From the hotel, it was a bit of a longer drive to the airport due to some traffic but I was still on time to check-in for my flight. Turkish Airlines has a special Business Class check-in area for guests flying onwards to the United States of America/Canada/United Kingdom and Israel.
The special section has dedicated agents who would conduct screening for visas and paste a special sticker on the passport to indicate the approval of the passenger for onward travel. This section was just beside the normal queues for Business Class check-in.
While I had time to grab something from the lounge and relax a bit, I would do a review of the lounge on my return trip as I spent a lot more time during transit. I just have to say Turkish Airlines has one of the largest lounges with plenty of facilities to keep you occupied. Food and beverage inside the lounge was enough for a nice meal though I would not say they are very good.
TK11 Istanbul Ataturk IST – New York John F. Kennedy JFK
Boeing 777-300ER TK-LJH
Gate 230A Seat 6E
As a first time departure out of Istanbul, I head to the boarding gate earlier than I would usually do. Turns out this was a nice call since the assigned gate was at the end of the terminal. Plus the extra security screening done at the gates meant travellers heading to the US from Turkey should definitely account for all these extra time required to board.
Boarding was only through the second door which meant Business class passengers had to wait behind since they were already boarding Economy class when I head onto the jet bridge.
As I reached my seat which is still in the middle section yet again due to my purchase of the ticket close to the date of departure, I noticed the cabin was still quite empty.
That allowed me to go around the cabin for some photos to show the whole cabin which was opportune in that the sunset lighted up the cabin nicely. Couples seated in the middle section of the cabin in the 3-abreast configuration are better choosing the D & E seats as the layout of the seat is more optimal for sharing since their magazine compartment are side by side.
For this flight, I had seats in the second Business Class cabin and the ongoing boarding of passengers can be quite disturbing if you board early. Business class passengers likely to board earlier should always pick the front cabin if possible. This time I also noted that the best seats to get are probably the bulkhead seats by the window.
Choices for welcome drinks were orange, homemade lemonade, raspberry or water. Which was more or less the same selection as my previous flight. It was definitely consistent and I appreciate the whole variety!
For flights departing out of Turkey, there was a different amenity kit by Molton Brown, and they featured Molton Brown products (moisturizer and lip balm) as well. Other items like toothbrush, shoe horn, comb, socks and eye shades were similar. Airlines that does this gets a thumbs up for sure since it can be boring to get 2 same amenity kits when flying on a return ticket. This is even more so when you are transiting since I expect many Turkish Airline passengers use Istanbul as a stepping stone.
This was followed by distribution of menus and headphones. The meal menu for this flight was very different but the wine list and other beverages are similar to my flight from Jakarta to Istanbul. Instead of a breakfast service, there was a pre-landing meal served with less choices and thus no need for passengers to pre-order.
When boarding was more or less complete, the Captain announced a flight time of 9 hour and 50 minutes. Second business class cabin had several empty seats though all the window seats were taken, so there was no way for me to switch seats. However the empty aisle seat next to me allowed me to store some additional unwanted stuff like the blanket and newspapers on the seat. The extra space and lighter load made for a more relaxing start to the flight.
After take-off, it was nice to catch the sunset on the horizon from the left side of the cabin. There was not much wait either for the runway meaning that we were not delayed too much from the slow boarding process. Hot towels handed out after reaching cruising altitude.
While there was a lull in service awaiting the meals, I started watching the movie ‘Tower Heist’ for entertainment. Watching inflight movies is great on the HD screens that is of a good size with an easy-to-use interface.
A short while later the beverage I ordered was served with a ramekin of mixed nuts. There was a glass of water served together.
What was messy about the service was that the crew came around once again to place the table cover and serve the amuse bouche though this required the drinks and nuts to be taken off and placed on the side first. There was no explanation of the amuse bouche but as I can tell it was a meatball, some kind of mushroom and onion tartlet and a vegetable spring roll.
After that it was time to go into the main meal proper. The small plate from the amuse bouche was cleared and the condiments plate was placed along with the faux candlelight. Bread was offered from the basket and placed on the edge of the condiments plate. The whole meal setup was elaborate and looked impressive!
Then the trolley with appetizers came around and guests could choose from the choices or ask nicely for a little bit of everything. As I was one of the last in the back of the second Business Class cabin, I noticed there was still plenty of appetizers left since the cabin was not full.
The selection of appetizers was great and I particularly enjoyed the hunter’s börek which is a pastry filled with minced meat and it reminded me of risolles from Indonesia. The hummus and homemade yogurt made for a fantastic dip for both the bread and the prawns too!
Between the appetizer and main course, there was a slight incident where the crew caused the comforter set to fall from the overhead bin and resulting spillage on my wife seated by the aisle. While I understand accidents can happen anytime, I figured it made better sense to not move or extract items right in the middle of meal service.
When the main course was served, I found the salmon which I ordered to be a bit dry and lacking in some kind of sauce or gravy. The same can be said for the beef teriyaki which looks terribly overcooked and unappetizing. It was fortunate then that both of us were quite full by this point in time.
For dessert service the crew came around once more with the trolley and this time it was filled with a variety of cheese, mixed fruits, Turkish sweets, chocolate mousse and strudel. I asked for the fruits, the pistachio ice cream and some baklava. The latter ended up being too sweet for my liking but I finished the fruits and ice cream.
Hot towels distributed after dessert service while the cabin crew offered to make up the bed after the dishes are cleared. I asked for a cup of hot chocolate as well after the meal before heading to the lavatories to change to comfortable lounge wear. Inside the lavatories, there was the same Molton Brown amenities like my previous Turkish Airlines flight so there was nothing new to cover.
Back on my seat I watched a little bit of the movie ‘Hotel Transylvania’. But with the seat already in full flat mode, it was not longer before I fell asleep and waking up around 3 and a half hours later.
Since I was awake, I head to the galley to find orange juices and snacks. I returned to my seat with some Pringles and watched the movie ‘Chronicle’.
Second meal service was served around 2 hours prior to landing. The appetizer, salad and dessert was served first while bread was offered from the basket. The appetizer plate consists of tuna tataki over zucchini, a prawn and trout dish with the salad in a small bowl and an oven baked rice pudding as the dessert.
The main course I picked was the stuffed eggplant and it was served with rice. Main course was taken out once passengers are done with the starters since it was served warm. While it may not win points on presentation, it was a delicious dish that I finished with gusto.
Plenty of announcements during the descent in Turkish and English to inform passengers on the immigration and customs regulations in the United States. There was then another hot towel provided at the end of the second meal with bottled water placed by the armrest.
At the end of the meal service, there was nothing much to do and headsets were once again collected early on while substitutes were handed out. I find this is such a waste. We were put on a holding pattern above JFK due to traffic during our descent and the Captain announced a delay of around 15 minutes. Though we did still landed in New York’s JFK Airport nearly half an hour earlier than scheduled.
Immigration was bearable at night as we landed since there seems to be more orderly queues and being at the middle of the queue we waited just around 20-30 minutes to pass through passport control. The second connecting flight on Turkish Airlines shows that their weakness was in the cabin crew which does not feel as polished in terms of service procedures. In addition, the main course of the first meal was a failure and probably the worst meal I had on Turkish Airlines out of the 4 flights I had with them. Otherwise, the other dishes was great and their dining presentation sure makes it look like First Class!