A family occasion overseas means one must start preparing well in advance regarding travel, finding reasonable fares and having those tie in with approved vacation days. Sometimes the two do not work together, the low fares either start before the vacation period or end after that. In my case, I had already booked the time off it was just a challenge to find a decent fare. Fares in December especially around Christmas are the most expensive. A little search everyday from a few months before my planned departure date meant I started looking from November. And it did pay off, searching Turkish Airlines regularly made me discover a CAD 1240 return fare compared to the other days on Turkish and other carriers like Emirates, Etihad around the CAD 2000 to 2400 mark. Of course, I had to return after the 15th of Jan, which meant I would need to take some extra days of work. And being on contract that meant no pay. But I guess you can’t have it all.
Flight number: TK 18 (Toronto to Istanbul)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (TC-JJL Karadeniz)
Scheduled Dep: 2215 (Actual 2305)
Scheduled Arr: 1605 (Actual 1548)
Flight Time: 8:43
The Day Itself
And so, the day arrived. A few last-minute purchases around boxing day in -30C temperatures meant I had to make sure I did everything or risk having to go out in transit to seek items I had forgotten to pick up. Not yet used to Uber which I am told is a lot cheaper than usual taxis, had me taking a taxi to Pearson in the traditional way. A quick bolt inside after being dropped in front of the Terminal A departures sliding doors and I was on my way first to the luggage shop to pick up locks for my bags. My absent-minded self had me forgetting where I had kept the old set of locks and keys. I also found a pretty tacky looking two pin plug voltage converter as a stand by should I need to charge my batteries at Istanbul, though I knew they had a very good store there that sold excellent voltage converters of different kinds to use in various parts of the world.
Check-In and Security
The line up at the Turkish Airlines counters which were some distance away from the luggage store had about twenty people lined up ahead. There were some families ahead with multiple suitcases and they were having some problems checking in and I think had to pay for the excess baggage. However the line ups were far less than when I travelled with Etihad and Emirates. Also the passengers were a mix of nationalities unlike when travelling on the ME3 which makes up most of us Indian Sub-continent folk.
After what seemed like almost twenty minutes or more I was summoned by the wave of the hand and a “Next please” of the Turkish Airlines counter staff member. He wished me a Hello and asked to see my documents. I had already pre-booked my window seats at the time of booking my ticket online. I kept my fingers crossed my seats had not changed. A couple of strokes of the keyboard, examination of documents and a gentle placement of my passport and boarding passed on the counter confirmed my seats were indeed the same. I was in the little section just behind Business Class, though near the bassinets should there be any babies on board. I kept my fingers crossed should there be the latter, they would be sound asleep for the major portion of the flight.
A pre-check at the line up before entering security had the person checking me say “I will put you in the good line, the NEXUS line it is faster”. I acknowledged with a smile and made my way through a quick path rather than the maze which was the regular line up which happened to be pretty empty. I got to the front and the guy said “NEXUS” and I said “No”. He pointed me to the other door! While in there the line ups were quite stagnant with not much movement and to my surprise the guy who got me to this door called me and two others and put us through the NEXUS security check. I just smirked thinking had he to let me and probably the others go through earlier we would have been through Security much faster.
Heading to the gate
From Security it was down the long corridor that gives fantastic views of the jets parked at the gates. In the distance I saw an EVA AIR Boeing 777-300ER approaching the terminals having just arrived. Down the escalator and passed through the famous Tilted Spheres structure by Richard Serra, I made my way to the International departure gates. Once there I settled into one of the seats at the gate displayed as ours on the large displays and tried to look for the Boeing 777-300ER which would be taking us to Istanbul. There was nothing in sight except for an Air Canada Boeing 787-9 waiting to dock with the airbridge and begin its embarkation of passengers to Delhi to where it was departing. The line ups for this flight had them extending down quite the path from where I had just come. An announcement had us pay special attention as TK 18 was announced. We had a gate change which meant everyone got up together and made an exodus for the new gate, which some including myself decided to just line up instead of wait for the boarding call. That was not a good idea as we all stood for what seemed at least an hour. Finally, the announcement was made and they started to board from the back of the aircraft. With me being in the front of the cabin meant I would be one of the last to board.
Internet browsing stations
On-board the Aircraft
Finally, onboard and I was a bit disappointed to see I was on the wing and behind the engine. I was hoping to be in front of it when looking at the seat map on Seatguru.com and thinking I would have an unobstructed view. Nothing quite like seeing the front of that engine just outside your window like I did on an Etihad Airways Boeing 777-300ER flight also from Toronto. However, what was special is that this way my third time of TK 18, the other two being in the past two consecutive years. Just outside the window was almost a view to help with my dampened mood, a gorgeous view of an EVA AIR Boeing 777-300ER (Yes I love calling these jets by their full name lol). In the seat next to me was a Somalian national and a young Turkish girl in the aisle. Fortunately, I had already visited the washroom before settling into my seat so I didn’t have to worry for a couple of hours to ask them to move for me to get out of my seat.
EVA AIR – Boeing 777-300ER
Welcome screens on board TK 18
We pushed back some minutes later and made our way to the active runway 06L at Pearson. A similar take off the year before had thought me to make sure my SD card was not completely full as the video stopped 15 seconds after we had taken off and the viewfinder which had had the hotels just outside Pearson in view disappear as the message card full displayed instead. Also, different this time , I was using a prime lens which I hoped would allow more light but what I had forgotten to keep in mind did not have any Image Stabilization. After all prime lenses are used mainly for portraits and not action or movement, I would realise this mistake when I viewed the footage at home of my landing in Karachi. While not too bad, it would have been better with my IS kit lens.
The Captain came on the air and announced for the cabin crew to take their seats for take-off. Soon we were racing down the lights of the terminal buildings in the distance dancing off the wings of the jet and we lifted up and climbed into the night sky. The illuminated city could be seen forward of the engines and I adjusted my camera to get more of it instead of just the engines and wings themselves. Coupled with the roar of the engines the sounds of wailing could also be heard from just behind us. A couple of little ones had decided they didn’t want to leave Toronto after all as they wailed in protest lol. Fortunately no babies in my cabin.
Unlike my last Turkish Airlines flight the drink service began quite quickly. A broad faced, dark rimmed eye glassed male FA and a very pleasant smiling female FA served our section. The male was just doing his job serving the drinks, while the female FA interacted a little more with the passengers. “Would you like something to drink”, she asked me. “Yes, some Ginger Ale, please”. “Ah, we don’t have Ginger Ale” he replied on her behalf, “but we have Sprite”. I nodded my head that it was fine, but even the Sprite was not Sprite but some local Turkish brand the name of which I cannot recall. The drinks were later cleared later and the smell of food filled the cabin. I had decided on the Salmon and I think it was a good choice. The male FA who had seen me taking photos of the inflight magazines, views outside the window and the screen in front of me, now beamed with smiles as he presented me my choice. Must had realised some social media freak was on board and might capture him not smiling. Of course, I never photograph any crew member without first asking them if it is okay.
Inflight-Meal - Dinner
The meal was good thought what I find is slowly disappearing was the welcome “Turkish Delight”, the change in the appetiser to a hummus spread from the Salmon and Mayo one and the missing Cheddar cheese along with the crackers. Now there is only jam and butter. Nonetheless the meal was good and appetising. My neighbour who ever since we took off had troubling settling in and had placed his pillow first under him and sat on it, then moved it to behind his back before putting in to his left side with a major portion of it in my area as it peeked over the armrest. This prevented me from keeping my elbows back to cut my food with the knife and I literally had to go over the Salmon to cut it. I didn’t realise at the time it was the cushion blocking my space or else I would have asked him to move it to behind his back. It took quite a while though to clear the trays and my neighbour started to show signs of frustration as he lifted his hand to get the FAs attention as they passed to get them to take the tray away but in the mood light cabin they really could not see his actions. With the trays later cleared he made his way to the washrooms and I used that as my cue to relieve myself as well. The washrooms just behind us were in use so I walked down the path of the back of the Economy cabin and used the ones there. It was indeed a full flight as every seat was in use. Turkish Airlines truly seems to be doing quite well on this route.
Chicken Ceasar Salad
En-route to Istanbul
The cabin was now completely darkened, and I checked out the Turkish Airlines Inflight Entertainment system. It was a slight change from the last one and though touch screen you had to press on icons to the bottom of the screen to go to the next page, not with the ability to slide from page to page. If your finger accidentally touched the movie behind the icon, the movie would load and you had to then try to get back to the main page. For me the moving map is the best Entertainment and I settled for that for most of the flight though I did watch two movies and when not was listening to one of Turkey’s famous singer Tarkan’s albums. I tried to upload a track of his on my YouTube video which resulted in my video being blocked “worldwide” which had me scrambling to remove the track and resubmit. In addition to the new layout of the Inflight Entertainment system, a new screensaver was available which would load and it would highlight some very scenic places around Turkey. Turkey truly has so much to offer and it would be great to go there someday.
Over the Atlantic Ocean
As we progressed over the Atlantic Ocean we hit some slight turbulence and announcements were made in Turkish, English and French (all pre-recorded) to return to your seats and fasten your seat belts. These announcements interrupted all programming on the seat back videos and by the time all three were made it was a few minutes before you got back to your regular programming. The cabin remained dark and after the dinner service had ended requests were made to shut the window blinds. Now well over the Atlantic and almost heading to the European coastline lifting of the blinds indicated that it was beginning to get bright outside. A few windows opened, and the darkened cabin lit up in a few places. There was no window dragon on board asking passengers to shut these down. We were well over Zurich when it was bright outside and the sun was beating down on the aircraft.
Over the Atlantic
Turkish Airlines In-flight Entertainment
Second Inflight Meal - Breakfast
The flight progressed and while there was an option for a Cheese sandwich or a muffin as indicated on the menu card, I could not find myself to using the call button to get the FA to get me some. I have not been using EY or EK for a while now and honestly my 7 hours into the flight my backside starts to want the flight to end. This had only 3 and a half hours left, and I was just thinking with the other two it would mean another 5 to 6. One of the reasons I switched to TK. I was hoping breakfast would be served soon but it took a while in coming and it was only when we were over Bulgaria did the cabin again fill with the smell of food. Fortunately, just before breakfast could be served my neighbour decided to use the washroom and so did I. I was quite refreshed and ready for breakfast when it came. The breakfast was the same as before on TK. Still I won’t complain as food on North American flights and some International flights mean you must pay for it. What I found particularly nice of Turkish Airlines was the coffee, it was nice strong flavoured and hot and not some lukewarm version that you get on other carriers. My request for more cream and sugar was also nicely met, which made it even more enjoyable. Also, the Orange juice served on board is so good. That with the coffee and the good breakfast meant I would not be looking to eat anything at Istanbul airport.
Landing at Istanbul Airport
The cabin secured and the weather information at Turkey provided by the Captain indicated rain. I had been following the arrival pattern in Istanbul from the few days prior to my departure and noticed unlike the usual arrival over the sea on either Rwy 5 or 36L or 36R the planes were arriving from on Rwy 23. I had asked about this on the Turkish Aviation thread and I was told it was dependant on the wind though that approach brought some fantastic views of thee city. And lo and behold we were going to make that approach today. Again, I wish I was actually sitting way back for this as the wing and engine were going to block a major portion of the view today. We had a long final into the airport and the closer we got the views improved and we passed over some bridges and some buildings as we descended lower and lower. The lighting was not the best and all of this could have been much nicer on a better day. We touched down and made our way to the remote stand. It was a delight to mark just next to TC-JJK who had brought me from Toronto last year. Co-incidentally she will be taking me back to Toronto on the return journey.
Disembarkation from TK 17
We left the aircraft to smiles of the crew at the door and made our way down the stairs. I always land up messing up the video or the photos as I think I get too excited being so close to the aircraft and viewing it from the outside. Also, the light rain did not help or else I would have stood by the stairs and got some special shot. I did however make my way to the bus and stood just need the door to capture it, before the glass doors close on us and we speed off to the terminal, which is what we did some moments later.
Fortunately, the terminal was not too crowded and we made our way to security. When up I looked for my small pocket camera, which I had bought on Boxing day and could not find it, I realised I had left it in the bin below. I had the elevator to my back and immediately pressed the buttons to go down and was joined by some Turkish Security personnel. They looked at me like “Why are you going down” and I said “left my camera” only to realise in those short seconds down the elevator trip that it was after all in my shirt pocket. I showed it to them and use the same elevator to come up. I was so glad I had not lost it as I had taken some pictures and videos with it, in addition to my Canon Rebel T4i.
In-transit at Istanbul Airport
I had a long wait at Istanbul and my hand carry which was a shoulder back had me resorting to my usual spot just in front of the area at the far right of the terminal after passing security, where I take refuge as that gate though in use for single aisle aircraft mainly to Europe but still has plenty seats available. Also it has excellent views of aircraft departing runway 5 and those taxing down to 35L or 35R runways. If you go just to the other side of this area you have all the other single aisle aircraft flights lined up which include Onur Air and other Turkish domestic carriers. A little restaurant in that area also had me getting some Turkish food as the breakfast we were served earlier was starting to lose it’s filling effects in my stomach. I then made it to the gate which was a bit strange to find. I think it was 210 but the gates seemed to end at 209. Walking along the path of gates you come to the last one and then realise where is mine as it seems a dead end, however you have to go up a few stairs and then descend back down to find your gate. A whole lot of Karachi bound passengers were already there. I had waited till the last minute to leave my aircraft viewing area, buy some Turkish Delight and some new spices I have learned over YouTube videos which were Sumac and Zaatar, and was taking some for my relatives to use back home.
Flight number: TK 708 (Istanbul to Karachi)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300 (TC-JIT)
Scheduled Dep: 2125 (Actual 2203)
Scheduled Arr: 0440 (Actual 0430)
Flight Time: 4:27
On board TK 708
We boarded the flight to Karachi via Zones and I was fortunately in Zone A. I was soon on board the Airbus A330-300 and with no visible separation of the cabin the seats stretched all the way from the front to the back. The flight started to fill up and I was all ears for the cries of little ones but there was just one some seats away from me. I had no one at the side of me so I truly felt so comfortable after the less than traumatic experience with my neighbour on the flight to Istanbul who could not sit still until he finally fell of to sleep and then began his restlessness when he woke up again. No interruptions on this short 5 hours flight or so I thought.
The Airbus A330-300 pushed back a little behind schedule only to find ourselves waiting to get to the active runway. The captain apologised for the delay though admitting we had left the gate on time. Earlier while on board we had a gorgeous Turkish Boeing 777-300ER to Delhi push back outside my window. I have to say that aircraft is my favourite though I feel I am cheating against the Airbus A340-600 which I find is the most beautiful aircraft and one I have yet to fly on. While they are slowly exiting fleets, there is still hope to fly on one someday.
We finally made it to Runway 36L at Istanbul and similar to the departure last year we raced down passed all the large neon signs that line up parallel to the runway and as we passed the Turkish Technic’s building we climbed up into the clear Istanbul night sky. What I find with all Turkish flights is there is a lot of shaking as we leaving the ground be it on the Airbus or Boeing, before it all stablilizes some seconds later. Perhaps the autopilot kicks in? The take offs on Turkish seem a bit like a cowboy was taking us up with a bit of Yee-haw as we leave terra firma. Happens all the time. Flew with TG and AC on flights last year (trip reports coming up) and the take offs were a lot smoother.
There wasn’t much to do on this flight and the aircraft had a toned-down version of the inflight entertainment system. Besides as long as the moving map works that is fine with me. Though I had no one at the side of me, one annoying issue had me leaving my seat a couple of times. The washroom was just to the right of me quite literally. I had to turn my face I could see people entering and exiting the washroom. The issue with the washroom was it would not shut flush with and even though the doors would line up it would slide back slightly backwards to reveal a large crack in the opening. While the washroom was clean and fresh smelling, just the thought of sitting by an open washroom bothered me and no sooner someone used it, some trying to close it shut while others walked out leaving it wide open, I had to get up and try to close it. With some gently tugging it would shut flush. I brought that to the attention of an FA and she tried to close it first and when I asked her again she told as a matter of fact way it was broken and she could do nothing.
Broken Washroom Door
In-flight Meal – Dinner
Dinner was served no sooner we departed after the usual pre-dinner drink service. The food again was good, though nothing special. This is where Emirates get full marks. The food is just amazing on that carrier. Not sure now how this has changed. Our route took us over to the East end of Turkey before we flew right across Iran before we began our descent into Karachi.
Descent and Landing
For years I have longed to arrive over the city which usually happens in the winter months and when I saw on the map that the TK Airbus was actually heading south down to the Arabian Sea rather than the straight approach to the East before it turns and heads west towards the airport, I danced in my being knowing today that wish was going to come true.
And true to the many approaches I have seen on FR24 of such arrivals, we descended into the city passing the Karachi Port Trust it’s brightly lit cranes visible from the sky as we banked to the left to descend even lower. A brief moment of darkeness before the lights of the city danced under us. I was so caught up on getting the lighted up Turkish Airlines winglet in view and the city below in the viewfinder that I almost missed one of another brightly illuminated structure in the city, and that is of the Quaid-e-Azam Mausoleum of the founder of Pakistan, who stood out brilliantly against the rest of the city. A bank to the right lined us up to a straight approach into Rwy 07R. We taxied towards the terminal and parked against the gorgeous PIA tail. And so the journey from Toronto to Karachi had come to an end. It was a reasonably good journey as usual with Turkish Airlines though I am starting to wonder if a journey back on Emirates would actually be good with the comfort of an A380. Who knows what the future holds.
Link to the entire trip report in video form https://youtu.be/TJDxw5_hwzA
Thanks for reading.