Airlines of the Middle East: Turkish Airlines
The past decade has heralded a transformation in air travel – the rise of Middle Eastern airlines has been an extraordinary story of rapid growth and expansion. Many of these airlines have revolutionised in-flight service and defined “best in class” product offerings. By raising the bar in service and quality on the ground and in the sky, travellers are reaping the benefits.
In this series we review each of the major airlines from the region and dish the goss on what they have to offer the flying traveller.
Hub: Istanbul, Turkey
Fleet size: 182
This Star Alliance member boasts a decent fleet size and has an impressive global reach sending passengers to over 180 destinations. The airline boasts a large fleet of both Boeing and Airbus aircraft with its largest a being the 777-300ER and A340-300 – typically operating on US and Asia routes (the airline usually runs its smaller aircraft on European routes). Turkish Airlines allows travellers to stop-over in one of the worlds greatest cities, Istanbul, which must be on every wandering travellers hit-list.
On the ground
Turkish airlines doesn’t boast a huge lounge network and in most destinations the carrier uses partner airlines lounges. Unfortunately this means that the quality of the lounge experience can be variable. However where you can find a Turkish Airlines operated ‘CIP’ lounge you can expect a great lounge offering.
The Turkish Lounge in Istanbul however looks quite spectacular with domed high ceilings and modern turkish inspired design. The food is extensive and passengers can load up on arabic coffee at the turkish coffee station. Guests wanting to get their game on with fellow travellers can play a round of pool on the complimentary pool table. I found a great review of the Istanbul lounge on Jaunted – you can find it here.
Business class on Turkish airlines doesn’t look half bad. The airlines previously operated first class but this has since been discontinued. Passengers are seated in a traditional forward facing layout which I actually prefer (some airlines choose that god awful herringbone layout or even worse, rear facing).
The seats on the larger aircraft lie flat so you can be guaranteed a comfortable sleep on your journey. The smaller aircraft do not have lie flat seats, with the airline opting for the traditional cradle seat – this isn’t the worst thing in the world, though keep in mind that if travelling to Europe through Istanbul travellers may get a smaller aircraft with an inferior product.
If your feeling peckish, i’m told that Turkish airlines serves some good grub and from what I read the food is endless. Meals are served from the carts which gives you a taste of silver service in the skies.
Premium Economy / Comfort Class
Turkish Airlines is one of the few Middle Eastern carriers that offer ‘Comfort Class’ on it’s aircraft, though keep in mind that this product is only available on its long haul 777-300 aircraft. The seat pitch (meaning distance from one seat to the one behind it) is 116cm, so not bad for those wanting a bit more room and not wanting to fork out the cash for business. The seats are configured in a 2-3-2 layout so you will get more elbow room compared to those travelling in economy.
Food-wise you will get a business-esque meal served on porcelain (how fancy!). You will also receive pre-departure drinks and nibbles to get you in the mood.
Well it could be worse. You could be flying economy on China Eastern. Economy class will never be pleasant - especially on long haul – but Turkish Airlines does give you a descent amount of room with a seat pitch of 31-32″ which is about the industry average for this class.
Seats come laden with footrests and a bit of a recline to help you doze off into your sleeping pill induced coma (if that’s your thing). Passengers travelling in economy will also receive doner kebabs as part of their culinary experience:
….OK not really (but what a great idea!).
On a serious note however, Turkish Airlines was awarded with having the best economy class meals in the world in the Skyscanner meal challenge – 100 random passengers went on a ‘silent shopper’ challenge to taste economy class meals and Turkish came out trumps. The airline came out with 86/100 result which is a respectable outcome for our economy travellers. Maybe it was the doner kebabs? (See the article here)
Individual touch screens are available on Turkish Airlines in all cabins on its B777, A340, A330 and B737-800 aircraft. The website informs us that passengers have a choice of 350 movies and TV shows, but this really isn’t a big selection compared to its competitors. Luckily, some aircraft have in-seat power in all cabins that allow you to charge your laptop if you run dry on cheesy turkish soap operas.
Turkish Airlines also has inflight connectivity which allows passengers to send emails and texts to friends and family on the group – just be prepared to be pay dearly for the luxury.
I’ve heard goods things about Turkish Airlines – they seem to have a quality business class and even offer a premium economy for those passengers looking for space without the overhead. The Istanbul lounge looks fantastic and would be an ideal stopover point for those wanting to head to Europe. Unfortunately Turkish doesn’t fly to Australia therefore those wanting to fly the Kangaroo route with Turkish will need to fly to Asia on a Star Alliance carrier like Singapore Airlines (meaning a total of a three leg journey to Europe). If your flying economy it appears that you will be well fed with a quality meal. Downsides are the poor entertainment options and a modest lounge network… oh, and the lack of doner kebabs at 30,000ft!