A very warm welcome back to my current series, dear Flight-Report community! In part 2 of this series, I'll be flying Turkish Airlines for the first time in a long while. I had previously only flown one trip on Turkish Airlines: a SOF-IST-IAH trip shortly after they launched their IST-IAH route back in 2013. While I don't remember much about the SOF-IST leg of that trip (it was a perfectly average flight in coach on an A319), I remember being blown away by the soft product I experienced in Business Class on the 777-300ER-operated flight to Houston. While I really wanted to fly with Turkish a lot after that experience, a good opportunity never arose until now. So I do hope you'll enjoy reading about the next two segments as much I enjoyed flying them, and let's dive in!
I originally booked a basic VIE-SOF-VIE roundtrip for 16,000 United Miles. Upon booking, my routing looked like this:
OS799 | Vienna - Sofia | Embraer 195 OS798 | Sofia - Vienna | Airbus A319
However, I got my vaccine dose, my dad (who I was travelling with for this journey) and I decided to celebrate the occasion by changing the return to a very exciting routing, which I'll now reveal:
Thanks to United's elimination of their award chart, this itinerary cost 6.5k Miles, exactly the same as the nonstop SOF-VIE flight. United now offers much cheap connecting awards, so I'll be sure to take advantage of those!
In addition to the cool routing and being able to fly Turkish Airlines again, this trip was also special for two other reasons: it would include my first flight on an Airbus A321neo, and also, sadly, my very last flight on an Austrian Dash 8, which are being retired next month.
the evening of departure
At around 7:20 PM, a taxi came to pick us up and drive us to the airport. The ride to Sofia Airport took us past some nice parts of the city…
…and some parts like that have definitely seen better days.
sofia airport (sof)
After a 13-minute ride, we pulled up to an absolutely deserted curbside.
Inside, the terminal was just as empty. Our flight to Istanbul would be the only flight left to depart…
Heading to the check-in desk to check my suitcase.
Dropping of my bag only took a moment, and then I was off to security. It was nice to admire SOF's resident TK Flight Attendant knowing that in just a few minutes I'd be flying on her lovely airline!
Security and passport control took a combined 3 minutes, and just like that I was airside. Like I said above, my flight was the only one for the evening…
…which once again meant a deserted terminal 😩
At least there was a nice sunset going on outside.
On the other side of the terminal, a glimpse at a rare bird: one of GullivAir's two A330-200s. For those of you unfamiliar with GullivAir, they are a new Bulgarian carrier that flies to leisure destinations from Sofia and Bucharest. I believe that they are also hoping to start flights to the US and Canada, though I highly doubt that those plans will work out. You can read more about them here.
vitosha aspire lounge sofia
After roaming the empty terminal, I headed to the lounge. While I lost my status after not flying for long, my dad still managed to re-qualify for United Premier Platinum status in 2020, which is one tier below Premier 1K. As Premier Platinum's are also Star Gold members, he was able to bring me into the lounge with him.
Not much going on in the lounge…
…but I still managed to grab a couple of sandwiches. I was expecting that Turkish would offer a snack onboard, but still ate in the lounge just in case I was wrong.
boarding + initial impressions
Just before boarding was announced, I headed to Gate A1, which seems to be Turkish's default gate at Sofia.
For some reason, a very nasty gate agent gave me a hard time for having a mobile boarding pass on my phone, but eventually let me through into the holding pen.
Looking through the window of the holding pen, I was able to catch a glimpse of a beautiful sky, and also of my aircraft. TC-JVZ, the 6000th Boeing 737NG ever built, would be flying me to Istanbul. Manufactured and delivered to Turkish Airlines in July 2016, the aircraft, named 'Beştepe', was 4.8-years old at the time of my flight.
Down the jetbridge.
Inside the jetbridge, a very polite flight attendant was standing with a tray of earbuds and a hygiene kit for everyone. Once I stepped onboard, I was greeted by a kind purser and made my way through the Business Class cabin. Not bad for intra-European flights! 😃
The Economy Class section was also pretty slick, especially with the jet black/red color combination.
At my seat, 19A.
Great legroom, too!
In the seatback pocket were an airsickness bag…
…as well as the safety instructions.
And the best feature of the cabin: PTVs!
Great selection of entertainment. You won't get bored on one of TK's longer 737 segments, and definitely not on the 55-minute SOF-IST flight 🙈
The screen itself was very responsive to touch, but could also be controlled with a controller below the tray table.
The seat also has an adjustable headrest, which I wouldn't need to use on this short flight.
Once I finished acquainting myself with the seat, I decided to check out the contents of the hygiene kit that I was handed at the door.
A mask and two antiseptic wipes. Props to TK for offering these kits!
I should note that while boarding music was playing, I was a little disappointed to find out that Turkish no longer plays this incredible song onboard:
turkish airlines 1030 - sofia to istanbul
With just 43 passengers on board, the boarding process was finished fairly quickly, and the Captain made his welcome announcement, informing us of a 55-minute flight time and cruising altitude of 23,000 feet. Then we pushed back.
Cabin lights while leaving the gate.
As we pushed, the safety video was played. I hadn't seen a safety video seen my MIA-MXP flight on AA in January 2020!
If anyone's interested, here's the video:
Beginning our taxi to Runway 09.
Just a faint blue light in the cabin as we made our way across the tarmac.
Passing Terminal 1, used exclusively by LCCs.
About to enter the runway.
departure from sofia
See you next month, Sofia!
Always great to have a map on such a short flight 😁
Just minutes after takeoff, the cabin lights were turned on, and the crew sprung into action.
To my disappointment, we were only offered a cup of water for the flight. Oh well, we are still at the tail end of a pandemic after all, and it's a short flight.
Cruising in a dark Bulgarian sky.
With such a short flight time, I only managed to watch one episode of the Big Bang Theory.
Some lights down below.
A look at the modern PSU.
Turkish logo on the headrest…
…and on the seatbelt buckle.
The only issue I found with the seat was the IFE box, but for small guys like me, it's not a problem.
arrival into istanbul
Just as we crossed into Turkish airspace, the captain announced that we had begun our descent into Istanbul.
The map during our descent.
Once I realized that we would be approaching from the south, I hopped across the aisle to 19F in hopes to get a good view of the city on approach.
Cabin from my new seat.
Looking towards the old Ataturk Airport, which you can see if you look closely.
Unfortunately, we didn't quite get as close to the Bosporus as I had hoped we would, so the views weren't amazing.
On short final.
Over the airport.
A very firm touchdown on Runway 35R at 10:23 PM, 32 minutes early, after a flight time of 53 minutes.
Cabin after arrival.
Pulling into our remote stand.
One last look at my seat for the tail-end of the flight.
I bid farewell to the crew and exited the aircraft from the rear, which was great as I could snap a couple of photos of the aircraft.
One last look at the 6000th B737NG. Thanks for the ride!
routing of tk1030
Nothing much to report here, we flew a fairly direct flight at 23,000ft and had a basic arrival into Istanbul without a holding pattern.
Thanks for joining me on this report, and if you'd like to read about the transit experience at Istanbul Airport and brief review of the Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Lounge, feel free to read the bonus below! If not, I hope you enjoyed this report, and I hope to see you in the next installment!
Bonus : Click here display hide
transiting at istanbul airport
The bus ride to the terminal was fairly long, but along the way we got some close up views of Turkish A330s…
…and a 787.
Luckily the bus was quite empty, so it was easy to maintain a distance from others.
The ride itself was pleasant enough, and we pulled up to the terminal around 7 minutes after leaving the aircraft.
I was immediately in awe with the architecture of the new airport 🤩
I headed down a long corridor towards the security check for international connections.
Thanks to the checkpoint being massive and the staff being wonderfully kind, I was airside again in a matter of seconds.
After an escalator ride, I found myself in the heart of the airport, and I was beaming. The departure board displayed flights to places all over the world, and the terminal was packed. It felt like the world is finally waking up!
It felt weird to experience a packed airport again!
turkish airlines miles&smiles lounge istanbul
After exploring the terminal for a bit, my dad and I headed to the Miles&Smiles Lounge in an attempt to find something to eat.
Suffice to say I was pretty excited to enter such an amazing lounge!
I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
As you can see, the lounge is truly remarkable. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the food options weren't quite as good as you would expect them to be, but I was still able to grab a satisfying-enough bite to eat.
Another downside to the lounge is that there are no tarmac views.
But apart from that, everything about the lounge is incredible. After a quick peek at the evenings departures, we headed to the Yotel for a very short night.
Vitosha Aspire Lounge - 2
Sofia - SOF
Istanbul - IST
I had very high expectations coming into to the experience, and Turkish just about knocked it out of the park in every aspect.
+ Very nice cabin + Stellar entertainment options + Friendly cabin crew + Fantastic Istanbul Airport experience - Rude staff in Sofia - No snack provided on board
I'd fly Turkish again in a heartbeat whenever the chance arises. I'd say that they are Europe's best airline.
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