Aircraft Type: 787-9
Class: Business Class
Date: September 2019
It’s not a secret that Turkish Airlines has one of the best soft products in the sky. From our previous reports, we’ve always been impressed with the food & drink, amenities and IFE system onboard their aircraft, but the B777 and A330 hard products in business class have been around for a while. Although the large forward facing seats certainly have their benefits for sleep comfort, the lack of all-aisle-access, privacy and storage could be putting off some business travellers.
So when Turkish Airlines launched their new business class product, currently flying on their 787s and soon-to-be A350s, offering all-aisle-access and privacy, some compromise had to be made – either through ticket price or re-configuring the cabin. Currently flying on some of their longest routes, we gave the Bali-Denpasar to Istanbul leg a run for its money, which – at just shy of 13-hours – allowed us to truly test the product to its limits.
On the ground
In Bali, Turkish Airlines operates like many other out-of-home carriers with a fairly straight forward 3rd party check-in area, situated just after the airport’s first security check point. The airline however has taken on quite a few check-in desks to allow for a speedy process. In fact, we had boarding passes in hand no less than a minute after arriving in the check-in area.
After check-in, which was friendly and welcoming, we headed through the security and immigration queue. Sadly, although we had arrived 2.5 hours before our flight, the 35-minutes in the immigration and security queues meant we had little time to enjoy the lounge.
Turkish and other carriers (like Cathay) utilise the T/G lounge, which is fairly basic, but does offer some nice touches, like freshly made pasta and a staffed massage room, but on the other hand, there is a voucher approach to drinks. Our tickets allowed us access to 3 drinks each, which were limited to house wines or beers. More premium drinks were chargeable.
After just 20 minutes in the lounge – just enough time to check emails before boarding – we headed to the gate, which happened to be the very furthest from the lounge. One, rather lengthy and brisk walk later, we boarded the aircraft, and being Business Class passengers, naturally were invited to board first.
On entering the cabin through the main L2 door you are greeted by a recessed copper TK logo, similar to the experience entering the carrier’s 777s, but everything certainly feels a lot more modern. Unlike the older cabins however, the carrier has opted for a much smarter grey and bronze/copper colour palette, which references the design cues in the new Istanbul’s airport.
Whereas the 777 feels open and spacious, this cabin feels a lot more compact, but that’s understandable considering the airline has opted for a more private seat with high walls and more storage space and the 787 isn’t as wide as the 777 – it would be fairer to compare it to the A330 product.
The 787-9 offers a single business class cabin between doors one and two, with thirty seats across 8 rows (only 7 rows in the centre pairs). The cabin is configured in a 1 x 2 x 1 arrangement, with window seats alternating between being right next to the aisle and situated next to the window itself. If you like a window view, avoid row 2 and row 6, as one is missing a window and the other’s is obstructed by the privacy wing of the seat.
Bali, being a honeymoon destination, was certainly popular with couples, and the prime side-b-side seats in the centre of the cabin for those travelling together went quickly – being only 4 seat pairs in total. However, the centre ‘divorce seats’ (ones separated by the seat architecture) were just as good for those travelling together, and these, in row 4 (D&G) are what we opted for.
While the front of the cabin has a pretty straightforward design the rear of the cabin features the airline’s new flow brand motif and embellished with a brushed copper Turkish Airlines logo which is very stylish.
On boarding the cabin was lit quite brightly, but once the doors were closed the cabin came to life with warm sunset colours from the mood lighting flooding the cabin.
The toilets were the traditional Boeing 787 affair, but the front toilet also featured a bidet function which was a lovely touch, but only featured in one of the two toilets dedicated to the business class cabin. Of course, being Turkish, they were also adorned with Molton Brown handwash, lotion and diffusers as well as a large Eau de Toilette which are lovely touches, but don’t leave much space to place your amenity kit when freshening up.
I feel like this is going to be a Marmite moment, if you had flown the previous Turkish Airlines seat you are either going to love it or hate the new one, but let us caveat right at the start by saying we love it. Yes, sure, the seat’s bed itself is not as spacious as the previous incarnation of Turkish Airlines’ business class, but that’s because the economics of giving everything to the passenger from a LOPA perspective would become unsustainable without heavily increasing the ticket price.
The outcome is a private, fully flat-bed seat that offers ample storage, lots of special amenities, a large table, massive TV screen and that important all-aisle-access. The flip side is that you now have a footwell as you sleep which is more restrictive than the previous seat.
The seat itself is wide, it’s not as claustrophobic as we’ve read some people mention, but that’s obviously subjective, and even at 13 hours, we never felt ‘hemmed in’ or restricted in any way. In fact on our flight, all the armrests were purposefully lowered during boarding to remind passengers they could do this when sleeping which adds an extra couple of inches on the shoulder area (to a total of 23″).
It’s also finished in an amazing fabric that has metallic flecks sewn in (which were impossible to photograph) which add just the right amount of bling to the cabin. The footwell was spacious enough that we could turn over without feeling we couldn’t move our feet, but it was a noticeable restriction during the flight, and no different from the 80-90% of cabins that now have footwells as part of the business class experience.
Beside the seat was a large table which could easily fit a laptop or midnight snack, which is a welcome improvement on the previous seat, as the lack of storage or working space was frustrating, especially when trying to work on the flight.
The seat also featured a lockable storage compartment with charging point and USB-C connector. On boarding, the amenity kits were neatly positioned in the storage, which is flanked by a vanity mirror (which sadly wasn’t tilt-able on our aircraft), meaning you had to manoeuvre yourself in the seat to use it, however this function is being rolled out on future installs.
On the other side of the storage unit is a hook to hang the headphones, which was the perfect place to keep them during our sleep. There’s nothing worse than being woken up because you are being unfortunately prodded by a pair of headphones that had fallen on to the bed and found its way to your lower back.
The seat controls (once you find them) illuminate on touch, which means they don’t glare in your face as you try to sleep, and Turkish answered a problem we didn’t even realise we were frustrated by; they’ve included a simple TV on/off switch, bypassing the usually impossible to find ‘settings function’ on the IFE to finally switch off the screen.
There is also a big, (and we mean huge), bi-fold table that pulls out from under the TV, which is super sturdy and easy to use. It even features a small rubber edge in one corner to stop the table scratching the chic grey architecture of the seat in front. While not anything to write home about on its own, it does showcase how well thought out the seat is, and how everything is both ‘form’ and ‘function’.
For the centre-pair seats there is also a raise and lower divider, although due to the large privacy screens it almost becomes redundant. But it is still a nice courtesy to have, especially if travelling as a pair and one wants their sleep while the other watches TV (we saw this on our flight). It’s also a godsend if travelling next to a stranger, as the seats are fairly close together.
On the ornately designed inner seat shell, with its faux swede finish, is a trio of personal reading lights, which offer two dimming settings and three positions depending on your preference. It’s a great addition, but we found the lights only illuminating half of the seat space. This is something that no doubt will be fixed in later iterations of the seat.
Our one criticism is that the privacy screens are almost too private, and as they sit within the sight-line of the passenger, are always reminding you of the width of the seat space, but they did help to drown out ambient noise thanks to the use of materials on the seat.
The Food and Drink
No matter how often we fly, to see an actual chef (a real chef, not a cabin crew dressed up as one) is a really memorable experience. Having a chef onboard allows for passengers to go off piste, and on our last journey, we were able to reconfigure a side of Caesar Salad in to a full-blown main course.
Of course, during boarding the airline offers its signature range of juices, including our favourite lemon and mint, and although not displayed, champagne is obviously available on request too.
The 13 + hour flight gave us a menu that we literally got lost in. There were a huge range of fine wines, champagne, drinks, meal options and a breakfast card, and everything was a la carte and dine-on-demand.
Being about 9.30 at night, we decided to eat dinner after take off, which started with warm nuts and a glass of Taittinger Brut champagne.
That was quickly followed by a small amuse bouche, which kept us going until the chef and crew performed the usual starter trolley service which allowed passengers to pick and choose from a buffet of options.
The trolley was filled to the brim, and we opted for literally a bit of everything.
You can see our two different starters, which were prepared and plated beautifully.
And of course, they are supported by the usual bread, oil, butter and Turkish spice blend, and ‘candle’ to support the dinner.
Following the starter, there was a choice of main course, each had its own plate. I opted for the BBQ beef, but the pasta and fish courses (which I was able to try) were also amazing, in fact the vegetarian pasta was by far the best dish and full of flavour.
After the main course, the trolley returned with a selection of deserts, and of course we had to try the baclava and caramel and apricot cake which was moist and sticky, the perfect end to the meal.
Of course, we ended getting a really good sleep of about 7 hours, but I woke up deciding for the sake of trialing the product (honest) I would try one of their dine anytime snacks.
This came as a warmed beef sandwich, a small fruit tart and a lemon and mint drink. The portion was actually huge, but it was fairly easy to finish off.
Approximately 2 hours before landing, the lights slowly turned up to a sunrise setting and breakfast was served. It started with a warm towel service.
Which was then followed by a fruit plate, yoghurt and traditional cold salad and juice (all of which was pre selected on our breakfast card)
Then a warm bread basket was brought around, featuring these amazing scrolls. So delicious! The perfect accompaniment to the Americano from the Nespresso machine onboard.
This was followed by an omelette, potatoes and mushrooms, which was piping hot and delicious. There was a Turkish coffee service afterwards, which we politely declined.
The 787 features the airlines’ most up to date entertainment system. And being Turkish Airlines, it’s fairly comprehensive. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of options to peruse through.
These all feature on the seat’s 18″ Hi-Def touchscreen which is within easy touching distance and can even be tilted down for those wanting to watch while in bed. However, for those who’ve potentially had a little too much food and are far too comfy, you can use the second-screen handset, which is just as responsive and easy to use, and can support the passenger experience with elements like the moving map while the entertainment is playing.
Another nifty addition to this cabin is the ability to pair your mobile phone to the screen, which means that a passenger can actually have three screens on the go at any one time. You have to pre-download the Turkish Airlines entertainment app, but it allows you to browse movies, play trailers and generally plan your entire, lengthy trip in the palm of your hand.
But it doesn’t stop there. Turkish have thrown the sink in, with a massive selection of newspapers and magazines during boarding, as well as over 800 pages of inflight branded material including a separate business class magazine.
And if magazines and newspapers aren’t your thing, business class passengers get unlimited (yes, truly unlimited) Wi-Fi throughout the flight, which is an amazing, and really useful perk for anyone flying. There’s no data cap and therefore the faff of trying to switch off auto-updates etc is removed. The speed isn’t bad either. But on such a long flight, there were naturally some periods where the signal was weaker (or everyone was uploading their last sunset beach photo from Bali on to Instagram at the same time).
Of course, to watch the entertainment, a decent pair of headphones is required, and there are no better in the sky in our opinion than the Denon headset that Turkish offers throughout the flight until 30 mins before landing when a non-noise cancelling replacement is offered.
Its certainly hard to beat Turkish when it comes to entertainment, and especially on its very generous WiFi offering. It’s these smaller, surprise and delight elements which are harder to quantify, but truly push the carrier on to a world stage.
If the entertainment wasn’t enough, the extras take the passenger experience to the stratosphere. Lets start with the Versace amenity kit, which comes in a male or female kit, which are already placed on the seats during boarding. There are two designs for each sexed kit too, depending if you are inbound or outbound to Istanbul. It’s filled with all the usuals, as well as a small 5ml Eau de Toilette.
The service is filled with small delights too, from the candlelit dinners, to the hot towels served prior to each service and on boarding, which come on their own smart dish.
There are also day blankets, slippers, shoe bags, the list of amenities just goes on and on.
There is also a brand new bedding set, which includes a pillow cover, a thick velvet-touch blanket, and mattress protector (which seemed to be for the 777 seat rather than 787, but no doubt a 787 version will be rolled out soon) These elements made for a great sleep, although we did end up having to ask for an extra pillow – because apparently we are princesses here at TheDesignAir.
Other elements, such as the traditional Turkish coffee service with Turkish delight are also lovely surprise and delight points of difference that celebrates Turkish Airlines’ rich cultural roots.
Other elements like the business class-specific busses on arrival at a remote stand are often not thought about, but add extra comfort to the airline’s valuable passengers who might have tight connections and consider time and a smooth point-to-point experience of high value.
Turkish Airlines is constantly pushing its passenger experience to be amongst the best in the skies. The 787, while a completely different experience from a hard product perspective, does not fail to deliver on expectations. While the core differentiators like catering, amenities and lounge (which we will cover in an upcoming review) are still there, the 787 brings privacy, comfort and technological advancements that will see it going for years to come.
Sure the new seat isn’t anything like its incumbent, but that shouldn’t be seen as a negative, in fact, its a vast improvement, and if the only criticism is that it offers the same comfort as other ‘5-star’ carriers, then that’s a fairly good benchmark to have. Especially when the ticket prices are still incredibly reasonable.
It will be exciting to see how this product and the cabin evolves for the A350 when they begin delivery next year.