It was my first flight in more than 6 months
In August 2018, I left Toronto, Canada to work in Kuwait for a couple of years hoping that I will return back to Canada end of 2020. However, the global pandemic caused a major disruption to my plans and forced me to leave Kuwait earlier than expected. I decided to leave Kuwait to Canada but since I had some time to travel around and since Turkey was opened to international travelers, I decided to make a stop in Turkey for a couple of weeks.
Like anyone else traveling in this turbulent and uncertain time, prior to my flight, I was worried about many issues such as flight cancellation, change of entry regulations, or even another lock-down in Turkey. I was stressed before the flight and I only felt comfortable when I boarded the plane on September 12th, 2020 at 6.00 am.
I always like to head to the airport early so that I avoid queues and since I have a lounge access, I can always relax at the airport lounge while waiting for the flight, any flight. Therefore, I arrived in the airport 3 hours before the flight. My brother along with my mother drove me to the airport while my father stayed at home as it was already late for him (around 2.30 am). It was a very sad goodbye as I seriously didn’t know when I would be able to meet my family again. However, I must admit that I was excited about opening a new chapter in my life.
Because of COVID, authorities in Kuwait launched an app called “Mosafer” which literally means “traveler” and passengers traveling out of Kuwait had to register their flight details to receive a QR code to enter security control. I find the whole process useless and time consuming and I don’t see any benefit of using that app.
Turkey allows travelers from many countries around the world to enter its territories without a COVID test or quarantine time and that was another reason why I chose to travel to Turkey so I didn’t really have to worry about any arrangement for COVID test before flight.
Kuwait Airport – Departure
I arrived at the airport around 3 am, I went inside the terminal, headed directly to the check-in desk, check-in was easy and smooth and I received my boarding pass in less than 1 minute. After that, I obviously went through security check and passport control and it was all quick and smooth. The airport wasn’t as empty as I expected, there were some flights taking off and landing within the same time frame. Furthermore, most of stores and restaurants were opened so it didn’t feel very strange to be there.
Dasman lounge at Kuwait Airport
I arrived at the lounge. Luckily, I have an unlimited lounge access at many airports around the world so I went inside with one purpose in my mind which is to check how the lounge in Kuwait airport looks like during COVID time.
It was very late at night when I was inside the lounge and even prior to COVID, lounge at Kuwait airport wouldn’t be crowded at this time of the night. There were some people in the lounge so it wasn’t completely empty.
About food and drinks options, all buffet items were removed and only 2 hot dishes were available but you need to order them and they will get them prepared. The two dishes were pasta and chicken with rice. It was very late so I didn’t order any food. There were some packed dishes of salads and desserts but they didn’t look appealing to me. It was also possible to order coffee or tea but I didn’t bother to drink that and I ended up having a sparkling water only. It was possible to take off the mask while sitting on the table inside the lounge. For more information about my lounge access, click here for more information on travel credit cards and perks like free airport lounge use, click here.
Boarding the plane
I flew from Kuwait to Istanbul with AnadoluJet which is a subsidiary of Turkish Airlines. My flight was heading to Sabiha airport in Istanbul and it is a much smaller than the major Istanbul airport and is located in the Asian side of the gigantic city of Istanbul. Boarding was uneventful; Kuwait airport had clear rules and instructions about social distancing but in reality, that wasn’t really enforced all the time and many passengers didn’t take it seriously. Luckily, the flight wasn’t full so it all went quick and smooth and I was very happy to be inside a plane once again.
Inside the plane
When I checked-in online, I paid a tiny bit extra -maybe 20 dollars- to get a window seat in one of the front rows. It was a great decision as most of the passengers were sitting in the back of the plane while I had the whole front rows for myself.
Turkish Airlines have new rules regarding cabin baggage; passengers are allowed to bring on board one personal item per passenger, not to exceed 4 kg. One piece of cabin baggage per passenger, not to exceed 8 kg, will be carried in the cargo compartment free of charge. I knew about this rule in advance so I prepared myself for it and I had to store my 4 kg backpack under the seat in front of me instead of storing it in the overhead cabin as that, according to Turkish Airlines, helps to maintain social distancing. I slightly disagree with that but I completely understand that every airline has a different strategy to deal with this difficult time and I as a passenger can’t say much about it hoping that it’s all temporary
Cabin crew -all wearing masks- started to distribute Hygiene kits. Also, passengers had to wear masks at all times except when eating and drinking and they were not permitted to change their seats even though there were many empty seats on this flight, especially in front rows. We started taxiing and then took off fairly quickly. I took the last look at Kuwait from above and said to myself “I am leaving now not knowing when I will be back again”.. uncertainty can be annoying and difficult to deal with, sometimes!
Turkish Airlines is one of the airlines which decided to dramatically reduce level of service offered onboard. Unlike many other airlines such as Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Emirates, or Etihad, Turkish Airlines substantially reduced their onboard services and the reason behind that, according to them, is to minimize contact between crew and passengers. No hot drinks and only cold meals were offered. Once again, I can’t criticize their decision as this is an exceptional time but I fail to understand how serving a hot meal may cause a spread of the virus especially that restaurants are opened and they are serving hot and cold meals everywhere in Turkey.
After reaching the cruising altitude, cabin crew started to distribute snack bags. There were cheese sandwich, peach juice, cake, and a bottle of water inside the bag. No tea, coffee, or other beverages were served during the flight. It was a 3 hours flight and prior to COVID, Turkish Airlines used to serve hot meals along with coffee, tea, and other beverages including alcohol while It’s not the case now. Anyhow, everything inside the snack bag tasted good, especially the cake!
The front rows were empty so I had a lot of space for myself and I really enjoyed that, it made the flight very comfortable and relaxing. I even managed to recline my seat to the maximum and to get some sleep. I was so happy and grateful to be flying again. I guess I am fortunate to have such an opportunity as not many people get the chance to travel in this turbulent time.
About 2.5 hours into the flight, we started our descent into Sabiha Airport… The whole flight went like a breeze. I enjoyed looking at beautiful Istanbul from above and was lucky to realize that I am finally visiting a new country again.
Arrival in Sabiha Airport
I arrived in Istanbul, it was shocking to see many Turkish and Pegasus Airlines planes on the ground, there were so many of them and that felt so sad, maybe depressing. I hope these beautiful planes will be able to fly regularly again soon.
Passport control was like a breeze and also the baggage claim. I went to the arrival hall, I got my Turkish sim card (paid around 12 USD for 25GB of Data) and took a taxi to Istanbul center, where my hotel was located. The trip from Sabiha airport to Istiklal street in the center of Istanbul costed around 22 USD and took about an hour. Sabiha airport is located in the Asian part and it’s 60 Kilometers away from the center of the city.
Arriving at my hotel
I booked a hotel for the first 2 nights in Istanbul. After that, I moved an Airbnb apartment. The hotel where I stayed is called Ansen Hotel and Suites and I highly recommend it. The location is amazing as it’s only 3 minutes away from Şişhane metro station by feet and it’s very close to Istiklal street which is the liveliest street in Istanbul.
The room was spacious and bed was very comfortable and the service was very friendly. My stay in that hotel costed me 84 USD for 2 nights. I find it a very good value.
I wasn’t able to get the key to my room as a I arrived a bit earlier than check-in time so I left my luggage and went to find a place that serves a Turkish breakast and I ended up having my first meal in Istanbul at a restaurant called MADO. To be honest, the meal was so-so but I was so glad to eat some great Turkish food again. This meal was only the beginning and was followed by many amazing Turkish meals I had during my stay there.
I am grateful and fortunate to be able to travel again and that also means, I am able to write something new in my travel blog. I am happy to be able to write again and to share with you all more of my trips.
I bought the one way ticket from Kuwait to Istanbul using my Lufthansa Miles & More points and since Turkish Airlines is a member of Star Alliance, I was able to use my Lufthansa points to buy this ticket. I only paid 30US for taxes and fees. If you like traveling, I encourage to participate in any of the frequent-flyer programs such as Lufthansa’s miles & more or Turkish Airlines miles & smiles.
This is all I can say about my first flight during COVID for now. I will be writing more blogs about my trips to Istanbul and Bodrum in the next coming few days so stay tuned.