Favourable experience with Turkish Airline

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  • SwissExPat

    A few weeks ago, I sought some views on Turkish Airlines because I found myself in Sarajevo (SJJ) and in needing to get to BOS by a fixed time hence had no opportunity to do a normal routing from ZRH.
    Using Skyscanner, I found a connection with TK via IST in J and here are some observations.

    SJJ – IST – BOS

    The 0910 departure from SJJ was a very enjoyable experience. The Y check in desks were busy with 30-40 PAX but the J line was staffed and empty. I was in the generic business lounge within 5 minutes of arriving at SJJ. The 55 min flight to IST was operated by a 737-800 with a fixed 2-2 large seat configuration in J. Extremely fresh orange juice was served before take off and then a hot omelette -based breakfast thereafter. Small touches such as Molton Brown hand wash and lotion in the WC was a nice touch. I had plenty of attentive service from the crew in a J cabin of 5-6 PAX over 4 rows.

    I was expecting a long taxi in IST but it only lasted 10 minutes before we docked at an airbridge. One thing I noticed on getting off the plane in IST (and it seemed to apply on all subsequent sectors) was that a cabin crew member ensured J PAX had departed the plane before starting the main disembarkation of the Y cabin. Hence, the J Cabin remained calm whilst emptying overhead lockers etc and there was not a rush forward as soon as the plane halted at the gate.

    There was maybe a 750m walk to the security area (premium line took 2 minutes) with much of the walk on travellators before I went entered the international departures area and headed for the TK Lounge.

    The lounge was large but well equipped with multiple dining stations where chefs were preparing cooked food in an open setting. The wine choice seemed a bit restricted (mainly Turkish wines).

    My flight to BOS was called and I went to the Gate. The only negative experience I had during this trip was on boarding the Aircraft. I was slightly held up by security screening perhaps having an unusual routing on my inbound and this meant that main boarding of the aircraft had commenced. I noticed that 2 airbridges were attached to the aircraft so expected that the nearer one would get me to my seat a bit quicker. I was in the slow-moving queue for general boarding when I got to the first airbridge which was blocked by some staff person but on showing my boarding card they just shrugged and didn’t engage. 5-7 mins later I eventually reached the main door and on entering the J cabin, I could see the front airbridge was still attached and usable. I’d have to question as to why bother attaching a forward airbridge if it is not used for J PAX? On the return leg on arrival into IST, the J PAX used this forward airbridge to disembark so it must be used for something!

    The cabin configuration was 2-2-2 so the layout would be not first Tier configuration compared to other carriers where some privacy/(direct aisle access for all) is available. However, the seat plus associated bedding was comfortable for sleeping and relaxing in. The Denon noise cancelling headphones were comprehensive and comfortable and I found the IFE easy to use. I always like having forward cameras on the aircraft so I can see landing and take-off. Also, the Versace amenity kit was one of the best I have received in a J cabin. In particular the ergonomically shaped eye mask was very comfortable for sleeping in.
    One of the crew is dedicated to the food offering and they were dressed in a Chef’s uniform. Their role seemed to be to take the food orders and then preside over the Trolley service (this is an old fashioned 2 tier long trolley where the food items are presented from). I enjoyed the food service and found the breadth and quality to be very good.

    I managed a few hours sleep and a film before we landed 1 hour early in BOS. Immigration was under 10 mins and priority bags came out within 15 mins.

    BOS – IST – ZRH

    Again, I was the only person in the J check in queue and I was airside after maybe 10 minutes queueing at security. TK (as does SWISS) uses the LH lounge in BOS. I noted a LH flight departing maybe 70 minutes before the TK flight and PAX on the LH flight boarded directly from the LH Lounge using Gates E10 and E11. My TK flight was departing from E10 so I anticipated boarding directly from the Lounge. Alas, this was not the case and in the end, TK PAX had to leave the LH Lounge and go down to the main general boarding gate. It would have been a nice enhancement to the service if this was facilitated (I cannot see why not but maybe LH simply want to keep their best facilities for themselves).

    The overnight flight was much like the outbound. I was surprised that despite the 2345 departure time, the Crew did a full meal service for the first 2.25 hours of the 8h 10m flight. The crews made up all the beds in J and I managed close to 5 hours of good sleep before breakfast with 90 mins to run.

    On landing in IST (unlike the SJJ arrival), when disembarking the plane, PAX with international connection were directed into the international section of the terminal (Lower level) rather than the higher level. This meant that there was no security/X-ray check and I could go directly to the Lounge.

    On arrival, I went straight to the concierge desk and was directed to the Showers. These shower rooms were large marble, high ceiling individual shower suites and were perfect for getting refreshed.

    I had a few hours to kill before the ZRH connection so I deposited my bags in the useful self-storage secure lockers in the lounge and explored the concourse. Thereafter, I availed of the wide variety of freshly, chef prepared food in the lounge.

    The ZRH flight was operated by an A321 with the same fixed 2-2 config in J as experienced on the SJJ leg. On this 2h 35m flight to ZRH, I managed to watch a film on my individual armrest located screen whilst enjoying a full linen service evening meal with trimmings.
    Arrival in ZRH on-time, and my priority bag was one of the first out.

    My conclusion was that the experience with TK was excellent. Whilst not having the hardware of some of the ME carriers, their attention to some of the smaller things (except boarding in IST) makes the experience. The product on the IST ZRH leg was certainly significantly better than what would be offered by SWISS (If the flew the route, which they don’t) because of the proper 2-2 seating configuration and individual IFE. I’d certainly used them again, particularly if heading east from ZRH. Fare for above was €2.7k

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    Turkish have for 10 years or more been very good in the cabin according to many reports on BT and few seem to dispute this.
    The downside of Turkish is that:
    They have 0 zero customer service.
    Their safety record is appalling – although to be fair in the past 2 years they have not killed anyone – good luck or a real change time alone will tell.

    Personally I will wait for a few years until I am confident that both of the above endemic problems have been properly resolved.

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    I’ve just been looking at flights to CPT for a couple of weeks’ time and TK was the cheapest of the ‘European’ carriers by a good margin, but bearing in mind the above comments, I decided to stick to Swiss.

    Sorry, TK, I love your country and people, but the airline needs to clean up its act before I’ll consider flying with it.

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    Re the two jetways connected to the aircraft and only one used..
    I used to work for a major US carriers,and sometimes we did that too.
    We used the first jetty to easily access the pilots and crew for coordination work etc,without fighting our way through a jammed jetway.
    Also some crews don’t like the fact that passengers enter so near to the cockpit,as they can wonder in by making the wrong turn,so you really have to police that door.
    I also found as ground personnel ,that it was better to have that front galley,cockpit area sterile from passengers walking around us.
    We always used it on arrivals,as passengers are anxious to get off,and the front door allows them to do so.
    When we were really full,we would use the first jetty for 10-15 minutes to allow as many as possible Business Class passengers to board,and then close it for the duration of the boarding.

    The fact that there are 2 jetways does not mean the airline must use both at all times.
    Sometimes operational and security issues take priority.

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    Have generally found TK excellent in the air. It’s on the ground that they can be an unmitigated disaster. As I have written before, if all goes well then fine, but if there’s a problem – such as a delay and missed connection – they don’t want to know


    I don’t know on what statistics cwoodward concluded that TK’s safety record is appalling!!

    Turkish Airlines is a reliable airline and offers the best meals on any European airline and its fleet is young. I do agree however that its ground services do not match its air services.


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    There is a clue in the table below as to why TK is considered an unsafe airline (From Airsafe.com.)
    The table below will not show with the correct tabs here, but the data should be clear enough.

    Few people would choose an airline purely because it serves good food (and I agree, I have only flown twice with TK and the food was excellent, as was the service on board and the cleanliness of the modern aircraft.)
    As for having a young fleet, one of the world’s most modern aircraft has been grounded as unsafe, so that is no guarantee whatsoever of safety and may well be the opposite. I quite often fly in 15 year old A340s and I feel safer in those than on most newer aircraft.

    Below are the number of plane crashes and other events by airline since 1970 that led to at least one passenger death. Each listed airline is currently active. The year of the airline’s start of service is listed if it is later than 1970.

    The table below lists the airline, the number of fatal events since 1970, and the year of the most recent event.

    Airline FLE* Events Last
    Aegean Airlines 0.00 0 –
    Aer Lingus 0.00 0 –
    Air Berlin (1979) 0.00 0 –
    Air France 4.23 8 2009
    Alitalia 2.83 3 1990
    AtlasGlobal 1.0 1 2007
    Austrian Airlines 0.00 0 –
    British Airways 1.40 3 1985
    easyJet 0.00 0 –
    Finnair 0.00 0 –
    Former Soviet Union (1990) 30.14 39 2013
    Iberia 3.60 4 1985
    Icelandair 0.00 0 –
    Lufthansa 2.41 4 2015
    Monarch Airlines 0.00 0 –
    KLM 1.94 3 1994
    Pegasus Airlines (1990) 0.00 0 –
    Ryanair (1985) 0.00 0 –
    SAS 1.00 2 2001
    Swiss International Air Lines (2002) 0.00 0 –
    TAP Air Portugal 0.80 1 1977
    Transaero (1991) 0.00 0 –
    Turkish Airlines 7.56 10 2009
    Virgin Atlantic 0.00 0 –
    Wizz Air (2003) 0.00 0 –

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    I was chatting with a pilot friend recently based in the U.K. with a very large airline. He said that if you did a poll of U.K. pilots as to which airline they would NOT fly on as a passenger then Turkish would come out top. It’s thought that they have expanded too quickly and have a general lack of experience.
    Also, I know a retired Capt, from another large U.K. company, who freelances as a simulator instructor/checker. His tales make for interesting dinner party conversation regarding the performance of some TK pilots.
    Yes, they haven’t had a crash for a couple of years. Let’s hope that things get better in time….but not for me, at the moment.

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    I doubt that Openfly.


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    Sami, you have been on another thread before on this forum expressing your blind and unwavering faith in TK. In many ways they are a good airline but sadly the statistics and information out in the public domain show that their safety record is by far the worst of any ‘European’ airline. In fact even if you compare then with other Asian airlines (which in my view is what they are) they fare far worse.

    Hopefully in the future they may well do better, and I wish them an incident free future, but their past record is very poor.

    Asia and Pacific region
    Airline FLE* Events Last
    AirAsia 1.00 1 2014
    Air China 0.82 2 2003
    Air India 3.10 4 2010
    Air New Zealand 1.50 2 1979
    All Nippon Airways 1.00 1 1971
    Asiana Airlines 0.63 2 2013
    Cathay Pacific 1.00 1 1972
    Cebu Pacific 1.00 1 1998
    China Airlines (Taiwan) 6.44 10 2002
    China Eastern Airlines 0.04 2 1993
    China Northern Airlines 1.09 2 2002
    China Southern Airlines 1.93 3 2002
    EVA Air 0.00 0 –
    Garuda Indonesia Airways 4.95 9 2007
    Hainan Airlines 0.00 0 –
    IndiGo 0.00 0 –
    Japan Air Lines 3.31 5 1985
    Jet Airways 0.00 0 –
    Korean Air 3.35 7 1997
    Lion Air 1.15 2 2018
    Malaysia Airlines 3.65 4 2014
    Pakistan International Airlines 7.42 11 2016
    Philippine Air Lines 4.23 8 1994
    Qantas 0.00 0 –
    Sichuan Airlines 0.00 0 –
    Shandong Airlines** 0.00 0 –
    Shanghai Airlines** 0.00 0 –
    Shenzhen Airlines 0.00 0 –
    Singapore Airlines 1.50 2 2000
    SpiceJet 0.00 0 –
    Spring Airlines 0.00 0 –
    Thai Airways 4.51 6 2003
    Tigerair 0.00 0 –
    Xiamen Airlines 0.8 1 1990
    Vietnam Airlines 1.94 2 1997

    Tom Otley

    This is a good and honest thread expressing genuinely held opinions and citing data to support the opinions.

    But !

    I would ask everyone to be very careful with their posts. Unsubstantiated remarks about any airline’s safety, particularly those of the ‘someone told me’ variety can’t be allowed.

    As you can imagine, over the years I have spent a lot of time talking to pilots, both retired and active, and a sizeable minority of them have been very critical of airlines we all fly with, from the ME3 to European ones, and many of the LCCs.

    I think we are all fortunate to fly during the safest times ever. While there should not be (and isn’t) any complacency, I hope you understand that with this forum being one click away from the Home Page, we can’t let unsubstantiated opinions about the safety of carriers remain published because we would then be held liable for them.

    I have the greatest respect for all those publishing here – but that’s what you are doing – publishing, not expressing opinions privately.

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    I am no expert on Turkish having never flown them but just using the statistics given in this thread it is unfair to categorise TK as the worst ‘European’ airline in terms of the number of fatal crashes since 1970 (unless the former Soviet Union is considered ‘non European’). Air France is also pretty close to Turkish with 8 crashes since 1970 albeit with a lower FLE rate. Even amongst Asia Pacific airlines, CI has the same number of crashes with Garuda not far behind with 9 since 1970, again with a lower FLE rate (whatever that is). For those who are interested, the following link takes you to the page on airsafe.com where they explain what FLE is and how it is calculated:


    Openfly, to be fair, TK has not had a fatal crash for the past decade according to the data posted by @capetonianm.


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    Ahmad wrote: ‘Openfly, to be fair, TK has not had a fatal crash for the past decade according to the data posted by @capetonianm.’

    Agreed Ahmad but if you take a look you will easily find the information re the very high number of ‘incidence’ ‘near misses’ and actual crashes that this airline has experienced even in the past 10 years. It makes very sobering reading and it is this that affects the views of the many professional pilots.
    I did post a list on another thread here a few months ago but regrettably have no time to locate it today.


    Tom, Absolutely spot on. The only problem I had with Openfly is because he quoted “pilot friends” and “retired captains” etc which does not sound very genuine.

    I do have difference of opinions with capetonianm on many issues, but at least he gave us some factual statistics.

    BTW,capetonianm the other thread you were referring to dealt with Qatar Airways for which I also blindly have blind and unwavering faith not TK. LOL


    I’ve flown TK a lot over the last few years, both short and long haul. Service in the sky is good. On the ground, completely unpredictable and often poor.

    I have never felt un-safe.

    I have pilot friends who have disparaging things to say about most of their employer’s competitors. If I listened to them all, I’d never board an aircraft.

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