I have written many times about Turkish Airlines and I am a huge fan of their products – both in the air and on the ground. I have had a somewhat rocky experience with their customer service (especially during Covid) but thankfully I have not had to deal with that part of the airline much. But, I had an opportunity to fly again with them for the first time since pre-Covid and I was eager to see what things were like – here are my impressions.
Flying Turkish Airlines Again – How Is It?
While some airlines continue with their cost-cutting in the name of “health prevention” and “Covid-19 protocols” (even in business class), other airlines are doing their best to give their customers what they have come to expect. SWISS was like that last year and I thoroughly enjoyed flying with them again and having some of the best food I have had in the air – while United was serving food in foil containers and drinks in plastic cups.
Turkish Airlines had been hit particularly hard since Turkey itself had huge numbers of positive cases and they were not able to fly any of the destinations they once had. Pre-covid, Turkish Airlines flew to more countries than any other airline and to six continents as well so it was a huge disappointment for them and their passengers when flights began to cancel.
I had actually booked with Turkish Airlines several times during the peak travel slowdown due to Covid and every single time, my flights were canceled by Turkish. So, this past week was my first time to get to fly them again and I was looking forward to it for a few reasons – it was my first time flying with Turkish out of Newark (and I had already flown from every other US gateway city with them), it was on their new Airbus A350 with the new business class, and I wanted to see what the airline and airport were like at this stage of the travel comeback.
What Was it Like Flying Turkish Airlines Business Again?
The Newark flight with Turkish Airlines leaves at the latest time of any of their US flights, if I am remembering their departure times correctly. The last (or first, depending on how you look at it) JFK flight of the day is typically at 12:10AM and the Newark flight was at 12:20AM. One good thing about such a late departure is that you have ample time to connect to it with United. The down side is that the Lufthansa partner lounge is closed as is TSA PreCheck at that terminal.
I was looking forward to flying in the new Turkish Airlines business class cabin again as I had already flown in on their new 787 Dreamliner and my biggest complaint about that was that the seat was more narrow than on other Turkish flights with the old business class. I had heard that the Turkish A350 business class seat was a little wider and was pleased to find it was.
The entire business class cabin was full – which surprised me a bit because Turkish still had saver business class seats available in partner programs when I booked just a couple of weeks before this flight and they had as many as 5 at a time!
I was absolutely exhausted so I opted to skip dinner. However, I can tell you that they have their chefs in the sky again and the menu was as full with many delicious options as it had ever been. They are not skimping on their menu, which is nice to know. I did have the breakfast and it was delicious with fresh fruit, yogurt, and pancakes with caramelized apples.
The seat and everything about it was incredibly comfortable and I slept for many hours in the first part of the journey. I didn’t even wait for the seat to be made up, just went right to bed and I was more comfortable on this flight than the 787 Dreamliner and more than the 787 Dreamliner Polaris cabin with United.
The monitor was large and very detailed and it was responsive to touch for controls. I didn’t use it that much but when I did, I did not even use the controller as it was all easily done by touch.
Storage was decent with an entire overhead bin for just me and some room under the footrest for backpacks/small bags. There is also the small storage compartment near the electrical outlet where the headphones are stored. It easily fits things like phones, wallet, small electronics, etc. It does have a three digit combination lock on it if you want to lock it for security during your flight.
Personally, I like the inside solo seats, which means 4A was perfect for me. I was next to the window so a little more distance between me and the aisle.
One, and I definitely appreciate having the dual air vents as well – something that many business class cabins do not have!
The Turkish Airport and the Turkish Airlines Lounge
I was very surprised to see the airport bustling quite a bit! In fact, it was way more than my first visit to this airport (I was there on the first day it was opened and it was quiet then!). Gates were full of people, shops were all open and full – the only evidence of anything called Covid-19 was the mask use (which is mandatory in the airport and on the planes).
I made my way quickly to the Turkish Airlines lounge (they have the elite one, the Miles & Smiles lounge, and the Business Class lounge. They are like mirror images of each other, I chose the Miles&Smiles lounge this time). Well, as quickly as I could with such a massive airport with no shuttle/train service.
The lounge was equally full of people. In fact, I had to wonder for a bit to find a seat to eat at when I grabbed my food. Quick note on the food – as great as ever and one of the things I love the most about visiting this lounge! There were lines for bathrooms, lines for food, lines for coffee – anywhere that something was being done, there was a line at it.
Problems with the Locker
One thing I will make note of that was strange was the locker area. I locked up my bags in this area, as I normally do, and set my code. When I went back to get it, the code was not working. Since you only enter it one time to lock it, I thought I might have made a mistake but I tried everything until it started beeping constantly to warn security that someone was trying to break in (by the way, no security came). I found a lounge agent who was walking over with another flyer. Turns out, his bag was also locked in and he couldn’t get it out so this is definitely a flaw with their system. Just make note of that if you go there and make sure there is something in your bag that makes it easy to identify as yours.
The food was definitely not something that Turkish was cutting costs on. All the usual food offerings were present and were being made as fast as humanly possible as lines of people waited to consume them.
There is really nothing bad to say about this, the quality was as good as ever and I cannot find a fault with the food, how it was cooked, or the quantity of it. I will say that it was evident that at some stations the cooks became a little annoyed at the travelers that would ask for 8 strips of chicken on two plates and nothing else and they just began to put two of everything on the plates for people. Kind of wasteful since there were a couple of selections I generally do not prefer and I noticed I was not in the minority with that (though other kinds of food were neglected at tables).
One of the ways that US airlines have really cut costs is on the regional markets. I mean, good luck getting even a soft drink on some flights of around an hour! Well, Turkish was always really strong in this area and they are back at it again. I had a 40 minute flight and in business class, the seat was large and comfortable and there was a pre-departure beverage offering with real glassware.
Not only that, but the menu was back. It was a very nice offering that would not be found on a 4 hour flight in the US in first class but this was on a 40 minute flight. It had an appetizer followed by the fresh salad with chicken strips – all of it excellent – and finished with a rice pudding.
Bottom Line – Flying with Turkish Airlines Now, Recommend?
If you have an upcoming flight on Turkish Airlines, at least in business class, expect a resumption to pre-Covid behavior and service onboard – minus the use of masks.
Food service and quality, hard product quality, airport shops, and lounges were fully functional and you will find it like 2 years ago.
In short, I absolutely think you should it is a great idea to be flying Turkish Airlines again. I am not in a hurry to give them my money again just yet but if you find mileage flights, definitely consider flying with them. The comfort and quality is back and, if you are flying business, it is a fantastic experience to be sure.