I used Turkish Airlines on a trip to Beijing in May 2012. It was actually my first trip with Turkish Airlines and I chose it as the price was quite good compared to the alternatives for going to Beijing. I have used Scandinavian Airlines a lot as they have had good prices to Asia but their prices to Beijing was a lot higher than on Turkish Airlines and it was one of the reasons for choosing this airline. My trip started in Copenhagen and it was a fairly new Boeing 737-800 if I’m not mistaken. The flight from Copenhagen to Istanbul is about 3 hours and I was seated on 4D on business class. I’m not sure why but it seemed like it took forever to get the people on board this flight – Scandinavian Airlines seems to be better to get people on board more efficiently.
The seat was a proper business class seat with a 2+2 configuration. There was of course an offer of having champagne to start with and they also handed out a big menu where the options were sea bass, chicken breast or pasta. When I wanted some red wine together with the food, the flight attendant asked me if I wanted Turkish or French wine. I have not gotten the memo that Turkey is a great wine producing country so I went for French wine and the FA was like “why does everyone want the French wine?” The various starters were great but the chicken breast was dry as it often is on flights. My colleague ordered a glass of cognac after the food and we asked what kind of cognac it was. The FA replied that it was “VIP cognac”. It is not a brand that we are familiar with and I guess she could say that we were wondering about her answer. So she went to get the bottle and it was a Hennesey VSOP (so VSOP became VIP) – but all in all we got great service and the FA seemed to be enjoying her job.
As I had a bit of time at Istanbul Ataturk airport I had the pleasure of waiting a bit in the Turkish Airlines lounge. It is a huge lounge and I guess it is needed as Istanbul airport has become quite a busy airport and hence there were lots of people in the lounge. Here you can get something to eat, wine and spirits was available, they have recliners, TV screens and with a username and password you can also get online.
The flight to Beijing was at about 11 pm and I think boarding started about 1 hour prior to departure. We had to take a bus out to the plane so there was no business entrance into the plane like you often see on larger airports. When we checked in my colleague and I got seats behind each other and when we got into the plane we asked if we could change seats and if the flight was full or not. She replied that the flight was full but it later turned out that there were lots of seats available on business class and we did get to sit next to each other. The Turkish Airlines flight TK020 is a Boeing 777-300ER and the configuration in business class is a kind of strange 2+3+2 configuration.
The seat was good and when inclined it links up with the foot stool (or ottoman) in front of it to form a bed that is almost completely flat (I think it is 177 degrees). Blankets, slippers, amenities pack and headphones were already laid out in advance before I came on the plane which is a good solution in my opinion.
In front of each seat there was a 15” screen and the in in-flight entertainment system seemed to be quite good with lots of movies on demand. But it was kinda annoying to have the control docked in a space next to the seat on the right hand side – it was hard to reach when I started reclining the seat! I was not that impressed with the headphones – I’m not sure it is noise cancelling or not but they didn’t feel like it at least. After takeoff I got the menu and it was quite extensive. I had a choice of two starters and I chose the potpourri of Mediterranean meze and it also came with a small salad, some yogurt and cucumber etc. It was also possible to get a soup before going to the main meal where I went for the mushroom ravioli.
When they brought in the meal it was served on a tray of course but the various dishes was served on glass plates and I got real cutlery. Each tray also had a small salt and pepper shaker – the only “problem” was that the butter was brick hard! I tried chicken as a starter, I tried the leak soup and finally the mushroom ravioli. At the time I was getting hungry so I found the meal to be very good. After dinner they walk past with a dessert trolley and I asked for the chocolate “fondant” and tiramisu. This was not very good in my opinion – it did not resemble real tiramisu.
The amenity kit was contained in a rather big bag and it contained some lip balm, toothbrush, eye shade, comb/brush, ear plugs, socks etc. The toothbrush was horrible as it was built up by two parts and it kept on falling apart when I used it. The toilet on board the 777 was a bit larger than what I’m used to on the SAS Airbus A340 which means that it is easier if you want to slip into a pajama before you try to get some sleep.
The seat is quite good and when you recline it, it connects to the foot stool in front to give you a long and almost flat bed. It is also great that there is room under the stool as you can store e.g. shoes there. I had a pretty good sleep when flying to Beijing and I actually did not wake up until they announced that we were descending and seats had to be in an upright position. I shouldn’t complain about that of course but when I got the menu at takeoff I did fill out my breakfast menu and handed this over to the FA and indicated that I wanted breakfast but no one woke me up and by the time I did wake up it was too late for breakfast. The 2+3+2 configurations seems a bit strange but it seemed to work out pretty good – there is a small gap between the seats so you can get out without having to step on the passenger next to you – and there is also a small wall that you can raise if you want a bit more privacy. But it can’t compete with the amazing configuration of the business class on Singapore Airlines.
On the way back I flew the same route – Beijing-Istanbul-Copenhagen on business class. The plane on the way back to Europe was also a Boeing 777 so it was very similar to the one that I had when flying to China. Again the amenities were laid out prior to passengers coming onboard – everything was pretty much the same but the toiletry bag was a smaller version with different brand of lip balm and moisturizing cream. It is a bit weird that this has not been standardized. This time I got a menu with my name on it and the food was once again quite good. The business class was completely full on this flight and it seemed like they were struggling a bit to serve all the business class passengers at more or less the same time so the FA seemed a bit stressed out. One asked me if I wanted some more red wine and I said “yes please” but I never saw the wine. When she was serving dessert I asked for port wine and I think she remembered as she first gave me some dessert and then she ran off and brought me a huge glass of port. Once again I slept pretty well in the seat but again I was not woken up for breakfast even if I had put the sticker on the seat indicating that I wanted breakfast service and once again the breakfast menu that I filled out was ignored. In the end I had to call the FA and ask for breakfast and what I got was not what I had ordered but at least I got something to eat.
From Istanbul to Copenhagen the rather new Boeing 737 was replaced by an older Airbus A321 and it contained seats in a horrible cyan/ turquoise color. Instead of having a proper business class seat and a 2+2 configuration, this plane had standard seats with a 3+3 configuration with the middle seat blocked to give each passengers a bit more space. But once again the service was very good and I got a very good breakfast including one of the best omelets that I have had on a plane.
I think Turkish Airlines long haul business class is quite good. The seat is almost horizontal and provides the possibility to sleep well when traveling for many hours and the service is quite good with a decent menu with various options and several options when it comes to the wine. But it seems like they are struggling a bit with the breakfast menu setup or at least it failed both ways when I used them. The on board entertainment is quite good as you can start watching a movie right away and you can watch it until you land basically – not like SAS where it takes forever to start it and they terminate it like 30 minutes prior to landing.
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