We were quite excited about flying with Turkish Airlines for the first time. Our expectations of the Turkish Airlines inflight experience were justifiably high, considering they were once the No.7 airline in the world (dropped to the No.18 position in 2019 – see The World’s Top 100 Airlines).
They would surely provide an inflight experience to savour and remember.
In fact, finding this particular flight – with such a highly recommended airline – was a major factor in determining our holiday itinerary.
The flight ticked all our boxes:
♦ Depart from Italy: Great excuse for a 2-night starter-break in Rome.
♦ Change planes in Turkey: 2-night stopover in Istanbul.
♦ 3 weeks in India, arriving/departing Mumbai.
♦ Return flight to Edinburgh: Final city break before heading home.
The cost for this diverse flight itinerary was just €457 per person.
However, our inflight experience with Turkish Airlines was somewhat under-whelming. Considering their position in the rankings, maybe our expectations were too high.
Our Turkish Airlines Inflight Experience
Our Turkish Airlines inflight experience started with our first flight from Rome to Turkey. This was a 2½ hours flight in a cramped Boeing 737. On take-off they announced that the inflight entertainment system would be out of order for the duration of the flight. During the flight they served an uninteresting meal on small trays with plastic utensils. And no miniature spirits – spirits were served from bottles.
All small issues, maybe, but we’ve had better experiences on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (No. 18 in the world in 2019), and certainly on Emirates.
At least we had a wide-bodied Boeing 777 for our 7-hour flights between Istanbul and Mumbai. However we were back on a small 737 for our 5-hour return flight from Istanbul to Edinburgh.
In-Transit in Istanbul
The transit between planes in Istanbul on our return was chaotic and stressful, with confusing directions and lots of frustrated passengers. We had a scheduled 2-hour transit between flights, but our inbound flight was delayed by 1½ hours.
On arrival in Istanbul, cabin passengers were literally pushing their way through to the exit door to try to reach their connections. Before leaving the plane, no information or assistance was given to transit passengers – who clearly feared they were about to miss their connecting flights.
It looked like they were about to refuse boarding us. Everyone else had boarded and the gate was now closed.
In the airport things only got worse. Once again there were no announcements or assistance offered to delayed transit passengers. On the departure board, I could see that our connecting flight out was due to leave on schedule. Following the confusing directions, we ended up being sent around in circles – through the same busy security check twice – before finally reaching our departure gate as it was about to close – the last few passengers were boarding.
At this point, the Turkish Airlines staff raised the ante further by holding us at the gate while they questioned our visas for entry to the United Kingdom. This isn’t required for holders of an Article 10 residence card, but the staff on the departure gate were ignorant of this. At one point, it looked like they were about to refuse boarding us. Everyone else had boarded and the gate was now closed.
After my insistence, and a telephone call to the UK, we were brusquely allowed to board.
It Wasn’t All Bad
There were a few nice touches with Turkish Airlines: A complimentary piece of Turkish Delight, the very palatable Turkish wine of which they are rightly proud, and their up-to-date entertainment system and range of inflight movies (when it was working).
Still, how on earth did Turkish Airlines get their stellar worldwide rating? It’s a mystery to us. Next time, we won’t be in quite such a hurry to book them.
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