Turkish Airlines (TK) currently flies to 121 countries – the largest number served by any single carrier – with ambitions to become one of the top ten carriers in terms of passenger number by 2035 (it is currently ranked 14th).
The carrier recently announced an order for 60 widebody B787-9 Dreamliners and A350-900 aircraft, with the first deliveries scheduled for next year. According to TK, the new aircraft will particularly be utilised to help the carrier grow its presence in Asia.
Turkish Airlines is eagerly awaiting the October opening of Istanbul New Airport – which will be one of the biggest, busiest airports in the world, and will further help to bolster the airline’s growth aspirations.
(Readers can apply for our monthly competition to win two business class tickets with Turkish Airlines here)
I arrived at Hong Kong International Airport at 9pm for my 2300 flight to Istanbul. Check-in was swift, with only a small queue in business. Economy also cleared quickly. Staff were brisk and perfunctory.
As a business class passenger I was invited to visit Plaza Premium lounges in Hong Kong (of which there are four in Terminal 1 departures; the West Hall lounge near Gate 40, a shower and spa facility near Gate 60, the new First Class lounge and the refurbished East Hall lounge near Gate 1).
The check-in lady suggested I head to the West Hall lounge near Gate 40, so I could easily hop on the automated people carrier to the Mid-Field Concourse (MFC) from where my flight was departing. This turned out to be very sage advice, which I should have heeded.
However, wanting to explore the newly revealed refurbishments of the Plaza Premium East Lounge I headed there instead, only to be greeted by a snaking queue of more than 40 people. I shuddered to think of the crowded scenes inside and decided to skip the lounge entirely.
Boarding was scheduled to start at 10pm. I arrived at the gate around 10.25 and boarding was in full flow. The economy queue encircled the business queue rather awkwardly so I effectively had to push past other passengers to get to the “priority” lane.
Embarking passengers were greeted by the cabin crew as well as an onboard chef decked in chef whites and a classic toque blanche.
I reached up to stow my cabin case and was slightly annoyed to find the entire overhead locker filled with passenger blankets. I started to rearrange the contents to make some space and would have appreciated it if one of the cabin crew who passed me had provided some assistance.
The business class cabin is laid out in a 2-3-2 formation. Obviously this isn’t ideal, but on a positive note, the legroom space for each seat is fantastic, with just three rows in my cabin (and four in the forward business cabin). I was in seat 7J – the aisle seat of the right-hand two-pair.
Storage options around the seat were good: a large ottoman at the foot of my area was great for stowing bags, shoes and larger items. It also felt far more secure for keeping valuables. Inside the ottoman were some slippers and a shoe bag to protect your own footwear. There is also a magazine rack and a small pocket by the side of your seat.
A shared armrest and a small drinks tray was the most awkward part of the neighbouring seat design (aside from the window passenger having to step over their neighbour when reclined) however a divider did allow for separation to give some more privacy. The seating controls offered numerous customisable options, though they were not the most straightforward (I still have no idea what “M+” or “MR” stand for).
The seat itself was very comfortable, with plenty of width and a lie-flat configuration with 177 degrees, so fairly close to fully-flat.
Shortly after boarding a range of juices were offered and the captain announced a flight time of 10 hours 20 minutes. Before take-off, one of the onboard chefs also came round to take my order (from three options) and asked me to fill in my breakfast card – pens were provided.
The options included a selection of juices, smoothies coffee and tea, plus cereal, breads, fruit and two main options (fish with noodles and vegetables, or mushroom and tomato omelette).
We pushed back at around 2300 and took off promptly. Amenity kits were handed out with loaned noise-cancelling headphones in a case. Aside from being unnecessarily wrapped in plastic, the amenity kits were a lovely sleek black “Bentley amenities” case, containing Bentley lip balm; “Do not disturb” or “Wake me up for food” stickers; toothbrush and paste; Bentley body lotion, socks, hairbrush; eye mask and a shoe horn, presumably to aid with swollen flight feet!
The bathroom is worth a mention – surprisingly spacious facilities that were double the normal size, with Molten Brown amenities, green plants and a pleasant floral fragrance.
Wifi is available on Turkish Airlines flights and is free for business class passengers, as well as Miles & Smiles Elite and Elite Plus members. Connecting is relatively simple (select Turkish Wifi, load your browser and you should be directed to the log-in site. Enter either Ticket number or Seat Number and Surname). I did need to load my browser a few times to make the link kick in, but once on found the signal quite strong and consistent. For non-business class passengers, prices are US$9.99 for one hour or US$14.99 for 24 hours.
Around 11.45pm the crew began to make passenger’s beds by laying a ground sheet and a quilt. I personally find the turndown service to be rather inconvenient for little gain (the ground sheets weren’t particularly inviting and had a tendency to become dislodged) but the actual process was done with minimal disruption and I’m sure is appreciated by many passengers.
A hot towel at midnight was followed by a drinks order – I chose a full-bodied Sevilen Plato (Southern Plateau) Syrrah, with earthy, peppery notes.
Tables were laid at 12.15am (which were sturdy and folded neatly away into the central division) while chefs prepared the meals in the galley. Dinner was served at 12.45.
The presentation was fantastic with cute minaret-shaped salt and pepper shakers, a tantalising selection of mezze to start and smart chinaware – but what stole the show was a “flickering candle”, inscribed “candlelight dinner about the clouds”. The clever light bulb in paper illusion was a lovely touch that several passengers remarked upon.
I had a browse through the IFE system, while enjoying my appetiser. Firstly the hardware: the screen is large and quite far away – too far to reach, but can be operated by a touchpad, handheld device located next to the shoulder. This is a welcome innovation that is more intuitive and responsive than more old-fashioned remotes.
The movie selection was wide ranging, with Hollywood hits accompanied by an IMDB rating – another nice touch. Despite this guidance – I settled on the rather lacklustre 5.8-rated Walking Out and wish I’d gone for a more promising 7.2 The Post). There was also a selection of TV shows, music and games. Live news programmes were also available including BBC and Al Jazeera.
The adjustable noise cancelling headphones were by Denon. Very effective and lightweight with comfortable cushion padding. They plugged into the speaker jack hidden in the inner seat gap, along with a USB charging port.
My main dish of grilled cod fish with Tuscany style vegetables, herbed potatoes and lemon parsley sauce was tasty and satisfying, though not as exciting as my mezze starter.
A triumphant finish however came in the form of a silver spiralled dessert trolley bearing a selection of classics: tiramisu, panna cotta, brownies plus cheese, fruits and coffee.
After dinner I persevered with my limping movie and then went to sleep. The lie-flat bed is extremely comfortable and generously wide, plus the bed recesses enough behind its own shell to give you a decent amount of privacy from your neighbour. I managed to get a really good sleep – so good in fact, that I slept right into breakfast service, with only about an hour to landing.
We touched down, slightly ahead of schedule at 4.50am local time. It was just a short walk to immigration. Turkish Airlines business class passengers are eligible for the fast lane – but must show your ticket stub so do remember to hold on to that. I had no checked baggage and was swiftly through by 5.15am.
A 2-3-2 layout wouldn’t have been my first choice for business, but this turned out to be a very decent product. I couldn’t have slept more soundly, with plenty of room in the lie-flat bed. I particularly liked the ottoman storage solution, the top-notch F&B service, good selection of IFE and lovely large, clean bathrooms and friendly cabin crew service.
- Best for… Onboard chefs, fantastic meal options and standout attention to presentation
- Price Internet rates for a return trip in mid-October in Business Semi Flexible start from US$3,757.
- Flight time 11 hours 25 minutes
- Configuration 2-3-2
- Seat width 22in/56cm
- Bed length 78in/198cm
- Contact turkishairlines.com