Previously, I had just arrived from LX 2609 ORD-ZRH and enjoyed a rather lengthy queue at Swiss Border Control. The area looked rather spartan and dark while waiting at passport control, beyond that it is a bit lighter with an odd arrangement of luggage belts which many may have undergone refurbishment as the airport is updating the departure areas. I did not have to worry about picking up my suitcase as it would have been checked all the way to my next flight, IST.
IST and Istanbul had been on my list of places to visit, but not quite high on the list. I wanted to have a small sample last year, but the demonstrations at Taksim Square caused me to reconsider it since I would only be there for a couple of hours and did not want to get caught in the craziness trying to get back to the airport.
Because of the iffy connections to AKL via PVG I had on my original itinerary, I debated which countries I wanted to visit. At the same time, I found a great deal flying on SQ all the way to Australia and New Zealand, and New Zealand had been at the top of the list. The next two countries were South Africa and Turkey. I could not find good mileage redemption deals to either JNB or CPT, the only one I could find was trying UA’s IAH-LOS flight and then a 5hr layover in LOS before continuing on. I do wonder how many people have done that flight, but at the time, I did not want to try it.
My next option was to look for flights to IST. I had seen a couple of them; for the longest time I had been reserved on AC/TK IAH-YYZ-IST itinerary, until ultimately the UA/LX/TK IAH-ORD-ZRH-IST flight opened up. The benefit to this flight, I would arrive into IST much earlier in the day rather than in late afternoon. This earlier arrival definitely helped.
As I made my way through the baggage claim maze, I go through the green channel and end up airside to a sea of humanity arriving and departing. I see the entrance to the LX Arrivals Lounge at the arrivals floor. Because a group of travelers had been in front of the entrance, one of them saw me waiting and asked if I was going in. He rang the doorbell for me and they moved to the side to let me in. I thanked them before entering in to find an elevator to take me upstairs to the actual lounge.
Entrance into LX Arrivals Lounge from Level 0.
After I stepped off the elevator, I am welcomed by the lounge dragons. I hand them my ORD-ZRH boarding pass and asked if I could use the lounge. They scan my boarding pass and started a small conversation. During our brief chat, I asked about using their shower facilities and they said I could use it now or whenever I was ready. I decided to use it now and they handed me a key card with “ORD” on it and told me that I could go use the shower in the Chicago room. I laughed when I told them that I had just came from Chicago and they giggled too. I thank them and headed for a well-deserved shower.
My “ORD” card key.
Direction to the various shower rooms.
Zen water feature in the middle of a collection of rooms.
I’m back in Chicago!
Coming off the plane, ZRH was rather warm on this summer day. I had developed a good sweat from the “minimal” use of air conditioning, the crowds, and all the walking. I would enjoy this shower!
Shower and toilet
Sink with toiletries and towels
There was no limit given to the length of stay I could have had in the shower room, but I used it to give myself a good cool down. The layout of the shower room was adequately sized and furnished. I spent almost an hour feeling human again rather than a large sweat rag. Once changed, it was time to walk around the lounge and then enjoy a much bigger breakfast.
Bar area, magazine rack, Ricola, and Mövenpick Ice Cream.
This lounge had a similar feel to the ORD LH lounge. The dining area was rather large compared to the lounge chair area. My only critique about the dining area was I did not like the high tables and high chairs. Yet it was interesting to watch a British couple with one girl and one boy toddlers utilize hanging high chairs that I had never seen before. Also, the kids seem relaxed and enjoyed the cereal their mom had packed for them. Later a respective parent would bring one child with them and give them a relaxing bath. With these toddlers, the lounge felt nice and quaint and separated from the craziness of the morning commute. I do wonder if that craziness is due to the current construction going on among the landside areas.
Self-service hot foods of bacon, scrambled eggs, and roasted tomatoes with gruyere cheese.
I made a couple rounds to the hot food section. After most of the bacon had been consumed, the kitchen attendant put out some breakfast sausages, also delicious. I was surprised at the lack of yogurt and müsli options.
Espresso machine and cold dairy area
After enjoying a hearty breakfast, I walked around a bit to stretch out. A couple of passengers were coming in and out. A few were sitting around the quiet sitting area. The lounge had 2 rooms where people could either hold meetings or use their mobile phones to chat. Near the shower rooms, the lounge had a couple of chaise lounges in a relaxing, zen-like surrounding. This was definitely a nice way to recoup after a lengthy flight.
I am a fan of ice cream and like it when a lounge offers it to their customers. I remember during my last visit to Switzerland, we would enjoy various Mövenpick flavors, thus I was looking forward to enjoying the flavors offered on hand at the lounge. When I first tasted the vanilla, it had a slight off-taste to it. At first I thought the flavor clash was from the breakfast I had enjoyed. When I opened up the strawberry and chocolate, I realized my disappointment. I do not know if it is the little tubs, but they had a powdery aftertaste and not a smooth creaminess one would expect from delicious ice cream. To get over my disappointment, I had a few strips of bacon and I was happy!
Taking a break from eating, I moved my stuff to the lounge area as more people stopped by the lounge to load up on breakfast and then continue on with their journey. I checked out the computer stations and even filled out a survey for the lounge as well as the lounge at ORD. I asked the lounge attendant who checked me in if I could step outside a bit and then return to the lounge. She said that would be possible until 13:00 when the lounge closes, and if she is not there let her colleague know that I had been previously admitted. With that I waited in the lounge a bit until three hours before departure when the TK counters would open.
TK pdf boarding pass done at home
Entrance to TK Ticket Counter
Around 08:40, I stepped outside of the lounge in search of the TK check-in counters. I remember reading the TK counters are located at Check In Area 2. This area was just a few feet from the LX Arrivals Lounge. Because of the construction, this area looked like it was the darkest corner of the airport. The place had no natural light and felt a bit musty. While walking I just happened to run into the TK counter.
TK Ticket Counter
Since I was early, only two agents manned the TK counters, one for J/*G and another for internet check-in. I approached the female agent at the internet check-in and asked if I could check-in and check-in another bag. Betal was friendly and checked me in. She was able to confirm that my check-in from LX 2609 would now be connected and should be placed on that flight. I asked if 10F or 24F were still open. She confirmed 24F open and I took that seat. She then printed out a proper cardstock boarding pass with my new seat along with check-in my smaller hand-carry. She told me that I had plenty of time to enjoy the airport and to be at the gate an hour before departure. I thanked her and then took a stroll around the landside areas.
Entrance into Check-in Area 1, mainly Star Alliance/LH partners.
Digital FIDS in Check-In Area 1
After walking around, I head back to the Arrivals Lounge to relax just a bit longer. I enjoyed an interesting Swiss soft drink called Rivella, which contains milk whey. I actually liked the taste and could not notice it contained whey. It had more of an alpine taste similar to the Austrian Almdudler.
When I returned the British couple with the two toddlers had left, while a Chinese-American couple were waiting for their mother who had an issue with her baggage not making her UA flight. I guess the UA ground staff contacted the LX Arrivals Lounge and arranged for the family who currently live in the Zürich-area and the mom visiting her daughter who just had a newborn child to utilize the lounge.
Heading airside through Boarding Control
Around 09:30, I decided it was time to make my way airside. I spent as much time as I could in the lounge because I would not be able to as I would be traveling on Y on this segment. I did want to check out the shopping areas airside because they had updated the area since my last visit more than 10yrs ago. I like the idea they separate the area with a self-boarding type of entrance that is separated for premium and economy passengers. After scanning your boarding pass, it is immediately security. I picked a good time to go through security as I probably waited about 10minutes to get through. Like most international airports, I get dumped into the entrance of a large duty free shop. I checked out some of the things I would like and make a note of them, especially the chocolates, because I would be going through ZRH one more time on this trip.
“Iconic” Flughafen Zürich sign from inside.
In the direction towards A-Gates
Two AB planes parked at B-Gates
I then decide to head back to the E-Gates for my TK flight to IST since IST is not part of Schengen. I take the people mover where the airport authority do a fine job giving passengers an interesting Swiss experience with yodeling and cowbells making noises. When we got to the E-Gates, it was time to go through Passport Control. This process was not as chaotic as the arrival process. I waited about 20minutes in the non-Swiss/EU line. I watched the SQ crew go through the “Staff/Crew” line. Many passengers in queue with me were taking the A380 flight back to SIN. Once through, it was an escalator ride up to the main boarding floor. I passed by E52, the SQ flight to ZRH on the A380.
SQ Boarding sign from E52
SQ A380 from E52
I could not get a decent view of Oman Air A330 parked at E46.
I walk around a bit before heading to my gate at one end of the building. There’s not much on offer at the gate, just a few kiosks. My gate I would say is a narrowbody gate, located a level below the main E gates. When I make it downstairs, I see a rather large crowd and confirmed that this would be a full flight, especially in Y.
Swissport agents preparing TK flight to IST
At 11:00 Betal gave a pre-boarding announcement in German, Turkish, and English. Since this would be the first time I would be flying TK, I did not know that they had instituted group boarding. I would be boarding with Group B. At the start of their announcement, people jumped out of their seats and started queuing up. Also it seemed like everyone had a child and would immediately require pre-boarding. Betal and staff had that look of “not this $#!+ again!” She tried her hardest to tell customers to take a seat as general boarding would not start for another five minutes, but the families would push and shove in a disorderly manner. This would translate to how people would react and disregard airline staff instruction.
Betal called for F, Miles & Smiles elite, and *G passengers to pre-board to the left-side. At once families pushed their way, while those who could pre-board could not make it among this raucous crowd. The one thing with the PA system, no one could understand what was being said because of either a poor PA system and probably the acoustics around the gate. Thus, if a family tried to board or if a random passenger tried to board, they would be turned away. Yet, they would block the entrance until a British F passenger got fed up and she pushed her way through the crowd. A few minutes later, Betal released the flood gates and allowed Group A to board. It seemed every Turkish person was in Group A. Me and a couple of fellow Americans just looked with amusement at how chaotic. One said this was ridiculous, and I just said Chinese and Indians act much worse.
Finally, they called for Group B and the agents opened up the right side to scan boarding passes. I gave my boarding pass to one of the agents and she tore and scanned my boarding pass while handing over the stub. I then went around the podium and into the jetway to board a new airline and prepare myself for a new destination.
Inside glass jetbridge
TK A321 to IST
LX A340 getting towed
About to step inside the plane welcomed by Purser and the Do&Co F Chef
I like stepping on board A321s as its still a rare plane to board in the US. I like them better than the usual 738s and 739s that are among the UA fleet. I was greeted “Ho'geldiniz” by the Purser and the today’s female chef who looked too small in her chef’s uniform. I turn right and am envious that there were still a couple of open seats available in F, but I had a pretty good seat in 24F.
My seat 24F
I get to my seat and see Y pretty much full while kids are running up and down the aisles while the boarding was still happening. To their credit, the FAs were trying to get them to return to their seats all done with a smile. They must be used to this and know how to handle Turkish kids and families. I get to my section and Duygu is at 24C welcoming me on board. I see my neighbors taking 24D and 24F. I show the guy in my seat my boarding pass and he moves to his seat in 24E. While it would have been hard to take pics and vids while across from the FA, 24A and 24F do not have windows, so I had nothing to stare out of and watch our approach into IST.
Boarding continues as we pass our scheduled departure time of 11:35. Not sure of the delay in departure, but I was not surprised of the delay of this flight and expected our arrival into IST to be delayed as well. As I watch boarding continue, I started getting rather sleepy and did not know how I would be able to keep my head up and alert at least to experience the departure and the flight.
By 12:00 ground staff had closed the main cabin door and the Purser called for FAs to prepare cabin for departure. If I remember correctly, 3FAs (Duy'u, Ne'liz, and a third), the Purser, and the Chef would be providing service for us today into IST. It was interesting to watch Duy'u arm 3L/R and did not know there was a large pin one had to remove.
Immediately after doors closed and safety video shown, we sat on the tarmac a bit. While we waited, Duy'u worked the area I was sitting. First, she handed out menus for a full meal service on this relatively short flight. After that she came back in the aisle to hand out lokum, also known as Turkish Delights. I had never had a Turkish Delight before and was intrigued how these tasted. It is a good thing they used pistachios because it is not among the types of nuts I am allergic to. But just in case as a seasoned traveler, I do have a trusty epi pen ready. As they were finishing up distributing the tasty lokum, the pilot called for them to take their seats for takeoff. All of a sudden, an old man gets out of his seat while the Purser and Duy'u yell at him to return to his seat. Duy'u gets out of her seat and shows him back to his seat and straps him in. I just shake my head and smile at her as she returns to sit in front of me. It was a short taxi to I believe Runway 28. All of a sudden, I fall asleep for about 30min to be awakened by the sound of the meal carts going down the aisles at the start of Lunch service.
TK trolley cart
While I misplaced the menu for the flight, I remember there was a chicken and a beef options and I chose the beef option. Duy'u provided drinks and the meal all from one cart. They ran out of the lemonade and cherry drink way before she go to our row. Actually, the whole plane ran out as Ne'liz and the chef kept on asking Duy'u and the Y class galley for anymore, but none seemed to have made it back to the front. Because Do&Co does the catering for TK, I had a bit of a high expectation on their food and it definitely did not disappoint. It ranked among the tastiest Y meals ever had, which include a couple of memorable Y meals on SQ. The beef melted in your mouth while the rice was nicely cooked. The cold green bean mezze was fresh and delicious despite looking a bit over-cooked and wilted. This just puts to shame the usual BOB UA offers on a similar flight length, and this was free! I splurged a bit and had a cola, though i was curious to how ayran, a Turkish yogurt drink, tasted. I actually do not remember if I touched the dessert because I was not sure if it had nuts.
After Lunch, it was just a little bit more than an hour till our arrival into IST. The plane had PTVs available at every seat, mine needed to be pulled out since I did not have a seat in front of me. Rather than check to see what was available, I reclined my seat back and passed out, catching myself snoring rather loudly at times, which happens when I get rather tired. I believe they did one more round of drinks, but I continued to snore away.
I probably slept a total of an hour until I heard the chimes signal final descent into IST. I was bummed that I did not have a window to peer out of, especially if we did a turn over the Bosphorous. The captain called for FAs to be seated, and then we glided into IST on a smooth landing that elicited clapping among my fellow Y passengers. Yet once we reached the end of the runway and made that first turn to the taxiway, we had to wait a couple of minutes till our gate was ready. I had hoped for a bus gate, instead we would deplane from Gate 202 that currently was occupied. No word from the captain, and passengers started to get out of their seats thinking we could deplane. Duy'u and Ne'liz could be heard yelling at passengers to take their seat, while the Purser did not make an announcement that we had not reached our gate and to return to their seats. The captain also did not make an annoucement, but kept on moving along the taxiway and then making a hard break where the elderly who could not sit down (which included the guy who got yelled out before we took off), had to hold on for dear life. At that time I did not feel sorry for them because they did not listen. They brought it on themselves to get hurt by not listening.
While people were anxious to rush onto the plane, they were hesitant to get off the plane. It took at least 20minutes from where I sat to finally get off because people who sat in the bag put their bags in the front and those in front could only put their bags in the back. To call it a clusterF* is putting it lightly. Finally off the plane, it was among the sea of humanity of arriving passengers trying to make it to the connections area or to passport control. I enjoyed the very long brisk walk to the Arrivals Hall. When I got to the main one, they turned us away because of the rather lengthy delay and directed us to another one a couple of meters away. It still ended being over an hour wait to get processed. I was prepared for this from reading many reports of the lengthy wait. They actually had every desk open for processing. The main problem during my visit, was the people jumping the queues as well as the multitudes of families being processed that would slow down the process. I joined the queue probably after a flight from Morocco had arrived. While in line, fellow Moroccans allowed their compatriots to jump ahead in the queue to join them so they could be processed sooner than having to wait in line.
I finally hand my stuff to the immigration officer and I guess I did not need my receipt for my Turkish visa since he pushed that back to me. I guess the good thing now is that you can apply for a visa directly from the official Turkish government website. Also if you totally forget, I did see at least 2 kiosks to apply for a visa on the long walk to immigration, but it is better safe to apply for the visa early than last minute as you do not know if those machines are working.
When I finish up at immigration, I head to baggage claim and they had not started releasing bags for my flight, so another 10min wait. I am surprised of the delay but I guess it works out as one never knows if someone picked up an extra suitcases or not. Good thing, they did not quite honor the priority tags and so my original check-in with priority tag came after the my small suitcase I checked in at ZRH without a priority tag. After that it was a quick walk and I was finally in a new city and country!
Current trip: IAH-ORD-ZRH-IST, courtesy of GCMaps.com
SWISS Arrival Lounge - A
Zurich - ZRH
Istanbul - ISL
While I had been wanting to try TK as well as visit IST, I had set my expectations low just because of the customer base. Yet, the passing out of lokum, menus, and Do&Co catering exceeded my expectations. In the end, I am intrigued to see how they are like on longhaul, particularly from IAH. Please stay tuned to my continued journey!
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