Turkish Airlines, like many airlines (like TAP or Qatar Airways) over a stop-over for transiting passengers to experience the city, but Turkish Airlines have taken this experience one further. Not only can passengers enjoy a two night free stay in Istanbul (for business class passengers) but those with more than just a few hours to kill but less than an overnight, can enjoy either a tourIstanbul trip through the city and now also a Bosphorus Experience, only available to those travelling business class.
While the cruise incurs a supplementary charge, it is well worth it. Our cruise only had the two of us who were travelling together, escorted by a knowledgable guide who had been working with Turkish Airlines for 10 years making the transit offering one of the most exclusive globally.
The experience starts at the gate on landing, where a member of staff escorts you through the airport, through immigration and to the luxury transit car which takes you to the city to board the boat. The entire process is seamless and showcases how the airline excels in its Istanbul hub. In the past we have utilised the free hotel stay that the airline provides it’s passengers (both economy and business class) and the two business class hotels we’ve stayed in are phenomenal 5-star properties (although you have no power over which hotel you end up in).
Both the morning and evening tours take approximately 5-6 hours. Once in the heart of Istanbul, the guide instantly brings the city to life, before boarding a well-equipped and modern private yacht. The yacht takes you down the Bosphorus, while the guide explains the complex and illuminating history of Istanbul. Turkish tea and coffee are served, and on arriving at the 15th July Martys Bridge, the yacht turns around and takes you to the Caravan Palace Kempinski for an impressive champagne buffet breakfast.
Arriving at the hotel couldn’t feel more glamorous, as the private security open the gate to welcome you in where a table awaits your group. The guide explains a little on the history of the hotel as well as taking you through the reception, lined with the heads of state, royalty and celebrities that have stayed there before sitting down for breakfast, (or dinner in the main restaurant should you be on the evening cruise)
There is a little bit of down time at the hotel too, which can give you enough time for a quick swim in the pool, a quick spa treatment or a wonder around the grounds to take in the impressive palace that the hotel occupies.
Once ready, you board the boat which takes you back down the Bosphorus to the heart of the city where the luxury transfer whisks you back to the airport.
Turkish Airlines have been clever to create a transit experience that not only adds something unique to the passenger experience, but also entices passengers to book to travel to Istanbul again as a destination, rather than a stop-over. We left the Bosphorus Experience refreshed after a long flight due to the fresh air and good food, inspired to visit Istanbul and spend more time there, and with a positive memorable experience of Turkish Airlines.
After speaking with Turkish Airlines they’ve confirmed they still intend to offer the experience, even when they move to their impressive new home at the end of the year. Whether taking a walking tour, boat tour, staying overnight in a hotel or taking advantage of a two-day stop over, Turkish Airlines has invested to make sure every passenger gets a taste of their home city, and we don’t know of any airline with such a comprehensive transit offering.