terça-feira, 1 de junho de 2010

DESTINATION BRAZIL 2010: São Paulo-Istanbul with Turkish Airlines

AIRLINE: Turkish Airlines (TK)

ROUTE: São Paulo (GRU) - Istanbul (IST)

AIRCRAFT: Boeing 777-300ER

DATE: 30 May 2010
ARRIVAL: 18:05 (next day)
FLYING TIME: 12 hours
CLASS: Economy

I spent 2 weeks in São Paulo and I had fun! Two weeks were not even enough. Some say that you'd need only 3 days to know the city. Others would opt to stay for more days...

But for me, it's not about going to usual places where the tourist would go, take a picture, and go to another site and do the same. Perhaps São Paulo is not the most beautiful city in Brazil but I like its energy, the lifestyle, and the pace of city life. I'm not even a city boy (although I live in the city) but this is my kind of city. Sometimes it's intimidating how large it is but that alone impresses me.

It also has a cultural significance to me. I'm a Lusophile and São Paulo is the largest city in the Portuguese-speaking World and just being there speaking Portuguese every minute of the day was a different experience for me. In the Philippines I never get to do that of course, hehe.

I've met interesting people and made new friends. I also had some not-so-good experiences but not bad enough to eclipse the good impression that I have of São Paulo (including the cities in the interior) and its people.

And...welcome to the 4th part of my trip report!

My flight to Istanbul was leaving at 23:25. I was at the airport 5 hours before the flight. I was so sad to leave...


I believe the agents who handled the check-in process were employees of a ground handling company but there were at least 2 individuals who were helping out and they looked like Turkish Airlines employees. There was also an interpreter dedicated to help Turkish passengers who didn't speak English nor Portuguese. That was a nice touch!

The agent who attended to me was a bit formal but he was professional and he spoke good English. Too bad, I forgot to mention my Miles and Smiles membership number. I was confused at that time. I was confused and sad to leave, haha.

I requested for an aisle seat. Yes, I had learned my lesson. That was the first time that I requested for an aisle seat. I guess I'd stick to that when flying during night time for long hours because I really need to use the washroom and I can easily do that when I'm seated along the aisle.

The check-in counter. I would say that TK's check-in counters were among the most attaractive in Wing C.

The guy at the far left was the interpreter.
Another shot at the check-in counter

More pictures of the terminal

At the gate, I was expecting an Airbus 340. After all, it was the scheduled aircraft to be used.

But to my surprise, it was a B777-300ER!

I tried to photograph this Airbus of TAP Portugal bound for Lisbon, Portugal. But oly the tail was evident.

The holding area full of passengers

The front view of the aircraft. His name is "Marmara"

Only recently that I discovered that "Marmara" is this. Wow it's the FC Barcelona-themed aircraft!

Boarding was calm. After the customary pat on the aircraft, I went in and settled comfortably in my seat.

After some minutes, a guy claimed my seat. I took a look at his boarding pass and we had the same seat number! Then another guy came. And another one. So four passengers assigned to one single seat!?

I wasn't really keen on giving up my seat as I was the one who was seated there first. A female flight attendant got our boarding passes and I was worried I'd need to move to another seat. Good thing nobody claimed my seat again and at first it seemed that the whole row (three seats) was only for me! Four persons assigned in one seat but two sits in my row were empty. But before we took off, a Turkish lady occupied the other aisle seat so at least we had the middle seat empty. On the parallel row, there was also some confusion. The same reason. Maybe there was a glitch on the seating assignment. Well, shit happens sometimes.

During the seating assignment commotion, a passenger suddenly collapsed. No, no. It wasn't related to the seating arrangement confusion. We were all happy and had a sigh of relief when the passenger got up and seemed OK after that.

My faithful backpack with my Air Canada luggage tag and Turkish airline logo pin

My Air Canada luggage tag (I wasn't given any Turkish Airlines tag, too bad) caught the attention of a gentleman seating on the other side of the aisle. He asked me if I was from Canada. I said no.

He's from Calgary but he lives in Thailand. So he said we're neighbors! We had a good chat about planes and he was asking why I know some stuff about the airlines and all. I simply told him I'm an airline geek. He laughed. Haha. He's a cool guy.

We took off some minutes late but I didn't mind. After all, I had some 35 hours to enjoy in Istanbul. No, not the city but the airport terminal! I didn't choose it. It's the schedule I was given. Knowing this, I had earlier sent an e-mail to the hotel helpdesk and they responded that a hotel accommodation and breakfast were to be provided. So I wasn't worried at all. I would just sleep or do some planespotting half-day. Or at least that's what I thought...

As usual the food and in-flight entertainment were nice.

Two flight attendants were assigned to our row: a gentleman and a lady. Both were professional. The guy was nicer though. Before we landed in Istanbul, I reminded him that I'd need my boarding pass for documentation. After some minutes he went back to me with my precious boarding pass. I thanked him and he said welcome with a pat on my back. Nice touch!

The food selection

First service:
-fried eggplant/tomato sauce or green salad with marinated shrimp
-roasted chicken breast/sautéed vegetables/mashed potatoes or lamb ragout, sautéed spinach and leek/couscous

Snack service:
-pastrami and gouda cheese sandwich or chocolate muffic
-fruit salad

Breakfast selection:
-smoked turkey breast/gruyère cheese/goat cheese/black olive or scrambled eggs/smoked turkey breast and cheese toast

Beverages are the usual stuff.

The menu card for economy class

We landed in Istanbul at around 18:30. Not bad. So I'd be at the airport for 30 hours or so. I really liked this flight in economy. I would say it's excellent.

With the two printed e-mails of the hotel desk at hand (stating that for my flight I would be provided free accommodation), I went straight to the transit desk and had them read the e-mails. The gentleman said he could have easily provided accommodation for me at the city centre if I had a Turkish visa.

Well, I knew beforehand that I needed a Turkish visa. Yet for this trip, I didn't plan to go outside the airport. I was only on transit but I was expecting a hotel accommodation basing on the e-mails from the THY hotel desk. I wrote to them twice and I was given the same response: that I could have hotel accommodation. Obviously, there was a misunderstanding.

Oh well... I asked them what's the alternative. I stressed that I didn't choose that schedule but the system did. The gentleman at the desk checked it on the system and he said that the system couldn't really book me on a flight to Hong Kong that night. He seemed concerned about me not having a place to stay at the airport for more than 30 hours. He tried to arrange for my accommodation in the airport. He was helpful. Hope his superiors read this. His name was Hasan Yakav (if I got it right). Though I had to wait for 12 hours to get a place at the airport hotel, I still appreciated his help. There were also a couple of staff (a gentleman and lady) who were helpful and polite but I was able to get their names because they were attending to other passengers and I was just observing.

Anyway, they informed me that they could have me stay at the airport hotel but it was full at that time. I was told to go check with them again at around 11PM. OK, four more hours of waiting then. Me and an Indian gentleman (who had the same fate, haha) went to check with them again at 11PM only to be told that we should get back at 7AM the next morning because the airport hotel they said was still full.

We slept at the airport benches. It wasn't fun. Good thing, we were given two meal vouchers and I was assured that I didn't have to pick up my luggage. They said it would be uploaded directly to the aircraft and I should be able to collect it in Hong Kong. They gave me a new baggage coupon. Fair deal. I was a bit apprehensive but I kept my fingers crossed (update: when I arrived in Hong Kong, my luggage was already waiting for me. So, thanks for the efficiency of THY ground staff).

With my apple...in front is where to buy a Turkish visa (for those who are entitled for visa-on-arrival scheme).

This is where I stayed for the next 12 hours together with 2 Filipina ladies, one Indian, and couple of guys from I don't know where...
I did some planespotting but 12 hours would be too much for planespotting, haha.

After 12 hours of waiting, at around 7AM, we were provided rooms to stay but we had to deposit 100 USD to be given back to us upon leaving. I didn't make a fuss about it because all I wanted to do was to sleep for the next 15 hours before I took my flight to Hong Kong. The airport hotel staff were nice.

So, to sum it up... I spent 10 hours at the airport benches. And then, thanks to Turkish Airlines, 15 hours in this room:

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