Flying between Asia and Europe has long been dominated by Middle Eastern carriers like Emirates and Qatar, Asian airlines like Singapore and Cathay Pacific and Western Airlines British Airways and Qantas.
But there is one contender who not only competes in the same market but also far exceeds expectations… Turkish Airlines.
After my eventful adventure in Bali, it was time to head to Europe to prepare for the Paris Air Show. Always looking for a less reviewed or well-known airline (such as our recent article on Gangus Khan Airlines), I settled on flying Turkish Airways.
The trip would take me from Singapore to Istanbul, flying not only through the new Singapore Jewel Mall (attached to Singapore Airport) but also through the new Istanbul Airport.
My aircraft would be a Turkish Airlines Boeing 777-300ER. Turkish Airlines has 33 of this type in its fleet.
They have two classes onboard their aircraft, Business class, and Economy, with 49 and 300 seats each. Business class arranges their lie-flat seats in a quite odd 2 – 3 – 2 configuration. It is a little bit rare to see a middle business class seat in the world of reverse herringbone and private suites.
The economy cabin is arranged in a 3 – 3 – 3 configuration, with myself being seated on an aisle on the inside (26D to be exact). Upon check-in, I was offered to upgrade to Business for $850 AUD / $600 USD for the leg, but it was a little bit much for an 11-hour flight (and I had been offered $400 AUD upgrade for a 7-hour flight the week previous on Garuda). But for those crafty shoppers out there, it might be worthwhile waiting right till check-in and scoring a good bargain.
The Turkish economy seat was an instant step up from my last journey on a low-cost-carrier. The seat had plenty of leg room, a fold-down footrest and a leather headrest that could be folded to support the neck. It had the fairly standard 32 inches of leg room.
Turkish Airlines provided a blanket, pillow, and headphones. The headphones were rather cheap and the same weird rubber material not unlike a balloon that I had experience on Garuda.
The tray table was designed for modern passengers in mind and it folded right out allowing me to place my laptop securely in place.
The seat also came with USB power, an internet ethernet plug and a video cable port that I assume allows you to play your own video into the system. As the airline flies to some countries that are still very well in their own iron curtain, we can only imagine that Turkish Airlines is trying to cater to as many different regions as possible.
Turkish Airlines provides a very good entertainment system, of plenty of films and TV shows on a rather large economy screen.
They didn’t have an entire series on the plane (like that can be found on Qantas) but they did have a good selection of modern and recent films. They also had a section of movie trailers for films coming out soon to Turkish Airlines, which for a frequent flyer was a nice touch.
The touchscreen was a little fiddly to use, I found that I had to press quite hard to select my film and my fast forward button was incredibly overzealous, moving up to speeds of 10 minutes at a time. Not really a complaint but combined would mean I’d be sliding back and forth trying to find where I left off for some time.
On the entertainment system, they played one of their famous pre-flight safety videos featuring the Lego Movie characters. Twice. First in Turkish and then in English. I understand that they want to provide a good experience and get their money’s worth of a very expensive safety video but at around four minutes each you end up waiting a long time for the same video to finish.
Upon boarding, I was instantly impressed by the service. The entire team was waiting at the galley entry as we boarded, including the flight attendants, the purser and the chef for the Business class cabin.
This continued with a pre-flight snack of given to me by the flight attendant in my section, and was so good that I asked if they had any more… and they delivered.
Now, I must point out that I was paying a full fare and Turkish Airlines was not financially motivating me to review them, but they seemed to really roll out the service for me on this flight.
I had a light dinner before resting my head for the overnight flight up the gulf from India. I managed to score a bowl of ice cream from the Business cabin (always be nice to your cabin attendants! You never know!).
Interestingly the aircraft took a turn over Iraq and into the Black sea as to avoid Syria. I believe this would have added around 30 minutes to my flight time but I was pleased that the airline was considering regions of conflict.
I was awoken by the lights about an hour before landing, were I had a simple waffle and berries. The waffle was quite dry but that can’t be helped in an aircraft environment.
Lastly, I tried my luck with the ice cream attendant and managed to get myself a real Turkish coffee from the forward galley.
For this airline, it was the little touches that really surprised me. They had a real rose in the bathroom, excellent cutlery, great coffee and a service that actually made me feel welcome. At the end of my journey, I deeply regretted not getting the upgrade to business and look forward to flying with them again.
What do you think? Have you flown Turkish Airlines before? Let us know in the comments.