Tag Archives: trip reports

Via Istanbul: Turkish Airlines Business Class IST-MAN / MAN-IST

Following my extremely pleasant stopover at Istanbul, the moment of truth had finally arrived.

I had booked my air tickets because I’d felt the promotional rates were simply too good to pass – somewhere along the way, though, I was alerted to the fact that the short-haul leg of my journey was likely to be in seats like these:


(Image from Aaron’s earlier post)

They look nice enough, but they’re essentially reupholstered economy class seats with the middle seat blocked out as cup holders.

At the same time, I’d heard that the newer A321s (that I was flying) were supposed to look more like this…

Turkish short haul business class
(Image from Turkish Airlines website)

…so I was immensely relieved to see that this was indeed the case upon boarding the plane. Phew!

The seat was comfortable enough – though nowhere as roomy as my previous long-haul leg of the journey, there was more than enough legroom to play with.

Turkish short haul business class legroom

The new(-ish) safety video that OMAAT had blogged about was playing. I think it’s cute, but since most of the ‘magic’ was done with the use of camera tricks, I didn’t really find it all that impressive (or entertaining).

Turkish airways safety video

I was also relieved to find a personal screen folded away in the seat’s armrest. Though way smaller than its long-haul equivalent, I actually quite liked having the screen within touching reach – the interface is clearly optimised for touch controls, and it was somewhat cumbersome using the remote to control the larger screen (which was also positioned further away from the passenger).

Turkish airlines short haul business class screen

Seat controls were not motorised – it’s the old type of controls where you hold the button and adjust the seat position by leaning/pushing as appropriate.

Turkish airlines business class seat controls

Which isn’t ideal, but I guess it still works.

Breakfast, IST-MAN

There was no option to indicate your orders on this breakfast menu – I suppose on a short-haul flight, they don’t expect you to need to place your orders before going to sleep for hours.

Turkish breakfast menu

The ‘flying chef‘ was (from my perspective) just helping the flight crew deliver food to the passengers – I’m quite curious about what exactly they do onboard other than this… I’m sure they’re supposed to be involved in food preparation, but what exactly can you do when you’re up on an aircraft?

Turkish flying chef

I realise now that this is was my first encounter with “gözleme”, so it was here that my adventurous spirit prompted me to try the Turkish breakfast option that I ended up not liking. Why, then, had I not learnt my lesson on my flight back from IST to KUL? If I remember correctly, they had actually run out of eggs by the time they’d reached me, which was rather disappointing. Not something I’d expect to happen on business class!

Turkish business breakfast appetisers
Various breakfast sides

Turkish business breakfast
My not-quite-favourite Turkish wrap

Dinner, MAN-IST

Again, the flight was pretty much identical on the return leg, though I had dinner on the return journey instead of breakfast.

Turkish dinner menu

I wasn’t a fan of the fish on my previous flight, so I decided to get the beef instead.

Turkish dinner sides
Attempting to keep up with the millennials with a flat lay of the breakfast sides

Turkish business dinner
Sautéed fillet of beef – pretty decent, though not exactly something I’d rave about

Conclusion

I guess my expectations had been set pretty low, but for a short-haul flight I found it more than adequate – rather pleasant, actually! If you’re able to confirm that your aircraft is not in the old configuration, I’d say that the short-haul flights with these newer seats will not negatively impact your business class flying experience.


Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to maximise his frequency of travel in business class or better.

He travels with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stands in for him in vacation photos. Griffles continues to amuse (and confuse) air stewardesses, hotel staff and just about everybody else, all around the world.

Via Istanbul: Turkish Airlines Business Class KUL-IST / IST-KUL

I’d mentioned in my previous post that, due to a combination of bad luck and sub-par planning, I had been idling at Kuala Lumpur International Airport for about 12h after having woken much earlier in the morning than I am usually used to. Despite improvements in recent years, KLIA is still not a particularly interesting place for a stopover (spoilt Singaporean that I am). Rather grumpy and tired, I was rather looking forward to finally getting some rest on the lie-flat business class seats on the Turkish Airlines A330 that would be bringing us into Istanbul.

turkish business lie flat
(Image from Turkish Airlines website)

Upon boarding the plane, I was relieved to note that the seat looked reasonably comfortable and that the official publicity pictures were not, in fact, a pack of lies.

Turkish airlines business class seat

Being set up in the 2-2-2 configuration, there’s not that much privacy for the solo traveller, though it was perfectly fine for a party of two. The ottoman area in front of the seat allows for efficient storage with quick access (e.g. if you want to grab your tablets or computers). I was especially pleased with the amount of legroom available.

Turkish airlines business class legroom

Slippers were provided, but they’re rather flimsy and typical hotel-style disposables; not really worth keeping. They had provided an initial set of Turkish-branded headsets at our seats, but later started distributing an alternative set of noise-cancelling Denon headphones that were noticeably superior in quality (and comfort), at the same time highlighting that they would be collecting back the new headsets before the end of the flight.

Old Turkish headsets New (trial?) Turkish headsets

My guess is that they are still in the process of transition and were perhaps even still testing the new equipment, although since we weren’t asked about our experience at all, I guess they weren’t seeking customer opinion on the headsets.

Not too long after taking off, they also started asking passengers if we’d wanted bedding fitted onto our sheets. I thought it rather odd timing, given that we hadn’t eaten yet, but I suppose that’s just part of their workflow.

Griffles seated on Turkish

I didn’t think the extra layer made that much of a difference to comfort levels, but since I didn’t try sleeping without it on I guess I can’t really say for sure.

Amenity Kit, KUL-IST

I’m not really a big fan of amenity kits, so I’ll just quote the official description – the one I got flying to Istanbul was Cerruti-branded.

Turkish business amenities bag Turkish business amenities bag contents

The Cerruti branded bag is a fashionable bag made of a specifically developed leather-like material to create the sense of nonchalant chic which is typical for Cerruti. The heritage of the house of Cerruti is in textile and fashion. The design of the bag is elegant and simple, with a front flap which adds sophistication. It’s in a perfect size for passengers to reuse the bag as toiletry bag or to store personal items when travelling. Inside the bag is a variety of comfort items including cosmetics from ‘Institut Karite’ range with a high concentration of shea butter to hydrate the skin both during and after the flight.

The Menu, KUL-IST

They soon passed menus out. We were served dinner and breakfast on our flight; the breakfast menu doubled as an order form, which I thought made a lot of sense.

Turkish menu Turkish breakfast menu

There was a rather wide spread of alcohol to choose from, though since I know next to nothing when it comes to alcoholic beverages, I decided to just default to champagne, particularly since many frequent travellers seem to make a big deal out of it.

Turkish wine menu Turkish drinks menu

For the mains, there was a choice of a mix of grilled seafood, grilled beef or mushroom ravioli. I opted for the seafood.

Turkish dinner menu

While studying the menu, a stewardess came by dispensing a bowl of mixed nuts and a drink of choice (the previously mentioned champagne). I especially enjoyed the shelled pistachios in the mix. Wonder if there was any way to get a bunch of those alone?

Turkish nuts

Dinner, KUL-IST

The various courses were dispatched by trolley, which does help to give everything a more restaurant-like feel; as does the onboard “flying chef”, though ours pretty much acted pretty much like the other stewardesses, when it came to meal service. Presumably she also does some sort of behind-the-scenes food preparation when not delivering dishes directly to our seats.

Turkish meal trolley

They also provided fake LED candles to help add to the atmosphere.

Turkish dining setup

Which is all very well and good, I suppose, but as they say – the proof’s in the pudding. Or in this case, the food. Just how good is the food on Turkish Airlines business class? Was it to be as life-changing as they say it is?

Turkish dinner appetiser
King prawn & grilled scallop

Turkish dinner entree seafood
Potpourri of grilled seafood – king prawn, butterfish and salmon

Turkish dinner dessert
Potpourri of traditional Turkish desserts

Alas, it wasn’t the case for me. I found the grilled fish to be tough and dry and actually rather unenjoyable. I don’t know if I was just unlucky, but I found that having the onboard cook didn’t really seem to do much for this meal experience.

After the meal was done and everything had been cleared, they started dimming the lights and I figured it was time to catch up on lost sleep. This part, I definitely enjoyed – no complaints from me!

Turkish business life flat bed

Breakfast, KUL-IST

A few hours later, breakfast was served.

Turkish breakfast fruits
Seasonal fresh fruit salad

Turkish breakfast omelette
California style omelette

Happily, I found the food much tastier this time round. Faith in the flying chef gimmick was restored somewhat. I guess eggs are harder to mess up than fish!

Amenity Kit, IST-KUL

The return flight was pretty much on the same hardware and everything, but I did get a different menu so I thought I’d just append some segments to the review.

Turkish business Jaguar amenities bag

The Jaguar branded bag comes in a quality high tech material symbolizing the “grace, pace and space” of Jaguar cars. The technical aspect of the pouch is also represented in the re-use value of it as a tablet case or document holder. Detailing adds a touch of luxurious practicality to the bag. For example, the size of the bag can be expanded by undoing the zipper so that passengers can carry more or larger items. The bag also contains inner pouches (a pencil case and soft drawstring pouch) so that the comfort items and cosmetics can be organized and packaged beautifully.

Meals, IST-KUL

Turkish business menu IST-KUL

For dinner entrees, we got to choose from Potpourri of grilled seafood, Traditional “dolma” varieties or spicy chicken skewer. Mindful of my bad previous experience with grilled seafood, I opted for the spicy chicken skewer this time.

Turkish dinner appetiser
Smoked salmon with “daikon”, white cheese tabbouleh, stuffed sundried red pepper

Turkish dinner spicy chicken skewer
Spicy chicken skewer

Turkish dinner dessert
Chocolate ball with mango, fresh fruits

Dinner was a pleasant experience this time round – I suspect that fish is simply the harder dish to get right, especially up in the air. Breakfast, however, I enjoyed less.

Turkish breakfast appetiser
Miscellaneous breakfast sides

Turkish breakfast wrap
“Gözleme” flat pastry with cheese and leaf spinach & sauteed potatoes

This one I chalk up to taste, however – I wanted to try out the local breakfast option, but realised too late that a cheese and spinach wrap wasn’t really my kind of thing. Should probably have stuck with the eggs option.

Conclusion

All in all, I enjoyed the Turkish Airlines business class long-haul flight experience. The seats were comfortable and conducive for proper sleep and the food was pretty good (with the exception of the fish). The language barrier did pose some challenges to communication, though ultimately functional communication was still very much possible.


Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to maximise his frequency of travel in business class or better.

He travels with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stands in for him in vacation photos. Griffles continues to amuse (and confuse) air stewardesses, hotel staff and just about everybody else, all around the world.

Aloft Bangkok Review: Starwood’s cheapest Bangkok option

Bangkok is one of the cheapest markets for hotels that I know of. You can easily find 4 or 5 Star properties below $150 a night, which is extremely good value any way you look at it. Service standards tend to be very high, rooms tend to be new or refurbished and I can say I’ve never had an issue finding a good hotel deal in this city.

There is absolutely no shortage of Starwood properties in Bangkok

The problem, however, is that ever since Starwood’s 2016 category adjustments, Bangkok has become a difficult market to redeem Starwood points. Why is that? Because the value you get is almost always going to be lower than 2 US cents per point, the minimum value you should be accepting.

Before the last set of category changes, you could get the Four Points for 3,000 points (now 7,000) and the Westin/ Le Meridien Bangkok for 7,000 points each (now 10,000).

Starwood-Hotel-Categories
Starwood Redemption Rates (First row: Weekday, Second row: Weekend)

However, there is still one bright spark on the Starwood roster in Bangkok, and that’s the Aloft. At 3,000 points per night (4,000 during weekday), it remains one of the better deals to be had.

Location wise, the Aloft is about a 8 minute walk from the Nana BTS station. Nana is, shall we say, a “lively” neighbourhood, and there’ll be no shortage of bars, nightclubs and massage places offering services of the joyful conclusion variety.

I think it’s a perfectly suitable place for young folks, but if you’re bringing the kids or your parents you might want to give this a bit more thought. As a bonus, you’re only 3 stops away from Siam (Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery, Siam Center, Siam Square One) and one stop from Asok (Terminal 21…yes, we Singaporeans have a very limited range when we go to Bangkok. My Thai friend once complained to me that Singaporeans don’t do anything other than Roast and Siam Paragon/MBK when they come)

After landing at BKK and claiming my luggage, I called for an Uber. In the past I would have taken the Airport Rail Link to town but ever since they stopped the Express service (15 mins to Makassan) I’ve been indifferent between taxi/train because you don’t really save that much time taking the City Service (30 mins) + Taxi to your final destination. Plus, Uber drivers seem to have difficulty finding the pick up point at Makassan and I’ve had way too many dishonest taxi drivers with rigged meters hanging out around the station.

My Uber from BKK to the Aloft cost THB 325 (S$13), and with some moderate traffic took about 40 minutes. In case you’re worried about coordinating pick up with a driver who probably doesn’t speak the best of English, don’t worry because Uber will let you specify which pillar you want to be picked up on Level 2 (arrivals). The process was entirely painless. FYI, the Airport Rail Link will cost THB 35 to get from BKK to Makassan.

Image result for aloft bangkok

The Aloft is about 500m deep into Soi 11. There is a free tuk tuk service that takes you to Nana BTS (or Asok, if you so wish) but wait times can be long especially during rush hour traffic.

The lobby has high ceilings and the Christmas decorations were still up (I visited the day after Christmas)

Check-in was quick. The front desk staff asked me if I wanted 250 points or breakfast as my welcome gift (I opted for the breakfast), and told me I’d been “upgraded” to a high floor room.

This property doesn’t really do upgrades, and they’ve got a big sign at the front desk emphasizing that Aloft properties are exempt from the Starwood Platinum upgrade policy. I can’t decide if the sign is too passive aggressive or a good way of anticipating questions.

There was a priority Starwood elite member check in area, but I never saw it manned.

I’ve stayed in plenty of Alofts before, so by now I knew what to expect. The Aloft is basically a cheaper version of the W, trying to maintain the same young and with it vibe while charging rates closer to the US$100 mark (W’s price upwards of US$200 in my experience). So you can expect loud nightclub music (fortunately my room was fairly well insulated because I’m a light sleeper), a lobby with “fun” stuff in it and constant reminders at every turn that the brand is hip and young.

Like this, on the back of the lift doors. Hey everyone, we are young and hip because we use the emoji (what happened to the good old days of calling them emoticons) for our room service menu lol! rotflol! #hashtag instantgram!

I swear, my generation is going to be remembered as the one that finally killed the written language in favour of poorly drawn hieroglyphics. I mean, I’m not asking people to write in iambic pentameter, but if you’re the sort who use emoji on a regular basis we will probably not get along 🙂

Where was I?

My room was on the 31st floor (32 floors in total).

It seems from this omni-review thread on Flyertalk (and other comments on the hotel’s Tripadvisor page) that the property has a serious problem with mildew in some rooms. Fortunately, my room wasn’t one of them, and didn’t really smell of anything.

Technically, the Aloft Bangkok only has 2 types of rooms- standard and suite. Not so technically, the standard rooms are further subdivided into Chic, Urban and Breezy. My understanding is that the internal hierarchy is chic–>urban–>breezy. Chic rooms are on the lowest floors and will have a splendid side-street view. Urban rooms are on the midfloors and Breezy rooms are at the top. So technically I did get an upgrade, he said, if only to reassure his desperate status anxiety (There’s an interesting discussion on this FT thread (see post 619) about why there’s a need to make these small distinctions among otherwise very similar room types. If you ask me it sounds like someone’s playing with award inventory)

My Breezy room was ~30-33 sqm, with a keycard already inserted into the power switch and the A/C at full blast when I entered.

My room was a King room. The bed was as good as any bed I ever had in a Westin, or any other hotel for that matter.

The room is sizable enough to fit an L-shaped couch in the corner. It felt dirty.

There is, fortunately, a full sized work desk. Ben over at OMAAT has a pet peeve of hotels removing desks in the name of catering to millennials (the same millennials who would rather use emoji to order room service), and I tend to agree with him here. I don’t care what generation you’re born in, a desk is a useful piece of equipment to have in any hotel room.

There was an overpriced minibar with 2 individually wrapped prophylactics. How overpriced? Said prophylactics cost $7 each. I have limited (ok, zero) experience in this area, but I’ll hazard a guess that $7 is northwards of reasonable. But I guess when you gotta go…

Fortunately, there is an abundance of mini marts around the Aloft where you can stock up on snacks and water for cheap.

Free coffee and tea in the room come standard. Ice requires a trip down to the lobby. One of the nice things that happened during the stay was when my friends and I wanted to chill a bottle of champagne. We were discussing the best way of jury rigging an ice bucket (take the trash can to the lobby? fill the bathtub with ice (and remove someone’s kidney later)? When I went down with my puny ice bucket, the lady at the bar gave me a full sized ice bucket piled high with ice.

The bathroom is sizeable and has 2 bottles of complimentary water. In practice, there’s really no problem calling down and getting additional bottles for free.

The last time I was here, the hotel had mini bottles of Bliss body lotion and Bliss soapy bars. They’ve since replaced those with generic Aloft branded toiletries, which was a disappointment

Fortunately, Bliss body wash and shampoo is still available is still available in the shower, albeit in dorm-like (I’m sorry, eco friendly) pump dispensers.

The throne room.

By the bedside there is a gentle reminder of how doomed we all are.

Breakfast is served at Crave Restaurant. The quality of breakfast was disappointing compared to that which you can find at many Asia Starwood properties

There was juice, milk and water stations (the juice isn’t fresh)

A limited choice of cereals

A salad bar (really, who eats salad at breakfast?)

A selection of cut fruit

Stale pastries

The hot food selection had a mixture of Thai and Western options

And thankfully there was a made-to-order egg station

Plus a noodle bar

Here’s my plates over two days. I was saving room for Roast, as you can see.

I explored the lobby after breakfast. There was a mini-mart of sorts within the hotel (with prices to match). I can’t imagine who would be willing to pay these prices, given that you could walk 30m outside to a 7-11 selling the same thing at half price, but hey, tourists.

The lobby is meant to be the social hub of the property, so you’ll find a foosball table, a pool table, a PS4 and a Pac Man arcade case here too.

If you feel in the mood for swimming, there’s a pool. It was somewhat full when I visited.

On the same floor as the pool you’ll find a gym. I am glad that Bangkok properties aren’t following the (ridiculous) trend that hotels elsewhere have started of charging for gym access.

So long as the Aloft stays at 3,000/4,000 points per night it’ll definitely remain a go-to place for me. The location is a bit dodgy but it’s central enough for Bangkok, the breakfast isn’t great but Bangkok has such an amazing abundance of cafes it seems a waste to eat breakfast in the hotel, and if you get rooms on the higher floors the usual Bangkok noise shouldn’t be an issue. Don’t expect much in the way of Platinum recognition/elite benefits and you’ll be fine.