Flight check: Turkish Airlines Economy class - Great service from Europe's best airline

Booking Process

I booked this family break through Turkish Airlines’ website. The process was fairly easy, made longer because for not being part of their Frequent Flyer Program, it took longer to add all three passenger details. However, we were still able to reserve seats even before we reached the payment page. Interesting to point out, this is free of charge. Price of the ticket nevertheless, was reasonable considering it was booked within a month of travel.

7/10

B777-300ER operated the London Heathrow - Istanbul leg of my trip. Pictured here at LHR moments before boarding
B777-300ER operated the London Heathrow - Istanbul leg of my trip. Pictured here at LHR moments before boarding | Source

Check-in /at the Airport

LHR

We checked-in online the night before and printed our boarding passes at home. At the airport, when dropping off our suitcase, the check-in agent printed another boarding pass for each of us, which in a way I think defeats the purpose of printing your own card...

Nevertheless, the queue was minimal, process was swift, agent was friendly and courteous, and our seat selection was honoured. 8/10

IST

Again checked in online the day before but being at the hotel, I didn’t have the chance to issue my boarding pass. At the airport, after having gone through the first security screening, printed our boarding pass at the kiosk which was quite straightforward, and following a ten-minute queue, we check our bag in and headed straight to security. 7/10

The world's top airlines

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Equipment and flight details

TK1980 – LHR-IST Aircraft – B777-300ER Flight time: 3 hours 25 minutes

TK1985 – IST-LHR Aircraft – A330-300 Flight time: 3 hours 30 minutes

BOARDING

LHR

Small delay due to late arrival of aircraft, however, boarding was orderly. Ground staff invited business class and FF elite passengers to board at their leisure, as well as families with small children. Shortly after, economy passengers started boarding from back to front. 10/10

IST

Assembled at a remote area of the terminal, then bussed to the aircraft parked at an even most remote area of the airport. Final passport screening before boarding the bus can seem intimidating if you don’t resemble what your passport indicates you should look like, but I guess it’s a small price we have to pay in this age of tight security. Moreover, when we were finally summoned, this process became a free for all rush to the bus. I encountered less chaos when visiting Istanbul's Grand Bazaar. 6/10

All aboard!

Boarding the aircraft in London
Boarding the aircraft in London | Source
B777-300ER Planet, their entertainment system is available from the moment you board the aircraft until you are ready to deplane.
B777-300ER Planet, their entertainment system is available from the moment you board the aircraft until you are ready to deplane. | Source
Aboard the B777-300ER The cabin has a calming and soothing ambience despite its vibrant seat colours.
Aboard the B777-300ER The cabin has a calming and soothing ambience despite its vibrant seat colours. | Source

Cabin Ambience

B777-300ER

The economy cabins on their B777s are laid out in a 3 x 3 x 3 configuration. Light turquoise seats with different colour headrests against a white and soft grey wall panel adorn their main cabin offering a soothing yet vibrant ambience. General state of cabin was clean and tidy. 10/10

A330-300

The layout on this aircraft is 2 x 4 x 2. Same seat design as the B777. Cabin looked and felt clean and fresh, although unlike the other aircraft, the A330 does feel a tad smaller. 9/10

B777-300ER - The Turkish minced beef was simply spectacular!
B777-300ER - The Turkish minced beef was simply spectacular! | Source

Let’s Take a Seat

Both aircraft

For a flight of this duration, the seats are reasonably comfortable with decent legroom for an average sized adult. No use dwelling on utopian comfort that will never be found in economy class on any airline. The headrests however can be adjusted to offer support to the neck and head. Padding and lumbar support I found acceptable. 8/10

Seating on the A330-300

On the A330, the economy cabin is configured in a 2-4-2 layout
On the A330, the economy cabin is configured in a 2-4-2 layout | Source
A comfortable sized touch-screen for your inflight entertainment
A comfortable sized touch-screen for your inflight entertainment | Source

We Got Lift Off

TK1980 - Again, due to the late arrival, pushback was delayed by 40 minutes. 7/10

TK1985 – On this occasion, we were held back briefly because of the snow that had been falling on Istanbul since mid-morning. However, the 40 minute delay had little impact on our arrival into London. 8/10

High altitude dining

Is having an on-board chef a good idea?

  • Yes
  • No
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Food worth reaching the sky for

'Tas Kebap' Traditional beef stew in tomato sauce
'Tas Kebap' Traditional beef stew in tomato sauce | Source

Let Me Entertain You

Both flights

Touch-screen AVOD system live from the moment you board the aircraft until you deplane. Not the best in the sky but I’ve seen much worse. As it was a short flight, I did not check their musical catalogue but for the three hours plus, the selection was adequate. Only downside was the earplugs they provide. These are really more akin to an ear-torture device. After a while, not only bothersome to the ear, but sound tends to lean towards the high-pitched shriek as well as not being very good in cancelling outside noise. 7/10

Snow in Istanbul

Waiting inside our A330-300 to be given the ok to pull-back, snow permitting
Waiting inside our A330-300 to be given the ok to pull-back, snow permitting | Source

What shall I eat?

small menus are served even on these 3.5 hour flights
small menus are served even on these 3.5 hour flights | Source

Are You Well Served?

Ok, the cabin crew are not the smiliest lot in the skies; however, they are courteous, well mannered, efficient and very helpful. An example; for some reason my son’s child meal had not made the flight manifest despite it being requested at the time of booking. They had no more CHML meals left, however, the attendant assigned to our side of the cabin went out of his way to try to accommodate, even involving the onboard business class chef! He in turn, offered a spaghetti and meatball dish that won my son over. Customer service at its highest level! Suffice to say that my son wolfed down that dish in no time! 10/10

ARRIVAL

IST

Despite the late pushback and liftoff from London Heathrow, we only arrived ten minutes behind schedule. We parked at a remote apron away from the terminal therefore we had to be bussed to the main terminal.

Istanbul Atatürk International airport is the only thing that lets the experience on Turkish Airlines down, although that is beyond the airline's control. Chaotic at best, it does not do justice to its incumbent airline. Fortunately, Istanbul is building a brand new airport that hopefully will provide the high standards Turkish Airlines provides in the air. 5/10

LHR

Arrival about 10-15 minutes behind schedule but considering the treacherous weather we left behind in Istanbul, I consider we had a lucky escape. Process at the new Terminal 2 was less painful than at Istanbul. 9/10

Conclusions – Overall Impressions

The only difference between the two flights were the aircraft. Onboard service, catering, entertainment and cabin crew were consistent on both flights. Maybe the only complaint I had was the cleanliness of the one toilet I used on the LHR-IST flight. I would love to believe it was a one off and that was the only toilet that was not up to scratch – then again, it is fair to note that some passengers can be quite inconsiderate when using these facilities.

Overall, TK have a fantastic hard product, at least on their wide-bodied aircrafts and added to that, a high standard of service to go with it. There are very few areas that probably need improving, for example, on the ground and mainly in their Istanbul hub. On the other hand, yes, the cabin crew are not big on smiles, however I didn't find them rude at all.

In summary, Turkish Airlines is a carrier I wouldn’t have a problem travelling with in the future, let alone recommending.

8/10

© 2015 Ant Richards

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