Turkish Airlines is one of the world’s top-ranked airlines in terms of service and size. Today, our contributing writer Omer Alamin writes about his experience flying one of their Airbus widebody aircraft from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to Turkish Airlines’ main hub in Istanbul. All photos by the author.
As a Saudia loyalist flying Turkish was my first experiences on a foreign airline, so I was keen on reporting my experience and my onwards journey to Vienna which I will cover in an upcoming installment. Foreign airlines depart from the Northern Terminal at Jeddah, while Saudia (plus its Skyteam partners Garuda Indonesia and Kenya Airways) use the southern terminal. While the southern terminal is relatively larger and has a number of amenities available pre and post-security, the foreign airlines’ counterpart was cramped with very limited facilities.
We arrived at the airport around 3:35 AM, just over three hours before departure. The terminal was brimming with passengers on regional flights to Africa and South Asia. The check-in process was painfully long and slow, passport control and security were not much better. Once airside, we learned that the flight would be delayed by about 40 minutes, which added to our frustration.
Once it was finally time for boarding, we hopped on the buses (as all gates at Jeddah are remote and do not have jet bridges) and were taken to our beautiful Airbus A330-200. Boarding was surprisingly quick and within a few minutes, we were set for departure. One thing I liked about the cabin was the brightly colored seating. The light blue and colorful headrests were certainly a change from the dark blue hues of Saudia.
I was very happy to be on a window seat for both flights of this journey as we had spectacular views of the continent when we were flying by. The legroom was decent, and once I was settled I immediately started fiddling with the IFE system. It was very responsive and had a great selection of movies for my enjoyment. I’ve made it a habit of reading the safety card of every new airline (and respective aircraft) I fly. Not only is it essential to familiarize yourself with the safety features of your flight, but reading the cards allows me to appreciate the design of them. Turkish Airlines certainly has a nicely designed pamphlet that entertained me throughout our taxi to the runway.
Soon enough we were cleared for takeoff and we powered down the runway. What I found amusing was that some (if not, most) of my travel party was already fast asleep. Fortunately for me, I was wide awake so I took the liberty of starting a movie to watch before the meal service. The IFE system kept me entertained until hunger began to dominate my brain — I skipped breakfast and had some snacks at the terminal that did not suffice, so I was patiently awaiting the meal service to start. After years of bearing with the same old chicken biryani at Saudia, I was excited to see what was on offer. Turkish Airlines is catered by a joint venture with DO&CO, which is consistently rated one of the best in-flight catering companies worldwide across all service classes. For reference, DO&CO also caters Austrian Airlines, another high rank holding airline in terms of onboard dining.
When the meal service finally began, I was disappointed at the lack of very appetizing options – no sweet option for breakfast! I was served a warm cheese sandwich and a baked spinach cheese dish with a side of pepper and some mushrooms. Also offered was water, a slice of chocolate cake, and a basic salad. On the side was a bread roll along with strawberry jam and butter. I also asked for some orange juice to drink. Despite the lack of a sweet offering, I munched up this meal. I do dislike baked foods (like lasagna) when they’re not fresh but the spinach dish was flavorful, the cheese sandwich was…a cheese sandwich. I don’t like mushrooms or peppers, so I didn’t touch those. The salad was too simple to complain about; it consisted of two cucumber slices, a slab of cheese, and some cherry tomatoes so there’s that. The chocolate cake was good. Overall, the meal was above average by taste, but in terms of selection, Turkish could’ve been a bit more creative as their reputation suggests.
As we approached Turkey we had some absolutely stunning views of the coast and the mountainous central region. The lumpy dispersed clouds allowed us to get a peek at the beautiful snow-capped mountain ranges and quaint towns in between. Despite the fact that the window was pretty dirty I managed to take in the beautiful scenery and snap a few pictures. Our landing in Istanbul was scenic and smooth but we also spent quite some time taxiing.
Overall, for a quick three and a half hour flight to Istanbul, Turkish was definitely a nice option, with comfortable seating and good in-flight meals. Check-in was possibly the most stressful portion of this, however, given the challenges with space at the Northern Terminal in Jeddah, I can only imagine that they would have a better experience set up at different airports. Unfortunately, our small transit window (to Vienna) coupled with our initial delay out of JED meant we had to hurry across IST after transit formalities. When we arrived at our gate it just about to close, so we managed to catch the next flight barely in time! Read about it soon!
Featured photo by Kivanc Ucan.