After spending three days in Accra, I flew to Istanbul on a Turkish Airlines Boeing 737, which was a mostly uneventful flight. After that, I spent the better part of a day napping in the old business class lounge at the now-disused Istanbul Atatürk Airport, before embarking on an Istanbul walking tour courtesy of Turkish Airlines’s excellent free layover benefits.
I’ll have much more to report from Istanbul when I write about my May 2019 trip later on, so for now, I’ll pick up the next installment of this series on my Turkish Airlines 777 business class flight to Singapore.
Turkish Airlines | TK54
Aircraft: Boeing 777
Cabin: Business class
Route: Istanbul (IST) to Singapore (SIN)
Date: Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Time: Departing 1:55am and arriving 5:30pm
Duration: 10 hours 35 minutes
Before Istanbul’s New Airport opened, the old Atatürk Airport had been besieged by a lack of gate space, and so it was no surprise that our Singapore-bound flight was departing from a remote stand several hundreds of metres away from the terminal.
The Turkish Airlines 777 has a rather large business class cabin, which was almost full on tonight’s flight, so the business class airport bus was filled to the brim with almost 50 passengers.
Business class is split into two cabins: four rows in the forward cabin and three rows in the smaller cabin behind the second door of the aircraft. Each row has a total of seven seats across a 2-3-2 configuration, for 49 seats in total.
It suffices to say that this business class configuration is significantly lagging behind the times. Not only do the window seats lack direct aisle access, but you also have the dreaded middle seat in each row, which is normally the domain of economy class travellers. Privacy and exclusivity are a huge part of the reason why one might opt to fly business class, so it would be quite unfortunate to find yourself stuck in one of these middle seats.
Couples travelling together can benefit from choosing the two seats by the window, but there isn’t really a clear winner here for solo travellers. No matter which seat you pick in the 2-3-2 arrangement, you’ll have to face the possibility of either inconveniencing others or being inconvenienced yourself.
The best thing you can do is play “seat selection roulette” until the last minute by choosing a spot that has an empty seat adjacent to it, and switching seats if it does get occupied. That’s exactly what I did, and I ended up in Seat 5G by the aisle, with the middle seat beside me, 5E, remaining empty. I definitely got very lucky here, since 5E was pretty much the only empty seat in an otherwise full business class cabin.
With 5G being situated in the mini-cabin behind the galley, I boarded the aircraft and turned right to arrive at my seat. Waiting there were an amenity kit, a shoe bag with slippers inside, and the blanket for the flight.
Overall, the cabin looked very similar to the Turkish Airlines A330 which I had flown not long ago, besides the fact that the seating arrangement is a denser 2-3-2 compared to 2-2-2. In terms of visuals, I thought Turkish Airlines does a very good job with the jet-black seat finishes, as well as the eye-catching backdrop separating business class from economy featuring their logo.
The hard product is very similar to what you’ll find on the A330, so I’ll go over it more briefly than I usually do, and you can check out my review of the Turkish Airlines A330 for more details. Neighbouring seats are separated by a central console, where the seat controls, a small surface space, and the tray table can be found.
At the front of the seat, there’s an ottoman which becomes part of the bed when you’re in lie-flat mode. Underneath the ottoman is a storage space that’s large enough for keeping your personal item.
Here at the bulkhead of the business class mini-cabin, the entertainment monitors were squished together on the wall-mounted screen, so I had to look at my screen at a slight angle. However, that’s not the case for non-bulkhead seats, whose entertainment screens are positioned on the seat-backs directly ahead of them.
Underneath the armrest (which can be raised to give you some privacy from your seatmate), you’ll find the power port and entertainment controls. You can also use this little nook as a storage space for loose items.
Then there’s a reading light poking out from up against your shoulder. You’ll notice that the middle “E” seats have all their bells and whistles on the left side of the seat, sharing the armrest with the “D” aisle seats. Therefore, if you were to choose either the “D” or the “G” aisle seats, there’s a very slight advantage to going with the “G” seats.
After settling in, I was offered my choice of welcome drink. Turkish Airlines has one of the widest welcome drink choices I’ve seen – it’s usually lemonade, raspberry juice, orange juice, or water. I chose the raspberry drink this time, and it was very refreshing.
I took the time before take-off to check out the items that had been left at my seat. I put on my slippers, which were as stylish as a set of airplane slippers could be…
…and I also inspected the amenity kit, which was the same Molton Brown kit that I had been given on my previous flight with Turkish.
There were also several items that were passed out by the crew. These included the noise-cancelling headphones, which worked very well when I watched a movie later on in the flight…
…as well as the business class menu, which consisted of a separate leaflet for ordering breakfast. I can’t help but feel that Turkish Airlines’s business class menu is a little overcomplicated, but then again, the airline does enjoy a reputation for having some of the finest catering in the sky.
The menu itself was also the exact same as what I had been treated to on my Istanbul–Hanoi flight not too long ago – it’s not too surprising that Turkish uses the same menu on all of its South East Asian routes over a given period. The dining menu read as follows:
And the drinks menu read as follows:
Just as I sat back in my seat and got ready for takeoff, something truly bizarre happened.
One of the lead flight attendants came over to my seat and asked if I’d be willing to move over to Seat 1B at the front of the cabin. I was a little taken back by the request, but since I was perfectly happy with having an empty seat next to me in 5G, I politely declined.
But the crew member didn’t back down: she knelt by my seat and pleaded with me to move to 1B, and when I remained steadfast in my refusal, another flight attendant came by to implore me to switch seats as well.
At this point I was feeling very annoyed. I had no intention of giving up my empty neighbouring seat, but these flight attendants were also showing no signs of relenting. Fortunately, one of them eventually went back to the galley to consult with their co-conspirators, and returned to let me know that it was no longer necessary. Whew!
As the whole thing was going down, I had caught a brief glimpse of the lady in Seat 1B, who was dressed in a fancy hat and an expensive-looking pair of sunglasses. I never figured out what the whole thing was all about, but if I had to guess, I imagine the woman was someone straight out of Crazy Rich Asians who didn’t want someone sitting next to her, and who possessed such clout over the flight crew that they were begging and pleading me to switch seats with her. It was certainly one of the most perplexing encounters I’ve had in business class!
Anyway, soon after that, we began our pushback, and the safety video began playing. Turkish Airlines uses a Lego-themed safety video, which is played twice: once in Turkish and once in English. After so many flights with Turkish in quick succession, I was starting to know the words by heart.
I didn’t have much else to do on this flight, so I decided to put on A Simple Favor for the first few hours. I planned to watch the movie over the meal service, and then go to sleep for the remainder of the flight.
Unlike other airlines, Turkish Airlines prepares the bed for business class passengers at the very beginning of long-haul overnight flights, so that you can go to sleep immediately after eating. Shortly after we reached cruising altitude, the flight attendant came by my seat to ask if I wanted my mattress pad to be set up, and I gladly accepted.
I returned to my movie for a while, and soon after that, the meal service began. Bottled water and hot towels were handed out first, followed by some mixed nuts and a cup of green tea that I had ordered.
A small helping of assorted canapés was up next. The DO&CO catering was as good as I had remembered it from my previous flight, and I enjoyed every bite.
That was followed by the appetizer courses, which consisted of a pumpkin soup and a Turkish meze spread. As part of their award-winning onboard dining product, Turkish doesn’t use any trays, instead hand-delivering every plate straight from the galley, while also carefully replacing your utensils after every use. It’s a highly attentive service style that you won’t find on many other airlines.
The pumpkin soup was delicious, and while meze isn’t my favourite food in the world, I still enjoyed the spread enough to finish most of the items.
One of my personal favourite things about flying with Turkish is the little “candlelight dinner above the clouds” prop that they leave on your table during the meal. It’s such a simple touch, and is also entirely unnecessary, but it elevates the onboard dining experience just another notch higher.
For the main course, I had chosen the grilled swordfish brochette with potatoes and vegetables. It was a relatively light dish, but still very appetizing, which was exactly what I needed at this late hour.
Now, here’s where the service on this Turkish Airlines flight fell completely flat. For dessert, I had originally ordered “a little bit of everything”, having been impressed by the dessert offerings on my last flight on Turkish. Well, first I was served the double chocolate nougat with raspberry sauce, which was a little too sweet for my taste…
…and then I waited. And waited.
The crew had simply forgotten about the rest of my dessert order, leaving me waiting at my seat and looking at the galley helplessly. It’s not like they came by to withdraw my tablecloth and signal an end to the meal service, either – they simply forgot entirely that I was still in the middle of my meal.
At first I thought they were just taking their time, but after about 15 minutes, I saw one of the crew members sit down in their jumpseat to eat their meal – including a portion of the dessert, which was supposed to be mine!
After 30 minutes, the cabin lights had already been switched off, and I was feeling very disappointed and didn’t even want to have dessert anymore. However, I remembered how amazing the pistachio ice cream was from my previous flight, so I could not simply let the situation be.
When a crew member responded to my call button request, he was flustered to see that my tablecloth was still there after everyone else’s had already been withdrawn. I explained that I had originally ordered all the desserts, but now I just wanted some pistachio ice cream and be done with it.
Thankfully, they still had a portion of the ice cream left, and my annoyances quickly fluttered away as soon as I took my first bite of this delightfully chewy Turkish-style treat.
After finishing both my dinner and my movie, it was time to get some rest. There were still about seven and a half hours of the flight left, but I was truly feeling exhausted. After all, I had endured a red-eye flight from Accra the previous night, and then only napped briefly in the lounge before taking part in a bleary-eyed walking tour for four hours, and it was now well into the wee hours of the morning.
I briefly visited the business class restroom, where a nice suite of Molton Brown amenities had been set up.
After that, I put my seat into lie-flat mode, fluffed up my blankets, and enjoyed one of the best sleeps I’ve ever had on an airplane, waking up just over an hour before landing in Singapore when the pre-arrival meal service began. While Turkish Airlines’s business class seats are pretty antiquated, they at least provide you with plenty of open space to move around during your sleep, unlike a few more advanced seat types which can be rather restrictive.
As a result of sleeping for a good six hours or so, there was very little left to report from the flight besides the pre-arrival meal.
I thought the appetizer course was pretty bare-bones – did they run out of chicken slices or something? – but the cheese pastry and the side dishes were excellent. I also ordered a coffee to perk me up, since I wanted to be awake for my upcoming flight on the new Singapore Airlines 787-10.
As the seat belt sign turned on, the lead purser came by to say that she hoped I had a pleasant flight, with a slightly apologetic smile on her face. Between the switching seats fiasco at the start of the flight and the crew completely forgetting about my dessert, this certainly wasn’t the best showing by the Turkish Airlines crew, but I certainly appreciated the purser’s gesture nonetheless.
Sadly, this flight on the Turkish Airlines 777 was a relative disappointment compared to my previous experience on the Airbus A330. The 2-3-2 business class configuration is highly uncompetitive, and I’m glad that the airline’s new Boeing 787 aircraft will be addressing this issue with direct aisle access from every seat.
Most of the time, you can rely on Turkish Airlines to more than compensate for its weaker hard product through its industry-leading food and service. On this flight, though, the service fell quite a distance short of my expectations, and I stepped off the plane with a not-so-great impression of the crew on this flight. I’m hoping this was just a minor blip, though, and I’ll be looking to see how the service compares when I do fly the new Turkish Airlines business class on the Boeing 787 later this year.
Ricky’s love for travelling and learning more about the world is unbounded. He’s on a mission to document and understand every square inch of the globe, and travelling on points will be an essential tool along his journey.