Turkish Airlines, Business Class – A 340-300: Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City

Date: 3. September 2012
Airline: Turkish Airlines
Aircraft: A340-300
From: Bangkok
To: Saigon
Cabin: Business Class
Seat: 1H, window

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

I arrived in Bangkok the previous night on the Egypt Air flight from Kuala Lumpur. Not really fancying carting my stuff all the way into Bangkok only to have to cart it back to the airport the next day, I spend the night at the Novotel Suvarnabhumi at Bangkok airport.

Around noon I pack my bags, check out and make my way to the terminal using the underground, and above all air conditioned, tunnel from the Novotel.

CHECK-IN

Turkish Airlines uses check-in row S at Bangkok airport. When I arrive there are already quite a few people checking in for the flight. It looks like there’s a larger group travelling today.

The check-in agent conscientiously checks my visa application for Vietnam and then duly issues my boarding pass. Today I’m on 1H, a window seat. He also hands me a priority pass to get me through security quicker. And indeed, for a change security is a breeze. Immediately behind security is passport control and then I’m airside.

I return to the Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge I sat in a few days previously as I waited for my flight to KL on Royal Jordanian. I’m feeling much more awake today.

THE LOUNGE

When I arrive the lounge is very quiet, there are only two more passengers there, which gives me an opportunity to take some more pictures without irritating anybody.

BOARDING

About 45 minutes before departure the flight shows up as ‘BOARDING’. Time to head for the gate. Once I’m inside the holding pen it’s not that easy to take pictures of my aircraft. It’s an A340-300 and I’m delighted to see it’s wearing the STAR ALLIANCE livery.

There are some passengers wearing a Turkish Airlines sticker, presumably in transit from Istanbul to Ho Chi Minh. I take this to mean that all passengers disembarked in Bangkok for the aircraft to be cleaned.

However, later on when I enter the aircraft as the first passenger through the L1 door, I am surprised to find that many of the seats in Business Class are already taken. I can only imagine that these were transfer passengers who simply elected not to deplane during the turnaround.

THE CABIN

The cabin is a huge let down. Of course I am aware of the fact that the A340-300 still has the old Business Class. But that’s not really the issue. The cabin is just in a very sad state. First of all, there are bits and pieces of food littered around the cabin and the seat. And I don’t mean the ‘short turnaround, no time to clean’ variety of food but more of the ‘can-anybody-even-remember-when-they-last-gave-this-cabin-a-good-scrub’ variety.

The arm rest on my left is broken. You can fold it up to reveal the remote control for the IFE and the power plugs. But mine won’t lock in the ‘down’ position. Every time I try to lean on it, it if flops open again.

Another interesting point is that the overhead bins of the middle row only reach halfway up the Business Class cabin, starting at row 3. Seeing as Turkish Airlines never had a First Class on this bird, I’m assuming this means that in its old configuration the aircraft only had three rows of Business and the rest was Economy Class.

As you may have gathered by now, I am not amused!

DEPARTURE

Oh for heaven’s sake. You’d think we were departing for the long flight all the way back to Istanbul judging by the pathetic crawl and subsequent climb we are treated to on this bird.

SERVICE

The crew is perhaps the biggest let down on this flight. I’m not entirely sure if they were uninterested in the passengers or in their job in general. When I step on the plane there is a flight attendant standing by the entrance. But she’s giving me the silent treatment.

Before we push back the crew distribute the earphones for this leg. And what a low quality product they are! Honestly, I really don’t understand why they even bother at all if this is the best they’re willing to do.

Generally speaking the service is very chaotic and unorganised. The male attendant working the left aisle starts serving the first three rows on his side with food. Half way through, he disappears and instead out comes a female flight attendant distributing the hot towels, which they then forget about altogether on my row.

After that the male attendant resumes his service, while my side of the plane is still staring at an empty tray table.

THE MEAL

Eventually another female flight attendant appears and starts serving the food on our side. There is no ‘would you like something to eat’ or the likes, instead she silently plonks down the icy cold plate and moves on to the next row. And then nothing. At some point during the flight she does manage to open her mouth to ask me what I’d like to drink. I ask for a diet coke. She vanishes again for quite some time. When she returns, she silently plonks a glass of sparkling water on my tray table, just as I take my last bite out of the sandwich.

Later on when the crew come round to collect the dishes, she removes everything without even saying a word. ‘Have you finished’ might have helped as the guy next to me still has half a glass full of drink, which apparently he was planning on drinking he tells me. Sorry mate, too late. Not quick enough, gone! Better luck next time.

The meal is okay given the short duration of the flight and considering the Business Class cabin is nearly full. It consists of a sandwich and a piece of some apple pie with crumble on it. I wasn’t expecting the full Do & Co experience on a flight of only 75 minutes, but when the sandwich is still so cold it hurts your teeth and gums I draw the line.

The apple pie looks rather nice. It’s just a pity the crew doesn’t find it necessary to distribute a fork to eat it with. Of course one might argue that I’m being picky here. But in  fact most passengers in Business Class request a fork in the end, which leaves the crew running around the cabin with cutlery as the passengers get started on the dessert.

After the meal we still have about 40 minutes to go to Saigon. As the crew don’t seem to be volunteering coffee, I use the call button to summon a member of the crew. To give them credit, two of them immediately appear from two different directions, which is more than you can say for some airlines. I ask for a coffee and get a reproachful look from the crew. Was it something I said…?

Eventually the coffee arrives – with a plastic spoon. At the risk of sounding overly critical, I must say I really do think that plastic cutlery, plates and drinking equipment should not be allowed in Business Class. No matter how short the flight.

ARRIVAL

Eventually we start our descent and I’m glad to see the end of this flight.At least the views outside are nice.

Ho Chi Minh airport is surrounded on all sides by densely populated areas and on the approach we come in very low over a residential area which only ends just before the perimeter fence.

As we taxi to the terminal I sight a few soviet-built rare birds from days gone by, most of which don’t look as though they’re going anywhere any time soon.

I collect my visa, go though immigration and then take a taxi into the city.

CONCLUSION

To be fair, one should not generalise based on the experience made on one flight alone, especially such a short one as the Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh sector. Nonetheless, as they say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And I am quite disappointed by the performance Turkish Airlines gave today on this flight. The hardware was old, dirty and worn and the crew very evidently couldn’t care less. Would I fly Turkish Airlines again? Hard to say, for sure they will not be my first choice when booking future travels.

EPILOGUE

Saigon is a charming place. I really like it. It has an old fashioned character about it that is an interesting mix of French architecture, dating from the country’s colonial past as part of French Indochine, and red flags with the hammer and sickle I remember seeing on TV when I was a kid during the cold war and which I had already nearly forgotten had ever existed. How quick we forget!

The Cathedral of Notre Dame of Saigon.

Driving in Vietnam, one of the last great adventures of our day. Whatever you do, just don’t stop

Uncle.

This entry was posted in Airbus A 340-300, Business Class, Turkish Airlines and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Turkish Airlines, Business Class – A 340-300: Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City

  1. Pingback: Vietnam - with Turkish Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Qatar Airways and Finnair - FlyerTalk Forums

  2. Dr. Adisak Chandprapalert says:

    I really agree with your comment. Actually, I toke a Turkish flight on business class from BKK to NYC with transit in Istanbul. All products are quite good such as wifi, food selection, and movies but for me it seems Turkish focuses on only marketing and advertising things when it comes to real experience. It is totally difference from what you see on advertising.

    My trip was on May 2012. For my first leg of my flight from BKK to Istanbul, when I boarded the plane from BKK, Turkish crew asked me about what I want to have for breakfast so I wrote down and check the item that I would like to have for my breakfast. When I got up next morning a little bit late than others, they forget my breakfast. I therefore did not get any breakfast on my outbound leg and it is the same repeating pattern for inbound, for this time I have to told them that they forgot my breakfast and then they gave me breakfast with incompleted course and difference from what I wrote down on the lists.

    During the dinner, they asked me whether I would like to have soup. I said yes but when the dinner comes they miss out my soup and jump to my main course.

    The situation told me that the crews are far behind training and develpoment support including lack of understanding customer’s needs. They are disorganize and not follow standard procedure and that why so many mistake happens almost all their flights.

    If ask me whether I would take this airline for my next flight. The same answer is that it might not be my first choice.

  3. Nice report; though I feel afraid that you traveled the wrong day, with the wrong aircraft (indeed a dirty cabin!) and the wrong crew (OK, THY stewardesses have never been the most smiling and talkative ever; the male staff tend to be much more friendly; but both are actually efficient, professional and hard working). I DO recommend Turkish Airlines and: 1. I am not Turkish (not event that found of this country…) and 2. I am not working for this company. BUT, I always found the value for money remarkable. You can have a look on one of my reviews (I traveled many times with them to South East Asia), and send me your feedback, as this would be much appreciated (press@travelfirst.com). Turkish Airlines business class passenger review long-haul IST – BKK:

    • Samuel says:

      Hi Bret,

      I loved your great reviews… but this doesn’t reflect my impression flying Turkish. Did we fly the same Turkish Airlines :-)) ? Seriously, there is a huge difference between the rich B777 which you experienced, and the OLDDDDDDDDDDD A340 in which I have unfortunately flown.

      • Ralph B. says:

        Poorly trained ground ans sales staff. Miles totally ignored… Old aircrafts on important routes. Efficient and good in-flight service. Good pilots. Turkish is a ok, three star airlines.

  4. Turkish Airlines business class passenger review long-haul IST – BKK: http://www.travelfirst.com/pays/turkish_airlines_b777_bangkok_istanbul_e.html

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