Turkish Airlines 77W Business Class IST – ORD

I rather enjoy daytime westbound flights.  You don’t lose too much of the day as you’re chasing the sun, the cabin tends to be brighter as some passengers stay awake while other snooze, and the need to sleep doesn’t exist like it does on a red eye – where the consequences could be wasting a day on catching up with time zones.  The only downside is losing out on work and productivity – which is not a problem on Turkish as complimentary wifi access is offered to all business class passengers.

Turkish Airlines TK05
IST – ORD
July 5, 2015
Business Class, 5D 6E
Boeing 777-300ER, TC-JJT

Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport is bursting at the seams. Literally.  The departure gate for my flight to Chicago was about a 10 minute walk from the Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge.  It involved heading down a set of escalators to bus gates for hardstand boarding.  I was a bit surprised at this – but I guess I shouldn’t have since we arrived via hardstand.  There were three or four gates downstairs consisting of flights to the United States and Canada.  At the entrance to the holding area, there was second secondary security screening – certainly was not expecting that since there was already a round completed at the check-in desk.  The questions were the same, “does this bag belong to you?”, “has anyone other than yourself had access to it?”, etc.  After the formalities, I was waved on through into the holding area.

And holding area it was.  Actually holding pen might have been a better term.  It was an absolute madhouse.  Business Class, Economy Class, Chicago, Boston, Washington, Toronto, all together in a room without enough seats, and space that should have been used for one gate, not 4.  Waiting for boarding to start, I was just focused on making sure I didn’t get in line for the wrong bus and flight.  As boarding was finally called, everyone boarded at once (or at least as many people that can fit on a bus).  It was another long drive over to the other end of the field where the big jets were waiting – we pulled up to the rear of the aircraft.  Feeling strange about walking across the ramp, under the wing, to get to the forward set of stairs, I decided to just go up the rear set of steps.

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Upon stepping onto the aircraft and making my way up the aisle towards the front, there actually weren’t too many people coming the opposite direction.  Finally, I found my seat in the rear business class cabin where the cabin was not yet full.

The cabin remained fairly empty.  So, I decided to move back a row from my original seat and grab the entire middle section of the row for myself – meaning I had three whole seats to myself.  The cabin crew came around to distribute newspapers, menus, and amenity kits.  Before long, we were on our way headed towards Chicago.

Reaching a safe altitude, the cabin crew bounced into action preparing for the meal service, and the onboard chefs came around to take orders for lunch. Full TK5 Business Class Menu

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For those who wanted to skip the meal service and go straight to sleep, the cabin crew brought around the signature Turkish Airlines sleeping kit – something truly unique for business class.  The kit consisted of a nice-sized sleeping pillow, a mattress pad, and a back pillow (which you do not want when sleeping lie-flat).  The mattress pad was really thin, but nevertheless appreciated; interestingly the mattress pads have simple but useful innovation, elastic bands at each end to wrap around the seat to keep it in place while in use.  Even before the meal, since I had an entire three seat section to myself, I asked to have the middle seat set up.

The meal service started with a beverage and some mixed nuts, which came in a nice glass dish.

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Followed by the assorted canapés consisting of olives, a small grilled cheese sandwich, bitter-melon with cheese stuffing, and dates.

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Between the canapés and appetizer, the cabin crew came around to prepare the dinner setting (silverware and condiment tray).

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Next, the appetizer cart came down the aisle consisting of eight, yes EIGHT!, choices.  I had a little bit of everything, as one would.

 

Crossing the half way point, the roasted pumpkin and chickpea soup came next.  It was a nice – light – portion, but at that point I was already beginning to feel… satisfied.

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Nevertheless, I pushed on and the traditional kebab (my main selection) was served.  And I’m glad I did.  With a sprinkle of the spices provided in the condiment tray, the dish was quite possibly one of the best inflight meals I have ever had.  Definitely the best in business class.

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Reaching the end of the meal service, the dessert and cheese cart came down the aisle.  Again, with an crazy number of desserts (six to be exact) and some cheese and fruit.

And that wasn’t all, another cart came down the aisle with the tea and coffee selection, with some pretty elaborate kettles.

Finally, the meal service concluded.  With that, I rolled over onto the seat next to me which was already set up from earlier – with the addition of the LED candle from the meal service to set the right sleeping atmosphere of twinkling lights.

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I didn’t fall asleep right away… instead, I paid a visit to the lavatory.  The thing I love about modern airplanes, and airlines willing to invest a little in their airplanes, is how much of a difference a custom – refreshed lavatory makes.  With a square sink, and dark counter, the lavatory looks quite nice, and even a little less grimy.  But perhaps my favorite part about newer airplanes is the installation of sensor activated faucets.  Yes, I would take that over the newest IFE system any day.  It makes such a huge difference to not have to hold down the handle to activate the faucet – especially if the water stops immediately after releasing.

Another small, but noticeable, touchpoint I love is the accent art on the galley wall.  Airplanes are cold and dry places, tin cans hurled through the air at hundreds of miles an hour.  So a little bit of “life” or something living goes a long way.

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After a couple hours of decent sleep, I woke up over Canada feeling quite refreshed.  Another nice perk of flying business class on Turkish is free unlimited internet access.  Yes, FREE AND UNLIMITED.

A little while later, the cabin crew came around to anyone who was awake and distributed hot towels and juice.

Shorty after, the LED mood lighting started to slowly bring the cabin to life.  The friendly cabin crew came around, as lively as ever and prepared our tray tables for the second meal service.  It was served from a tray, but the table cloth was oversized relative to the tray so it covered the sides of the table as well.

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Continuing to impress, in addition to the traditional mezze served as an appetizer, there was a second course.  How many airlines serve two courses for the second meal service in business class?!?

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The main course of the traditional “Dolma” varieties consisting of zucchinis, vine leaves, and eggplant stuffed with minced beef and tomato sauce was absolutely the best tasting dish I have ever had onboard an airplane.  Yes, even better tasting than anything on Singapore Airlines First Class.

Something interesting to note is that Turkish Airlines seals the silverware for the second meal service in bags when wrapped in the dinner napkin.  I quite like this, and it definitely reassures the passenger that the utensils were not used in the first meal service.

The meal finished up with a nice going away gift, a Godiva chocolate.

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Concluding Remarks

Simply the best.  Turkish Airlines offers hands-down the best business class experience currently on the market – at least products that I have flown.  I am fully confident that anyone who has flown other business class products (and more than I have) will say the same.  US carriers like Delta, and Continental back in the day, decided to get rid of First Class to focus on investing in Business Class and bring service levels up higher to match First Class.  Well… Turkish has succeeded at doing exactly that.

 

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