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Turkish Airlines: Deservedly Best in Business Class

PHOTO: Flagship Turkish Airlines Lounge in Istanbul (c) Sery Kim

After airlines diminished the width of economy class seats -- and eliminated free checked bags, free blankets and free snacks all-the-while recording record profits -- flying internationally has more closely resembled an episode of Survivor rather than the pampered heaven Pan-Am and TWA promised at the dawn of the Golden Age of Travel. Yet, for those fortunate enough to fly business class, instead of reversing the menu of “complimentary” items, airlines have been adding to the laundry of list of amenities in this highly competitive field of air travel. Better flat-beds, gourmet food partnerships, extensive wine lists and even free pajamas from luxury brands like Ferragamo.

Additionally, the seemingly unlimited resources of the three gulf airlines (Emirates, Qatar and Ethiad) has further expanded the bandwidth of what can be produced 35,000 feet-in-the-air to almost comical heights. In addition to the now standard business class amenities, the gulf carriers also offer lounging area with wetbar (Emirates, Qatar and Ethiad); standing shower (Emirates and Ethiad); and even an entire en-suite bedroom to yourself (Emirates and Ethiad).

So it is notable, in this surreal flying environment, to remark upon the level of service and comfort Turkish Airlines, the national carrier of the beautiful country of Turkey, provides. Taking their modest resources to produce the Skytrax award as “Best Airline in Europe” five years running, the two most distinguishing aspects of Turkish Airlines non-stop service the U.S. to Europe are the two most important elements: food and flat-bed.

For instance, from the Washington, D.C. area airport Dulles (IAD), Turkish Airlines offers a non-stop 10 hour flight to Istanbul. Business class flights board from the shared Virgin Atlantic/Qatar Airways clubhouse with its modest amenities but excellent cookies → their oatmeal raisin cookies will change your sugar tastebuds. Nothing noteworthy in this bland business class lounge particularly when contrasted with sprawling 3,000 plus square feet, two level Turkish Airlines flagship lounge in Istanbul.

Once onboard, this particular late-night flight had issues with climate control in the business class lounge, as well as no onboard wi-fi, thus creating a too toasty environment. (On the way back from Istanbul, the flight temperature was perfect). The temperature is worth noting since a warm room makes sleep difficult; however, it speaks to the level of comfort of Turkish Airlines’ flat-bed in that I laid down before the flight took-off and woke up a few minutes before the flight landed in Istanbul.

I have never slept through a flight ever.

Having flown 100,000 plus miles this year alone, I considered what made this particular business class flight more comfortable than the others. Turkish Airlines did not give me pajamas like Qatar Airways. Turkish Airlines did not give me special pillows or beautiful toiletries. Turkish Airlines also did not give me any sleeping drugs. Turkish Airlines did not do anything except give me a lower back cushion to place in the awkward gap where the seat rises to flush full.


By providing this rather small detail, instead of having a piece of metal push up into the small of my back, the pillow truly elongated the flat-bed experience to a flush twin bed. Furthermore by having a cushioned footrest, the extra foot of space was perfect for my 5'5 inch frame.

Because I mercifully slept through the long-haul flight, I did not experience the food service on the initial leg of the journey. However, on the way back from Istanbul, I was wide-awake and witnessed first-hand the luxury of a la carte meals in business class.

PHOTO: Starting meal service onboard Turkish Airlines (c) Sery Kim

Unusually, Turkish Airlines has a chef fly on-board. Then, instead of just warming over pre-packaged meals, assorted canapes are wheeled around in a trolley filled with delicious Turkish mezze dishes like:

  • seafood salad

  • smoked salmon tartare

  • mini meatballs/homemade potato croquettes

  • artichoke in olive oil

  • hummus with roasted red pepper

  • beetroot & wheat salad

  • deep fried eggplants in tomato sauce

  • bocconcini, arugula leaves and cherry tomato

PHOTO: bocconcini, arugula leaves and cherry tomato onboard Turkish Airlines (c) Sery Kim

The novelty of visually surveying the mezze dishes -- cooked to ideal temperatures and welcoming flavors -- before picking as many and as much as I wanted had a delightful variety which no other airline currently offers. Of course, were the foods rubbish then this singular activity would be meaningless, but since Turkish Airlines curated a meal experience 35,000 feet in the air better than most restaurants on the ground.


The best item on the menu was the entree of Traditional Kebab. After all, why fly a Turkish airline and go to a Turkish country if all one wants to do is eat “American” food like bland steak or dry chicken. The grilled meatballs and lamb skewers in this traditional kebab dish was flavorful and juicy while the yoghurt and tomato sauce added a nice tangy cut. (Be sure to ask for an extra side of the sauce as you will want it to dish the buttered pita bread.)

PHOTO: Traditional Kebab onboard Turkish Airlines (c) Sery Kim

Dessert also comes around in a trolley filled with raspberry tart; dark & white chocolate mousse; chocolate ball with mango; semolina halva; clotted ice cream; and assorted cheese and fresh fruits. My particular choice of dark & white chocolate mousse, raspberry tart and fresh fruit was an inspired choice. Sweet but not bitter, both sweets were nice, and the fruit was as ripe as the ones found at my favorite hotel in the world the Four Seasons Bosphorus.

PHOTO: Desserts onboard Turkish Airlines (c) Sery Kim

Or enjoy one of the traditional Ramadan Sherbets of either tamarind, cinnamon, rosebud, rose water, lemon or date syrup.

Then close out the flight with some on-board entertainment and a nice assortment of wines, including a decent Turkish white wine Prestige Narince 2013 produced from grapes fermented in French oak barrels for 15 months after having grown in the Cappadocia Gulsehir Vineyards. Though Turkish Airlines does not have the most choices, it also does not have the least.

PHOTO: Love istanbul (c) Sery Kim

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