So, got to Sarajevo airport in plenty of time. Check-in was absolutely painless, no line, and security and passport control were also painless. Less than 10 minutes after arriving, we were inside security and passport control and ready to see the lounge. It’s a common use lounge where they check your boarding pass, but it had free internet and drinks, so was more than adequate to pass the time. Nothing special, but good enough!
We didn’t spend any time in duty free, and soon it was time to board right on time.
Turkish flight 1024
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (SJJ) to Istanbul, Turkey (IST)
Depart 14:10, Arrive 17:05, Flight Time 1:55
Boeing 737-900 Registration TC-JYI, Manufactured 2012, Seat 3F
First shocker…unlike the flight to Sarajevo, this plane actually featured something close to international business class! Well, it was more like US domestic first with an extra foot or more of legroom, but still…very comfortable compared to what I expected, I was super impressed…and this was off to a good start!
I know…still nothing to be super excited about, but it held promise for the next segment to Bishkek. I was sure we wouldn’t be so lucky again, but in my experience flying Turkish has been a complete crapshoot, so who’s to say what was in store. Pre-departure drinks were a variety of fruit juices and lemonades:
It was completely tasty…proof that with a mint leaf and a small lemon slice you can make anything pretend to be fancy! I admit, I was trying to be all cutesy-artsy with these photos, and in the end actually ended up with a decent shot that showed not only the drink, but the decent amount of legroom. Win win!
While waiting to takeoff, I also found a good listing of Turkish’s fleet in the inflight magazine:
This gave me hope that my next flight on a 737-800 would actually have 45″ of legroom – a full foot nearly over what we had on the 737-700. Could it be that most of Turkish’s medium haul fleet was actually somewhat updated? A boy can dream….
Despite the flight time of under two hours, a full meal was served:
It was nothing fancy, but tasty enough, and at least comparable to what you’d get in the US. Wine was served in quarter bottle bottles, and although I had to ring the call button for it, a refill was no problem. That brings me to an interesting point. I don’t think I’ve ever used a call button before this flight. To me, it feels rude, and like calling a servant. In the past, if something wasn’t offered, I just did without. But, for some reason, on this flight…I decided for what I’d paid I was getting what I wanted so I went for it. This is a trend that continued for the rest of the trip.
Great views on the flight:
So, we landed in Hell. I mean Istanbul…same thing. I’m pretty sure I’ve stated before my dislike for this airport. It’s warm, humid, crowded, and I feel gross every time I transit it. It’s not helped by the nearly three hour immigration experience I had fighting a 747 full of pushy Ukrainians my last time here. Oh, and now there’s major construction that makes the bright airy Starbucks outside the Turkish Business Lounge disappear. Oh, the lounge…about that….best food ever, most crowded ever, no power. Argh! Ok, I’m done ranting…for now. The lounge does have SOME positives!
For starters, there’s lots of delicious little sweets, including this tasty thing drenched in honey:
Which goes especially nicely with the baklava!
…and just when I was getting cranky at not finding a power outlet (but obviously plenty of sweets and wine) around came a lounge waiter with a full cheese cart serving you at your seat. It was almost enough to make up for how crowded this lounge always is!
Ok, so I’m done being cranky. For food and drink, this is definitely the best business lounge anywhere. As far as being peaceful and productive for working…it might be right down there with the United Club at Dulles. Actually, it’s worse. So, I have very mixed feelings on it….best of the best, and worst of the worst. I guess that makes it average overall? Not really, however, because once something is so tainted, it just can’t recover…
We left the lounge 45 minutes before departure, and found our flight already boarding, with a huge line at the gate. Decided to play rude spoilt business class passenger, and just walk to the front of the line. Got lots of nasty comments, but the agents were completely fine with it. The line was for checking visas (which was a bit of a problem, since they weren’t familiar with the requirements for my passport), but we were allowed to board quickly.
Turkish flight 342
Istanbul, Turkey (IST) to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (FRU)
Depart 19:05, Arrive 03:15 next day, Flight Time 5:10
Boeing 737-800 Registration TC-JHT, Manufactured 2013, Seat 1B
Once boarded…good news! Plenty of legroom just like the last flight, which for a five hour flight was more than welcome! Plus, in the end, there were two empty seats, meaning my colleague and I could move seats and sit together even if it was in row one. Considering there were two passengers with severe body odour problems, this was a HUGE win.
Pre-departure drinks were the same as the previous flight, and the meal was served less than 15 minutes after takeoff. This crew wasted absolutely no time getting their work done so they could lounge around. You’ll notice the mini bottle of wine…yes, I used the call button, and there were a couple refills…I lost count. But, it was a five hour flight after all!
Other than that, nothing at all to say about the flight. Landed Bishkek right on time, and the surprising part was…only 15 people got off! The other 150+ continued on to Ulan Bator, the next stop. Rather shocking that so few got off…but it is what it is. Immigration was painless for me, with zero questions asked. My colleague, however, got grilled for 15-20 minutes in Russian…and I was forced to move on and not allowed to translate. Not a really efficient system if you ask me…but…
Anyways, luggage was unloaded in less than 5 minutes (there were only 15 passengers getting off after all) and soon it was out into the arrivals hall. We’d asked our hotel (the Hyatt) to send a driver, but he was a no-show, forcing us to get cash from an ATM and negotiate with the local taxi mafia. It was a tiny airport, but packed with locals awaiting the (apparently) 15 passengers to get off the flight.
The Hyatt had wanted an extortionate rate of like $50-60 if I remember, so when the local mafia started at $40 and quickly came down to $30 in my broken-4am-Russian we just took it. He was polite, helpful, and had a clean car…so what’s the worst that could happen? Fortunately, nothing, and by 5am I was finally asleep.
To be continued….in Bishkek!