TRIP REPORT: Pegasus, Bishkek to Athens via Istanbul

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Written by Aэrologic

This is about a trip taken in July last year from Bishkek to Athens via Istanbul. After six months in Asia I was going back to Europe to spend the rest of the summer. Kyrgyzstan is a wonderful country that I advise everyone to visit. Pics of it and other my trips can be seen on my Instagram page.

At the moment I was leaving, we were seeing temperatures in Bishkek of around 40 degrees in the evening or between 50-60 Celsius during the day. That is hotter than I experienced in India or anywhere else in the world.

I was heading to the Southern part of Albania to spend the remaining of the summer, due to its perfectly dry climate. The Southern part of Albania around Butrint was known since the Roman times for its healing properties. I’ve spent the month of June in the Issyk-Kul region of Kyrgyzstan which boasts one of the deepest mountain lakes in the world.

Lake Issyk-Kul facing the snow-capped Trans-Ili Alatau range

The options from Bishkek to Europe were quite scarce. I wasn’t looking forward to going to Almaty. It was basically down to Pegasus, Turkish Airlines and a few local companies flying to either Istanbul or Moscow. Air Astana from Kazakhstan was also an option but they’re often 2-3 times more expensive than the competition and take long detours via Almaty or Astana. Due to my personal contempt of Turkish Airlines, it was basically down to Pegasus.

I didn’t take the flight to Tirana due to the Sarande area being more accessible by road from the Greek side. Also, I’ve considered separate flights with Avia Traffic Company from Bishkek to Istanbul (ISL) then Aegean to Ioannina, Thessaloniki or Corfu via Athens but the connections simply wouldn’t match. The Avia Traffic flight arrives too late at around 01AM and misses the Greek connections by an hour or more, forcing me to spend a day in Istanbul along with the commute to and from the remote recently built airport.

So, I booked a flight on the 19.07 departing at 08:30 in the morning. Bishkek at 06:00 was surprisingly pleasant before the hot wave hits.

The gates of Bishkek



The airport, Manas, is very far from the city center. Approximately 30-40 kilometers. Why was it built in that place (less than a dozen kilometers from the Kazakh border), despite abundant space around the city, I don’t know.

The airport is linked with the city by a beautiful tree-lined highway. However, in recent years the city authorities have reduced the maximum speed on the highway to about 60km per hour taking you about an hour to reach the airport.



The terminal interior and the check-in area
The airport is organized in a very old style and didn’t go through renovation since the Soviet times. I arrived only one hour before departure and was told by the check-in agent that I would have normally missed my flight if not for a bug they had in the system. A number of airports around the world and in the former Soviet Union – Bishkek included – close the check-in one hour and not 45 minutes before departure. There is no notice about it anywhere in the ticket.

Bishkek Manas apron

Kazakh steppe


The rest of the trip to Istanbul was uneventful. We overflew most of the Kazakh steppe, Aktau, the Caspian sea, Georgia then over the Black sea to Istanbul. The flight took almost six hours.

Black sea

Kartal



Once in Istanbul, I went to eat at a café only to learn they would give me the Wi-fi code only if I spend a minimum of 10-15 Euros at their café i.e they do not provide Wi-fi for customers ordering only drinks but food mandatory. That was quite disgusting, but I needed to eat anyway so I was fine with it. I bought an extra desert to make it to their ‘limit’. Even so, the Wi-fi offered was only 30 minutes.


Napkin from the cafe

Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen doesn’t have an airport Wi-fi. It was previously available only for customers who’re able to receive an SMS onto their Turkish number and who most probably don’t need it anyway, since they have their local subscription. For transiting passengers or anyone with a foreign Sim card it was impossible to get Wi-fi. I went out for a smoke to notice a beautiful day and see how light in this part of the world is different to the one in Asia, somehow darker, maybe due to the pollution. The sun in Kyrgyzstan looks a lot bigger and brighter.



Due to the other flight departing in late afternoon, I also had time for some spotting.

Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca



Nile Air

The usual suspect

Boarding




The flight to Athens was almost completely full. As we took off we overflew the Princess islands and then went South what enabled us to see the whole Istanbul, Bosporus and the old Istanbul airport. It was clear so we could see as far away as the Black sea. Next we flew over the Aegean sea where we could see many beautiful islands.



Princess Islands

The old IST airport

Greek islands

The Aegean sea



Landing in Athens


Athens afternoon apron

Mostly foreign carriers on jet-bridges

Approach to Athens was windy as usual and in what was a first we were parked on the actual gate. Only foreign carriers were seen using the jet-bridges. That was very welcome after 8 hours total flying. Aegean uses exclusively remote stands just like Ryanair and Wizz Air.


All in all, Pegasus is a good company to fly with if all you need is a transportation link at a reasonable price from one distant place to another. There is no service as such to be talked about. Crew are courteous and down to Earth. The major drawback(s) would be that their online check-in application both on mobile and website doesn’t have an English version. That is totally abhorrent since you simply don’t know what to do or where to press and you can go around guessing or eventually even cancel your ticket.

Even then, once the proper steps have been taken, you need to do a second step, also in Turkish, to get the pass actually delivered on your e-mail since it’s not automatically delivered. So either arrive at the airport with a lot time ahead to complete a normal check-in or take your own risk with the lacklustre interface. That is of course incomprehensible for an airline carrying dozens of millions of passengers a year.

The second major drawback is the absence of Wi-Fi at the Sabiha Gokcen airport and the fact the only café that provides it abuses their clients cause ‘they have the right to do so’ i.e you have no other choice if you want to stay in touch with your friends and family, business partners during a long transit. That would be it. While relatively minor, it would be a game changer for some.


Share your travel experience by submitting a trip report to exyu@exyuaviation.com


Comments

  1. Anonymous10:34

    Nice trip report, thank you. Six hours on the B737 is quite long.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous10:51

      I think even Turkish Airlines sends the 737 to Bishkek.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous11:06

      Yes but TK is premium airlines so it's not the same.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous11:12

      Lol

      Delete
    4. Anonymous11:14

      ISL
      ISTANBUL
      +03 (UTC +03:00)
      ACTUAL
      9:00
      FRU
      BISHKEK
      +06 (UTC +06:00)
      ESTIMATED
      4:23
      2,797 km, 03:12 ago
      948 km, in 01:10
      AIRCRAFT TYPE (B77W)
      Boeing 777-3F2(ER)


      Delete
    5. Anonymous11:16

      What's so premium about their crash landings, lack of customer service, lack of language skills, hot cabin, dreadful livery?

      TK and PC have almost the same ratings on Skytrax.

      Delete
    6. Anonymous11:19

      You are actually quoting a cargo or a repatriation flight.

      There are currently no flights to Bishkek.

      TK isn't sending their 773 anywhere, let alone to Bishkek.

      Delete
    7. Anonymous11:39

      TK has better legroom, IFE and they actually serve meals, delicious meals.

      Delete
    8. Anonymous11:43

      https://www.airlinequality.com/airline-reviews/turkish-airlines/

      Delete
    9. Anonymous11:45

      You can buy your meal for 15 Eur. with Pegasus and you're all set.

      I don't care about IFE.

      Delete
    10. Anonymous11:46

      Who cares about IFE or a "meal" when there is no safety at TK!!!

      Delete
    11. Anonymous11:48

      You make it sound as if their planes crashed every day.LOL

      Delete
    12. AV Herald will open your eyes about the dreadful safety culture of TK.
      http://avherald.com/h?search_term=THY&opt=1&dosearch=1&search.x=38&search.y=13

      Delete
    13. Anonymous13:05

      Is Avherald reliable or is like Skytrax?

      Delete
    14. Anonymous13:38

      I think it's in between the two.

      Delete
    15. Anonymous13:50

      There is no more reliable website about aircraft incidents than Aviation Herald.
      It publishes verified facts only.

      Delete
  2. Anonymous11:40

    Great, report, great pictures. I envoy you on these trips and flights :) Also one correction, Aegean Airlines uses jet bridges at Athens, now depends on which flights at times, but uses a lot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aэrologic11:50

      That was maybe the case before. Out of dozens of flights with Aegean i got air-bridge only once to Cairo.

      All other times at ATH air-bridge was with Air Serbia and now Pegasus.

      PS also uses remote stands.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous11:53

      PS makes sense they are like FR but without profit

      Delete
    3. Anonymous12:01

      Well, I flew with Aegean in October 2019, my flight was on air bridge and maybe some 10 more Aegean flights. Off course, there were flights on remote stands.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous12:07

      A bit better.

      They give you water and chocolate and FA's are higher quality, very well mannered.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous12:14

      Very often their aircraft are parked at air-bridges but they're not actually using them.

      Delete
    6. Anonymous12:25

      It largely depends whether the flights is intra or extra Schengen area. Usually jet bridge gates are for extra Schengen destinations.

      Delete
    7. Anonymous13:07

      Maybe there are not enough airbridges?

      Delete
    8. Anonymous13:15

      There are rather not enough remote stands, hence why Aegean often parks their aircraft next to do terminal.

      However, whenever they can, A3 uses remote stands almost exclusively.

      Delete
    9. Dejan13:55

      In summer season jetbridges during the day are used almost exclusively by widebody aircraft I believe.
      I remember seating at McDonalds (which became Burger King) and seeing two EK 777Ws, DL, A330, QR A330, UA 767, AA A330, EY 787, TK 777X and I think an SU A330.

      Delete
    10. Anonymous14:17

      Last Summer they had in ATH two daily to DXB, one with A380. 1 daily EK 777 to EWR, 1 UA 787 to EWR, 2 DL A330 to JFK, 1AA A330 to PHL, 1AA 787 to ORD, 3 daily QR with A330 to DOH, double daily EY I think, triple daily TK widebodies to IST, plus Scoot daily to SIN, Air China to PEK, SU widebodies to Moscow, AF was on widebody to CDG, BA 767 to LHR, IB widebody to MAD, LX widebody to ZRH etc.
      Great place for spotting but you can not take good pics from inside the terminal.

      Delete
    11. Anonymous14:18

      I flew through Athens at least 10 times and every time it was out of Schengen we were on remote stands, every time to Schengen we got the airbridge. Maybe some research before posting wrong information. ATH doesnt have enough gate in general.

      Delete
    12. Nemjee19:15

      Biggest issue is that a plane might come from a non-Schengen destination and that it continues to a Schengen one. That is why many planes are not using airbridges. Last time I flew to ATH from BEG, we stopped at an airbridge but disembarked via stairs. The plane was only then connected to the terminal. I checked later on and the A320 continued to DUS. On the way back we used the airbridge because the plane came from IST.

      Delete
    13. Anonymous19:42

      That's what I'm saying.

      Delete
    14. Anonymous20:03

      Exactly, why not?

      Delete
  3. Anonymous11:46

    Nice report.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous12:32

    Interesting that Bishkek has airbridges.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aэrologic12:58

      Bishkek is quite a developed city.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous16:06

      Really? I didn’t picture Bishkek as developed at all, I’ve been there in 2009, and the city although nice, seemed very poor, one of the biggest impacts is that in the night none of the street lights were working except on the Alatoo square.. however i do remember the dreadful hotel we stayed and the taxi driver who talked about Ivica Serfezi and Radmila Karaklajic

      Delete
    3. Aэrologic17:09

      Bishkek is very clean and ordered compared to other central Asian cities.

      It all depends what we compare with.

      Bishkek has a huge trolleybus network and almost no buses.

      Delete
    4. Aэrologic17:12

      If we compare to South-East European cities it's somewhere between Zagreb and Tirana.

      Delete
  5. Nice trip report. I like it when people travel for work or holidays to not well known destinations. Well done @AEROLOGIC!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous15:22

    Nice and exotic report and destination. How was the border control? I know exactly Soviet states are not the friendliest. Do EU nationals need a visa?
    Did you find it expensive?

    I used PC to TBS and everything was good. The fares are more than decent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aэrologic17:07

      EU nationals don't need visa up to 30 days.

      Serbian nationals don't need visa 90 days.

      Delete
    2. Aэrologic17:07

      Border control was a breeze.

      Kazakh border control knows to be troublesome.

      Delete
    3. Aэrologic17:17

      Uzbek is full of papers/documents but very straight to the point.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous19:43

      Thanks for the info! Are you planning on more trips?

      Delete
    5. Aэrologic20:12

      I am currently stuck in Kazakhstan.

      Delete
  7. Anonymous16:34

    Interesting report, thanks for sharing. Flew TIA-SAW with Pegasus a couple of times, never had any problems. I hope you enjoyed your time here in Albania

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous17:03

      TIA-SAW is usually very expensive.

      Delete
    2. Aэrologic17:21

      I've been to many places. Albania along with Crimea became my favorite summer vacation destination in Europe/Mediterranean.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous17:36

      Anon 17:03 Im not very sure, maybe thats the case in summer. I ve only flown that route in November and March and my flights were quite cheap, almost Wizz/Ryanair level.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous18:51

      How many flights are there between TIA and SAW?

      Delete
    5. Anonymous19:09

      Pegasus flies it daily (well not currently for obvious reasons)

      Delete
  8. Anonymous21:34

    What is Pegasus Asia?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aэrologic22:02

      It was Pegasus subsidiary operating in Kyrgyzstan.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous22:24

      Now it's called Air Manas.

      Delete
  9. Great report Aэrologic.

    ReplyDelete

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