UPDATE 2019 Are you looking for an affordable alternative to traveling more comfortably? Turkish Airlines Business Class might be the answer: Turkish Airlines is serving more countries than any other airline and offers business class tickets between the US or Europe and Asia for little more than other airline’s Premium Economy! Find out what you can expect from Turkish Airlines long-haul business class in my detailed review!
Predeparture: Turkish Airlines (TK) has one of the most confusing baggage allowances of any airline I’ve flown – it’s not only depending on your class of service and departure airport, but the departure runway! For my flight between Asia and Europe, the allowance is 30kg plus an additional 20kg as StarAlliance Gold (not on TK website, but confirmed on FlyerTalk). For the US and most of the Americas, a piece-concept applies and you get 2 pieces up to 32kg! You can also bring two pieces of hand luggage up to 8kg! While that was more than enough for me, the total baggage allowance is less than many other StarAlliance carriers. While on non of my flights to date, the agents really checked the weight, you want to make sure to check before heading to the airport for your flight to be safe.
While Turkish Airlines does offer online check-in, it has not worked properly once on my many flights with them, resulting in a trip to the check-in counter at the airport instead.
At Manila’s NAIA Terminal 1 the check-in was quick and friendly. I received an invitation to the PAGSS lounge – it was recently renovated, so check back for an updated review. The check-in staff was not familiar with the fantastic TK lounge in Istanbul during my layover, information that should be readily available. Despite the large number of passengers waiting to board the flight on a Boeing B777, the staff handled the boarding process well and allowed business class passengers to board first!
In Madrid, check-in lines for Business Class were the longest I’ve seen in years and management of the lines was poor. Staff only provided information about the fast-track security and lounge access when I specifically asked them for it – that should happen automatically!
On my most recent flights departing from Istanbul, ground handling was poor. Staff in Istanbul didn’t speak English, announcements were not relayed to the lounge and boarding was chaotic without a clear boarding order.
Staff also failed to inform passengers that the arrival terminal in Manila had changed to Terminal 3. While that would normally not be a big deal, in Manila the terminals are on opposite ends of the airport, so anybody who had a pick-up scheduled was in trouble, in the best case scenario incurring an additional 30minute delay, in the worst case scenario be stranded without transport in the ultra-busy holiday season.
Entertainment & Wifi: The entertainment reflects TK’s network – they fly to more countries than any other airline and offer movies from all over Asia and the Middle East, with a few movies for each of their customer groups. I prefer English-language, Western movies and the choices were limited, both in quality and selection. There’s also a selection of TV shows and music and, if you are fan of the flight map, you’ll get that as well.
Both of the B777 I flew on recently had WiFi installed. It is free for Business Class travelers and very fast when it works, although not the most reliable. It worked well enough to have all my emails downloaded by the time I arrived!
Hard Product: Boeing B777-300ER TK’s B777 Business Class is an older design with a 2-3-2 configuration – that’s far from the industry leading 1-2-1 layout on other carriers and you might end up in a dreaded middle seat. I got lucky and had nobody else in my row, so I used the aisle seat for my meals and asked the flight attendant to set up the middle seat as a bed.
The cabin and seat also showed their age, with a bit of wear & tear on the seat, storage and floors. The seat has a leather-covered ottoman with storage below, as well as two cubby holes next to the screen. The monitor was relatively small, not very bright and colors seemed faded. The wired controller is next to the seat and easy to use. You’ll also find the simple seat controls and a power outlet (but no USB port) at your seat.
The seat itself is covered in cloth and reclines from upright to lounging position and to a bed at an angle Seatguru specifies as 177 degrees – but because planes fly with the nose up a little, this is actually exactly flat! When flat, the seat connects to the ottoman, giving you a long bed without having to stick your feet into a narrow cubicle. This seat, combined with the privacy of an empty row made for a good night’s sleep for me. On a full plane, this seat would not be nearly as comfortable as there are no dividers and you’d either have to climb over or would be climbed over for anybody to get up!
The flight attendants set up your seat soon after departure with a mattress pad for additional comfort when sleeping. You also get a thin wool blanket as well as a thick, hard comforter. While neither is very luxurious, it should give you plenty of choice to stay as warm/cold as you like. And that’s a good thing as Turkish Air staff tends to keep the cabin very worm!
In addition, you have a big pillow as well as a mobile back-support cushion that I used as an additional pillow.
The mattress pad, comforter and back-support cushions are all recent additions we did not receive on earlier flights!
On the B777 long-haul flights, Turkish Air provides Denon noise-cancelling headsets and they are the best I’ve had on any airline – very comfortable and great sound quality. They did collect it prior to arrival and replaced it with a cheaper one for the remainder of the flight.
Long-haul Boeing B777 Service Onboard: The service on all my long-haul fights was consistently good. The flight attendants introduced themselves and welcomed me on board. I received the menu as well as an amenity kit and a noise-cancelling headset.
The amenity kit was changed as of January 2019 and now includes Molton Brown lotion and lip balm, in addition to a dental kit, eye mask and earplugs, socks with useful anti-slip rubber and a shoe horn. I’d call that comprehensive for business class. The new bag has an odd format and is one of the less useful ones to take home. The crew also provides you with stickers for your seat, so you can ask to be waken for breakfast (yes, please!) or sleep as long as possible. You’ll also find a cloth bag at your seat to store your own shoes and a pair of slippers to wear on the plane instead – a nice touch!
The food service on Turkish Airlines is one of their standout qualities. They have their own “Chef” onboard, dressed in white uniform with chef’s hat and all! While that sounds like a gimmick, he was very knowledgeable about the menu and wine and willing and able to tailor your meal to your desire.
This flight had a dinner service after departure and breakfast prior to arrival. Dinner was served restaurant-style, the table set with a little bread basket and a tray with butter, salt & pepper and a mini-bottle of olive oil.
The dinner offered several choices for appetizer, main course and dessert. I picked the prawn appetizer with grilled vegetables – the prawns were tasty and the vegetables were grilled perfectly, without being squishy.
My choice of main course, the Filipino beef stew with rice, tasted good, but was a pretty small portion.
I had the cheese plate with some veggies to close my meal. Unfortunately, the chef was not able to confirm that any of the desserts was free of nuts – I’m violently allergic to nuts, so I had to pass. All of the food was well presented and having a knowledgeable chef on board is certainly a step above flight attendants just asking “chicken or beef”!
The wine list is pretty short with 2-3 choices each, but offers good quality. I enjoyed the Taittinger Champagne and the Spanish red wine. I also appreciated the choice of Port with the cheese!
Be aware that mid-haul flights have a limited selection of wines – no port for me on that flight!
Interestingly, the chef will take your breakfast order at the same time as dinner, with a little card specifying your choices! I ordered coffee, juice and fresh fruit, as well as the omelette. While the fruit was presented well and tasted fresh, the bread choices were pretty limited (I missed my croissants!). Don’t be shy though, the long list of options is not necessarily either/or – on my most recent flight I was hungry and checked many boxes, it all appeared without question!
The omelette was too soft for my taste and probably in the bottom third of onboard eggs I’ve had in business class.
Overall, the food service stood out as the best part of the business class experience on Turkish Airline: A knowledgeable chef, restaurant style service and a nice quality meal added up to one of the better food offerings in the air!
Hard-product Airbus A330: Turkish Airlines uses Airbus A330 on medium to long distances and I actually liked the hard-product better than on their flagship Boeing B777. The reason is the more appropriate layout on the narrower plane in a 2-2-2 fashion. That eliminates the dreaded middle-seat on the B777 and gives 2/3 of all passengers direct aisle access. On this specific A330, there was a nifty little bar set up at the front, in the photo shown with pre-departure drinks.
The seat is fully flat (all-though my particular seat seemed to be stuck at slightly less than 180 degrees) and virtually the same as on the B777. Unfortunately, Turkish Air has a number of different configurations of their A330, some of them with angled-flat seats in the same 2-2-2 layout. I’d be ok with that on a medium-haul flight, but would avoid those on a long-haul, red-eye flight.
You have plenty of storage under the ottoman and in little cubicles for your stuff. The personal video screen is large and bright and the wired controller is easy to use.
On the medium-haul flight I experienced the A330, there were no mattress pads or comforters available, just a pillow and thin blanket.
Turkish Airlines provides lesser Philips noise-cancelling headsets on these flights, not as good as the Denon, but good enough.
Looking for the business class experience on shorter flights – check out my review of Turkish Airlines Short-Haul Business Class!
The meal service on my medium-haul flight was abbreviated, if similar to the long-haul flight.
While a paper menu was handed out, tne meal was served from a cart on a first-come, first-serve basis and not restaurant style. By the time the flight attendants arrived in our row, the entre choices were limited.
The appetizers served were good, but the main course of pasta was pretty bad – with the pasta almost cold and too soft and the cheese too hard, sticking in blobs to the dish. The wine was served in a small bottle – a decidedly Economy Class presentation!
Bottomline: Turkish Airlines has an outdated hard-product that shows its age: With fully flat seats in a 2-3-2 layout with little privacy, small, dim monitors and some wear and tear, this product is in the bottom third of the industry. The new Business Class can’t come soon enough and I hope TK decides to renovate their flagship B777 with it!
The friendly service and the outstanding dining experience are a positive contrast. On connecting flights, you get access to the fantastic TK flagship lounge at Istanbul airport! And while that lounge is already very good, the lounge at the new Istanbul airport (scheduled opening March 2019) will be even better!
On routes between Asia and Europe, TK frequently undercuts their competitors business and even premium economy products with prices as low as $1,600 for a round-trip business class ticket. Even on last-minute bookings, Turkish Air typically undercuts their competitors significantly.
At that price, the TK business class is great value, I can forgive the old seat and will certainly fly again. Without that price advantage, Turkish Airlines needs to renovate their business class cabin to compete!