Aaron Hailwood flies Pegasus Airways PG536 and PG462, Rome to Tbilisi.
The route: Rome Fiumicino (FCO), Italy to Tbilisi, Georgia (TBS) via Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW).
The plane: Both Boeing 737-800s, with Rexona adverts on the headrests, ING banking adverts on the overhead lockers, and ads playing on the screens.
Class: Economy - the only class Pegasus offers.
The seat: 14E on FCO-SAW leg, but I snuck into the empty exit row, and 27E for the SAW-TBS leg. The seats gave about a couple of centimetres more pitch than expected, with good recline.
Price: $220 one way. The only direct route was on Alitalia costing $1100. Other airlines available from $350 upwards with the cheapest going through the Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, and Azerbaijan. Connections through Lufthansa and Czech Airways were available for similar prices as Alitalia.
Fellow passengers: Both flights were only about two-thirds full with several from our first flight also on the second. An abundance of young Georgian couples returning from what seemed to have been a romantic mini-break in Istanbul.
On time: Both took off on time, and both landed about 20 minutes early, and given we had a 2.50am scheduled arrival in Tbilisi, that was much appreciated.
Entertainment: Screens drop from the roof and play an amusing safety video (with none of the cringe seen in some of Air New Zealand's latest ones), plus a range of adverts for the food for sale on board that proved very tempting (more on that in a moment).
The service: Smiles all round, and an interesting command of English, especially on the Georgian leg. Not the best service, but certainly not the worst.
Food and drink: There was a large range of food available to buy on board the plane from sandwiches €6 ($10) to a full steak meal for €12. It smelled amazing, and I gave in on leg two and bought purchased it. It tasted as good as it smelt.
The toilets: Bearable, but perhaps they could have done with a going-over with some Spray n'Wipe and a few blasts of air freshener.
Luggage: Although Pegasus are one of Europe's many low-cost carriers, 20kg of luggage is included in the price as well as 10kg as carry-on.
The airport experience: A bit chaotic at Rome Fiumicino as Pegasus' check-in desks are very much hidden away. The nearly six-hour layover at Istanbul SAW proved a bit long, but for a few lira, there was time to get a bus down to the seaside and have dinner while watching the sun set over the Sea of Marmara. I was still able to return in plenty of time to realise that SAW is far and away the superior of the two Istanbul airports with much friendlier Customs staff.
Would I fly this again? Definitely. Istanbul is a great base to explore Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and Pegasus' fares seem to always be the cheapest and the flight experience pretty decent.