Nov 292013
 

After relaxing in the lounge in Frankfurt for a few hours, catching up on espresso and a shower, it was time to head to the next flight.  Nice ride to the plane in a Porsche Cayenne-S which gave the chance to drive by this fun plane:

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Got up to the plane, and the driver insisted on carrying my bags up the stairs, and stowing them in the overhead bin for me.  That was definitely a first.  I mean, a ride to the plane in a Porsche is way beyond expectations, but to have the driver handing your baggage as well, well, this one really went the extra mile.  When I boarded, I was the only one on the plane for over 15 minutes with the flight attendants.  I joked with them that I was ready to go, so could we take off already?  Wait, this isn’t a private jet?  Finally at departure time, the other passengers started to arrive…30 minutes later, we were finally boarded.

Lufthansa flight 1300
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Istanbul, Turkey (IST)
Depart 12:45, Arrive 16:40, Flight Time 2:55
Airbus A320-200 Registration D-AIZX, Manufactured 2013, Seat 5F

Due to the light snow and ice in Frankfurt, we were delayed around an hour waiting “due to a lack of de-icing trucks.”  About 1:30 late, we finally pulled back from the extremely remote stand, and were instantly first in line for departure.  I guess there are some advantages to remote parking spots.  So, what’s for lunch?

Hors d’oeuvre:  Breast of Duck with Waldoftr Salad, Green Bean Salad and Kumquat Chutney

Salad:  Mixed Leaf Salad with diced Mango and Pomegranate Seeds

Choice of Entrees:  (a) Tenderloin of Beef with creamy Mushrooms and Spinach Gnocchi or (b) Red Perch in light Curry Sauce, Wok-fried Vegetables and Basmati Rice

Dessert:  Chocolate Mousse Cube with Passion Fruit Sauce.

I tend to avoid seafood on planes like the plague (I watched Airplane one too many times as a kid, and I saw what happens when you have the fish) so I went with the beef.  I wasn’t really hungry at this point, so just nibbled and took a few bites of things before declaring defeat and going back to watching tv on the iPad.

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Not bad for a short flight, eh?  I remember the days when US Airlines used to care enough to spend $10 on first class catering.

The flight went by quickly, and we landed in Istanbul right at sunset.  Was great watching all the vibrant colours as we landed in a very windy and rainy Istanbul.  Now, I’m going to rant a bit.

See, I dislike Istanbul more than any other major airport in the world.  The Turks insist on keeping the temperature somewhere between 30 and 40C, and that combined with their visa policy of “the more the US dislikes you the more we like you” makes it a connecting point for much of the developing world.  It’s a mass of humanity, with little extra attention paid to premium customers.  Today was no exception.  Within a couple minutes of getting off the plane I felt like I was in a sauna, and the people working the transfer desk had little interest in helping.  Soon, I finally had my boarding pass for my onward flight, and it was off to security.

Security was, as is usually my experience in Istanbul, a mess.  Filled with people who clearly had either never flown, or not flown in decades.  Despite being 10th or so in line, it took nearly 30 minutes to clear security before heading up the escalator to the departures level.  I had little hope the lounge would be much better, given my previous experience with it being crowded to the brim, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Wandered about 10 minutes just to find somewhere to sit, and then another 10 looking for somewhere with an outlet before finally giving up.  It wasn’t going to happen.

Grabbed a seat, caught up on e-mail and work, along with some tasty baklava and turkish coffee.  As much as I dislike the temperature and crowds in this lounge, I will admit it has some of the best food options anywhere for a business lounge.  I really wasn’t hungry, however, so just nibbled a bit while waiting a couple of hours to head to the next flight.  We were boarding from a bus gate (as usual in Istanbul it seems) and it was quite a hike from the lounge.  I’d heard that the A321s on Turkish were a bit of a nightmare, with only a few reconfirgured.  I hoped that since we were on nearly a five hour flight we’d get one of the new ones, but I should have known better.

Turkish Airlines flight 254
Istanbul, Turkey (IST) to Dushanbe, Tajikistan (DYU)
Depart 20:45, Arrive 04:30, Flight Time 4:45
Airbus A321-200 Registration TC-JRJ, Manufactured 2008, Seat 3D

The seats were domestic economy style with the middle seat blocked.  Ugh, are you serious?  Regular economy seats for a five hour flight in business class?  Turkish, you’ve managed to outshame yourself.  Even US airlines offer a better product than this…I guess I’ll have to pray for something better on the return.

Now, they can’t be bothered to have proper seats, but they were long on gimmicks.  Such as this character dressed as a chef.  Seriously?  I doubt these guys have any training, he was just there to sling the food and help the grouchy flight attendants.

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One thing I do like about Turkish, however, is their tasty welcome drinks. Went with the mint and lemon today. Yum!

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I was going to try to describe what the meal was, but honestly…they gave us the wrong menu.  It was the Dushanbe to Istanbul breakfast menu.  Oh well, at least I’ll know what to expect on the flight back.  Hah!

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The mezze were reasonably tasty, and the meal was decent.  Now, for the mains, there were clearly four different ones based on what I saw being offered to other passengers.  However, despite being in row three, I was told there was only “beef meatballs” left.  Hmmm, alright, I might have chosen this regardless, but what’s the point in dressing someone up in a chef costume if you’re not going to try to actually care about the menu and service?  That said, they really were quite tasty.

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I will admit, even though I know it’s nothing special, I actually like the Turkish red wine that they serve on board.  It’s a kavaklidere, which I’m pretty sure is a Turkish grape?  Regardless, I find it perfectly drinkable despite it more than likely not meeting the standards of most wine snobs.  I like it, I drink it, until…  the woman sitting in front of me (remember, this is a domestic economy configuration) decides to recline her seat about 3 hours into flight.  And when I say recline, I mean press the recline button and throw the full weight of her ample size into the seat – promptly flinging my iPad off the table, along with a bottle of wine and a mostly full glass.  All over me, as well as the guy sitting across the aisle for me.  Her reaction?  “Watch where you put your shit!”  Seriously honey?  Just when my faith in American civil servants was at a new low post-shutdown in DC, she managed to take it down another notch.  (Yes, I know where she works based on all the documents she had out during the flight.)

That reminds me – the composition of the flight was fascinating.  Economy seemed to be 75%+ Tajiks, while there wasn’t a single one in business class, which was, by the way, completely full.  I’ve never seen so many diplomatic and service passports on one flight other than when I went to South Sudan a few years back.  Tajikistan is clearly popular with the donor and NGO crowd, which I guess should explain how I managed to finally get here for work.  I guess we know why Turkish keeps operating this flight with such a terrible product – a captive audience.

Lest I seem completely negative, overall it was a pretty good flight – and still much better than it would have been in economy.  Turkish is just so uneven in their product – great lounge services, but completely packed.  Some planes (like 737-800s) with great new business class seats, and others that are terrible.  You just never really know what you’re going to get with them.  That said, when they’re good they’re great, and when they’re bad, well, they’re still better than sitting in economy!

Landed about 15 minutes late at 4:45 am, immigration was a breeze, and it took another 45 minutes for baggage to come out.  Finally at about 5:45 I was out of baggage claim, met my driver, and was off to my hotel, which I’ll talk more about when I finally get a chance to post more details from Tajikistan.


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