|Turkish Airlines lounge|
Part of the reason I chose to travel through Istanbul was to fly Turkish Airlines. I haven't flown with them and I'm always on the look-out for something new to fly with. Besides, Turkish Airlines won the 2012 World Airline Awards as the "Best Airline in Europe" (and 7th in the "Airline of the Year" category). After flying the short-haul segment from Athens, I'm all the more excited to try their long-haul service to Singapore.
Getting back to Ataturk International Airport from Sultan Ahmet station involved taking the tram (1.75 TL) to Zeytinburnu and transferring to the Metro (another 1.75 TL). Though it was already 8 PM, the tram was packed with locals heading back home. I squeezed myself in with my day pack in front of me. I can't imagine anyone wanting to use this when laden with big bags on those busy hours of the day. Some 45 minutes later, I made it to the airport.
Lounge - Since my onward boarding pass was already issued in Athens, all I needed to do was just show up for the flight. With 4 more hours to go, I went to the Turkish Airlines International CIP Lounge. Boy what a lounge! The design is so unusual, almost over-the-top, I'm thrilled spending a few hours there. It is vast with plenty of seating spread through different sections.
I headed straight for the showers to get rid of the day's grime and then had dinner from a wide selection of dishes and drinks. I ate so much and so well that I was so full even before I flew. It was a busy night but the food was kept replenished.
While there's a bank of Apple iMac computers for use, the free WiFi was fast enough for me to use my laptop. Later on, I decided to step out of the lounge and do some walking around the terminal. It's good the lounge has lockable lockers where one can store extra stuff while waiting for the flight.
Boarding - A few minutes before scheduled departure time at 1:00 AM, I walked the short distance from the lounge to my gate. However, due to the late arrival of the aircraft (an Airbus A330-300), the flight was delayed for almost an hour. No worries, at least, I had a carpeted floor to sit on.
Once the aircraft was ready, boarding commenced with a separate line for Economy and Business Class. At the door, I was met by the purser and a flight attendant, one of whom directed me to turn left. Business Class is configured in a 2-2-2 seating arrangement with a total of 22 seats. For a plane that was making a delayed turn-around, ground crew did a great job in cleaning the cabin.
|Waiting for a delayed flight|
|Business class cabin|
The Seat - I was assigned to 2A which is by the window. My seatmate was already sitting on 2B as I plunked down tired and sleepy. Thankfully, the seats turn into full lie-flat (as opposed to angled lie-flat seats in say Lufthansa & Philippine Airlines), extending to a full 75 inches when fully reclined. In front of me was an ottoman with a duvet, a large pillow & a pair of slippers while a large TV screen with AVOD is provided for inflight entertainment.
A flight attendant soon offered me a choice of drinks from a tray - I had champagne which made me all the more drowsy. Another flight attendant came offering really useful amenity kits after which another one handed out hot towels. Singapore immigration cards were soon distributed which I readily filled just so I can forget about it (but certainly not forget the "DEATH FOR DRUG TRAFFICKERS" warning).
Interestingly, Turkish Airlines has an onboard chef whose main responsibility is meal preparation. She came to me without even smiling distributing a rather large menu with an equally large selection. Breakfast had to be pre-ordered by checking off items on a form which the chef collected later after dinner.
|In-flight amenity kit from Crabtree & Evelyn|
The Flight - After a 45-minute delay, we were finally pushed out from the gate for our 12-hour journey to Singapore. The captain apologized via PA for the delay, hoping we could catch a good deal of tailwind, make up for the lost time and still arrive at 4:25 PM Singapore time .
About 20 minutes after we were airborne, flight attendants sprang into action. First they came distributing a selection of drinks and warm nuts at which time I began playing with the inflight entertainment. Besides movies, there's the usual slew of American TV shows, music and games to keep one from getting bored.
While I began watching a movie, the dinner cart rolled from the galley. Salad came first followed by soup. For main entree, I chose filet mignon which was very tender and pleasing, more so as I paired it with a robust red wine. For dessert, I had the seasonal fruit plate, rather disappointing as the pineapple was sour and mango overripe.
|Pre-dinner drink & nuts|
About 2 hours into the flight and after my second glass of champagne, I was just hammered that I pushed the button to turn the seat fully flat. Nothing beats a seat that gives you a sense of being on a bed. This one, just like those of Cathay and British Airways, proves it. The duvet was particularly comfy. If there was any consolation with the air turbulence over Afghanistan that evening, it did feel like someone was singing a mean lullaby while shaking my crib.
Breakfast was served 2 hours before arrival. Just as I had pre-ordered, my strawberry smoothie came along with omelet and some pastries. While it was good, it felt odd eating breakfast knowing it was actually about 3 PM in Singapore (and I was looking forward to dinner after arrival).
The Arrival - Due to headwinds and moderate turbulence we encountered, the plane really never made up for lost time. We touched down in Singapore just a few minutes past 5 PM and deplaned at Terminal 1 - still looking good after all these years! The famous efficiency of Singapore immigration meant a quick trip to the luggage carousel where my bag showed up within minutes.
What strikes me after passing through customs is how relatively quiet the arrivals area is - pretty much the opposite of the chaos one usually sees with other major airport terminals. After a long flight, this kind of tranquility is actually soothing, just the perfect way to arrive.