Here’s an exciting development for those of you on the West Coast: Turkish Airlines have announced that they will launch flights between Istanbul and Vancouver in mid-2020.
As the airline that flies to more countries around the world than any other airline, Turkish has flirted with the idea of serving Vancouver since at least 2018, but it appears that they’ve finally greased the right wheels with the Canadian Aviation Authority and that the route will now officially launch.
Vancouver will be Turkish Airlines’s third destination in Canada after Toronto and Montreal, and while we don’t know the exact launch date and service schedule yet, we do know it will be served with either one of Turkish’s new Boeing 787s, which they only took delivery of this summer, or one of their brand-spanking-new Airbus A350s which will debut next year.
At Last, A Surcharge-Free Flight to Europe from YVR
This new route is especially exciting because it represents the first direct flight operated between Vancouver and Europe by a Star Alliance airline that does not pass on fuel surcharges on Aeroplan redemptions.
Presently, Vancouverites can redeem their Aeroplan miles for direct flights to Europe on Air Canada and Lufthansa, but would have to pay about $500–1,000 in fuel surcharges on both carriers.
The only way to avoid surcharges is to connect in another major North American gateway city, like Toronto, San Francisco, or Chicago, to catch a surcharge-free airline onwards to Europe, adding many hours of travel time and often an overnight connection to the journey.
The Turkish Airlines route to Istanbul will shake things up, as you’d now be able to fly directly from Vancouver to Istanbul while paying $0 in surcharges, before connecting onwards to your intended destination in Europe.
Granted, this would still represent a major detour for most destinations in Western Europe, so you’d need to find the balance between connecting at the start via somewhere in North America, connecting at the end via Istanbul, or paying the $500 in surcharges for the convenience of a direct flight into Western Europe.
For those travelling to places like Greece or Italy, though, the connection via Istanbul wouldn’t be too bad, with a straightforward 10-hour flight followed by a 2-hour flight and potentially a few free layover perks to sweeten the deal further.
And if you’re continuing on to places like Africa, the Middle East, or the Maldives, then flying with Turkish via Istanbul will be one of the most convenient options at your disposal.
Even destinations like South East Asia might be amenable to taking a fun journey “the long way around” – how does Vancouver–Bali with a stopover in Istanbul sound?
Turkish Airlines New Business Class
We don’t know whether it’ll be the Boeing 787 or the Airbus A350 that flies to Vancouver, but the good news is that both aircraft feature Turkish Airlines’s cutting-edge new business class product, which is a dramatic improvement from their older forward-facing seats on the Boeing 777 and Airbus A330.
The seat looks very similar to what Singapore Airlines uses on their Boeing 787s, with the window seats alternating between being closer to the aisle and closer to the window from row to row, and the middle aisle seats also in a staggered configuration.
Each seat has direct aisle access, an individual seat console, and lots of privacy, and the product looks like a major step up from the rather lacklustre hard product that used to dominate Turkish’s long-haul fleet (especially on the Boeing 777, which features an outdated 2-3-2 seating arrangement).
Turkish consistently receives high marks for its DO&CO-inspired onboard catering and in-flight service, so the hard product was always where the airline still had room for improvement.
It’s great to see them putting these swanky new planes on both the new Vancouver route, and indeed the Montreal route as well, starting as of March 2020. I myself have a flight on the Turkish 787 coming up in a few weeks’ time, and I’m incredibly excited for it.
The question remains as to how much award space Turkish Airlines will make available on the new Vancouver service. If you’ve spent any time tracking Turkish Airlines business class availability, you’ll know that it can come and go seemingly at random.
At least on certain North American routes, the airline doesn’t seem to consistently release seats at the start of schedule; instead, entire months’ worth of open seats to a certain destination will be put online at one point for us to grab, and then it’ll all go away a few days or weeks later.
As a result, you have to be quite lucky to snag some of the “harder” direct flights to find, like Toronto–Istanbul, Montreal–Istanbul, or San Francisco–Istanbul. Meanwhile, routes like Houston–Istanbul, Chicago–Istanbul, or Atlanta–Istanbul seem to release seats much more consistently.
If I had to guess, I’d say that the Vancouver–Istanbul route is more likely to fall into the former category than the latter. After all, neither of the other two Canadian destinations seem to get any consistency in their business class award space, and given the lack of other surcharge-free flights to Europe out of Vancouver, it certainly feels like any availability that does get released would be snapped up very quickly.
I’d love to be proven wrong, but I feel that when this flight launches, you’d still need to be quite flexible in your travel plans and/or put in quite a bit of work to hunt down the business class space that works for you.
But for those of you who do manage to book, you can look forward to a transatlantic experience that significantly improves upon the old days of taking detours via San Francisco or overnighting in Toronto.
I always find it exciting when foreign airlines announce new routes to Canada, especially when it presents us with new opportunities to redeem miles to fly in style, comfort, and convenience.
A dearth of direct surcharge-free options to Europe has confounded Western Canadians for many years, so it’s great to see Turkish Airlines stepping in to offer a convenient direct flight to Europe and a one-stop connection to the rest of the world from YVR.
I’ll update this post once we learn more about the flight’s schedule, launch date, and aircraft type. If Turkish’s flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco are anything to go by, we should see a late-afternoon arrival into YVR followed by an evening departure, which should fit in nicely with everyone’s work schedules.