I flew business class with Turkish Airlines for 16 hours and, while the gourmet food was excellent, the rest didn't live up to the hype
- Turkish Airlines is the flag carrier of Turkey, operating in over 300 destinations across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
- One of the largest airlines in the world, Turkish Airlines is consistently ranked in the top 20 airlines in the world by consumer aviation website Skytrax.
- After having been blown away by Turkish Airlines' economy class a few months ago, I was offered an upgrade to business class for my flight home from Dubai to New York.
- Turkish Airlines' business class was worlds better than economy and the food from the airline's "Flying Chef" program was excellent, but the entertainment system and planes were showing their age. If I got a bargain, I'd fly it again, but otherwise, I'd probably go for Emirates, Qatar, or another high-end airline.
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Last November, I took a chance. Despite never having flown Turkish Airlines before, I found a bargain economy class ticket to Dubai and booked it.
I figured Turkish Airlines had to be solid, as it's one of the largest airlines in the world and one of the highest-ranked by consumer aviation website Skytrax.
While the planes weren't the newest or the most high-tech, I was blown away by the quality of the service and found it to be one of the best experiences I had flying economy.
My rave review got the attention of Turkish Airlines, who offered me an upgrade to business class for my flight back to New York in February.
Read on to see what I thought of my business class flight on Turkish Airlines, departing from Dubai International Airport to Istanbul's Atatürk Airport and then onward to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, operated on an Airbus A330-300 and a Boeing 777-300ER.
Turkish Airlines is the flag carrier of Turkey, operating in over 300 destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. It offers similar benefits as top flag carriers such as Emirates — great service, fairly new planes, and one-stop itineraries to far destinations.
Thanks to a helpful public relations rep, I got upgraded to business class for my flight home to New York. There was a separate check-in desk for business and first class at the Dubai International Airport.
Unfortunately, there was no separate security line for business and first-class passengers. That special treatment is reserved for Emirates. My partner, Harrison, flew home business class on Emirates and had a separate wing of the airport with a dedicated entrance, check-in, and security.
My itinerary had two flights: Dubai to Istanbul and then Istanbul to New York, with a 90-minute layover in between. Since my first flight wasn't until 2:40 a.m., I had a lot of time to kill. Thankfully, my ticket included access to the Marhaba Lounge.
The lounge was arranged with modern armchairs and plenty of seating. It wasn't the biggest lounge I've ever been in, but it was pretty quiet when I stopped in, so it hardly mattered. I got a seat.
The food selection was a mix of Mediterranean dips like hummus, baba ganoush, and tzatziki, as well as pickles, sandwiches, wraps, and a few hot dishes. There was also complimentary alcohol.
The first leg of my journey was on a Boeing 777-300ER. With a fleet of 485 planes, it's anyone's guess what plane you'll get, but Turkish uses the 300ER for many of its long-haul flights. It received the first of its 44 300ERs in 2010, so the planes aren't ancient.
Like just about any current plane designed for long-haul travel, the overhead bins were nice and roomy. My backpack might not look like it from this vantage point, but I stuff it with so much stuff that it usually has trouble fitting into smaller overhead compartments.
Here's what the cabin looks like. There are 49 seats in Turkish's 777 business class, divided between two cabins. Somewhat notoriously, Turkish's 777-300ERs have middle seats even in business class, which The Points Guy's Zach Honig called "inexcusable."
Thankfully, I was able to snag an aisle seat despite being upgraded to business class last minute. Before takeoff, a flight attendant offered drinks. I appreciated that they had a tasty non-alcoholic option like a lemon-mint juice.
Turkish has a few different kinds of seats depending on how recently the plane has been spruced up. I ended up with the older version. Each seat has a foot rest that doubles as a storage compartment for you to place things like shoes, your computer, and other essentials you might not want to keep overhead. Newer versions of Turkish's cabin have closed ottomans that provide more storage and privacy for your stuff.
After serving drinks, the crew distributed menus, magazines, newspapers, and amenity kits. The kit was branded by beauty brand Institut Karité and provided the usual business class goodies like a comb, dental kit, eye mask, shoe horn, travel socks, and hand cream by Institut Karité.
The crew also provided over-the-ear, noise-canceling headphones by Phillips. They were high quality enough that I was able to enjoy the movies on the plane and block out some of the noise.
The lie-flat seats were comfortable, though a bit on the hard side. I've slept in better seats on other airlines.
Each seat has a large tray table that you pull out from the center console. It's big enough for a full meal spread or to fit a laptop and a notebook.
The seat position is controlled by a set of seat controls located on the center console. All seats were 22 inches wide with 78 inches of pitch, with a comfortable lie-flat bed. That's considerably more than you'll get in Emirates, which is 18.5 inches wide with 48 inches of pitch — though those seats still extend into 70-inch lie-flat beds.
As I got settled, I decided to take a look at the menu. The menu and catering is provided by Do & Co, which also provides catering for Austrian Airlines. Do & Co has received rave reviews for its food from many flight bloggers, so I was excited to try it out.
Like Boeing's flagship Dreamliner, the 777-300ER changes the ambient light throughout the flight to help your body adjust to your new location. Shortly after take-off, the LED mood lighting changed to a relaxing purple.
The centerpiece of Turkish's business class experience is its "Flying Chefs" program. All of the food in the flight is prepared by inflight chefs with two to four years of experience. There are 112 menu combinations you might get on your flight. The chefs actually come around in a toque and chef jacket.
My flight took off in the middle of the night, so our meal was breakfast. It started with goat cheese, a croissant, veggies, and variety of sides like comb honey, countryside butter, marinated olives, and a sun-dried tomato spread — all sourced from Turkish farms.
The main dish was a "Kasar" cheese omelet with sautéed spinach and herbed potatoes. The omelette was flavorful and tasted fresh.
The bathroom is more or less your standard airplane bathroom, though Turkish does try to jazz it up with plants, scent sticks, and some high-end bathroom products.
It may have been the middle of the night, but I figured a little wine couldn't hurt. Turkish Airlines has an extensive wine menu. For every wine available, there was a description that was a paragraph long, describing the type of grape, region, flavor notes, and pairing suggestions.
I passed out until we landed. Even though we arrived 30 minutes early, my layover was stressful, to say the least. The security line was excruciatingly long, guards refused to allow me into the expedited security line until I argued three times, and I didn't even see that there was a separate business class line, because of how poorly everything was managed. I barely made my flight.
The second leg of my journey, the 11-hour flight from Istanbul to New York, was on an Airbus A330-300. With 75 A330-300s, Turkish relies heavily on the plane for long-haul flights. It's slightly slower than the 777, but it has a similar cabin and seats, depending on the plane.
I boarded the plane as the sun was rising. The business-class cabin on the A330 is considerably smaller than on the 777. It has only 28 seats — and no middle seats. Each seat is 21 inches wide and offers 61 inches of pitch. That's not quite as much as the 777, but still plenty of room.
The menu for my 11.5-hour flight from Istanbul to New York was far more elaborate than on my previous flight. There was breakfast, dinner, snacks, and an extensive menu of hot and cold teas.
I got a freshly squeezed orange juice for my pre-flight beverage. It wasn't quite as good as the freshly squeezed OJ I got in markets in Morocco, but it was still excellent.
Shortly after take-off, the crew brought around hot towels. I should note that this was done on my first flight as well, I just forgot to get a picture of it.
Turkish Airlines offers up different amenity kits depending on the flight. For my second flight, the kit was created by bath and body brand Molton Brown and the usual amenities, plus hand cream and lip moisturizer from Molton Brown.
The noise-canceling headphones were different as well. Rather than Phillips headphones, we got ones by Denon. The Denon partnership is a newer one, dating to late 2016. The headphones were very good, though I'm not enough of an audiophile to say whether they were significantly better than the Phillips ones.
The flight attendants were attentive, checking to make sure everyone's internet and entertainment systems worked and setting up the lie-flat beds with sheets and pillows. However, I wouldn't say they were exceptionally personable. It was more or less the same service I've received in economy on most airlines.
The screen was a disappointment. It wasn't sharp or particularly high-definition like I have experienced on even many economy flights. The only plus is that it's slightly larger than what you are likely to experience in economy.
The main way to control the entertainment system was through the tethered remote. It worked well enough, but it was far from the high-res touchscreen remote Turkish offers on its more recently updated planes.
The meal service began about 30-40 minutes after take-off. Given that it was around 9 a.m., we received breakfast. It was a little disappointing as I had just had breakfast on the previous flight. The initial spread — goat cheese, honey, sun-dried tomatoes, etc — was the same as my previous breakfast.
Having gotten a croissant on the previous flight, I decided to try out the Turkish "simit," a circular bread crusted with sesame seeds. It was both crunchy and chewy in a satisfying way, similar to a bagel. Overall, the breakfast was slightly more elaborate than the breakfast on the previous flight. For example, I was able to order a mixed-fruit smoothie on this flight, which tasted like it had just been mixed up moments before.
My second flight offered scrambled eggs with sautéed spinach, mushrooms, and tomato. I don't know if I got a bad plate, but my eggs were dry to the point of being inedible.
For passengers who got hungry in between meals, there was a snack table set up with chips, candy, fruit, and sandwiches.
The snack station is pretty unnecessary, though, with how much food is on offer. A few hours later, the crew started the dinner service. One of the most innovative aspects of Turkish's catering is that crew comes around with a trolley loaded with hors d'œuvres like smoked salmon, roasted red-pepper hummus, and seafood salad.
I got a glass of white wine, a selection of nuts, and a Turkish cheese puff pastry. After the crew offered up fresh bread baskets, I got a creamy roasted red pepper soup and got a few extra snacks from the trolley. I was almost full and I hadn't even gotten my main course yet.
My main course was the steak and fresh arugula salad with grilled tomatoes. It'd be a little crazy to expect a porterhouse sizzling from the pan on an airplane, but the meat was cooked solidly. It was cooked to medium and seasoned well.
The last piece of the dining puzzle was another trolley, but for desserts. The trolley offered a number of traditional Turkish desserts like baklava and burma kadayif (phyllo dough rolled with peanuts), as well as fruit salad, ice cream, and a chocolate ball with mango. Ever the chocolate junkie, I went for the chocolate ball and the ice cream.
A few short hours later and we were touching down in New York. So what did I think?
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