Turkish Airlines B737-900ERBack to Forum
Anonymous21 May 2015
Flight TK 965 Ercan – Istanbul
I have found since Mrs JH and I moved to Cyprus earlier this year it is possible provided everything works to leave home at 03.00 and be in London at 09.05 if I fly to Gatwick or 10.05 at Heathrow meaning getting to a meeting for 11.00 is easy when everything works and sometimes I return the same day. Fortunately on every occasion I’ve made the journey it has worked out very well so while this report is of one journey it’s one I’ve now made about a dozen times. As it involves four flight sectors the report will be in four parts. It is a very long day but I prefer it to staying away over night when I can. If I was to travel down to Larnaca and use the services of Aegean then the earliest possible arrival in London is 11.15 so Turkish hold a definite advantage, that is demonstrated in so far as there are often people who live in the south of the island on the first service doing something the Greek Cypriot Government state is illegal and leaving the island through Ercan though in practice they turn a ‘blind eye’ to it for EU citizens.
I arrived at Ercan at 03.35 for the 04.20 departure of flight TK 965 to Istanbul. I had printed my boarding passes for all four sectors of what was my day trip to London so with only my laptop bag I did not need to pause at check in but as I passed by I noted there were four desks open for economy and one for business class with no queues at any of them. Desks were also open for Pegasus and Atlas Jet who have early departures but none quite so early as Turkish. I made my way up the escalator to security and passed through without incident. As ever the security staff were pleasant and thorough. From there I went to passport control where I recognised the man who stamped me out and he told me not to stay away too long, I told him I would be back later and he laughed and said that was good.
There is no lounge access for Turkish passengers at Ercan though there is a lounge. I understand the discussions about use are going on but the issue is the rate payable. As the lounge charges €50 for entry and doesn’t want to compromise Turkish are not willing to pay and I don’t blame them, it looks OK but rather like a goldfish bowl open to the rest of the terminal on three sides with glass partitions which are only partially curtained. I doubt entry is worth €50 and I certainly wouldn’t choose to pay it.
It was by now 03.50 so I made my way down to the departures level and as I got there I saw the staff take up their positions at gate four which was the designated departure gate. The numbers present suggested the service would be busy this morning which is usual. There was already a significant queue at the economy side of the gate which I was able to by-pass by going to the business side.
The economy queue was being combed for excess hand luggage, Turkish allow one piece in economy and two in business and on every occasion I have flown I have seen it enforced both at Istanbul and at out stations. A number of bags were taken and tagged for the hold with travellers offered the option of not travelling if they didn’t like it. There is also an eight kilogram weight limit per piece which is less thoroughly enforced but certainly anything a passenger appears to be finding heavy will be weighed and if found to be over put in the hold.
As I got to the desk an announcement was made inviting passengers in business class and Star Alliance Gold Card holders to come forward for boarding. My boarding pass was scanned and I was wished a pleasant flight and I made my way outside for the short walk to the aircraft. Bag loading was in the final stages and one of the holds was already closed and the fuel truck was pulling away. It always amuses me that at the bottom of the steps is always a big sign with the aircraft destination showing, I suppose there is a possibility of someone boarding the wrong aircraft but it’s unlikely. Steps were at the front and rear entrances. I made my way up the steps and was greeted at the top by the purser and one of the cabin crew. The aircraft operating the early service varies day by day and this morning it was operated by a 737-900, it was a new experience for me and on boarding it smelled factory fresh.
Business class was configured with the Turkish short haul product of two by two seating set at a forty five inch pitch. The seats are upholstered in blue leather with red head rest covers and each has IFE in addition to the overhead screens. A member of the cabin crew was at my side almost immediately offering me help putting my bag and jacket away. The standard Turkish boarding announcement about storing bags safely, not blocking the aisles or exits and showing consideration for others was playing.
I took my seat and was almost immediately offered a choice of mint tea, orange juice, apple juice or water. I chose the mint tea which I always enjoy. One of the crew came to ask me if I would like breakfast this morning or did I want to go back to sleep and this morning I said I wanted to go back to sleep and I asked him to wake me with a cup of coffee twenty minutes before landing in Istanbul which he promised he would.
Boarding was completed swiftly and the low volume of hand luggage does make a difference to the speed and efficiency. Newspapers were offered from a trolley which is usual at Ercan where there are no air bridges, in the latter case they are always on the jetty. The doors were closed and the steps removed at 04.10 and the pilot made his introductory announcement giving departure information and about the route stating that he expected to arrive in Istanbul early at 05.35, the scheduled arrival time is 05.55. There were two empty seats in business class one of which was next to me and economy class was full. As soon as the pilot finished speaking the purser said he would be playing the safety video and asked for attention. As it started push back commenced and the engines came to life. In relative terms it was quiet compared to the 738s I have been on recently but nothing like as quiet as an A380 or A340.
As the safety video played in both Turkish and English the cabin crew pointed out the exits and then made the usual pre-departure safety checks. We taxied for runway 29 for a northerly departure which is the norm given the prevailing winds. We were very quickly at the turning circle where we turned without pause and the take-off roll commenced. You could feel the power of the lift as we climbed steeply away, necessary because of the mountains to the north of the airport. Again, the lesser noise of the 739 compared to the 738 was noticeable.
Once the climb was established the captain advised that the crew may leave their seats but that everyone else was to remain seated as long as the seat belt sign was illuminated. The crew moved quickly to close the curtain at the rear of the business cabin and then hot towels and breakfast menus were offered. I reclined my seat and dozed off to sleep. I could smell the breakfast as I fell asleep, the usual offering is a fruit plate accompanied by a hot dish which is often an omelette or other egg dish with usual accompaniments. There is also usually a cheese plate with tomatoes and olives offered alongside plenty of hot bread and plentiful supplies of juice, tea and coffee.
The seat was comfortable and I slept soundly until woken by one of the stewards at 05.15, he had my coffee and a hot towel on a tray. He said there were still a few minutes in which I could eat if I wanted to but I declined. By now we were well into the descent and the seat belt sign was illuminated. The cabin crew cleared the cabin and made pre-landing checks. The pilot announced that there would be no delays with the approach and he expected to be on stand at 05.35. We made the usual approach to runway 05 over the Sea of Marmara. The landing was very smooth and followed by the usual hard braking and use of thrust reversers and we left the runway and taxied to a remote stand.
Steps were quickly in place and buses were at the bottom. I thanked the cabin crew and made my way down the stairs to the dedicated business class bus. Everyone was aboard inside a couple of minutes and we made our way to the international arrivals gate. Once there security screening of transfer passengers takes place. There was no queue and I passed through without a problem. The staff were courteous and polite.
This morning I was flying to Heathrow and the departure time of flight TK 1979 is 07.55 so I had two hours free. I made my way to the Turkish Airlines lounge which is open to business class passengers and Star Alliance Gold Card holders. It is an excellent facility, better than many airlines offer first class passengers with a huge range of food and drink options as well as other activities to keep people busy. I just wanted to catch up on some work and the wi-fi signal was excellent. I got done what I needed to and by the time I finished the gate number for my next flight was showing, it was about a ten minute walk from the lounge so I left there at 07.10 mindful as ever of the fifteen minute gate closure policy which is enforced without exception.
The options for travel between Ercan and Istanbul Ataturk are Turkish Airlines or Atlas Jet. The latter offer a business class product too with onward connection to Luton. Business class is configured three by three with the middle seat blocked and a pitch of thirty inches so similar to British Airways and not at all comparable to the Turkish product. There is also the option of Pegasus to Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen on the Asian side of the city with onward connections to Stansted. Pegasus follows a low cost but by what I have seen far from low fares model particularly at short notice so for me Turkish Airlines are the winner on this route.21 May 2015