Aircraft Type: 777-300ER
Class: Business Class
Date: April 2017
Turkish Airlines has certainly caught our attention recently. In our first report on the airline’s short-haul product, they impressed us with a region-beating business class product. As part of our three part series we were happy to explore their signature long haul product, which stars in their latest advertising campaign alongside Morgan Freeman.
Part Two. Turkish Airlines long-haul business class product.
On the Ground
While we will feature a separate feature on Turkish Airline’s CIP lounge in Istanbul (coming soon), we’ll take this opportunity to talk about the lounge on our return flight from São Paulo.
We flew from Guarulhos International Airport Terminal 3, their prestigious and newest terminal. Turkish Airlines is one of a few airlines that are able to use the Star Alliance lounge run by South African. It’s one of the best lounges in the airport, only equalled by the LATAM lounge.
Although in Istanbul, business class passengers are able to utilise fast track entrance into the airport, check in and even immigration with fast-track into the CIP lounge; passengers in São Paulo don’t get any priority treatment except at check-in. This is the same for all airlines operating from the terminal though.
Like in Istanbul, the lounge itself in São Paulo is fantastically appointed. It is open plan, and features a wide range of zones. As the schedule of the return flight from São Paulo to Istanbul leaves at a mind-boggling 3.25am, the lounge was virtually deserted. It offers a range of wines, spirits, hot and cold dishes, fresh soups and separate coffee stations.
The lounge also offers showers, a range of seating including recliner chairs which are perfect for taking a nap in – especially convenient at this time of day.
Back in Istanbul, boarding was perfectly on time. By the time we saw the boarding announcement on the screens in the lounge and made our way to the gate, we were one of the last passengers to board which meant no queuing. The ground crew were incredibly polite too.
We were greeted by name at the gate, wished a pleasant flight and directed to board through door two.
Turkish Airlines 777-300ER offers a spacious cabin environment. While we were travelling in business class, we were pleasantly surprised to see a 3 x 3 x 3 seating configuration in economy bucking the trend of the 3 x 4 x 3 configs found on most 777s now.
The business class cabin is separated in two mini cabins, featuring seats in a 2 x 3 x 2 configuration. The fully flat, forward facing seats are similar in configuration to Emirates, which will be appealing to passengers travelling together, although the dreaded middle seat issue does arise in this config.
The advantage of the forward facing seats is the spaciousness of the cabin, as monuments and seat furniture are kept to a minimum, meaning there is an airy cabin feeling once all the overhead bins are closed and everyone is sat.
The main galley space was beautifully branded. The side walls of the galley wall feature an ornate fretwork pattern, that is replicated on the bulkheads. Under the design featured a living garden of fresh plants, embedded into the wall, along with the star alliance and Turkish Airlines logos.
This attention to detail continued throughout the cabin. The airline had recently adopted living plants in all of its toilets. In the aircraft we flew on, there were trailing living ivy plants placed in the toilets that framed the mirror. These were accompanied by Molton Brown fragrances, hand wash and moisturiser.
Throughout the flight, Turkish Airlines made full use of the mood lighting, especially during the end of the flight when the cabin filled with a purple light to mimic sunset.
The general condition of the cabin was great, even though it was the older style cabin. However, Turkish Airlines newer seats and aircraft are a large improvement on the older ones (which we flew on on the return flight). No matter which aircraft you end up on, the experience is virtually identical.
The forward cabin features four rows of seats, and the second cabin features three rows, which is a little more intimate, there are also three toilets catering the 49 seats, which is a generous ratio to seats.
Now we can’t lie, we do love the privacy found in staggered or herringbone seats. Many carriers we’ve flown feature this more private configuration, to a point where the traditional forward facing business class seats are classed as an older generation product.
This will be the most noticeable element to frequent business class travellers who fly on a variety of carriers. The configuration on the A330s is a comfortable 2 x 2 x 2 configuration meaning 2/3rds of the seats feature aisle access, however on the 777 there is what is often referred to as the ‘dreaded’ middle seat.
The seat certainly will be the last choice for any traveller, however, there is still plenty of space for travellers here, and due to the layout and width of the seats, it’s still fairly easy to get out of the seat even if both aisle passengers are fully reclined.
At 75″ when fully reclined, the seat is a fairly substantial and wide fully-flat bed. When upright, the seat is sturdy, and doesn’t have multiple joins, so it’s very comfortable to sit on too. There’s lumbar support, as well as a mechanically raised headrest. Here’s a tip, it’s good to rise that up when sleeping if you want a little more head support.
The seat features the tulip pattern that can also be seen as a cut-out fretwork on the galley curtains. All in tonal slate colours, the bright flash of the red seat belt and hard shell add a splash of colour to an otherwise sophisticated simplistic design.
On each seat was a memory foam back support pillow which was both novel, and incredibly comfortable.
The seat controls are very intuitive, and there is a secondary panel that can be used when the seat is reclined, which is easier to access for passengers than the centre console.
The centre console separating the two seats plays home to a privacy screen, swan-neck reading lamps, and the tray table which lifts up and out in a single leaf.
Under the console there is a small, shallow tray for storage, which isn’t ideal due to being next to the seat mechanics, but easily accessible. The tray also plays home to the IFE controller, which on the older seats is a directional button controller, but on the newer seats features a digital mini-touchscreen controller, which is much easier to use. There is also USB and power sockets.
Under the ottoman which forms part of the bed, is a large storage area. On the newer seats this is a closed unit, on the older seats, it’s open at the front, and perfect for placing your shoes in.
The seat is certainly comfortable and spacious, and there is something still enjoyable about facing forward in the aircraft. For those travelling together the seat pairs are still perfect. Our favourite seats are the pairs to the side of the aircraft, although the bulkhead pairs offer slightly raised screens, which means passengers behind can view your screen (Awkward if you use flights like these to catch up on movies you wouldn’t ordinarily watch in the cinema!)
Just like our short-haul flight, the food on the flight was exceptional. On sitting down in our seat, jackets were taken and the on-board chef in his chef-whites introduced himself to us, while simultaneously offering us fresh juices. We opted for Tattinger Brut Reserve Champagne as well as a fresh juice, which was swiftly brought to our seat in Riedel champagne glasses.
We were then presented with menus while still on the ground, which were extensive, even more so as they were also supported by Spanish and Portuguese translated menus too.
Best of Turkish Meze
Smoked Salmon and celeriac salad
and / or
Creamy sweet pea soup
Garden Fresh Salad
Grilled Lamp Chops, with ratatouille, rosemary jus, bulgur pillar, cucumber yoghurt
Grilled Chicken Breast & Asparagus, with soy bean, affilla cress, black pepper jus
Prawn Papardella, with homemade parmesan tomato sauce
Do&Co Chocolate Mousse,
Vanilla & Passion Fruit Panna Cotta
Fresh Fruit Salad
White cheese and chicken sandwich selections
Demel’s petits desserts
Mozzarella & Grilled Vegetables
Garden Fresh Salad
Grilled Chicken Brochette, grilled tomatoes and green peppers, bulgur pilaf
Traditional Style Baked Minced Beef Pastry, grilled zucchini, roasted red pepper
Do&Co Chocolate Mousse
The food offering was both immense, and of excellent quality. Immediately after take off, our orders were taken, along with a huge apology that the lamb was unavailable, but instead replaced with a fillet steak option. After the order was taken, a further glass of champagne was served, this time with a fresh slice of strawberry, and some mixed nuts to accompany.
Our tables were laid approximately 45 minutes after take off. Being a 14 hour flight, this was a nice leisurely approach to the service which was well received by all the passengers. The table elements were incredibly elegant, from the ornate salt and pepper shakers to the signature ‘candlelit dinner’ where each passenger is given an (electronic) candle in a paper origami box which flickers away as you dine.
While ordinarily we raise an eyebrow to trolley service, when presented with a wide array of starters, all freshly prepared and beautifully presented, we actually got excited when the trolley appeared.
Having a fresh soup poured for you in a gold lined bowl is quite a spectacle, especially when paired with a restaurant style plate of smoked salmon.
The meze plate was also perfect to enjoy with the range of fresh breads which were constantly topped-up and delivered to your own personal bread basket, which had oil, butter and a range of Turkish herbs (that tasted good with practically everything)
After the starter, I was served a steak, which was beautifully cooked and incredibly succulent, it was accompanied by egg-fried rice, a slightly odd combination, but tasty all the same. While we stuck with the Tattinger throughout, there were both Turkish (Prestige Variance 2015) and French (Chablis Louis Jadot 2015) white wines available, a Turkish Rose wine and no less than four red wines from Spain, Argentina, France and Turkey.
Following the main meal, came the dessert trolley, which featured the whole range of sweets on offer. Passengers were encouraged to try a variety of options, so being a chocoholic, we tried both the chocolate fondant, and the chocolate mousse. Both were delicious, and there were still plenty left over should we have wanted seconds.
Completely sated at this point, our tables were put away, beds made up by the staff, and we curled up to watch the many movies and TV shows throughout the rest of the flight.
There are two additional food options throughout the flight. Either the two walk up snack areas that were decorated in flowers and candles, offering a range of crisps and chocolates, or the on demand petit fours and sandwiches which were delivered to you at your seat.
We opted for one of Turkish Airlines multiple teas to aid digestion when we scoffed our face.
About 2.5 hours before landing, an afternoon meal was served. This more rapid service, saw the table laid with both salad and desert and all the usual accompaniments. The first course consisted of a very fresh tasting mozzarella, tomato and grilled vegetable salad.
This was then followed by either the minced beef pastry or a chicken kebab, both were delicious and weren’t dry at all. The service, all the time was polite, efficient, caring and attentive.
What flight on Turkish Airlines would be complete without finishing it off with a Turkish Coffee and a couple of cubes of Turkish Delight.
Turkish Airlines entertainment as we discussed in the previous article, is certainly comprehensive, there are plenty of movies, including a range of classic, blockbuster and recent releases. There’s also plenty of foreign language movies too. On their 777 aircraft, the airline also offers live TV, great news for sports fans. All of this is delivered on a large touchscreen.
While the TV screen is large, and easy to see and filled with entertainment, as we previously stated the interface is a little harder to use with the traditional handset compared to the touchscreen handset found on the newer seats.
There were also fantastic Denon headphones, of an unparalleled quality in the air. These by far are the best headphones we’ve seen an airline supply. Sadly, the headphones were collected approximately 20 minutes before landing on each of the long-haul flights so they could be handed in and counted. The cabin crew were quick to replace these though with the same headsets found on the short-haul flight, which were still of decent quality, but in comparison to the Denon headsets, a marked reduction in sound cancelling.
The airline also offered a wide range of newspapers and magazines on boarding, mixed with Turkish Airlines own fairly extensive range of inflight magazines. If this wasn’t enough, the airline also offers free WiFi to its business class passengers.
One negative element though, sadly our seat showed its age in the fact the handheld controller was a little un-responsive due to general wear and tear, and our headphone jack was slightly faulty and needed pressure on it to ensure a positive connection.
This is certainly Turkish Airlines’ second best element – short of the food and beverage offering. Turkish Airlines certainly have excellent attention to detail. From the small elements which you end up taking for granted, such as a stylish clip holding the breakfast form to the menu, or the cocktail stirrers in the welcome drinks.
However, the larger elements really do make the flight enjoyable. When it comes to sleeping, the lumbar support pillow, sleep kits, which offer a mattress protector, a pillow and blanket, which are perfectly packed so cabin crew can slip it onto the seat and prepare a bed in seconds, along with comfortable slippers and eye masks make for a dreamy few hours.
The amenity kits vary on direction. On the way out, a luxurious Furla leather kit bag was delivered, offering a range of usual amenities, including Institue Karite creams, shoehorn and even a brush. The kit also included stickers, allowing passengers to advise if they wanted to be woken or not.
Throughout the flight, the service was attentive, and hot and cold towels were distributed at the start and end of the flight and before each service. There were also a few times when crew came through the cabin and offered a range of cold juices and water.
From the Denon headsets through to the Riedel glassware, Turkish haven’t skimped on any luxuries, and the airline is offering the very top level products on their flight.
What passengers may not know is that Turkish Airlines offers an overnight hotel for business class passengers that have a longer layover than 7 hours (even economy passengers can use this complimentary service for connections over 10 hours) although the airline does stipulate that passengers must not be able to connect on an earlier flight in order to receive this service. We ended up staying in a Renaissance Polat hotel a 5 minute shuttle bus from the airport, which was fantastic, and the perfect place to rest our head.
Turkish Airlines has a surprisingly mammoth wealth of perks, treats and customer experience touch points that delight. The airline’s hard product is solid, the service was fantastically warm and sincere and the dining, exceptional. There are few reasons to fault the carrier and its substantial route network, affordable fares and comfortable journeys mean that it should be a no brainer to select Turkish Airlines should the opportunity to come up. Based on our recent experience we would certainly rank this as one of the leading carriers globally.
The airline has highlighted the fact it is targeting a coveted 5-star rating, and compared to some carriers, the airline has all the right ingredients. There are few areas to fault, apart from a crowded CIP lounge in Istanbul, but we’ll cover that in detail in our next of our three reports.