One of the highlights of this trip was not having to fly coach. It’s a long way to Thessaloniki no matter how you get there, at least 10 plus hours so Comfort Class, Turkish Airlines premium economy was a lifesaver. It is really unfortunate that after retrofitting their new 777w with them that they almost as quickly turned around and announced that they would be phasing out Comfort Class. Tho when I looked at booking a flight to Mumbai next July in Comfort it was still being offered so I’m hoping that means they are on the fence about it as it’s an excellent product at an excellent price – we would have gladly paid anywhere from $400-$600 more for those seats, it’s certainly one of the best premium economy products out there with an exceptionally generous pitch (which means distance between seats for those non airline nerds out there. They offer 46″ most of their competitors offer 38-40 at most with the exception of OpenSkies which offers 47 and sells the seat as Premium Plus and are slightly more expensive, but indeed at a glance you get a great more though I am not sure they can beat Turkish’s catering).
Before I go any further I want to mention the hour-long flight from Thessaloniki to Istanbul. The reason Turkish Airlines has won the Skytrax Best Airline in Europe award is two-fold the first reason is this:When was the last time you were on a flight of an hour duration when you had a full beverage and meal service included in your ticket? Not only do they provide this, they do so with a smile and great efficiency (which is the second reason they have won this reader survey award three years in a row) oh and it’s delicious!
It certainly isn’t because of their ground staff or hub in Istanbul. It is mind-boggling how an airline can get it so right in the air and so wrong on the ground. The guy at the transit desk was about as rude and unhelpful as I have ever experienced, I’d describe him as hostile and useless. Thankfully another passenger at the desk was able to help.
Then there was the gate. After three security checkpoints, 2 which were at the gate you enter a large holding pen that had no a/c , no place to get a drink or snack and no bathrooms! That’s right once you have passed through the gauntlet of security if you need to go you need to go out to the main terminal again and come back through security.
The announcements were so deafeningly loud it was impossible to hear what they were saying at one point a fairly long message ended with the words Gate 219 in English – I looked across to my friend and said: was that message in English? He shrugged – if they made an announcement on this JFK bound flight in English we never heard it.
Then there was boarding. It was what I imagine it is like being trampled in a soccer stadium in Manchester or maybe being crushed against the stage in an overly full mosh-pit at a PIL concert. Here is what happened after the first and only announcement made for bordering…. I guess this was elderly and people in need of assistance and then here are the super elite and business class passengers…Or maybe that’s these folks? Really it didn’t matter, now the screeching announcements had stopped it was just the gate agent screaming and hoards of people with elbows held high pushing their way to the front. If you bought a business class ticket and thought you might get priority boarding you would be sorely disappointed. Here the thing, how hard is it to have a dedicated special roped off area for Elites and Business Class, a desk and a staff who can organize the efficient boarding of a plan? Doesn’t seem like rocket science to me. But hey I don’t run an airline.
Then you get on the plane and sink into your lazy boy-esque Comfort Class seat and all is fine with the world. Both ways we had an entire overhead compartment to ourselves. The plane takes off and the service begins. Drinks started with 2 bite size Amuse Bouche a bowl of Hazelnuts and drinks. Menu’s were handed out, the meals on this flight out Istanbul had a very distinct Turkish flare. Dinner was a choice of Chicken or Beef both done in traditional preparations I choose the Chicken which started with a grilled artichoke and tomato salad – all salads I experienced were not served with salad dressing but rather with really amazing olive oil: brilliant. then there was Salmon Tartare, grilled chicken breast, roasted eggplant, a mildly spicy tomato salsa and a zucchini rollatini:The main course was roast chicken and rice, with a wonderful baked hot pepper and a puree of what I am going to guess was eggplant and maybe Fava bean and peppers (I forgot to bring the menu off the plane)… Here is the entire tray as it is presented:A choice of Turkish or French wine was offered and refilled through out. It was also available in the galley along with snacks for the duration of the flight. Dessert was a light sweet Almond cake, cheese course with olives and a fruit selection.In addition to this there was a second meal served, a fish dish but I was too stuffed even 8 hours later to even consider having it. Again DO&CO establish themselves in my mind as the best airline catering service out there – and remember folks this is “coach” albeit premium coach, but coach nonetheless. People spend thousands of dollars on business class to get meals like this (well ok they often get a lay flat-bed as well, but hey eating like this really does make your trip fly by).
My only complaint about Comfort Class, other than it is being removed, is how HOT the cabin was. They give out blankets but it’s pointless no one uses them because the cabin is so uncomfortably hot in stead if cozying up to blanket you spend the entire flight wishing it was a clothing optional flight and even then I still would have wanted to have the temperature turned down! Like by 10 degrees – I’d say it was close to 80 F in there when it should have been maybe closer to 70 maybe even 68…most people prefer to sleep in a comfortably cool room….anyway this is easily remedied and if you have a need to fly to Istanbul or points beyond (they are Comfort Class on their flights to Mumbai) it’s the best way to go unless of course you are afford business. Which I might add is on Turkish, in their current configuration, the same as Comfort Class: 2-3-2. So one wonders give the food and service in Comfort Class who’d want to spend thousands of dollars more to be in a middle seat in Business?
There is one more Greece posting and then I am back to NYC and thanks for reading this long post where I reveal just how much of a travel and plane nerd I really am.