearty tray made up of 3 sides (vanilla profiterole covered in chocolate sauce, green beans in tomato sauce and cheese with olives) and a large appetizer of smoked aubergine with chicken slices. The presentation was very nice and the attendant offered a selection of warm breads to go along with the appetizer. I really enjoyed the delicious combination of smoked eggplant and chicken savoring every bite thoroughly. A few minutes later the purser asked for your choice of drink and brought it from the galley individually. I requested sour cherry juice and it was served with a bag of roasted hazelnuts. Once the appetizer plates were cleared, FA's offered the main dish from a cart along with more warm bread. I had the artichoke raviolis and it was a bit dry around the edges. The scattered pieces of artichokes and pine nuts on top provided an interesting texture to the dish but this was an average entree that did not measured up to the first appetizer course. When dinner was finished, the FA's rolled out a cart once again offering Turkish tea, coffee or liquors.
Assorted Turkish Appetizers
Marinated Green Beans
Please choose from our selection:
Mediterranean Prawns with Tomato Sauce sauteed leaf spinach/buttered rice
Home Made Artichoke Ravioli pan fried artichokes/cherry tomatoes/parmesan
Home Made Profiterole with Vanilla Cream/Chocolate Sauce
Oven Fresh Bread Selection
At the conclusion of the meal service, not much happened and the FA's were confined to the galley. Although the crew was polite and professional, they were not very soliciting and at one point I saw the purser taking a couple of water glasses to the passengers sitting in the back of the J cabin but he did offer them to those of us sitting in the front. Later during the flight, I rang the attendant button but it was not answered and I knew that there were 3 FA's in the galley. My seat neighbor rang the button again about a minute later and a FA finally stepped out of the galley and surveyed the cabin but did not stop by our row, so I had to flag her down to get her attention and request a glass of water. My neighbor also asked for another glass after mine was brought and the attendant complied quickly.
As an airline memorabilia collector, I asked the purser for any items with the logo of the carrier and he said that unfortunately there was nothing available. At the conclusion of the flight when I disembarked, he stopped me and gave me a logo pen from his shirt pocket saying that this is the only thing that he was able to give me. I appreciated his gift and thanked him profusely. Needless to say, the kind gesture left a positive lasting impression despite the uneven service experienced earlier.
Independent Sala VIP Cibeles
Madrid - MAD
Istanbul - ISL
TK is definitely an up and coming airline that tries hard to establish a quality image in the global stage. Its catering reputation is well deserved and this is perhaps one of its strongest points when compared against its competitors. As you read on previous reports, the Business CIP Lounge in IST is also quite an asset in its portfolio and sets a precedence for lounges everywhere. I personally felt that the weakest part of my experience was the inflight service provided by some crew members. Although the crew was polite, I think a more proactive customer service approach would have contributed to the overall flight experience. Having said that, I would gladly fly TK again in the future.
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