Sunday, March 30, 2014

Rough Travels to Istanbul

A two-connection flight half way across the world isn't always the best.  When you have a severe migraine headache and end up barfing your guts out for a good portion of it, it's really a suckfest.

Let's begin at the beginning.  I checked in to my Turkish Airways flight in Saigon about 2 hours early.  Plenty of time to get my massive luggage checked (26.5 kilos...maybe a record for me?), check in, head through security, and time to walk the terminal.  The Saigon terminal isn't really all that exciting, so I made my way to the lounge, had some water and a sandwich, and chilled out until boarding.

Trying to sleep
The flight went SGN-BKK-IST-BCN, but luckily I didn't have to get off the plane in BKK.  Uneventful flight to BKK--I managed to nap a bit.  Turkish is ok in terms of their business class.  There were only about 4 people in business on the way there.  For being awarded "best airline in Europe," I guess I expected more?  A chef came and offered sandwiches on the short flight, but I declined and opted for a short nap, instead.

Once in BKK, there was an announcement that we had a bit of a delay because they needed to re-set the entertainment system.  No big deal.  The cabin filled quickly, as it was a full flight to Istanbul.  Two very loud Germans stood by my head while I tried to sleep some more.  They weren't having it.  Then, after they fixed the a/v (which took about 30 minutes) there was a sick passenger that needed to be off-loaded.  As did his luggage.  So I tried for more sleep but the loud Germans were not having it.  More chatting.  The only people chatting.  By that time, it was almost 1am and it was getting ridiculous.  We finally had the passenger and his luggage off, then we had air traffic control issues, so it was going to be another 30 minutes.  Overall, we were 2+ hours late, which was putting my connection to Barcelona in jeopardy.  At that point, I just wanted to sleep.  That wasn't happening.  

We finally took off and service was a bit slow.  Dinner was a few courses.  I ordered a vegetarian meal, and the first course was a salad with chicken.  Uh, ok?  So I ate the salad.  And then round 2 was a very spicy curry.  Maybe the spiciest thing I've ever eaten on an airplane...and the fire in my mouth did not allow me to continue.  So I grabbed some ice cream for dessert and hit the hay.  The lie-flat was much appreciated and I got a good 5 hours of sleep.

And then I woke up.  With a migraine.  A bad one.  

So-so business class
I tried a few of my favorite remedies.  Some tylenol (didn't have my migraine formula).  Some water.  Some denial.  I tried to get some coffee, but the flight attendants didn't have any available--and needed 10 minutes.  I went back and reclined, hoping to think it away.  I tried.  And then I realized that I didn't have enough food in my stomach to have taken a few tylenol and I was going to lose whatever was in there.  I ran to the lav, and all 4 of the ones in business were occupied.  With a panicked look, I told the flight attendant I was going to be sick, and she asked me if I needed something to drink.  Apparently, I didn't look green I told her, no, I needed a toilet or a barf bag.  We went to first class, and of course, those lavs were full, too.  And then I spun around and went back to business, and there was an open lav for me to fill up with barfy times.  Awful.  A first.

When I finished, a nice flight attendant checked on me and got me some sparkling water (who doesn't have Sprite??).  I spent the rest of the flight nursing the rest of my headache and counting the minutes till landing.  And watching Office Space to distract myself.

Once I landed in Istanbul, I deplaned and right out of the jetbridge was shocked to literally see people camped out before customs.  Like camped as in "living" there.  At the airport.  Families, women, children.  Praying, playing, sitting around in a no-mans-land.  Clearly they don't have visas to get in, and they can't leave.  I was stunned.  And sad.  Are they refugees?  Women escaping a harder life somewhere else?  I still don't know.

I got through the security re-check and decided I was going to see if there was a later flight to Barcelona.  I had a little less than an hour to my flight (we had made up some time) and I went to the massive Turkish Airlines lounge.  Massive.  I didn't stay long--literally a wander around to see if they had a desk to help, and found they didn't.  I went back out and asked at the front desk, and I got a brusque "go to gate," with zero sympathy.  I wish I had more vomit in me.  He could have had it.

Delish lemon-mint
So I trudged on to the gate to Barcelona, bought a Sprite, and decided that I was just going to get on the flight.  Glad I did, as it turned out the next flight wasn't until 6 hours later.  That, and I would have missed maybe the best breakfast I've ever had on an airplane.  Shocking, but true.  For what Turkish Airlines lacks in warmth and hospitality, they make up for in custom drinks--mint lemonade, anyone?--and fabulous breakfast cheeses, breads, and eggs.  Seriously delish.

The flight to BCN went quickly.  The interior of the A321 was maybe the oldest piece of junk I've ever seen.  And very red.  Luckily it wasn't a long-haul.  I arrived in BCN without any incident, waited for my colleague who landed an hour later, and headed to the hotel to rest and relax.

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