By Byron Mutingwende
My first flight on an international trip was in 2010 when I headed to Ethiopia for a journalistic workshop on food matters. Over the years, I have been flying regularly mainly to African countries and sporadically to Asia and Europe. However, it is my last trip to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on Turkish Airlines that will remain etched on my mind forever.
Before the trip, I had read about The Pearl of Cyprus Tourism, Kyrenia, situated between the Five Finger Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea and the urge to travel was so huge. The zeal to visit Famagusta – the Eastern Mediterranean’s enigmatic port was equally strong and so was the need to explore Lefkosa, the capital of civilisations within the Old City Walls of Nikosia where four civilisations left their indelible footprints: the Lusignan, Venetian, Ottoman and British Periods.
I knew to get there I would need connecting flights since the Turkish Airlines (I am made to understand) is not flying into Zimbabwe. For me it was encouraging to see that I would fly first to Lusaka then connect to Bole International Airport in Ethiopia where I would catch the Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul International Airport.
I vividly remember my flight details the way I remember my national identification and passport numbers. My departure from Bole International Airport was in the early morning of Tuesday 17 July 2018 at 25 minutes to one on Turkish Airlines Flight TK677.
That time to first experience the Turkish Airlines came. On the entrance to the plane were smiling, accommodating hostesses who made me feel at home. I was directed by one of the airhostesses to my seat by the window of the aeroplane. It is difficult to imagine that I was flying Economy. It is still my wish to fly Business of First Class but I think the Turkish Airlines have gone a step further in giving travellers additional flexibility and relaxation.
To me, it was a seamless travel experience. No sooner had I relaxed in the seat than I was given a bag with necessities: stockings, morning shoes, a mirror, a comb, a toothbrush, soap tablet and toothbrush for use at my destination just in case I had forgotten to carry those basics. Inside the bag, I realised there were ear-plugs to ensure I would protect my eardrums if I was one type not used or comfortable with the sound of aeroplanes.
The Turkish Airlines have embraced digital technologies. In front of me was my own television from which I could freely choose whether to watch African movies, Blockbusters, Action movies or listen to traditional African, pop, soul or Reggae music.
The best experience is that from Istanbul to Ercan International Airport I was on Turkish Airlines Flight TK976. Upon my return a week later on Monday 23 July 2018, I also took the Turkish Airlines TK042, which is a direct flight from Istanbul to OR Tambo International Airport – a 10-hour non stop flight.
I salivate each moment I think about the fresh Turkish food served on the plane (The Mediterranean Cuisine) – the grapes, granadillas, apples, refreshing beer, succulent juices, soft meat, fish, indulging bread, the Turkish tea and coffee. Indeed it was a flight experience second to none and one that makes one envy to stay airborne forever!