Istanbul-Saigon in business class on Turkish Airlines: good but marred by a long delay

A good flight on Turkish Airlines between Istanbul and Saigon, even if it’s not the best I’ve had with them. On the other hand, the long delay at departure worsened the overall experience.

This flight was originally scheduled for 2.50am, but was first announced as delayed to 6.25am, and only departed at 6.40am. The delay was announced in advance, so I was able to get organized without having to wait at the gate, even though the 6 hours I spent in the Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles lounge were rather tiring, even though I managed to get some sleep.

This of course had an impact both on my state of fitness and on the service, and ultimately on the overall experience.

For the record here is the air routing of this trip.

You’ll find at the bottom of the page a summary of the articles about this vacation in Vietnam.

Ground experience

I won’t go back over my experience at the Turkish Airlines lounge, which I’ve already told you about.

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Given the distances involved in this airport, I leave the lounge a good twenty minutes before the theoretical boarding time. Firstly because my door is at the very end of the terminal and secondly because after 6 hours in the lounge I just want to walk a bit.

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It’s not yet 6am, but the airport is already bustling with activity.

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The endless corridors leading to my boarding gate.

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And here I am at the gate. It’s already very crowded, which makes sense given that the flight should have left 4 hours earlier.

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The agents are in place behind the counter, but the queues have not yet materialized, and there’s nothing in their attitude to suggest that we’ll be boarding in the next few minutes.

A Turkish Airlines agent arrives and distributes drinks and sandwiches to passengers. Good initiative on the part of the airline, but I think people might have liked to have them sooner.

The sandwich will be awful anyway.

I look outside and see an A330 instead of the A350 I was expecting. A Dutch passenger next to me is also concerned, as it’s not at all the same cabin inside. A change of aircraft that explains the delay?

In the end, all will be well: it’s the aircraft at the next gate and our A350 is there, but in a blind spot.

Boarding

At last, the agents start lining up and, unsurprisingly, passengers rush to the waiting area. There’s less of a rush in the business class/prime line, but there are far fewer of us.

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Staff go through the lines to pre-check passports and visas for the passengers concerned. As far as I’m concerned, as a French citizen, I’m entitled to a 45-day visa, which will be issued by immigration on arrival without any paperwork or formalities.

After a long 35-minute wait on our feet, we finally boarded and I was the first to enter the cabin.

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The cabin

Turkish Airlines’ A350s are equipped in business class with STELIA Aerospace’s Symphony seat. An old acquaintance, since it’s the same one that equips their B787s and which I had already discovered on a flight from Istanbul to Mexico City. This is also the seat you’ll find on Singapore Airlines’ regional B787s, here between Singapore and Bali.

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1-2-1 configuration, staggered which means that every other row has seats close to the aisle and the other has more secluded seats offering greater privacy. The seat, of course, converts into a full-flat bed.

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One criticism I have of this seat, however, is that as you can see a number of windows are totally hidden by the seat and therefore not very usable.

Very good legroom.

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On the side are the touch-sensitive seat controls and the remote control.

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Above the console is a storage area with a power socket and USB port.

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Note that storage can be locked with a code.

The table is a very good size.

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The reading light with lighting controls.

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The accessories are already in place. A blanket was placed on the seat, but a second, more comfortable one was distributed for the night.

The amenity kit.

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And its content, quite comprehensive.

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The supplier has changed since my last flight two years ago, it was Versace then.

Noise-cancelling headphones.

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Turkish Airlines is one of the few airlines I know of to provide slippers in business class.

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More premium and better quality than my last flight with them.

All in all, a comfortable seat with a perfectly acceptable level of isolation.

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The flight and the service

Menus are handed out on the ground.

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Non-alcoholic welcome drinks are provided.

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Meal orders will be taken on the ground.

As boarding ends I notice that the HSBC ads that adorned the gates have been replaced by those of a local player specializing in cryptocurrencies.

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We are finally ready to leave.

For once, the taxi will be short and we’ll take off quickly.

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A great view from the tail camera.

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It’s past 7am, so we’re about to start dinner, since this flight was originally scheduled for 2.50am.

First we’re brought a hot oshibori, then drinks.

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We’re asked when we want to eat, since Turkish Airlines service is now “on demand”. I prefer to have dinner right away so that I can finally get some sleep afterwards.

The table is then (beautifully) set and the starter served. I had the smoked salmon carpaccio and celeriac salad with shrimp.

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The salmon is very good but I wonder what the celeriac has to do with it.

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The prawns are excellent and the combination with the capers is perfect.

For the main course, I’ll have grilled wild sea bass, Mediterranean vegetables, celery root mousseline and caper emson butter.

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The fish is good but perhaps a little dry, the purée delicious and the vegetables very good.

For dessert, apricot crepes with hot chocolate sauce.

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Excellent.

I will finish with a coffee and a cognac.

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All in all, an excellent meal, but I’m a little disappointed by the accelerated service without the traditional starter and dessert cart. But it’s nevertheless understandable: with over 3 hours’ delay, passengers wanted to sleep, and the appropriate protocol was adopted.

The crew will then install mattress covers, distribute blankets and put pillowcases on the cushions.

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It’s high time I went to bed, but not before inspecting the bathroom.

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Overall well-maintained, with a very pleasant scent thanks to this home fragrance.

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I slept very well, even if my knees knocked a bit in the seat when I was on my side. Less comfortable and spacious than my recent flight from Chicago to Stockholm on SAS.

I wake up with 4 hours to go. We’re high up (39,000 feet), there’s no crew visible in the cabin, and unlike my memory of previous flights, there are no self-service snacks.

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The cabin is gently relit 2 hours 15 minutes before arrival.

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I’m replaying our flight.

Breakfast service begins.

Selection of cheeses and smoked turkey, Anatolian-style “acuka”, spicy tomato and pepper spread, Erzincan honeycomb, Afyon “Kaymak” clotted cream

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The fruit will be moderately sweet and the yoghurt decent.

Then a wrap with egg and crispy “sucuk”, cheese sauce and tomatoes.

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To the nose, it’s smoky and a little spicy. The dish consists of vegetables with a non-spicy curry and a melted cheese wrap.

Succulent!

It’s time to start our descent.

We’re handed an oshibori that will be lukewarm and dry. Not pleasant.

By the way, I haven’t told you about Wifi. I didn’t use it much. It’s offered to business passengers with a 1GB package, which can be used up very quickly if you’re not careful. A bit stingy.

The service

Fine, but I’m not a fan of the accelerated protocol that has replaced normal service with the passage of the cart and the cook. The staff completely disappeared from the cabin after the first service.

Fine, but I’m still thinking about my recent flight on SAS and it’s a step down overall.

Descent and arrival

We begin our descent and finally Saigon appears before our eyes.

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We disembark and after a short walk through deserted corridors, I’m one of the first to arrive at the empty immigration counters, but they won’t be for long.

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The agent looks at my passport and 2 seconds later I have a stamp and a 45-day visa without having to fill in a single document.

My luggage will already be on the conveyor belt when I arrive. Impressive!

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All I have to do is go through customs, where all the luggage is scanned. As I was about to join the queue with the two Dutch people I’d made friends with during boarding, an agent looked at us and approached us to tell us to cut the queue and go through without baggage scanning.

My Dutch “friends” will make a remark that confirms my experience: when you’re dressed “normally” (pants, jacket), with a computer bag you’re not treated the same as in shorts and a t-shirt with flip-flops and a backpack.

15 minutes after getting off the plane I’m outside ordering my Grab (the local Uber).

Bottom line

Overall, a good flight even if the service protocol was not as good as usual and the fish I had as a main course was disappointing. The crew weren’t very present either. A good flight nonetheless, but a little below my other flying experiences on Turkish Airlines.

Nothing serious, but a few days after an excellent business class flight on SAS, the comparison is, for once, not so much to the Turkish airline’s advantage.

And then the delay (more than 3 hours) made the connection in Istanbul tiring, the flight less pleasant given the passengers’ state of fatigue on boarding, and I lost a bit of my first evening in Saigon. Luckily I didn’t have a self-connect flight when I arrived.

And of course I made a claim under EU261….and this story will be the subject of a separate article. But if I’m telling you this, you can guess that it hasn’t been thaat easy.

The articles about this vacation in Vietnam

#TypePost
1Travel diaryPreparing for vacations in Vietnam
2FlightParis-Stockholm – SAS – SAS Plus (A320Neo)
3LoungeSAS Gold lounge – Stockholm
4FlightStockholm-Oslo – SAS – SAS Plus (A320Neo)
5HotelRadisson Blu Airport Hotel – Oslo Gardermoen
6LoungeSAS Gold lounge international zone – Oslo
7FlightOslo-Istanbul – Turkish Airlines – Business Class (A321Neo)
8LoungeTurkish Airlines Miles&Smile Lounge international zone – Istanbul
9FlightIstanbul-Saigon – Turkish Airlines – Business Class (A350)
10HotelRenaissance Riverside Hotel – Saigon
11RestaurantAnan – Saigon
12RestaurantHoa Tuc – Saigon
13Travel diarySaigon city tour
14LoungeVietnam Airlines Lotus lounge (domestic) – Saigon
15LoungeLe Saigonnais lounge (domestic) – Saigon
16FlightSaigon-Hanoi- Vietnam Airlines – Business Class (A350)
17HotelJW Marriott Hotel – Hanoi
18RestaurantGia – Hanoi
19RestaurantTung Dining – Hanoi
20Travel diaryCity tour of Hanoi
21LoungeVietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge (domestic) – Hanoi
22LoungeSong Hong Lounge (domestic) – Hanoi
23FlightHanoi-Phu Quoc – Vietnam Airlines – Business Class (A320Neo)
24HotelSheraton Long Beach Resort – Phu Quoc
25Hotel JW Marriott Emerald Bay – Phu Quoc
26LoungeHoa Sim Business lounge – Phu Quoc
27FlightPhu Quoc-Saigon – Vietnam Airlines – Business Class (A320)
28LoungeLe Saigonnais lounge (international zone) – Saigon
28FlightSaigon-Istanbul – Turkish Airlines – Business Class (A350)
30LoungeIGA Lounge (zone internationale) – Istanbul
31LoungeTurkish Airlines business lounge – Istanbul
31FlightIstanbul-Oslo – Turkish Airlines – Business Class (A321Neo)
32HotelRadisson Blu Plaza Hotel – Oslo
33RestaurantKatla – Oslo
34Travel diaryCity tour of Oslo
35FlightOslo-Copenhagen – SAS – SAS Plus (A320)
36FlightCopenhagen-Paris – SAS – SAS Plus (A320Neo)
37Travel diaryDebriefing of my vacation in Vietnam

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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