Flying Turkish Airlines during the Coronavirus – What’s the Deal?

Turkish Airlines – Should I Fly Them During The Pandemic?

Having made the decision to say farewell Hong Kong, we were faced with a long haul flight back to Europe during the pandemic.

With flights at a premium, Turkish Airlines offered a great price and a pretty convenient itinerary, so we took the plunge, both our first time flying with Turkish.

Our Itinerary was as follows:

HKG > IST (TK71) – about 10 hours

3 hour stopover in the new Istanbul Airport

IST > MXP (TK1873) – about 3 hours

With many people taking the decision to avoid flying during this increasingly bizarre year, we wanted to shed some light on what the experience was like for the long-haul flight from Asia back to Europe.

Farewell Hong Kong
Hong Kong Airport – Utterly devoid of people

Turkish Airlines during the Coronavirus – Measures Taken

Turkish Airlines during the Coronavirus – Hong Kong Airport

Turkish Airlines during the Coronavirus – Istanbul Airport

Turkish Airlines during the Coronavirus – Milan Airport

Flying During the Coronavirus – Final Thoughts

Turkish Airlines during the Coronavirus – Measures Taken

When booking the flight through Skyscanner we saw Turkish rated 5/5 for flying during the Pandemic, which was comforting!

Skyscanner rate each airline on 5 factors:

  • Mandatory wearing of Face Masks
  • Deep cleaning daily
  • Flight crew wearing PPE
  • Cleaning Wipes provided
  • Changes to food service

You can see here upon comparing BA with Ryanair that BA also picks up a 5 star rating, Ryanair 4 with their lack of cleaning wipes.

COVID 5 Rating on Skyscanner

Turkish actually went a step further and provided all passengers with a little packaged kit which included masks and hand sanitiser – the shorter flight did not include masks but you still received the kit.

Here are both kits below, along with the number of passengers near us on the flight itself from HKG to IST.

We felt particularly comfortable with Turkish throughout the flight.

Of course it helped we had no one nearby us (which wasn’t the case for the 2nd flight by the way), but the changes to food service, cleaning kits handed out as shown above, and the staff all made the process very smooth.

As airlines go, I’d have absolutely no problem flying Turkish again, whether it be during the Pandemic or normally.

Turkish Airlines during the Coronavirus – Hong Kong Airport

With the strict measures for entering Hong Kong and few travelling we expected a quiet airport.

Hong Kong Airport - HKG
Hong Kong Airport – HKG

What we got was something that beat even our expectations.

Staff outnumbered passengers comfortably as we arrived at 8pm on a Tuesday evening. There was barely a soul around us, it was eerie to say the least.

We almost felt we shouldn’t be flying!

That said, how lovely it is to stroll casually to check-in with no people running around you, pushing or shoving – it was a smooth and seamless experience!

We had to fill out a health declaration form (which was never checked by anyone at HKG), but other than that, check in was normal.

At the time of writing Hong Kong’s policy was that all restaurants were only allowed to open for takeaway from after 6pm, meaning anything we wanted to eat, we had to takeaway, in the airport.

Very odd experience for sure, but we had the space to do so, and we’ve become well verse to takeaway during the last 6 months!

Hong Kong Airport is 75% closed – there was barely anything open at all, but of course McDonalds was… not a time to be fussy!

We grabbed some food and found a nearby bench, feeling almost judged for taking the mask off to eat!

Security was also nice and quiet, and after that we were through to the gates.

The only differences so far:

  • The Health Declaration form that was ultimately not needed (we were told to print this out at the airport – 10HKD per sheet)
  • Two temperature checks that are standard wherever you go these days

Otherwise the only other change was that boarding was completed 5 rows at a time, from the back.

A smart step from Turkish and one that didn’t take long at all considering the number of people.

Before we knew it, we were on-board and taking off early.

Hong Kong Airport - About to board TK71
Hong Kong Airport – About to board TK71

Turkish Airlines during the Coronavirus – Istanbul Airport

A slightly different story in Istanbul.

We landed an hour or so early at around 4.30am at the newly revamped Istanbul (IST) airport ready for a short 3 hour layover – perfect time to check out the new airport and stretch our legs.

Checks between plane and duty-free were pretty standard and fast – nothing really to report but upon entering the duty free area the swarms of people hit us like a breezeblock.

It was like being back in Causeway Bay in Hong Kong!

Perhaps I was naive, but I expected the time of day and pandemic to make for a much quieter Istanbul – but then again, this is a major connecting hub for the world so perhaps my optimism was mis-placed.

Either way – it took us some time to find a seat.

I must say the new airport is fantastic, full of things, very open and some great food on show.

Coupled with a solid experience with the airline, I’d be more than happy to spend more time in Istanbul’s airport (and the city itself in truth).

Istanbul's Brand New Airport - flights for the day
Istanbul’s Brand New Airport – flights for the day. Notice not a single one to the far east

The flight itself was indeed much more busy – probably 50%-60% capacity.

Upon booking all middle rows were blacked out, great… it meant we’d have our own row but upon sitting down we had another person join us – not really any chance to social distance then!

Turkish Airlines during the Coronavirus – Milan Malpensa Airport

Of course our time in Milan Malpensa (MXP) was short and sweet.

It was a case of grabbing bags and scooting off to Brescia but some observations.

We were given more health forms on the plane – almost identical to ones we’d already filled out in HKG.

Upon landing the first check was with some health officials who stop you before passport control.

They take a read of your form and let you through pretty quickly – I don’t think much was checked in all honesty.

Some had to do bag checks as well but we went straight through to baggage.

With no need to quarantine it was time for another delightful mother-daughter re-union for Bianca and her Mum.

Since last seeing each other on January 1st 2020 so much had changed, not just for us, but for life in Lombardia. Bianca’s hometown was a shadow of it’s former self.

Bianca’s Mum, along with the entire population of the region were locked up for 2 months plus… with no personal contact.

A city, a region utterly decimated by the Pandemic.

Things had changed here, things had changed a lot.

Flying During the Coronavirus – Final Thoughts

The conclusion is clear as day, and as we expected before taking off.

Asia and Europe are dealing with the pandemic in very different ways, and it filters through to the general public.

Europe wants life back as normal – caution, sure (mostly) but people want normality.

Asia wants the pandemic clear for good before life returns to normal.

Time to enjoy some Italian food!

Although inside of places like China and Taiwan, life is pretty normal, you can do most things you’d want. What isn’t normal is the tourism situation.

Europe is trying to open up for tourism, Asia will not fully for some time, and if you are one of the people who makes the voyage east – expect a lot of checks, tests and caution when you land – expect to be treated like you HAVE some form of illness, until proven otherwise.

I have a friend who just flew Frankfurt to Taipei via Istanbul the day after we landed.

The long list of things he said he had to do sounded draining just reading it – it’s a feeling we are well verse to having lived in Asia for the last 3 years.

Now it’s time to kick back and enjoy some time with family and friends in Europe.

If you choose to fly during 2020 – stay safe, and as long as you pack your common sense with you, I’m sure it’ll go without a hitch.

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