Our travel agents, Rainbow, recommended Turkish Airlines for our flights to and from Madagascar as they’d had good reviews and were presumably the cheapest. As there’s no direct flightpath, our outbound flight from Heathrow meant changing in Istanbul with a scheduled hour’s touch down in Mauritius.
Online check in was unsuccessful (we’d been warned it was notoriously difficult) due to a “technical issue”. However, I noticed my status was ‘child’ and Roy’s passport expiry date was incorrect. Rainbow told us not to worry, telling us online check in wasn’t necessary: so why did TA bombard me with three email and two text reminders?
Check in was simple and our business class luggage allowance was a generous 32kg.
Our 6.25pm flight was delayed by 30 minutes but we made up the time. The safety video was an irritating Lego-themed cartoon, particularly when it was shown in three languages. As the flight time to Istanbul was just over 3 hours, the meal service was swift. Whilst enjoying pre-take off juices (no alcohol), a chef, immaculate in his whites, handed out menus for a three-course dinner – Turkish mezze, followed by a choice of mains: grilled swordfish, Turkish style meatballs or rigatoni with a tomato and pasta sauce. Portion sizes were just right and our choices delicious. We finished with mango panna cotta and a selection of cheese followed by Turkish strong black coffee and huge glasses of Cointreau. Surprisingly, despite all the feasting, we managed to watch an entire film although the selection wasn’t great. The seats were comfortable and in a 2, 3, 2 configurations with only 4 rows in our section.
Our second flight from Istanbul to Madagascar was on a newer aeroplane with a 2, 2, 2 configuration and 6 rows. Unfortunately, we sat on the tarmac for an hour with the pilot giving regular, inaudible excuses. For our second dinner, we settled for a starter only and our trays contained a battery-operated tea light in a paper bag bearing the words ‘candlelight dinner high above the clouds’. I discovered how difficult eating soup on a flight was, although the red pepper one was delicious: Roy fared less messily with a second mezze.
Cabin crew made up each ‘bed’ with a thick mattress like blanket and pillow which made the seat more comfortable. The flat beds were quite reasonable even for a 6’ 2” man.
Our pre-ordered breakfasts (the light option of smoothie, muesli and yoghurt) were served just before touching down in Mauritius when everyone else in business class got off, so we sat is splendid isolation. Unfortunately, the plane was being refuelled which meant the loos were out of action and we couldn’t use the entertainment.
90 minutes later, having completed our immigration forms onboard and wolfed down a roll and cake, we arrived at Antananarivo on time.
So how did we find Turkish Airlines? The pluses were light tasty food, slippers and Molton Brown amenity bags. On the downside, on the second flight there was only one loo for 36 passengers resulting in frequent queues.