The time came to bid farewell to Kalkan for 2011 and return to Richmond for Xmas, the New Year and to see our lovely daughter Kirsten who is expecting her first child in April.
This post describes a typical journey home from Kalkan on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey via Dalaman Airport to London Gatwick and onwards to our home in Richmond and gives an update on security arrangements at Dalaman.
For the past six weeks we have had a car on rental from Central Cars in Kalkan and Yilmaz, the owner of the company, has given us great service at a good price. The rental charge included a pick up from Antalya Airport, where we arrived on the 13th November after a short break in the UK, and a transfer to Dalaman Airport for this flight home. Our friends Peter and Jenny are travelling back on the same flight so we have made an arrangement with Yilmaz that, for the price of the fuel, he will drive all four of us in his minibus. Everyone is happy.
The journey from Kalkan to Dalaman today takes 1 hour 45 mins and covers about 120 km. The journey from the entrance to the terminal, through security, check-in, security again and passport control takes 1 hour 30 mins and covers a distance of about 120 metres! As our flight is the only one departing tonight this seemed, to say the least, to be excessive.
A couple of points of interest for travellers using Dalaman Aiurport International Terminal. The last time we used the terminal all drinking water had to be jetisoned at the security checkpoint at the entrance to the terminal. This has now changed and we were able to take drinking water through to the check-in hall – a great boon. Secondly, and potentially worryingly, Margaret has trouble getting through the screening arch without setting off the alarms. The security guards cannot fathom out why. They have a solution. She is told to RUN through the arch and that will fool the system. They are right!!
During our long wait in the check-in queue there is plenty of time to survey our fellow passengers and to decide who I will be sitting next to. For reasons that are hard to explain – other than Sod’s Law – the short straw always seems to come my way in the form of the largest passenger on the flight. (There will be another post in the near future about airlines attitudes to overweight/oversized passengers and their effect on their fellow travellers.) My potential seating companion stands out a mile, a 6ft 6in Shrek lookalike. I’m now prepared for the worst.
Eventually we get to the front of the check-in queue and ask for two adjacent aisle seats, our favourite seating arrangement. The only downside is that the seats we are allocated are in row 37 of a 40 row aircraft – right at the back. Anyway, boarding cards in hand, we head towards passport control via the second security check where our water has to be jetisoned. The official at the passport checking desk actually smiles, which doesn’t happen so often at these desks in any airport. We say “merhaba” (hello) to him and this is returned with a friendly “iyi aksamlar” (good evening) when he hands back our passports – excellent.
The one benefit of the excessively long time at check-in is that we can now go direct to the departure gate and avoid the exhorbitantly priced cafes and bars. A change here is that the security that used to be at the departure gates has gone and it is now an open area where you can come and go as you wish. A big improvement especially as there is still a severe shortage of seats near to the gate. The four of us are now together again and luckily we do find seats.
Boarding is delayed for some unexplained reason although the aircraft is at the stand. We eventually are called for boarding and get to our seats 10 minutes after scheduled take-off time. As we board Margaret gets a chance to speak to one of the cabin crew and briefly explains the recent experiences with oversized passengers and asks if we will be able to move seats. The crew member makes positive comments without actually committing to moving us if necessary.
So we head down the aisle to our seats and find the two seats next to mine are empty – a good start. Then a large man appears followed by his wife – ‘Shrek’ is already seated a couple of rows in front – and asks to be let into the seats next to me. Great relief, he goes for the window seat and his wife is next to me. Am I getting paranoid??
Push back is at 20.40, precisely 25 mins late and no explanation offered. There are a distressing number of distressed infants who start crying with the noise of the engines and the movement of the plane – poor parents and poor fellow passengers. The guy doing the safety briefing is excellent, comes over as trying to reach his audience – not reading from a script – and has excellent diction so we hear every word. As the flight progresses it becomes clear that the crew as a whole are very efficient and professional – full marks today TC.
A word of warning and not so full marks TC for the next thing. They are handing out a questionnaire purportedly seeking your opinion of Thomas Cook and your holiday. In fact it is a thinly disguised attempt to extract loads of personal data which they will no doubt sell on to credit card companies and the likes. Apart from this being a rather dubious practice, they seem to have lost sight of the fact that on this flight the vast majority of the passengers are expats going home from their villas and apartments for Xmas, have purchased their tickets on the internet and have only chosen TC because there is no choice at this time of year.
The plane touches down at 22.36 and we’re landside by 23.15. Pretty efficient. It’s time to say goodbye to Peter and Jenny. Having travelling companions for the taxi transfer and through the drudgery of the terminals has made the whole experience much more bearable. Peter’s son is waiting to take them home and we set off for the station. We’re on a train at 23.23 and heading for Richmond via a change at Clapham Junction. There was a twenty minute wait at Clapham but we’re home where our dear friends and neighbours Chris and Isabel have put on the central heating and left us fresh bread and milk. Time for a cup of tea.
Total journey time – door to door – has been a little over 11 hours. That’s about par for the course. Only a few hours now before we see our blooming daughter!!