After a fantastic introduction to Georgia, it was time to get back up in the air. I was very surprised by Tbilisi, and though three days is an adequate amount of time to see all the “sights” in the Tbilisi area, I know I will be back relatively soon because 1. I still want to get to Gori and see the Stalin related stuff, 2. Georgian food is amazing, 3. I promised my friends I would come back soon and see them…and go to Batumi next summer.
I settled up at the Sheraton after a minor argument with the desk. When I checked in they told me breakfast was included, yet when I checked out, I had a charge for breakfast on my bill for the one day I actually went. According to the desk staff, I was wrong. I’m not sure how you can misconstrue another statement as “breakfast is included in your rate,” but whatever.
The day before, when coming from the downtown center, my cab driver who assured me he knew where the Sheraton was, actually had no idea where he was going. After stopping for directions several times and asking people on the street corner, he pulled up in front of a local sports stadium on the outskirts of the city, and insisted it was my hotel.
Finally, I got the hotel on the phone and they explained to him the actual address, and we made it back. What is normally a 5-10 minute drive probably took 45 minutes with the “detour.” I know he didn’t do it maliciously, as we had agreed to a price before I got in the cab, and we weren’t working off the meter. Also, as the ride wore on, I could tell the cabbie was stressing about how long it was taking, and all the gas he was burning vs. the price we had agreed to.
He was a nice enough guy, so when I got out I gave him a large tip that evened out the extra time we spent meandering. I was leaving the country soon anyway and I doubted the Lari converted favorably abroad…always good to leave some people with a positive impression of Americans.
Anyway, as a result of that experience, I made sure to leave myself plenty of time to get to the airport for my TBS-IST flight, just in case I got another driver with a similar knowledge of Tbilisi addresses.
Traffic was light, my driver knew the way, and in no time we were rolling down George W. Bush Ave. and back to TBS.
As you can imagine, there are not a tremendous number of flights in or out of Tbilisi. As a result, the check-in hall was rather dead.
Since this trip was part of the moving from Paris back to NYC process, I had a bag to check. The woman at the TK check-in counter told me it would be 100euro for the bag. I inquired as to the cost of upgrading my Y-class ticket to Business, but it was nearly 400 euro, not worth it for a short flight.
I was given a receipt, directed to another desk where the payment for my baggage was processed. Then I had to go back to the TK desk, show them everything was in order, and finally my bag was on it’s way to being sorted, and I was on my way up the stairs to immigration and the lounge.
After being stamped out of Georgia, I went to the lounge, half of which was under construction (renovation?)
The lounge had TV, wifi, drinks and a selection of cold and warm foods. It wasn’t crowded at all (perhaps five other people were in there), and it was a pleasant place to wait for boarding. The lounge also has a departures/arrival board. After getting used to the enormous boards in major world hubs, there’s always something amusing about looking up and seeing all movements for most of the day displayed on a single, normal sized monitor. I left the lounge for a bit and wandered around the terminal. It’s a nice looking place, very modern, although it seems a bit dark. Given the size of the terminal vs. the # of movements, I think perhaps the airport was built with room to grow, anticipating the climate of progress in Georgia will lead to increased air traffic.
Security is done at the gate, and the queue got backed up pretty good. I didn’t head to security until “boarding” flashed on the screens in the lounge, and even after I was through, it was probably another 15-20 minutes until boarding actually began.
There’s not much to say about the flight, it was a 2.5 hour short haul flight in Economy. I found TK’s Y seats to have ample pitch, be perfectly comfortable (more so than any domestic Y seats), and even in Y we were served a full meal which was very surprising.
Once at the jetway I was quickly off the plane and on my way to immigration. I purchased my visa, got onto the queue and thought I might actually get out of the airport in quick fashion. But of course…I had checked a bag.
It was almost an hour after we pulled up to the jetway before the first bags from the TBS flight started rolling out. Probably the longest I have ever waited in any airport anywhere for baggage to start coming out.
With that minor annoyance out of the way, I popped outside, grabbed a cab and set off for my hotel. Luckily I had some YTL with me already from an earlier trip to Istanbul.