Browsing Tag: Trip Report

The first thing you see when boarding a Turkish 777

The first thing you see when boarding a Turkish 777

Turkish Airlines is, or should be, well known amongst AvGeeks for their hospitality and commitment to passenger experience. The airline has positioned itself as a “European carrier” which might raise eyebrows to those in the West. Most would reasonably assume Turkey to be a resident of an ambiguous neighborhood we Westerners label as the “Middle East.” For what it’s worth, about half of Istanbul, including the airport, the airline’s headquarters, and various operations are indeed on the European continent. Turkey, as it turns out, is a country divided between two continents, giving real meaning to the phrase “East meets West.” The European side is separated from the majority of the country (the Asian side) by a naturally occurring strait referred to as the Bosporus.

My 777-300ER for the ride from Chicago to Istanbul.

My 777-300ER for the ride from Chicago to Istanbul

Why does all of this matter? Because it gives Turkish Airlines a competitive advantage. It’s easier to go after the European carriers than try to compete in terms of obscenely lavish passenger experience offered by the big three Middle East airlines (ME3). And, let’s be honest. When we think of European carriers, is an overwhelming commitment to passenger experience something that comes to mind? Likely not. It is no wonder then that Turkish Airlines maintains the title of Best Airline in Europe, according to Skytrax.

So how does Turkish differentiate itself from the pack? By offering reasonably priced fares bundled with excellent service and gourmet food. Gourmet food on a plane? Some might think those concepts are mutually exclusive. I beg to differ…

Qatar Boeing 777-200LR (A7-BBD) at Paine Field.

A Qatar Boeing 777-200LR – Photo: Andrew W. Sleber | FlickrCC

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to fly Qatar Airways on their (current) longest flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Qatar’s home hub in Doha – about 16 hours. Given all the talk about them being named a “Five Star Airline” by Skytrax, and our previous coverage of flying Qatar, I was really excited for this flight.  It would be my first experience on Qatar, and it would be in business class. Unfortunately, I was let down by my experience, at least on the flight to Doha (my flight home to the states was much better at least).

I arrived at LAX via a quick domestic hop from Denver on United. Getting from one side of the airport (T7) to the other (T2) was a mess. I walked outside, on foot, as I had a long layover and it was a decent day out. While the south side of LAX is now fully connected post-security, the north side is still old-school separated.

A busy afternoon at the security checkpoint at LAX's Terminal 2.

The LAX Terminal 2 (T2). My wait started out a floor below this.

Surprisingly, Qatar flies out of the newly-renovated T2, which seems to be the terminal of bastard airlines at LAX. Hawaiian, Air Canada, Virgin Atlantic, and other low-frequency carriers are based there, as opposed to the excellent Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). Although the actual terminal is updated, getting there did not seem equipped for prime time. Even with a business class ticket, I was held at the lower level of the terminal. Once enough room cleared on the next level at the packed security checkpoint, I was allowed to take the escalator up to join the queue.

Security was an absolute mess. The older facility just wasn’t designed for modern-day TSA security. The floor was sloped towards the gates as my bag was constantly rolling off — it was pretty comical.

ANA's modified Dreamliner livery with the "787" on the side. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren.

An ANA 787-8 – Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren | JDLMultimedia

When two AirlineReporter writers decide to go on a weekend guys trip, the possibilities are endless. The thing is – we don’t mind long flights, crazy routing, or extended layovers – after all, that’s all part of the adventure.

It’s amazing how much ground you can cover in a few days, if you really want to. Once we made the decision to go somewhere, Associate Editor, Blaine Nickeson, and I spent a few weeks scouring the internet for decent airfares.  We considered various destinations across five continents.  Finally, something really interesting (and cheap!) popped up: Denver to Tokyo on United’s 787-8 connecting on to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on ANA’s 787-8.

One stop from Denver to a city nearly on the other side of the world?  Oh yeah, this is the kind of stuff the Dreamliner was built for.

United Airlines' first 787-8 at Paine Field in Everett - Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter

United Airlines’ first 787 at Paine Field – Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter

THIS is the route that the Boeing 787 Dreamliner was built for.  Flying between Tokyo and Denver, you need a special kind of aircraft.  Something that is super-efficient, able to deal with Denver’s high altitude and summer heat, and right-sized for the market.  The 787-8 checks all of those boxes.

Luckily, the 787 has the legs for some wonky routings from Denver due to winds - Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter

Luckily, the 787 has the legs for some wonky routings from Denver due to winds – Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter

Recently, I planned a trip with friend (and fellow Denver-based AirlineReporter writer), Dave Delagarza.  Our wives were not thrilled to care for the young kids during the trip, but we’d be gone for less than 72 hours.  In that period of time, we flew nearly 20,000 miles to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and back, all on 787-8s (of both the United and ANA variety).  This helped us both re-qualify for our elite status levels with United, our dominant carrier here in Denver.