During the past decade, I’ve flown a dozen, if not more, airlines. But if you asked me to pick a favourite carrier, I would not hesitate to name Turkish Airlines. The reason is simple: they care. From check-in to baggage collection, the experience is seamless. The luxury of plush seats, gourmet meals, and the courteous service add up to bookend each trip with comfort and pleasure.
If glitches occur, and of course minor ones can, the alacrity with which they are attended to more than makes up for it.
I recently flew Turkish from Delhi to Vienna, with a stopover at Istanbul. Here’s my review of the experience:
Flight Schedule: Delhi-Istanbul-Vienna
TK 717 DELHI-ISTANBUL
Departure from Delhi: 0645 a.m.
Arrival in Istanbul: 1040 a.m.
TK 1885 ISTANBUL-VIENNA
Departure from Istanbul: 1200 pm
Arrival in Vienna: 1320 pm
My Tip on this Schedule: On the plus side, the change-planes-in-a-blink timings get you to Vienna fast and mid-afternoon. On the minus side, it does get a bit breathless, especially if your Delhi-Istanbul flight is even slightly late. My flight was on schedule, and yet I had only enough time to reach the boarding gates. And the wonderful CIP Lounge had to be given the miss, as well. I suggest taking TK 1887 (Departs Istanbul 17.05 pm) to keep things more relaxed.
At the Delhi Airport:
Check-in at the Business counter is a breeze, with brisk and friendly staff manning the counters. As you might know, the Immigration Form is now a quick affair, with just basic passport information to fill out. The officer stamped our passports with barely a glance and a nod, but I’d suggest keeping any invitation letters or other proof of reason for visit handy; sometimes they do ask you to produce them.
I’ve finally learned how to travel light, so my handbag glided by security in a minute, and lo, the gleaming Duty Free stores were before me. But It was 4.00 a.m., and I need my morning cuppa before anything else. So up the elevator and into the lounge I went.
Plaza Premium Lounge:
Level 4, International Departures, Terminal 3, Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi.
Breakfast had been laid out. Sandwiches, salads, egg, soup, juice…I poured myself a cappuccino and a nutty cookie. For the next hour, I just allowed myself to relax on the sofa.
If you like, you can enjoy a massage or a shower, read magazines and check your email–the lounge offers every comfort for every kind of traveller.
Airbus A 330-300.
After a large hot towel that instantly refreshes my skin, I am offered the airline’s signature Welcome Bite: Turkish Delight
It’s soft, lightly sweet and melts in the mouth like cotton candy. Don’t forget to buy a box of it at the delightful Aladdin’s-cave-like Old Bazar in the heart of Istanbul airport for your folks back home!
Welcome drink: Homemade Lemonade
I love this intensely tangy drink. It’s a Turkish Airlines special, and cannot be missed for the world!
On the Menu:
Potpourri of Turkish Mezze: hummus, roasted pepper, stuffed pepper in olive oil, tabbouleh
Medallion of Swordfish: braised beluga lentils, sauteed chateau potatoes, gazpacho sauce
Traditional Okra Stew: tomato sauce, rice pilaf
The Mezze is composed of ingredients so fresh you can taste the sweetness of peppers and the fruity burst of extra virgin olive oil. Each grain of the tabbouleh is infused with flavour. The platter is served with a variety of hot breads. My tip: go for the one studded with seeds. It’s the best!
Indian Vegetarian Choice
Pan-fried Aloo Gobi: chana paneer, plain and saffron basmati rice
Spiced Green Lentil: jalfraize vegetables, cumin basmati rice
Selection of Cheese
Mango Panna Cotta
Oven-fresh bread selection
Spirits: Blended Whisky, Bourbon Whisky, Gin, Vodka, Raki
Turkish and international wines
Beers: Carlsberg, Efes Pilsen
Liqueurs and Cognacs
Juices: freshly squeezed orange juice, tomato juice, homemade lemonade with fresh mint
Soft Drinks: Coca Cola, Cola Light, fizzy drink, mineral water, homemade ayran (similar to lassi)
Hot Drinks: tea, coffee, Turkish coffee, hot chocolate, masala tea
Of these, Turkish wine and Turkish coffee are always a good idea. My rule of thumb is to try local wherever I go.
I don’t know about you, but I love watching movies among the clouds! This time, I watched Bobby Jasoos. By the way, it’s a fun, feel-good film with Vidya Balan in top form. Next, I saw The Good Son, starring Macauley Culkin as a not-so-good son; in fact, a truly evil son to an unsuspecting family. Quite a creepy affair, with an edge-of-the-cliff climax! Turkish Airlines offers a super-generous choice of movies, and one is spoilt for choice! Blockbusters, action flicks, drama, Turkish films and world cinema–only on this leg, I was a bit surprised to see fewer Hindi movies on the menu.
The Istanbul-Vienna leg is just about 2 hours, so no movies this time, but we’re treated to a delicious lunch. I had forgotten to request a vegetarian meal, and was truly touched when the chef on board took special trouble to ensure I ate well.
Despite my assurance that I would manage well with just fruit and cheese, he insisted I eat properly, and got me yummy linguini in marinara sauce. In fact without exception, the crew on Turkish flights presents a cheerful, friendly countenance. They truly care about your comfort, going the extra mile to ensure you enjoy your meals and your flight.
The longest part of your flight is spent on the plane, and this is where your body craves deep relaxation. The best part about flying Turkish is the abundant legroom. The fixed ottoman lets you stretch out your feet and unwind. I like to play around with the seat control and adjust it to my comfort. Press the Massage button and your back is treated to gentle kneading while you recline. If you are longing for some shut-eye after your early check in, slide the screen back into its slot and push the button on your seat arm to recline into a fully horizontal bed. Curl up and catch up on sleep. It’s wonderful to wake up just before the plane begins its descent into Istanbul so you can freshen up with a steaming cup of coffee.
I cannot wait to take the skies with Turkish Airlines once again!