A Review of My Experience, One Year Later
I’ve just returned from my second trip to Turkey and my second experience flying Turkish Airlines. Last year I flew from Los Angeles to Istanbul, then from Istanbul to Antalya, a Mediterranean resort city in Southern Turkey. This year I flew to Istanbul for a wonderful week exploring the city.
This is a reprint of my article that originally appeared on Yahoo! HERE
The LAX international terminal is a large space and Turkish Airlines has a long row of check-in counters. There was only one person in the Business Class line and the process went quickly. I was soon on my way to security. After screening, I headed to the Star Alliance lounge, used by Turkish Airlines at LAX. The lounge is in the newly remodeled international terminal area and I found it modern and spacious. There are a lot of open spaces and with the lounge on the second floor, you can see the whole terminal area below you. There’s even an outside bar and lounge area. I found it a lot nicer than the OneWorld lounge I visited a few weeks prior.
In the air
The service is gracious and friendly with seemingly more cabin staff than most airlines. I was in the front row of Business Class, the 777 flights are three class service, with Business, Comfort (like a premium economy) and Economy classes. On the 777, the Business Class seats are 2-3-2. As someone who usually travels alone, I do prefer the 1-2-1 combination other airlines use.
The Business Class seats become fully flat beds and are quite pod-like, allowing for good privacy even from someone sitting next to you.There’s an ottoman in front of the seat, so when the seat is in the bed mode, the total length is 75″. The seats even feature a massage function, which is quite wonderful.
Currently, most Turkish Airlines international flights feature inflight Wifi. I found the service worked well, although there were some outages as the plane moved through its flightpath. It was easy to check email and also post to social media, right from the plane. I really like having the onboard connectivity as it allows me to work during the thirteen hour flight.
It’s not often I mention the airline food as a highlight of a trip, but Turkish Airlines really excels here. Their “Flying Chef” program puts a actual chef, hat and all, on each flight. The chef discusses the menu with passengers and prepares and helps serve the meals. It really is like dining at a fine restaurant, down to the porcelain china and metal silverware offered in Business Class.
One meal on the outbound flight featured assorted canapes, smoked trout and horseradish cream, Nicoise salad with prawns, Turkish style artichoke in olive oil with white eggplant salad, buffalo mozzarella with tomatoes, grilled zucchini and pepper, shepherd’s salad with white cheese and mesclun salad. Also creamy zucchini soup with herbed croutons. And all that was just the appetizers, the meal was a choice of grilled salmon, filet of beef or rigatoni. This epic meal was followed by cheese, fruit and dessert carts. It was absolutely overwhelming and wonderful at the same time.
The wine list featured two Turkish whites and a French Chablis Premier Cru Les Beauroys, with a French Medoc, a Turkish Merlot, a Spanish Beronia Crianza and an Argentinean Malbec / Cab / Merlot blend on the red side. Champagne was a Gosset Brut Grande Reserve and it was also delicious.
The return flight had a different menu, highlights including wild salmon tartar, Mediterranean prawns, chicken Caesar salad, Turkish-style bulgur and minced meat balls. Again, these were only the mezzes or appetizers, the main selection was a choice of rigatoni, oven-baked fresh Black Sea anchovies or lamb. I went with the lamb, a grilled spring lamb with traditional style cannellini beans in a light tomato sauce, accompanied by buttered rice and pickles.
Turkish Airlines Istanbul CIP lounge
Truly one of the most incredible airport VIP lounges I’ve ever visited, the CIP Lounge, as it’s called, is a large space, accessed from right off the security screening. It’s filled with all kinds of ways to spend a few hours. There are several large food stations, including a selection of mezzes or Turkish appetizers. There’s a grill (which had amazing lamb kebobs) and a chef making Turkish flatbread pizzas in a pizza oven. Another kitchen area was serving pasta and chicken dishes. Several bars offer a range of drinks and there are snacks, desserts, fruit, salad bars, just an amazing range of offerings.
There are iMacs for use (the lounge also has Wifi) and even a concierge to handle last minute requests or needs. Showers and bathrooms are available, as are private napping areas. For golfers there is a putting green, for billiard enthusiasts there is a pool table and for film buffs there is a screening room (with popcorn). Newshounds get a full wall of TVs tuned to various news stations around the world and kids get their own playroom. A roving masseuse can soothe those tense muscles and there’s a library filled with fascinating travel, art and architecture books about Turkey. There are even prayer rooms for daily Muslim prayers.
I’ve been impressed with the airline’s bold campaign, now labeled “Widen Your World”, to increase their US visibility and to position themselves as a global carrier. I was surprised to learn they fly to more international destinations (242 in 104 different countries) than any other airline. Their viral commercial with LA Lakers star Kobe Bryant and soccer star Lionel Messi was a huge YouTube success and a follow-up campaign has just been launched.
Turkish Airlines offers direct service to Istanbul from Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Boston, Washington, DC and Houston, with more US cities planned. For travel in the first quarter of 2014, roundtrip promotional Economy Class fares to Istanbul from LAX are around $760 and $590 from NYC. Roundtrip Business Class fares for the same travel are about $3,700.