Rather like with “lounge life”, it’s hard to go back once you’ve flown business or first class internationally. So I was really excited to try out Turkish Airlines’ business class offering on my super epic 35th birthday Turkey adventure!
I had flown with Turkish Airlines a couple times in economy, first with a friend on a whirlwind Istanbul adventure, and the second time with my dad on our amazing Israel and Jordan trip. On that second trip, my dad could not stop exclaiming over how nice of an experience it was…the food, the comfortably-sized seats, the service, and more.
Is paying for business class on Turkish Airlines worth it?
TL;DR version…not really. To be clear, I’m not saying Turkish’s business class is a bad experience—not at all. It’s more a question of value for the extra money.
Purchasing business class (same as first class) on Turkish is quite expensive and…it’s fine. I don’t think their business class offering was as nice as Delta One (the only other long-haul first class I’ve taken), and you can’t tell as much difference between Turkish’s economy and business class.
Because their economy is a great experience overall, you don’t really feel you’re getting as much of an upgrade for the cost. Still, the service is great, decent seats, and great food.
So that’s the super short version, but if you’re looking for some details and photos on what to expect…READ ON!
Couple quick random tips on traveling Turkish or to/through Istanbul before we dive in:
- I had the darnedest time finding an ATM in the Istanbul airport, so you may have trouble finding cash there.
- If you have a connecting flight from Istanbul that’s *not* part of the same ticket/itinerary, you will absolutely have to pick up your bags and re-check them in Istanbul. Learned that the hard way.
- You’ll have to take all electronics out of your bag at security, and they’ll probably make you open and turn on any laptops to prove they’re real
The welcome: boarding and seats
Making that left turn once you board is always a little thrill. My seat on both the flight to Istanbul and returning was nice and roomy (the first one was better than the return flight)…comfortable enough but nothing particularly nice for first/business class.
On my flight from Washington DC to Istanbul, I was seat 1K, so up at the very front. What I learned (and mentally filed for future flights), is that the front row of the plane is near the kitchen and so a little louder and lighter. Even in first class that’s distracting when you’re trying to sleep.
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I definitely made use of the lie-flat bed after dinner on the flight over to Istanbul. While I didn’t get any pics of the bed or bedding, the lie-flat bed was just as expected, and the bedding was honestly a bit sparse. The Delta bedding (from Westin Hotels) is really plush and feels luxurious, while this was quite thin.
Also, can we talk about the fact that Turkish Airlines business class flights on some routes have a middle seat?? Who would want a middle seat when you paid thousands of dollars extra?!
Once I got on board and settled in my seat, the flight attendants came by to say hi and welcome me, and in both cases the flight’s chef did as well. Not just for me, but with every single other person he introduced himself and then said “I am a flyyying chef”. Hearing it over and over behind me absolutely cracked me up 🙂
Turkish also does a really charming thing where anytime they say “Ladies and gentlemen”, they also add “and dear children…” I don’t know why I found that so sweet but it always made my day.
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You’re also greeted with a welcome drink that I believe is non-alcoholic…a punch or sometimes a lemonade.
Obviously, flying business class brings with it some extra perks, like a special expedited check-in line and usually having your bags come out first at baggage claim. One thing that did frustrate me was that when I got back to Chicago (where my flight home was unfortunately cancelled due to weather), my bag was one of the very last to come out, almost an hour after we landed.
I especially loved the Versace amenities bag I got on one of the flights. Though honestly besides the fancy hand lotion that typically comes in these kits, the rest usually isn’t all that exciting or high-quality to me. Flimsy socks and face mask, earplugs, disposable toothbrush (always appreciated), etc. But I always keep these bags for later!
We also got the snazzy soundproof headphones that all these flights come with, though you do have to return those 🙂
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The food on board
I was really excited about seeing what the food in Turkish Airlines’ business class was like…overall, but also compared to my past experiences with their economy food. Once on board, I perused the menu and had to make my choices quickly.
One thing I will give them is that they have a particularly interesting (and Turkish-heavy) wine list, and lots of great beverage options. The flight attendant was quite knowledgeable about the wines and made an excellent recommendation on the Suvla Sur 2014…an amazing Turkish wine that I also found during my trip and enjoyed.
They also have a lot of great non-alcoholic beverages, like interesting teas.
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Overall the food was delicious (for airplane food) and presented really nicely. The menu has a strong Turkish flair, starting with a handful of appetizers…I loved that little meatball in particular.
You can see the variety of appetizers, as well as the steak main I had on both flights. Interestingly, the majority of appetizers were cold…not bad, just always has that “plane chill” 🙂
And finally, dessert. A bit of baklava, an interesting sort of sweet pilaf with pine nuts, and a different take on a bread pudding were some of my choices
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The Turkish Airlines first class lounges
I tell you what, I’ve become a lounge person. Partly from traveling with @farewhispers a few years back, but mostly since moving to Louisville…everywhere AND I DO MEAN EVERYWHERE necessitates layovers (and increases delays). Lounges make life simpler.
On my flights to Istanbul, I flew to Washington D.C. from Louisville after a loooonng delay, and chilled in the Turkish Airlines lounge in DC’s Dulles airport. I still had a long layover, so settled into a little corner, grabbed some food, and got some work done. The lounge in D.C. was quite nice, fairly small. We were able to exit a back door and head straight to first class boarding.
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And then there’s the flagship Turkish Airlines first class lounge in Istanbul. It’s huge and brand-new with a beautiful design. While I didn’t spend too much time in the old one, I really miss the soaring two-floor view of the old one (from the old Istanbul airport). This new one also feels more open (like a regular terminal) and less exclusive or private.
This is the view that greets you when you walk in…
There’s a little art exhibit, a “cinema” of sorts with various TV screens, a kids’ area, and more. On side note, the process for getting on the (slow) wifi was complicated and frustrating…you have to find a little kiosk, scan your boarding pass, and then get a complex username and password.
The bathrooms were…something 🙂
The food options in the lounge are the biggest draw and what often get the most buzz. They have a number of cooking stations featuring traditional Turkish cuisine, as well as stations full of interesting salad, cheese, dessert, and other options. I tried several different dishes, but these manti (a type of ravioli) were my fave!
I may have stuffed myself in the couple of hours there! Moussaka, kofte, baklava…so many options, not enough time.
This review of the lounge is detailed and helpful as well. My experience in the lounges was great, as you can see above. I did have some issues throughout my whole Turkish Airlines itinerary with accessing the lounges in a few cases, and am mentioning them here in case they factor into your travel planning or decisions.
When I arrived in Istanbul and transferred over to domestic for my separate economy flight to Cappadocia, I wasn’t able to get into the lounge at the Istanbul airport despite flying in on a business class ticket…apparently you have to be flying *out* on a business class ticket to be able to get in.
Similarly, my flights within the U.S. were on United, despite being booked through Turkish. And according to the lady at the United lounge, Turkish doesn’t pay for me to be able to use the United lounges. Again, just talking about it here to be thorough. It was annoying but not the end of the world.
So that’s a detailed account of my Turkish Airlines business class experience. As you can see, a lot about it was great! My biggest reservation in booking a future business class flight with Turkish would just be the cost vs. how good the economy experience already is–especially since Turkish economy is generally a good cost. I don’t think I’d pay for it again, though would be open to using miles to upgrade. Hopefully this helps some of you figure out if this is worth it for your own trip!
Other high-class experiences you’ll love:
- Delta One Review: Flying Business Class Atlanta To London
- Eating At Istanbul’s Mikla…One Of The World’s Top 100 Restaurants
- Where To Stay In Istanbul: Hotel DeCamondo Review
- Fancy Afternoon Tea at London’s The Langham
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