Turkish Airlines A319Back to Forum
Anonymous23 Oct 2014
This flight was the first of two on our return from Cyprus to London. We had been in Cyprus for a couple of weeks at our house making preparations to move there next year.
We arrived at Ercan at 14.45 for a 16.20 departure and parked our hire car in the place we were asked to. As we were getting out the man from the car hire company who we know arrived and insisted on helping us with our bags as far as the terminal fifty meters away. Screening of all bags and passengers takes place on entry to the terminal at Ercan and then there is further screening after check in on entry to the airside area. Our bags passed through the scanners without issue. I set off the scanner and was asked to stand to one side for a frisk. The security man offered me the option to move to a private area for the frisk but I was happy for it to go ahead where we were. I knew nothing would be found which he confirmed but of course all these scanners are programmed to pull people at random.
We made our way to Turkish Airlines check in where there was one desk open for business class and three for economy. We had not used on line check in but had reserved our seats when making the booking on all four sectors, Turkish Airlines do not charge for seat reservations. Our bags were tagged for LHR and transfer and priority stickers were attached. Boarding cards were issued and we were asked if we knew where to go next which we did. The lady who checked us in was helpful and friendly.
We made our way to the escalator up to departures, immediately at the top is security where our bags passed through the scanner and we passed through the arch and I set the scanner off again. Again the security man offered me the opportunity to go to a private room which I declined and he went over me with a wand which for whatever reason beeped around the middle of my lower back. He explained very politely and courteously that he would have to investigate this further and that he and a colleague would like to see me in a private room. I was quite happy to comply, I knew there was nothing there and there must be some sort of technical glitch. Once in the room I was asked to loosen the waist of my trousers and a thorough hand examination of the waistband was conducted courteously and efficiently. Nothing was found but for whatever reason when the wand was waved over my back it beeped again, he used a second wand and it too beeped. I was asked to loosen my shirt and pull it up and drop my trousers. The wand beeped again as he waved it over my lower back and again with the greatest consideration the man explained that he must investigate thoroughly and I told him to go ahead and do what he needed to do. With a further apology he did what he needed to do. Satisfied that there was nothing untoward and the beep was an abnormality there were further apologies for putting me through the check.
It was not what you want to happen passing through an airport but of course it can and how good or bad the experience is depends on the staff approach. It only took a couple of minutes and the two gentlemen I saw were professional and courteous in their approach and conduct and I could not complain in any way about my treatment, it was not stressful and since then I’ve laughed about it. I’ve been far more stressed by an LHR goon wanting to check my hand luggage on the basis of their attitude and behaviour. With the current conflict on the Turkish/Syrian border and with flights leaving for airports close to the conflict area I can understand why security is so thorough at Ercan presently. As we left the room another gentleman was waiting with two security staff to go in so I certainly wasn’t the only one pulled that afternoon.
I rejoined Mrs JH who was waiting and she laughed at my fate. We made our way through passport control where the immigration officers smiled and told us to come back to Cyprus soon and round the departures level. There is a very new lounge at Ercan and as yet there is no agreement with Turkish Airlines about the use of it. It is available at I believe €50 per person per visit. I’ve never been in an airline lounge that I have thought was worth that much except TPR in Singapore or the LH F Terminal at Frankfurt so we bought a couple of cups of coffee and found a comfortable place in Gloria Jeans Coffee Shop to wait. There were a couple of other departures scheduled with Pegasus and there was more than enough space for everyone who was waiting. There are a range of about five food and beverage outlets in the terminal which provides a good choice for passengers.
The inbound aircraft operating our flight was due to land at 15.20 but there was no information about the actual arrival time. A bit of a search around revealed that it had been an hour late leaving Istanbul. If that translated into an hour late leaving Ercan and arriving back in Istanbul an hour late we would miss our connection however with a bit of checking I learned that the expected arrival time was 15.50 and instead of an flying time of ninety five minutes the journey would be completed in sixty three, I don’t suppose it was fuel efficient!
Sure enough the inbound A319 landed at 15.48 and was on stand a couple of minutes later. We felt more optimistic and that our connection was secure especially on the basis of our outbound experience. The bags might not make it but on the return it didn’t really matter. We only had two this time and most of the things we had taken out were being left behind. Boarding was called at 16.05, our boarding cards were scanned, we were wished a pleasant flight and we made our way through the gate and there was a short walk to the aircraft steps.
At the top of the steps we took our last look around at Cyprus and were welcomed by the purser and as we made our way to our seats a second member of the crew came to ask if we needed any assistance. We were seated in row two and it was the new business class cabin. As soon as we were seated drinks from the usual range of orange juice, mint tea, water and another juice were offered; as usual we both chose the mint tea. The aircraft appeared to be almost full, there were two empty seats in business class and one in economy, the usual announcements about safe storage of bags and consideration for other passengers were playing. Boarding was completed at 16.20 and the doors were closed and cross checked almost immediately.
The crew passed through the cabin with newspapers, when there is boarding by an air bridge the newspapers are on the bridge but it’s always steps at Ercan so the newspapers are offered on board. Once passengers in business class had their choice the remainder were offered in economy class.
The captain made an announcement apologising for the late operation of the service and he explained that on taxi at Istanbul the original aircraft operating the service had shown a fault indicator light, he had thought it was probably false and in any event there were three back-up systems if there was a fault but he emphasised it was not within the culture of Turkish Airlines to take the slightest chance with safety so he had returned to the terminal and a substitute aircraft was arranged. Under those circumstances I was impressed that everything had been arranged so quickly and efficiently. The captain went on to explain that he expected to push back as soon as he finished speaking and that we would arrive on time in Istanbul.
Push back started at 16.25 which for a 16.20 departure could hardly be called late. As the engines kicked in the safety video was played, it is comprehensive with both speech and subtitles in Turkish and English, as it was in progress we taxied for runway 29, from the stand we were on it is a very short taxi to enter the runway and then a short back track to the turning circle and we were there inside a couple of minutes. The cabin crew made the usual safety checks of the cabin and took their seats just as the plane turned on to the 29 heading.
Take-off followed almost immediately and there was a steep climb out necessary because of the Besparmak Mountains to the north of the airport. The cabin crew were released to commence service but the captain advised that everyone else was to remain seated for so long as the seat belt sign was illuminated. The cabin crew moved to close the curtains at the back of business class and then hot towels and menus were handed out and drinks orders taken.
The starter was a roasted aubergine with feta cheese, the main was roast chicken on a bed of chargrilled courgettes with roasted peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. There was a cheese plate and a dessert of chocolate profiteroles. We both asked for water. Trays were brought by hand from the galley, the food was tasty and drinks were topped up promptly on request. By the time we finished eating we were in the descent towards Istanbul.
Soon after the trays were cleared the seatbelt signs came on and announcements were made asking people to fasten the belt, put the seat upright, stow the table and open the window shades. The crew moved around the cabin ensuring compliance and when they couldn’t see my seatbelt because I had a magazine open I was challenged.
The approach took us up the eastern side of the Bosporus and we had an excellent view of the city in the setting sun including the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia as well as a restaurant we had visited previously on the Bosporus shore before making a turn over the Black Sea and an approach to and landing on runway 23 at 17.45 ten minutes early. Braking was sharp and we pulled off the runway and taxied a short distance to a remote stand. Buses were waiting and steps were quickly in place. We thanked the cabin crew for excellent service and made our way down the steps the business class bus.
Within a couple of minutes with all the business class passengers aboard we made our way to the terminal. I understand that at Istanbul there are three different arrival areas for incoming passengers, I have experienced two of them. The first is for EU originating passengers and no additional screening takes place, the second is for international passengers and there is normal screening of hand luggage and passengers and although I’ve never seen it I have been told a third area exists for passengers inbound from the US where exceptionally thorough screening takes place. The bus dropped us at the second area and we made our way up the escalator to the security area. Given my experiences earlier in the day at Ercan I was expecting the worst so was pleasantly surprised when we both passed through without a hitch and we made our way up a second escalator to the main departures area for our flight to London.
This was an excellent service by Turkish Airlines. In spite of problems with the aircraft originally scheduled to operate the flight service recovery had been swift and there was no impact at all on our service and in fact we landed early. Service on board was excellent and the crew were helpful and friendly, attention to safety was apparent from the crew, I’ve never been challenged before about my seatbelt being fastened and the captain kept us all well informed of progress.23 Oct 2014