Flight: TK1984 & TK1981
Aircraft Type: A321 & 737-800
Class: Business Class
Date: April 2017
Turkish Airlines may be the most International airline, flying to more countries and destinations than any other carrier, both short and long-haul, but its not size that always counts. While the ME3 carriers get most of the attention, Turkish Airlines was certainly worth a deeper look at their product and service offerings. As part of a three part series, we take a look at Turkish Airlines’ short haul product, CIP Lounge and flagship long-haul 777-300ER business class passenger experience.
Part One. Turkish Airlines short-haul business class product.
On the Ground
While we will feature a separate feature on Turkish Airline’s CIP lounge in Istanbul, on our outbound flight, we flew from London Heathrow. Like many of our favourite carriers, the airline uses Terminal 2 because it’s a Star Alliance airline.
Like all other Star Alliance carriers, their business class counters are situated behind the self service check in kiosks and bag drop counters. The ground crew were exceptionally friendly and helpful, and our bags were checked in a matter of minutes and we were winging our way through Fast-Track security.
Sadly, we were directed to Lufthansa’s Business Class lounge, which is one of the less impressive lounges at Terminal 2, although it was conveniently located in the main building, which was the same location as our gate.
That said, passengers are able to use any of the lounges as all lounges are operated by Star Alliance carriers. Being one of the last flights out in the evening, the lounge was fairly quiet so there was plenty of seating. Turkish Airlines business class passengers aren’t entitled to enter the slightly more glamorous Senator Lounge – a lounge in a lounge, so we were only able to enjoy a simple (yet tasty) buffet offering and self-service bar.
Boarding was delayed slightly, however, considering this was a short overnight flight and our connection was over 5 hours before our long haul trip, we weren’t concerned about the small delay. It ended up that we made up most of our delay in the end and only landed a few minutes late.
Boarding was fairly efficient, and the fairly large queue of Star Alliance premium passengers and business class travellers boarded first.
While our ground service in what was in effect an outstation for the carrier was fairly standard for a Euro-business class experience, this radically changed the moment we stepped onboard.
On the way to Istanbul, we were in an A321-200, however, on the return, we flew on a 737-800 with a new Sky Interior. Both aircraft featured 2 x 2 seating in business class, which was made up of traditional American First Class large recliner seats. The cabin itself is fairly straight-forward, being a short-haul single-aisle cabin there is little they can do with the business class cabin.
Compared to other carriers across Europe, the seats and configuration, including the generous seat pitch means the product far exceeds that of the competition. We actually found the seats on the 737-800 reclined slightly further, which would have been even more beneficial on an overnight flight.
Unlike low cost carriers, there are cupboards and monuments used for storage at the front of the aircraft, which means that hanging jackets etc, isn’t an issue. And as soon as we entered, we were greeted at the seat and our jackets taken, and as a nice touch, no need for the boarding pass.
The seats are by far one of the best we’ve experienced on a short-haul flight. They may be the older recliner-style seats, but these were incredibly comfortable and well appointed with swan-neck reading lamps, leg rests and lumbar support. The large, wide leather seats were certainly comfortable enough for flights of 3-4 hours and match the comfort found on carriers such as Icelandair, who use a similar product for 7hour+ flights.
The seats have double-sided raise up arm rests, one houses a fold out table, the other plays home to the personal TV system, which when extended from the arm rest are operable by touchscreen. Under the armrest is a cocktail table which is useful to hold a drink while watching TV.
The seat pitch of the seats is certainly impressive. On the A321-200, there were twenty seats featuring 34″ seat pitch, and the 737-800 featured just 16 seats with 43″ pitch (which would explain the increased seat recline) although both aircraft could have easily increased the seat recline by a further few degrees.
Sadly, the leg rest on the A321 didn’t really raise enough to support the leg, however the 737 was far more supportive. It’s important to note not all of Turkish Airlines’ cabins feature these 2 x 2 seats, some also reflect the ‘Euro-business’ 3 x 3 seats with the middle seat kept free for business class passengers.
One of the best elements of Turkish Airlines is the cuisine. While many will know about the onboard chef on the long-haul flights, we were delighted and surprised to see a chef onboard the short-haul flights too.
As we took our seats, we were welcomed by the chef, who offered us a range of drinks. Each of the light refreshing juices were fantastic, although the still lemonade with mint was a particular favourite. On our return flight, we asked for Champagne, and that was quickly brought to us as well.
Even though this flight was under 4 hours, there were printed menus with a range of options. On the outbound flight, we were given a full dinner service, and on the return a traditional Turkish Breakfast.
All menus and catering is done by Do&Co. For the evening meal, we started with an Arabic Meze, It was tasty and perfectly proportioned. Being a late night and short flight, the tray was delivered with desert and a variety of accompaniments, including Cacik yoghurt, which was perfect with the selection of warm breads handed out.
After the starter course, we were given an option of a traditional Turkish kebab, or a fish course, both were tasty and piping hot.
Afterwards, a range of liqueurs were brought through the cabin, lights were dimmed and passengers settled in for the short overnight flight. On the return flight, the service was a little less expedited, and more attentive – that’s not a negative for the night flight, the crew were very understanding that passengers wanted to get the most sleep possible on their flight.
On the day flight, a part breakfast, part brunch was served. It was actually delightful, if a little unexpected for a breakfast. The flavours and presentations for the courses were fantastic, and clearly the chef made a clear difference to the food service.
This was again followed by a variety of breakfast hot items, opting for the omelette was a good choice. It tasted fresh, and the tomatoes and mushrooms offered great flavours.
Much like the evening service, after the dining, a selection of hot teas and coffees were brought through the cabin. The whole way through the service, the crew were attentive and quick to respond to requests.
The entertainment system onboard is the same as the one found on the long haul aircraft, offering a huge range of movies and TV shows as well as games, music and audiobooks. In comparison to what is available on most short-haul flights across Europe, this is a huge advantage for Turkish Airlines, and only sets a benchmark for what carriers such as Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France should be doing.
The headphones were of a standard business class quality, but their long-haul Denon headphones which we’ll highlight in our next article were outstanding in comparison. On the A321, the entertainment system uses a secondary touchscreen handset, although on the 737, the slightly older system only features a more basic handset.
The seats offer power sockets, although no USB socket on the 737 cabin however the A321 features a USB socket in the TV screen. For those wanting to read, Turkish Airlines offers a substantial library of their own magazines, including two business magazines and their main title Skylife. The cabin crew also offered a range of newspapers and magazine before departure too.
Turkish Airlines has some exceptional extras, all are just a request away. Both on the night flight and day flight, large pillows were waiting on the seat as we boarded. The cabin crew were even attentive enough to place blankets on sleeping passengers, a touch that is rare to see, but showcases how the airline is certainly trying to win over passengers with a service level usually only found in Asian carriers.
Hot towels were delivered after take off and prior to landing, and while they weren’t on display, dental kits were also offered to us during our flights. The addition of smaller touches, such as the onboard chef, ‘candle-lit’ dinner and constant attention from the cabin crew made the flights, even though short, some of the most enjoyable we’ve taken in across Europe.
On our return trip, our computer was taken from us at the gate. Part of the carrier’s new developments in dealing with the imposed regulations on flying to the UK and US. These were carefully wrapped in front of us, and delivered to us at the end of the jet bridge in Gatwick. The only drawback being that most passengers with laptops were in business class, meaning as they had to wait to be handed back the laptops, the majority of the economy class passengers continued on to immigration, and any advantage of leaving the aircraft first was sadly lost.
Turkish Airlines excels on every level on their short-haul product compared to their European competitors. At every point throughout our trip, they managed to excel our expectations. While their ground product may need a little more attention, and we’ll come on to that in our follow up posts, the flight experience was almost faultless. The carrier’s ticket prices are very reasonable when compared prior to flying, and even though London also boasts long-haul aircraft with fully-flat beds and more space, these narrow body aircraft were still an unexpected treat.
We believe Turkish Airlines, while it might fly to more countries than any other, isn’t just trying to be the biggest, it’s trying hard to be the best. Not many carriers have focussed on the details, and this is where Turkish Airlines excels, and as far as narrow body jets go, there are few business class experiences that can equal what we experienced.
The Big Picture
THEDESIGNAIR.NET TRAVELLED AS GUESTS OF TURKISH AIRLINES, HOWEVER THE VIEWS EXPRESSED HERE ARE OUR OWN