Business class on long haul flights. It's the Holy Grail of air travel, and I recently had the opportunity to experience it for only the second time in my adult life.
They also gave us complimentary Elite status in their Miles&Smiles frequent flyer program, which is completely new territory for me. Turkish Airlines joined Star Alliance in 2008.
In May, I had the opportunity to fly direct from New York City (JFK) to Istanbul on an overnight flight.
Once the dates were confirmed, and my ticket booked, I asked a friend who regularly flies business class to Europe what to expect. He said on overnight flights, everyone immediately goes to sleep.
Given my scheduled departure time of five minutes to midnight, I accepted the possibility that I'd be doing the same.
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Turkish Airlines Lounge
I arrived at JFK the requisite three hours early for an international flight. There was nobody in line at the check-in counters, though I still made it a point to use the dedicated Business Class one.
I was traveling carry-on only, so there were no bags for me to check. I learned my departure would be delayed 90 minutes, and was offered a $15 food voucher to use anywhere after the security checkpoint.
Few people enjoy spending more time than required at airports, but if you're passing the time in a quiet, comfortable lounge with dependable Wi-Fi, free food and drinks, and pleasant lighting, it's much more palatable.
Business Class Seats and Amenities
It was sometime between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. when we boarded the plane for our 10-hour direct flight to Istanbul.
My first impression of the seats, which fully reclined, were that they didn't seem to offer enough width to allow for a comfortable sleep. I'd soon be putting them to the test.
But first, I took stock of the entertainment system and amenities, which included:
- Free access to a vast library of movies and TV shows
- USB and AC outlets for charging electronics
- Noise canceling headphones
- Toiletry kit
- Socks and slippers
As the rest of the plane was boarding, our cabin crew were already taking care of us. We were offered a colorful variety of sparkling juices and a Godiva chocolate.
The pilot apologized for our late departure, stating it was due to mechanical issues, and then we took off over the Atlantic.
Once the fasten seatbelt sign was turned off, my seatmate, who was in the aisle seat, wasted no time calling one of the cabin staff over to help him prepare the seat for sleep. This involved attaching a soft seat cover and providing a pillow and blanket.
I figured it'd be easier to get that taken care of early on and asked the same crewman to prepare my seat as well.
By the time my seat was set up, the wine list and dinner and breakfast menus had been distributed.
They also gave each person a little electronic candle, a cute detail.
It may seem too minor to mention, but when you're looking at 10 hours on a plane with little room for movement, every detail aimed at making you feel more comfortable is appreciated.
My seatmate took a pass on dinner while I cued up a movie and waited for the culinary experience to begin.
Dinner began with a small glass bowl of mixed nuts and continued with a mezze, a selection of bite-size appetizers.
The next course was grilled goat cheese with a mixed green salad. The presentation of goat cheese on a bed of lettuce and tomatoes was lovely. The salad itself was delicious.
I suddenly wished I hadn't succumbed to devouring a Snickers bar before boarding.
There were three entrees from which to choose, including grilled salmon, beef filet and mushroom ravioli with creamy tomato parmesan sauce, sautéed mushrooms and leeks and cherry tomatoes. I opted for the ravioli, and it didn't disappoint.
Quite the opposite, I find it incredible food of this quality can be prepared at 30,000 feet in such tight quarters.
For dessert, the onboard chef wheeled out a trolley full of fresh fruits, cheeses, Turkish desserts and ice cream. Feeling full, I kept it simple with a scoop of vanilla ice cream garnished with a slice of strawberry.
Dinner service killed the first few hours of the flight, along with the movie I was watching, but there was still seven to eight hours until we arrived in Istanbul.
I'm not one to constantly need the bathroom on flights (which is why I always choose a window seat), but I also don't fly 10 hours at once very often. I must've used our business class bathroom five times over the course of the flight.
There was plenty of room for me to step over my seatmate's legs when he was asleep, and with the ratio of people to bathrooms, I never had to wait for an opportunity.
The potential for sleep, I imagine, is the biggest benefit of flying business class.
Fewer people and a lesser chance of sharing space with crying babies and rambunctious toddlers contributes to a calmer atmosphere. Add in the fully adjustable seats and it should be a recipe for catching some ZZZZZ's.
As I mentioned earlier, I wasn't optimistic about my ability to sleep comfortably, but once the seat was fully reclined, I drifted off to sleep rather quickly.
I preferred sleeping on my left side as it had me facing the little nook in the armrest where the TV controller and electric port was located. I'll take space anywhere I can get it!
Still, I'm notoriously bad at catching sleep on any moving vehicle, be it a plane, train, ferry or bus. In total, I enjoyed two to three hours of uninterrupted sleep.
I'd filled out my breakfast selection along with dinner, so in the morning, the crew didn't need to waste time taking orders.
First, I received a plate of mixed fruit, cheeses, and yogurt along with orange juice and hot chocolate. Given I was already dehydrated from the flight, I didn't want to drink coffee or tea though they offered a selection of both.
The second course was a choice of either an omelet or fried free range eggs in butter. I chosen the omelet.
The food in business class was excellent. DO & CO, the catering company behind it, began first as a restaurant in Vienna, Austria in 1981 before making the leap to event and airline catering in the mid-80s.
The service was prompt and friendly too. Overall, my first flight on Turkish Airlines was a wonderful experience and a terrific way to kick off my first visit to Turkey.
P.S. Since my business class flight to Istanbul, I've had the opportunity to fly economy class on Turkish Airlines four times, both within Turkey as part of the blog trip and to a neighboring country on my own.
I've also had the chance to three more airport lounges, all within Turkey, and the experience has inspired me to do what I need to do to maintain my Elite frequent flyer status.
My flight to Istanbul was in partnership with Turkish Airlines. As always, all opinions are my own.