Dr. I’s Maldivian Adventure-The Long Journey from Chi-town to Paradise part 1, flying Chicago to Istanbul.
Dr. I’s Maldivian Adventure-The Long Journey from Chi-town to Paradise part 1, flying Chicago to Istanbul.
Where or where should we spend our 20th anniversary? That was the question I posed to myself. We spent our 19th in the Seychelles and while beautiful, I think a combination of a roach infested hotel and a wicked case of travelers Diarrhea, just left an indelible stain on my mind. There are three island destinations that in my mind were must-see spots, the Maldives, the Seychelles, and Mauritius. We spent our 15th anniversary in the Maldives and absolutely fell in love. I probably should have been brave and planned a trip to Mauritius for the 20th but I think the disappointment of the Seychelles was fresh in my mind and I wasn’t brave enough to take another chance so I decided to stick with the tried and true Maldives. So, the Maldives it was. Next up was finding flights and a place to stay. A few years back my wife made it very clear to me that any long-haul, kid-free travel would have to be in business class, so my first mission was to find reasonable, Business class award space. Talk about Pigmelion, right? A quick Mileage Plus search found a pretty cool routing at the Business saver award level (Turkish Airlines from Chicago to Istanbul to Singapore, Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Male, Air India from Male to Delhi and SWISS from Delhi to Zurich to Chicago). Flights secured, it was time to find a place to lay our heads. We spent our 15th anniversary at Naladhu, which was phenomenal but with over 1,100 islands, I wanted to try something different this time around so I decided to make a reservation at the Conrad Rangali island using a combination of cash (for the first four nights) and Hilton Honors points (for the last five nights). Okay, all set, all we had to do was wait…..for seven months, but eventually, the time did pass and it was now time to hit the road!
FLIGHT 1: CHICAGO (O’Hare) to ISTANBUL:
Aviation Geek Details:
Airline and flight number: Turkish Airlines flight # TK6
Route: Chicago (O’Hare)-Istanbul (Ataturk)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Airplane (registration and year built): TC-LJB built in 2016.
Miles flown: 5,616 miles
Flight duration: 9 hours and 33 minutes
Class of Service and Seat: Business Class, seat 3K (window)
This is my: 673rdflight on 94 airlines.
This is my: 13thflight on Turkish Airlines
This is my: 14thflight on a 777-300
Our flight was scheduled to depart at 9:40 PM, so our bags were packed and by the door waiting for our Uber at 6:30 PM sharp.
Despite Map Quest’s estimate of a 70-minute drive (due to traffic), the drive only took the usual 30 minutes, so we were at the Turkish Airlines check-in counter by 7:00 PM, with plenty of time to spare. The check-in counters were moderately busy but within 10 minutes our bags were checked and we had boarding passes for all three flights in hand.
A quick glimpse of the SAS check-in counters with a bit of a lull between the daily flights to Copenhagen and Stockholm.
The terminal 5 departures and arrivals board. For now, all was looking good for an on-time departure to Istanbul. With a 10-hour layover in Turkey, however, I wasn’t too pressed about being wheels-up right on time.
Now, it wouldn’t be terminal 5 if the TSA security line wasn’t a cluster fig! As a matter of fact, the line came to a complete stop with no explanation from staff. Nope, just wait here until……..Hope your flight isn’t leaving soon!
Finally through TSA, we made our way through the ubiquitous Duty-Free shop in search of the Turkish Airlines lounge. Gotta love consumerism, every airport in the world seems to be designed to dump you into the Duty-Free shops before you get to the gates.
Did a bit of spotting on the way to the lounge. I spied an Aer Lingus Airbus 330 bound for Dublin with the tail of the Amman- bound Royal Jordanian Boeing 787 making an appearance.
Oh, look! The retro-TWA themed American Airlines Boeing 737-800. Kind of ironic that American would celebrate it’s TWA past given how that whole integration process went. Anywho…
With a bit of searching, we finally found the contract lounge that Turkish Airlines uses here at Chicago O’Hare.
The only thing more impressive than the window-less, dungeon-like motif were the dirty tables.
The food pickings were slim at best, so I choose these actually pretty delicious meatballs. To be fair, most folks in the lounge were flying Business Class and would probably be getting nice meals aloft but still, the food offerings were pretty pathetic.
And here is the lounge. Trust me, this picture makes it look way better than it was, what can I say? I’m just a great photographer!
Oh yeah, back to that whole consumerism and free market thing. Oh, you have a headache?, well you can either leave the terminal which means going through customs, getting in your car, finding a store nearby, driving back to the airport and re-clearing security or, you can just pay $21 for this Motrin and…
don’t expect it not to be expired. I guess the un-expired Motrin would have cost $42!
Despite the ambiance and posh surroundings, I had to tear myself away from the lounge and head to gate M12 where our Boeing 777-300 was waiting to whisk us across the Atlantic to Istanbul. Of course, I had to pay homage to Chicago’s one and only daily schedule whalejet…
British Airways flight BA296, the second nightly flight to London Heathrow. I see you in the background, photobombing my shot TK!
And here she is, TC-LJB, the 2016 build Boeing 777-300 that would be flying Turkish Airlines flight TK6 from O’Hare to Istanbul.
The boarding gate was a bit chaotic but there was a specific line for Business Class and a pre-boarding announcement was made strictly for flyers in Business Class and those with Star Gold status.
Two friendly flight attendants were stationed at the L2 door and my wife and I made that lovely turn to the left into the first of two Business Class cabins.
As folks got their luggage stowed, I…
checked out my surroundings. On the ottoman in front of my seat, there was a blanket (in the white plastic) and a pair of slippers. I like the fact that the slippers came in a bag large enough to store your shoes in, nice touch TK!
Despite its 2-3-2 seating configuration, the cabin felt pretty spacious. I know that 1-2-1 seating is the trend but as a window seat lover flying with someone, I kind of like the option of sitting with my partner AND having a window seat. Make no mistake though, if it came down to choosing, we would just have to reconvene in Istanbul!
And my proof of life pick. Your’s truly and the missus taking a selfie on TK6. Yeah, I know what you are thinking and yes, she is too old to be taking a selfie. Before you all boo and hiss me, I was actually taking the picture and I am 5 months older so…
The TV screens built into the seat in front are large and Turkish has a phenomenal entertainment selection!
The seat controls are on the middle console, allowing for a bunch of combinations for the seat back and footrest, pre-selected seating options and of course, the massage function.
A Star Alliance stable-mate was de-boarding on our right-hand side. This Boeing 747-8 had flown the second daily LH flight from Frankfurt (United and Lufthansa have four daily combined joint-venture flights between Chicago and Frankfurt every day) and would be flying the 10 PM flight back to Frankfurt.
As boarding continued, the cabin crew offered pre-departure beverages which consisted of a mint-lemonade, orange juice and a red juice (didn’t catch what it was).
There was no way that I was flying Turkish and not having the mint lemonade and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. What a refreshing way to start a long-haul flight.
Okay, I am a man on a diuretic so I had to visit the lavatory at least once before take-off (shhh…maybe twice).
These are the little differences that differentiate the premium product of carriers. A well-stocked bathroom that remains clean throughout the flight.
And should something run out or should you need something not stocked, you can actually dare to approach a cabin crew member to have it re-stocked.
As boarding completed, the “chefs” distributed menus and took our orders for the dinner as well as breakfast services.
While the menu was cool to look at…
it was a bit difficult to read. I had a hard time discerning where the and/or should have been. None the less, the options looked mouth watering. Breakfast options here.
And here she is in her full, unfolded splendor.
Separate wine list. I’m not a drinker but I did go through the entire list for those who are interested (check-out the embedded flight video).
We pushed off of the gate a few minutes early and had a short taxi to the active runway. After a 51-second take-off roll, TC-LJB was airborne over Chicago’s night sky and Lake Michigan.
With the massive distance between the seat and the TV screen, it was nice to have a hand-held control that had all of the same functions available on the TV screen.
Turkish Airlines gets an A+ for its in-flight entertainment options. A wide variety of movies, TV shows, music, games, and kids shows in addition to live television.
Another feather in Turkish’s cap…
Free in-flight wifi for Business Class customers. I understand the free market and a company’s duty to its shareholders but c’mon, charging premium cabin customers who paid thousands of dollars for their ticket another $25 for wifi just seems like ridiculous nickel and diming to me. Not a huge financial investment for Turkish but a difference I definitely noticed and would consider when making future Business Class travel plans.
I entered my last name and seat number and voila!, free wifi for the entire flight!
With free wifi, what else would an aerophile do but go right to flightradar24 to track the progress of the flight? By now we were cruising at 33,000 feet above central Michigan. I got a kick out of the blue you are here marker over the plane. Yup, I was there.
Soon the cabin lights came back on (on a dimmer setting) and hot towels were distributed along with…
noise canceling headphones.
Not quite Bose but they did the trick.
As I kicked back and put my seat into recline mode, the cabin crew set the tray table with linens and…
distributed mixed nuts to get the dinner service started.
The little things aerophiles notice, right? The linens were simple and had the Turkish Airlines logo on them.
Next up was an appetizer consisting of a chicken kabob, smoked salmon on toast and what I believe was a falafel. All of them were pretty solid.
Beverages followed and I opted for my usual Coke. Being in Business Class, I had to take it up a notch and add a lemon, plain Coke is for steerage, right? Don’t worry, I had a big bottle of water in my bag for mid-flight hydration, doctors orders!
My wife opted for a detox tea (not really sure what she was detoxing from, but anywho). She said the tea was great but I really liked the tiny teapot and the intricate teacup that it was served in.
Next up was the appetizer cart (don’t ask me what the first course was) which had a wide selection to choose from.
The bread basket came along with the appetizer cart and beverages were refreshed.
In my younger, cleptomaniac days, these cool salt and pepper shakers were have disappeared. Heck, as I write this, I am kind of regretting that they didn’t.
My inner glutton always wants to say, “I will take one of everything” but to be honest I was already a little full and I wanted to save room for the main course and dessert so I decided to play it cool and just ask for the seafood salad and the grilled prawn and avocado salad. It’s a good thing my mother wasn’t with me because both of them were slap yo mama good!
If I had one criticism for the Turkish Airlines dinner service, it would be to speed it along a bit (I know, how American!). With a 9:40 PM departure time, I’m sure I’m not the only person who was getting a bit sleepy and dreaming of turning that seat into a flatbed and…well…dreaming. We hadn’t gotten to the main course yet and we were over 2 hours into the flight and well over eastern Canada. Aerophile note, look at all of the trans-Atlantic traffic around us including the A380 flying BA296 a few miles behind us. Okay, aerophile geek moment over, back to the trip report.
The cabin lights became a bit brighter as the dinner cart came through the aisles.
I opted for the chicken which was plentiful but a bit dry (pretty standard for what happens to chicken at 33,000 feet), while my wife opted for…
the swordfish which she said was succulent. Thanks for rubbing it in, food envy was in full effect at that moment!
After the main service, the cabin lights were again dimmed as the dessert cart came around. Like the appetizer cart, I wanted to ask for one of everything but by then I was truly bursting at the seams so…
I just asked for the apple strudel. You didn’t really think I was going to pass on dessert, did you? C’mon now, I was full, not dead!
After the dinner dishes were cleared, bottles of water were distributed for mid-flight hydration and the cabin lights were completely dimmed.
By now the sun was definitely rising and…
we were well into our trans-Atlantic crossing having taken off over three hours ago. None the less, with 6+ hours left, I could catch a few ZZZ’s.
Our flight time was a bit shorter than normal due in large part to a healthy tailwind.
I did, in fact, manage to catch a few ZZZ’s and awoke to find the mood lighting set to early dawn mode.
Having completed our trans-Atlantic crossing, we were now cruising over continental Europe (Germany to be specific) with about 2 hours flying time left.
What aerophile wouldn’t like the different view options for the flight tracker map
Breakfast service started with a large fruit plate (not a melon man, so the wifey got some extra fruit), cheese, tomatoes, chicken and the waist-line killing bread basket.
For observant Muslims, the in-flight map also lets you know the direction of Mecca and when the next prayer was due. I thought that was kind of cool!
After the fruit plates, the cabin crew distributed…
the breakfast main plate. I went for the cheese omelet with sausage and breakfast potatoes, all of which were delicious! I also asked for a hot chocolate and while I appreciate the offer, the execution was kind of meh. Maybe it’s the difference between American and Turkish hot chocolate but it was way too thick for my liking. So, I just stuck with my orange juice.
Hot chocolate gets a D- but the mug definitely gets an A+
By now the sun was high in the sky and it was afternoon over central Europe.
Wifi, Live TV, and SMS. Some carriers I fly often internationally could learn a few things!
Just a pillow, I figured my fellow aerophiles would appreciate the Turkish Airlines logo though.
After a bathroom run, I kicked back and watched the in-flight map while jamming to my latest iTunes playlist.
Our descent began in almost cloudless skies and soon…
we were on short finals for…
Istanbul’s’ Ataturk airport.
We landed about 15 minutes ahead of our scheduled time of arrival and taxied past a fellow Boeing 777-300 and an Airbus A330 of Turkish Airlines.
A special livery Airbus A321 of Turkish Airlines slowly making it’s way to the active runway.
No doubt who is king here! One lonely Saudia tail in this sea of Turkish tails
Another special livery, this time on an Airbus A330 encouraging folks to Invest in Turkey. Does the few Lira I spent at the airport Duty-Free shop count?
We parked next to an Air Algerie Boeing 737-800 a few minutes ahead of schedule and I was soon off of TC-LJB, bidding her a fond adieu. Thanks for the safe ride across the Atlantic!
Face to face one last time, see ya later big guy!
With a 10 hour layover in Istanbul, we had three options. We could take Turkish Airlines up on its offer of a free hotel in the city (given to any Business Class passenger with a layover of 7+ hours and any Economy Class passenger with a layover of 10+ hours), we could just hang out in the huge Turkish Airlines lounge or we could get a room at the TAV transit hotel. I kind of wanted to take the free room from Turkish but I’ve seen Istanbul a few times (love it!) and with an arrival time of close to 5PM, traffic into the city would be hellacious. So we opted to just get a room at the transit hotel.
Experience/Total stars: Excellent/ 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Check-in: 3 out of 5. Lines were a bit long, especially for Business Class.
Lounge: 2 out of 5. The lounge was small, dirty and had minimal amenities.
Boarding: 4 out of 5. There was a dedicated line for Business Class and pre-boarding was called.
In-Flight Entertainment: 5 out of 5. Excellent selection, Live TV, and free wifi.
Meals: 5 out of 5. Great selection and good quality
Cabin Crew: 5 out of 5. Polite, helpful and present.
Cabin ambiance: 5 out of 5. Airy cabin with nice mood lighting.
Cabin cleanliness: 5 out of 5. Cabin and lavatory remained clean throughout the flight.
Seat: 4 out of 5. Great legroom and storage. The seat was a bit firm in bed mode and privacy could be an issue if not traveling with someone you know.
Price paid/value for money: 5 out of 5. The flight was flown using United Mileage Plus miles and was purchased at the Business Saver rate.
Thumbs up: Great crew, clean and modern cabin, good food, friendly service.
Thumbs down: The contract lounge in Chicago sucks!
Check out my video flight report for TK#6 Chicago-Istanbul.
Given Turkish Airlines’ massive network, Ataturk airport is always pretty busy and today was no exception. I for one (and I’m sure I’m not alone) am looking forward to the opening of the new airport.
Our room at the TAV transit hotel was a bit spartan but for 9 hours it was more than sufficient.
All I really needed was a bed and a…
bathroom and luckily both of these were there.
Okay, who am I kidding, this is really the only part of the bathroom I needed after a 10-hour flight but rest assured, I did use the sink afterward (always wash your hands, doctors orders!).
The view from the window was just the hotel’s entryway and parking lot.
I know it was psychological so you don’t have to put me on your therapy couch but with non-opening windows, I felt a bit trapped. Since we were still airside (had not cleared customs), I understand why the windows would not open but I guess if I was motivated enough, I could still break the window and jump to freedom to run loose and free in Turkey.
After napping for a few hours, we decided to head to the Turkish Airlines lounge to get some vittles. I am always impressed by the size and amenities of the TK lounge in Istanbul. UA, are you listening? You could take your Polaris lounges to the next level, just saying.
Given the meals I had on the flight from Chicago and given the meals I would have on the flights to Singapore and Male, I probably ate way too much but…
there was just so much food that I couldn’t help myself!
And yes, I had dessert, I don’t care if you judge my gluttony!
With the sheer volume of TK flights, this makes sense.
After gorging in…um…I mean visiting the lounge, we headed back to our room, took quick showers and changed clothes and made our way into the still busy terminal to find the gate for Turkish Airlines flight TK54 bound for Singapore.