[Noob contributor, Ethan Carter, continues his two part series on his first mileage run. Enjoy!
Part 2: Mileage Running to Istanbul
Part 2: Mileage Running to Istanbul
I’ll skip the ORD-EWR portion of the mileage run, since it was a boring flight on an A320. Our flight to Istanbul was delayed a bit because of a mishandled equipment change (everybody had new seats and about half of them didn’t know) and a silly maintenance issue (cracked plastic in the lavatory that apparently reached the FAA limit for flight hours without being fixed). But we got underway, and helping handle the seat issues got me buddied up with the Flight Attendants (read: free alcohol).
The good thing about being buddies with the FAs is that I flew with the same crew out and back! When FAs fly a long-haul international flight, they stay about 24 hours in the destination city. Which is what I did on my mileage run! Some others mileage running flew back immediately, but I stayed 24 hours so I would be sane.
I got through immigration no trouble (they charge you $20 US for a 90-day visa), and exited the terminal. It looked like the stock exchange with so many people holding signs and looking for people!
Hurry, hurry! Get your rides here!
I had a van waiting for me from Efendi Travel, and they were great. They even picked me up early for the return trip. They had water in what basically amounts to a pudding cup, which was a pretty weird way to drink water, but it worked!
I stayed at the Istanbul Edition, based on United’s Hemispheres magazine recommendation in their “3 perfect days in Istanbul” and my (wavering) Marriott loyalty. I didn’t use points to stay here, but I did try to use a gift card I had bought from Marriott that netted me 6,000 bonus Southwest Rapid Rewards points! That promotion unfortunately just expired Nov 30. It has been a battle that I’m still fighting to use the gift card (and I had similar issues in Frankfurt), so I’d caution you if you plan to use a Marriott gift card overseas, you may want to contact the hotel first.
The hotel was fantastic, and the staff were incredibly helpful and friendly. I didn’t touch my bags until I was in my room. I was upgraded to a “deluxe” room, which was incredibly spacious. The hotel is very modern, and the 9-foot high rain shower is every bit as heavenly as the Hemispheres writer described it. You’re also greeted by complimentary figs and water in the room when you arrive.
”Sacred Fruit”, or figs “as mortal man have assigned it” (so says the card!)
I only had a short evening and morning in Istanbul, so I visited an area near my hotel and had Kumpir, which is a baked potato mashed with butter and cheese, with a lot of delicious things put in it.
Kumpir & Çay (Pronounced “Chai”, Turkish for tea)
I also walked along the Bosporus for the view of the city lights, until it started raining again and I went back to the hotel.
The next morning I arose early and took the ferry to Kadiköy on the Asian side. I’ve been to Istanbul once before, and the Asian side is much cheaper and less “touristy” than the European side. Of course, if you want to sightsee then the European side is where it’s at, but to just enjoy the food and culture the pier at Kadiköy is perfect. The ferry costs 3 Turkish Lira (about $1.50), and provides stunning views of the Bosporus, without the cost of a boat tour (where you would see the same things). Buy a Turkish tea for half a Turkish Lira, and there isn’t a better way to take public transportation that I’ve found.
I got to have some Turkish coffee, some fresh squeezed orange juice (their juice stands are incredible), and some breakfast from street vendors. My only disappointment was it was too early for some Balik Ekmek, which is a delicious piece of grilled fish on bread. So simple, yet delicious, but I didn’t get any on this trip because I had to take the 10am ferry back to make it to the airport on time.
The transfer to the airport went smoothly, and after 2 security checkpoints and 3 passport controls (they’re stingy when you’re coming to the US!) I made it to the Turkish Airlines lounge. I get in because of my Star Alliance Gold status, and I was excited because this lounge is highly regarded as one of the best in the Star Alliance. They had multiple stations of fresh food, comfortable seating, and pour-it-yourself beer, wine, and liquor. The selection was nothing to sneeze at, either!
Made it to the gate in time to chat with my favorite Flight Attendants and see how they spent their day in Istanbul. The flight back went smoothly, and immigration was surprisingly empty. After about an hour maintenance delay in Newark (at least I got the good seat in the exit row with a blank space in front), I was on my way back to Houston, arriving a mere 65 hours after leaving.
It was a whirlwind trip, but worth it for the time in Istanbul, and most of all the miles! I’m already seeing benefits from the Platinum status this trip helped me gain, including credit for my Global entry application ($100) and reworking award travel! Crazy or not, I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
— Geoff Whitmore