Turkish Airlines B737-800 business class20/09/2013
Turkish Airlines launched a third daily flight to Istanbul from London Gatwick in May with a new service to Sabiha Gokcen airport, located on the Asian side of the Turkish city (see news, May 7).
The service went daily on June 1 and departs from Gatwick North Terminal at 1420, arriving in Istanbul at 2015. The route is served by a B737-800, one of the smallest aircraft in the Turkish fleet (to see a seat plan, click here).
This was the return flight (for a review of the outbound journey, click here) and I got to Sabiha Gokcen via a hotel bus transfer at 0815, around three hours early for my flight. Here you must put your bag through an x-ray machine yourself and place all personal items in to a plastic tray, fine for an experienced traveller but no guidance is given towards shoes, belts or laptops.
The terminal was pretty quiet at this time of the morning. I went straight to the check-in desk as I had been unable to check-in online on my phone the day before due to having no printer access. I reserved seat 3F though while I could and so joined the business class queue behind one other passenger and handed over my booking reference and passport. There, I was given a boarding pass and directed towards passport control. After this I made my way to the right and up an escalator to the lounge, arriving at 0840. My boarding pass was checked and I went in.
The lounge was busy but I found a little couch to sit on. Unfortunately, there was a distinct lack of power points in the lounge. I went up to the counter and grabbed a bottle of mineral water. There was juice and hot drinks and some fruit and pastries available but not a great selection of food. There was a bank of computers tucked in to the far corner and plenty of seating in a bright, open space. Lots of people were sleeping in the lounge and I caught an hour's shut-eye to pass the time before reading my book until my gate 201a was called at 1045.
I reached the gate by 1100 and I was on quickly, reaching my seat by 1115.
This 737-800 is laid out 3-3 throughout and the business class was just the first three rows on this occasion. I easily found room for my bags again in the overhead locker and settled into my window seat, 3F, which was the furthest forward window seat available, my preference.
The seat is extremely similar to BA's Club Europe product, a blue leather armchair with a fixed tray table in the middle seat. This is nothing like the new seat design found on some of the B737-800s, with the seats looking a little worse for wear. I was particularly disappointed by overhead screens but should have expected it for a flight of this length. There was no blue pillow or Turkish branded noise cancelling headphones this time though.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE
There's not a great deal to choose between the 12 available seats — those right at the front don't afford as much legroom as you would hope, but you can disembark first. The other seats are all the same and it simply comes down to personal preference of aisle or window.
Boarding was complete at 1120 and we took off at 1130. I started dozing as soon as we took off and slept pretty solidly for two hours. When I woke up the stewardess asked me if I wanted my lunch and grabbed me a menu, even though we had around half an hour until we started our descent.
I opted for the filet mignon and grilled chicken with rice, which was quite an odd combination but really tasty. I left the side dishes as I wasn't that hungry but ate the cold rice pudding, which was really creamy and delicious.
We landed at Gatwick North Terminal at 1545 and deplaned via an airbridge. I joined the e-passport gate and was through with no trouble, and with no baggage to collect I was out by 1600.
A fairly basic seat and an old aircraft were disappointing but I did manage to catch up on some sleep and the service upon waking up was excellent, but with all the recent investment and marketing I expected a little more.