Sunday, 18 March 2012

Trip report 10, Part 2 - IST-ZRH-BHX - LX C

It was a rainy Monday morning in Istanbul and I was being told it was much nicer weather at home. I got a taxi back to Ataturk airport which featured some fairly advanced driving in wet conditions. I wouldn't want to drive in Istanbul.

They take security rather seriously in Turkey, the Hilton has a metal detector you pass through, so you actually need to go through security in order to check in. There is no priority queue but they weren't that long. I was behind a gentleman travelling with a handsome ginger cat, who had to be held by a security guard whilst the gent was frisked. Swiss check-in was deserted, as in devoid of staff. I decided to go with the small bag as hand-luggage rather than check it in, I realised that this might cause a problem at Z├╝rich, but I wasn't looking to hang around.

I made my way to the Turkish Airlines lounge, which has rather a good reputation, I can see why. It's large, it's tastefully decorated if a little random and cluttered in places, it also has a fairly wide range of offerings. There's a large sweet and cake section, several salad bars, a wide range of drinks and two stations producing some hot offerings. Very nice, I settled down with some sour cherry juice and a bowl of lentil soup with some good bread.

After couple of hours there, it was time to head to duty-free, get some fags and then find the smoking area. This is rather un-signposted and somewhat hidden away upstairs behind a rather attractive looking restaurant and bar up on a level with "the other lounges" including a HSBC Premier lounge which I considered crashing, but decided not to.

The queue for gate security was quite long, but I decided to join it, my mobile boarding pass caused some problems, but these were quickly resolved by the two gents running the check. Pretty much as soon as I went through, boarding started and I got on quickly before any baggage police arrived in order to grab some overhead locker space.

Considering the queues, boarding was completed quite quickly and we were underway fairly much on time. Service was prompt and I decided it was time for a nice Gin and Tonic before lunch was served.

Lunch looked pretty bad, but was surprisingly tasty. The salad was as naff as hell, but the chicken main course with the sliced potatoes was pretty good except for the veg which tasted a bit like a used stock mirepoix. The cheese was good and the fruit mousse desert was excellent and not too sweet. There was, of course, coffee and the Swiss chocolates to go with it.

We made extremely good progress on our way back to ZRH, it seemed like no time at all before we were heading back into better weather and there were plenty nice views to be appreciated before landing. We actually landed about 15 minutes early and went straight to a jet-bridge. I managed to be first to an empty transfer security and then quickly to the smoking room.

After that I wandered to the D Senator lounge for a drink, the reception was frosty to say the least, although the single word "Lufthansa" was uttered at me. The afternoon goodies were even more sparse than the lunchtime ones, but a small slice of chocolate cake and some Coke Light were imbibed. The chocolate cake wasn't the world's freshest, but the cold drink was very welcome.

With the "Go to Gate" flashing, it was time to board, what a pleasure it was to board the Fokker back to Birmingham via a jetty rather than via a bus, especially as there was no sign of the baggage checkers. We were quite cramped in Business Class, although at least the middle seats weren't taken up by upgrades which can sometimes happen. We left a couple of minutes late and were quickly on our way back to BHX.

It took a fairly long time for service to start in the cabin, maybe half an hour or more, however, when it started the young lady doing business class worked like a Trojan throughout, even with some nice touches like placing the snacks on a little plate, service well up to Swiss standards and a bit beyond from the Helvetic crew. The cold plate was unexciting, bits of chicken with rice and oddly thousand island dressing, but the cheese was nice and the dessert was the same as the flight out.

We landed a few minutes early and with hand luggage I was on my way to the taxi queue within 10 minutes of landing and back home within 40 minutes.

So what's next? A pretty busy two months back at home, then a few summer trips which may be worth reporting on. There's a trip to Berlin in LH Y, which would be unremarkable except I'm going into Tegel on one of the last days and flying out of the new Berlin Brandenburg just after it opens. So, there will be coverage of a new airport and hopefully a new SEN lounge. After that, there's a trip to Warsaw and Barcelona which should be worth reporting on. Other than that, it's just a dull selection of DUS, FRA and MUC which I won't bother with. 

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