The global airline and economic slowdown had meant that my utilization for November looked bleak and I could take extra time off. Moreover, I tend to leave Venezuela during any kind of elections as I am convinced that many Latin countries have lost the ability to work across the left/right divide and engage in constructive dialogue. Oh well. Anyways, so I searched through websites and found an unique deal. I had to be in NYC for work … and could get in a week in (drum roll) … Tashkent (Uzbekistan)! Turkish Airlines was having a decent deal in Business class and I jumped on the opportunity.
I believe this is the first review of intercontinental J class on TK – and should help those Star alliance fliers who think admitting TK into the alliance was a mistake.
II > Pre-Flight:
a) Before Airport:
Turkish Airlines (TK) is the “flag carrier” of Turkey, and was formed in 1933. It is owned primarily by private investors, with the government retaining a large (40%?) share in the company. A member of Star Alliance since 1st April 2008, TK has been on a consistent rapid growth path which would finally capture on its strategic location and take advantage of its membership into the world’s largest alliance. On a personal note, TK is one of the few airlines that I strongly think is poised for long-term growth. JFK-IST is one of the premier routes and is operated nonstop using a 343.
Ticketing for the flight was done on the recently updated Turkish Airlines website at www.thy.com. The site is pretty clear and crisp and bookings are done easily. You can also view and modify your PNR later. The only thing it does not provide is advanced seat selection. The other small issue is the inability to add any FQTV information outside of TK.
b) At Airport:
Like many foreign carriers, Turkish Airlines uses T4 at JFK. After being dropped by my taxi, I proceeded to the rather empty TK check-in counters at JFK. TK seemed to have 8 counters open (!) with two dedicated to J and Star Gold fliers. Check-in was a breeze and I was handed the “fast track” immigration authority at IST as well as an invitation to the Korean Air lounge. TK’s 1815 departure meant that the airport was relatively empty and I could breeze through security. The “J/F” security line is a joke because you basically end up merging with the general line. Why even bother?
Anyways, the KAL lounge is used by a plethora of airlines … and since the LH lounge is closed, it was being used by LH for their MUC passengers. This ensured that the lounge remained extremely crowded for most of the duration and was standing-room only for most of my visit there. Service offering was weak … though, I did like the noodles they had. There was a cordoned off section for First Class passengers.
Boarding was announced 45 minutes prior and I slowly took my time to do some spotting and basically be at the gate vicinity. Soon, we approached departing time with no activity and I knew that we would be delayed … because of TK … and then because we would miss our departure slot. Several announcements were soon made to calm passengers that the flight was delayed. At 1815, the crew lazily arrived (uugh) and 30 minutes later we boarded the aircraft. On a side note, I wasn’t pissed at subsequently missing the departure slot and taking off almost 90 minutes behind schedule (30 minutes were made up) … I was more pissed that no apology or acknowledgement was made of the delay.
Anyways, when boarding was called, it was very calm and collected … surprising given that a line of Y passengers waited just in front of the gate. Prior to entering the aircraft, a crew member was distributing amenity kits to Y passengers, and there was a good collection of newspapers and magazines. Upon entering the aircraft, the crew greeted me and directed me to my seat. The male FA was a little frantically ensuring that all coats were collected from the passengers. J load was 100%; and so was Y!!! Of the Y load, 60%+ were on their Hajj connecting to a SV flight at IST. More on that later. Also, having spent enough time in India, I could tell they were of Indian descent. There is a specific name for this community. Can the Indian A.Netters help?
Airport - External:
(New York Kennedy, T4)
Airport - Internal:
(Pre-Security: spacious T4)
(FIDS – notice another AZ cancellation)
Scenes of the tarmac:
(JAL next day to NRT)
(RAM to CMN – since when is this downgraded to a 763?)
(Confused? Everyone uses it as a lounge)
(Boarding – relatively calm)
a) Service Schedule + Impressions:
An impressive service schedule overall – and a good positive impression as soon as you walk in (with a bartender!). Pre-take off, champagne/OJ/water service directly from the bar and distribution of amenity kits. Post-take off, head phones are distributed, menus are distributed (more on that later), hot towels, beverage and dinner service, duty free service, and then 2 hours prior to landing, cold towels, and breakfast.
b) Aircraft + Seats:
Turkish Airlines 343 was immaculately maintained in the J class … including the lavs … though, they were being stocked after take-off. While mood lighting was missing from these older birds, I actually thought the color combination used throughout the cabin was very soothing. Also, the pale pink curtains actually do not look as bad as some in A.Net had initially thought … one hardly notices them as it blends pretty well with the cabin. I was surprised actually given I was one of those skeptical ones on A.Net.
The lie-flat seat that Turkish Airlines uses is the average lie-flat seat you’d find on other Euro carriers (KL/AF/LH/etc.). It is extremely comfortable to sit on and you can get nice crouched/recline positions while watching TV, etc. However, in sleep mode, it goes the way of other lie-flat seats with way too many pronounced “breaks” and folds that ultimately lead to not the best sleeping experience. Thus, in fully reclined position (like its counterparts at the Euro carriers), the back of the seat moves down, however is at an angle which is not the same as the rest of the seat or the leg rest … thus 3 different angles or “breaks”. I am not a big fan of lie-flat in general … though, the old Raffles lie-flat is pretty good as far as lie-flats go. Having said that, TK’s lie-flat is still better than say Air France as there is plenty of legroom which allows you to sit in various positions and not have your knee bang up with the seat in front.
(My bird bringing me to Istanbul … aptly christened “ISTANBUL”)
Views from Aircraft:
General Seat Views + Seat Legroom
(J Class Seat)
(Useful power supply)
(Legroom and lots of places to keep stuff)
(Front of seat)
Seat Recline + Angle View:
(Total Recline Mode)
(I am becoming a convert to the TK colors)
(Gotta love the bar)
c) Meal + Beverage:
While on the ground, a beverage service is done where you can chose from OJ/champagne/water. It is all done in front of you – one attendant pours the drinks, the other delivers. Soon after take-off, menus were distributed. Now, these were high quality menu holders and had a section on the breakfast where you made your selection and the crew later picked it up. Not bad!
Post take off, there was an exotic drink service – which included various mixed champagne based drinks (ex: Belini) and some exotic non-alcoholic juice mixes. Presentation from the tray, and the proper way of serving (holding your other arm behind you) added to a level of panache about the service. Table was set up and bread rolls were distributed. Soon thereafter, the actual dinner service (from tray) commenced. It was an elaborate affair with plenty of sumptuous options (see menu). For the main course, I elected the “Sis Kebab” which was absolutely wonderful. Seriously, outside an Indian airline, I have never tasted food so good in a very long time. After the brilliant dinner, a lavish dessert service followed with excellent Turkish baklava, a really tempting coffee vanilla bean panna cotta, chocolate soufflé, and sorbets. I usually avoid on-board desserts … but this was just an absolutely lavish affair. Finally, the post desert trolley rolled by including tea/coffee, a collection of digestives (including some kind of special Turkish wine), and some awesome “petit desserts”. Adding to the atmosphere was the genuineness Turkish hospitality by the crew who insisted on making you eat … again, very reminiscent of service on board Indian carriers.
After dinner service, plenty of further alcohol runs were done, and finally bottles of water were distributed as people began to doze off. I got some shut eye, and then watched an amusing Indian flick.
I was gently woken up by the absolutely wonderful male FA for the breakfast service. I had pre-selected the fresh made smoothie (or you could have fresh squeezed juice … how wonderful!), had a fresh fruit plate, and then topped it off with a great omelette and sausage. Again, just really delicious food and served with a smile.
Also, water and beverage runs were done throughout the flight … even at the oddest hours where most people were sleeping. All together, very impressive!
(I like the small touch of having customized names)
(Pre-take off champagne)
(Post-take off exotic drink service by the wonderful male FA)
(Table setup + bread)
(My compatriot got the fish)
(More wine service)
(Yummy – dessert trolley – made me hungry as I type this)
(Tea/Coffee/Digestive/Petit Dessert Trolley)
(Water prior to lights off)
d) Inflight Entertainment:
Turkish Airlines has a fully equipped AVOD system with over 30 movies, plenty of TV shows, games, an awesome interactive 3D flight map, and cockpit/camera view. While their AVOD selection is not amazing or top of the line, it is significantly above average. What was amusing to me was the fact that they had more Indian movies than Turkish ones! Jaja. Oh, and the head phones were good noise-cancelling quality. The only thing that was slightly off from an excellent product was the quality of the video was not as crystal clear as it could have been. Perhaps the huge LCD screens also accentuated this problem.
There was a very generous and diverse stock of English and Turkish newspapers and periodicals and the in-flight magazine was excellent … very reminiscent of older Lufthansa in-flight magazines.
(Random Indian movie I watched – most of it made no sense)
(Live news was actually constantly updated)
(Forward and Down Camera)
(Sea of Red, IST)
(Headphones and screen during movie)
(“In-flight magazines”, Boarding Passes, etc.)
Turkish Airlines crew have come in for criticism in the past from many frequent fliers, and on this board. However, my experience was completely contrary to previous discussions. I was impressed by their professionalism and “grace under fire” attitude as they were able to carry out a large service offering to the 100% load. At the beginning of the flight, they did look a little stressed … and overall, they lacked the finesse of say MH or 9W crew, but this I attribute mostly to inexperience … and something that can be learnt with time. What was great was the genuineness of their hospitality, and small touches like helping every passenger with their luggage, proper eye contact when serving, making suggestions for food, convincing passengers to eat more, asking several times if you needed refills, hand back when serving alcohol, checking-in on passengers, all along smiling with a genuineness that is missing even from more fancied carriers. Some of the female FA’s were a little reserved … but the male attendant was absolutely brilliant. I wrote him a good complement letter and hopefully seniors at TK will reward him for it … or, perhaps they will read about his service here and reward him! Good job TK … I was pretty impressed.
(Crew distributed to everyone encouraging feedback, specifically negative!)
Landing in Istanbul was smooth and after thanking the crew for a wonderful flight, I made my way to the TK transfer desk. Ground handling at IST has improved remarkably, but they are still not as efficient as a network carrier can be. This is one are where they can learn a lot from their mentor LH. They especially had problems processing the Hajj pilgrims … one agent absurdly suggesting they had to do immigration and go outside to check-in because they were flying Saudia!
Anyways, now to the highlight of the post-flight experience … the absolutely delightful CIP lounge of Turkish Airlines at Istanbul. When top lounges in the world are discussed, rarely is the one at Istanbul mentioned … and I have no idea why! It is a gorgeous lounge with the pomp and occasion that beckons the romantic old days of travelling. It is huge, airy, and the décor is lavish. While the food options are not benchmark setters, the amenities (mosque, showers, kids room, computers, padded seating areas) coupled with an amazing setting propels this to one of my favourite lounges worldwide.
(Wonderful TK lounge at IST)
V> Impressions + Scores:
THY won me over by their service standards. The food was top notch; the crew was excellent; while not industry benchmark setters, their IFE rocked, and they had an excellent lounge at IST. An above average seat coupled with relatively good ground handling at JFK ensured a really positive flight. If there is an area that needs to be addressed soon, it must be ground handling at IST.
What TK now needs to do is deliver this kind of service consistently over and over and over again. They need to focus on building their IST hub and ensure that it handles system glitches flawlessly. For this, it needs to continue the excellent work that is already done at the human capital level. Additionally, it needs to invest into becoming a true premium carrier by going for full-flat seats and perhaps embracing an F cabin (9W might have come at the right time). I think this is important for TK from commercial strategy perspective … TK does not yet have the brand recognition it deserves … and most high-value fliers would fly over reliable LH than TK. The only way for TK to crash this party and differentiate themselves is by adding a better product. Of course, back this up with consistency that is the hallmark of LH. However, just being consistent is not enough … as inertia would mean that current high-value fliers chose the perceived safer option.
I am convinced that Star Alliance made the absolute right decision by inviting Turkish Airlines to join. Like Turkey, THY has come a long way and is poised for sustained growth. While not flawless, their product is FAR FAR superior than most Star carriers and indeed much better than most current Star members. In fact, on the basis of this flight, I would rate THY miles better than Lufthansa, Austrian, Swiss, SAS, bMI, etc. and my choice for flights to Europe and to connect to Asia.
Without a doubt, I give Turkish Airlines two thumbs up and recommend it as the preferred carrier for a plethora of routes.
1.0 > RESERVATION: 8.0
2.0 > CHECK-IN: 9.0
0.5 > LOUNGE: 7.0 (JFK lounge)
0.5 > BOARDING: 7.0
2.0 > SEAT: 7.5
0.5 > AIRCRAFT OVERALL AMBIENCE: 10.0
1.0 > IFE: 8.0
2.0 > CREW: 9.5
2.0 > FOOD: 10.0
0.5 > BEVERAGES: 9.0
0.5 > A.KITS + OTHER FREEBIES: 9.0
0.5 > DISEMBARKATION: 10.0 (includes TK lounge IST)
1.0 > ON-TIME RECORD: 7.0 WEIGHTED OVERALL IMPRESSION (WOI): 8.70 – NEW BEST FOR PREMIUM CABIN!
(Pre-flight WOI of all reviews: 6.43)
* Weighted Overall Impression (WOI) aligns scores with what matters most. Weights are indicated alongside each category.
(Scores are based on comparison with other airlines in THAT class of service – No comparison of Y vs. F for example)
(Note on Codes: Y – Economy, J – Business, F – First :: I/D – International/Domestic :: SR/MR/LR – Short/Medium/Long Haul)
(Note on Date: Dates are modified to be +/- 3 days from actual flight date to not reveal actual flight pattern)
Airpearl From Malaysia, joined May 2001, 936 posts, RR: 27 Reply 5, posted (4 years 12 months 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
That's a great report - thanks for providing this rare glimpse into TK's Business Class. The quality on offer is higher than I thought, and the catering is particularly impressive. A trolley service is always nicer I feel. Looks like I have to add Turkish to my list of "must fly" airlines
Thanks again for the detailed insights!
Oa260 From Ireland, joined Nov 2006, 26025 posts, RR: 58 Reply 9, posted (4 years 12 months 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
Great to see a TK report. The cabins are really nice as I experienced on their A330 . The seats are very comfortable and the service is excellent. I dont know why people dont like TK. It would be my top 5 airlines of choice. The food beats alot of other airlines also.
Those showers with marble walls and seat are really traditional and a nice touch. I loved that lounge when I was there.
Other airlines could learn alot from TK IMHO.
Thanks for the great report.
AEGEAN-OLYMPIC AIR - ΟΛΥΜΠΙΑΚΗ " μέλος στη Star Alliance
MilesDependent From Australia, joined Sep 2001, 848 posts, RR: 0 Reply 11, posted (4 years 12 months 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
One of your finest reports mate. Good stuff.
This is actually the third trip report I have read singing high praise to THY. I was hoping to try their premium product a few months ago, but unfortunately the routes were served by the A310. I've now put THY up the top of my must-fly list.
From what I am reading, THY reminds me of the way Emirates used to be, many years ago, before they grew too big too fast.
Abrelosojos From Venezuela, joined May 2005, 4992 posts, RR: 55 Reply 12, posted (4 years 12 months 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
Thanks a lot for reading and for the positive comments. This report took a long time to write because there were so many small details that I had to comment on. Also, as many of you wrote, I too was positively surprised.
Quoting Drwoo (Reply 7): unfortunately you departed JFK from Terminal 1 not 4
Quoting B742 (Reply 8): Btw; it was Terminal 1 and not 4 you departed from at New York-JFK.
= Of course you are both absolutely right. It was almost 3,30am here in Caracas as I was wrapping this up, and error checking went by the wayside. Thanks for pointing it out.
Quoting MilesDependent (Reply 11):
From what I am reading, THY reminds me of the way Emirates used to be, many years ago, before they grew too big too fast.
= Really true. Difference is TK used to be a government run crappy airline - so now the challenge is whether it can maintain these standards consistently. And, EK used to be such a gem ... but for the last 10 years, they have been just another average airline with some very average in-flight crew.
Abrelosojos From Venezuela, joined May 2005, 4992 posts, RR: 55 Reply 13, posted (4 years 12 months 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
Quoting Oa260 (Reply 9):
Those showers with marble walls and seat are really traditional and a nice touch. I loved that lounge when I was there.
= Isn't it fantastic ? I want to go back to take pictures of the special room where you can sit on the floor. The opulence is fantastic.
Quoting The777Man (Reply 10): I think AT has used a 763 for about five years or so on their CMN-JFK route....
= Really? I flew them a couple of years back on a 747 that originated in YUL. Is this a second flight to CMN? Frankly, I have little idea of RAM.
Quoting The777Man (Reply 10): JL really had three flights to Tokyo the next day ? I thought they only had one (two on certain days with the flight GRU-JFK-NRT)
= Jaja. Ya, it is the bizarre scheduling of the flight that goes outbound to GRU. The inbound flight JL 8/48 occur on 18.104.22.168. and 3.4.7 respectively; however, by the time the other is routed to GRU, JFK returns become JL 7 and 47 occur on the same days on 2 and 6. Of course, this is in addition to the terminating 777 service daily as JL 5.
Kiramakora From Argentina, joined Aug 2006, 537 posts, RR: 0 Reply 16, posted (4 years 12 months 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
Alex, you continue to be the gold standard for writing trip reports! This is fantastic. And like some others have mentioned, thank you for putting TK on our radar. Based on your report, I am actually inclined to fly them over LH on my upcoming DEL-JFK trip which I need Star to maintain 1K status. Again, thank you so much.
TK787 From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 4268 posts, RR: 13 Reply 17, posted (4 years 12 months 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
Wow, Thanks for the heads up at "Turkish Aviation Forum". And thank you so much for taking the time to go to every detail.
I have flown on this route with TK over a dozen times but never in J. Also this new J product on the 343s are very very new. Out of the 9 TK 343s I can only confirm 6, having this product. Also for further info on the JFK-IST route; it is daily and served by 343s 6 days of the week, and once with a 332.
By the way, fellow a.net member "Pilotaydin" flew this route for the first time recently as a FO.
Thanks again for an excellent report, and giving me more reasons to blow all my miles on a F seat when 777s serve this route.
LH4116 From Sweden, joined Aug 2007, 1702 posts, RR: 14 Reply 20, posted (4 years 12 months 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
Yet another great trip report delivered by you Mr A!
From what i've heard TK's product is said to be very good, and by reading your report that was confirmed. The in-flight service looked more like something you would get when flying F class. I really liked the way they showed you the food and drinks, so that you would at least know what to order. Having a bar in the front cabin of an A343 is something i've only seen in F class, not in J. Would you just imagine how good their new F class will be if the service is already excellent in J.
The 744 was taken off the JFK rout in 2005, they now operate it with 2 daily 763s. The 744 is now used by the king of Morocco for his state visits, and during the summer season it operates to various EU destinations. You know it's like an Exxodus every summer.
RAM are said to be a pretty bad airline when it comes to their crew, though i would love to see something from them someday.
Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter): Having said that, TK’s lie-flat is still better than say Air France as there is plenty of legroom which allows you to sit in various positions and not have your knee bang up with the seat in front.
How comes that you always use AF as a reference when saying how bad something is, like "it's bad, but not as bad as on AF", and no i don't find it offensive, just a bit comic actually.
I'm looking forward to your next report, thanks for sharing.
Abrelosojos From Venezuela, joined May 2005, 4992 posts, RR: 55 Reply 21, posted (4 years 12 months 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
Quoting LH4116 (Reply 20): Would you just imagine how good their new F class will be if the service is already excellent in J.
= I believe their F is going to be starting from the current 9W F ... which is an industry leader.
Quoting LH4116 (Reply 20): The 744 was taken off the JFK rout in 2005, they now operate it with 2 daily 763s.
= Thanks for this info. I had no idea. RAM is an airline I have never really followed much.
Quoting LH4116 (Reply 20): RAM are said to be a pretty bad airline when it comes to their crew, though i would love to see something from them someday
= I have heard the same.
Quoting LH4116 (Reply 20): How comes that you always use AF as a reference when saying how bad something is, like "it's bad, but not as bad as on AF", and no i don't find it offensive, just a bit comic actually.
= Jaja. It is because AF and CDG are my usual benchmark for how an airline service should not be run . I have never had any positive experience with either ... and I have utilized them a LOT. Ok, I should rephrase this ... as I have had good experiences only on LAX-PPT flights.
Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter): the absolutely delightful CIP lounge of Turkish Airlines at Istanbul. When top lounges in the world are discussed, rarely is the one at Istanbul mentioned ... and I have no idea why!
the uniqueness of the IST lounge alone makes its one my favorite ones globally.
Quoting Abrelosojos (Thread starter): I am convinced that Star Alliance made the absolute right decision by inviting Turkish Airlines to join.
Indeed, the partnership is a win-win for both Star and THY.
(and if it matters - it was TK that selected Star, not Star selecting TK. The carrier was lucky that is had standing invitations with all three of the alliances at the time)
From the desert to the sea, to all of Southern California
Quoting LAXintl (Reply 23): (and if it matters - it was TK that selected Star, not Star selecting TK. The carrier was lucky that is had standing invitations with all three of the alliances at the time)
= Ya. I know this. TK, JJ, and the Indian carriers have been courted by all 3. Hmm ... you sound like someone I might know . Were you @ Routes KL?
Live, and let live.
25 Caleb1: Fantastic report. Very interesting with just the right amount of photos and text.
26 B747forever: Brilliant TR Really impressed by TK after reading your TR. TK seems to be so much better than what I have heard about, and thought. Hope to try them o
27 Gunsontheroof: Great trip report. I had a positive experience this past summer flying TK (HAM-IST), but it looks like their long-haul product is something else! I ho
28 TurkishWings: Fantastic report as usual... Great to see TK has improved so much in the past decade. I remember flying in J between IST and BKK back in 2003 and the
29 BA319-131: Impressive report as always, many thanks. - CO have a similar set up at EWR, seems a bit pointless IMO. - Still think the seating colours are a bit li
30 Stylo777: First, thank you for taking your time and writing this report. It is excellent as always. In this community you're one of these guys we all can trust