In our previous installment on Turkey's flagship carrier, we took a look at the extensive preparation process that takes place behind the scenes at Turkish Airlines' headquarters. In this feature, we will investigate and explore how these efforts manifest in providing a world class experience for Turkish Airlines' business class passengers, specifically on an extended range flight and in Turkish Airlines International CIP and Arrivals lounges at Istanbul Atatürk Airport.
Heading To Istanbul
The length of a nonstop flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Istanbul (IST), and vice versa, is about thirteen and a half hours. Flights of such lengths can often be a stressful and restless occasion. Fortunately, Turkish Airlines has done a tremendous job in making the time fly by. Certainly, high quality onboard service, adjustable seats, and gourmet meals are all factors that go a long way in creating a much better air travel experience. As an added bonus, if you are flying out of Istanbul Atatürk Airport, you will have the option to sample some of the culinary delights that are prepared by the Turkish Do & Co catering facility that we previously highlighted.
Turkish Airlines Business Class###
On the initial trip to Istanbul, we departed on a Boeing 777-300 ER. One of the nicer aspects of a Turkish Airlines business class seat is the abundance of leg room, in addition to a fixed ottoman to rest your feet upon. Underneath the ottoman, there is enough space for you to store a large carryon bag.
For business class passengers, the seats are spacious, and seat control options allow for a variety of comfortable positions - there's a position for everyone. If you want to sleep or take a power nap during your flight, transform your seat into a fully flat bed and utilize a warm complimentary blanket and pillow. Beside the seat, there is a USB port and a place to plug in your headphones if you want to listen to music or watch a film. Free headphones are provided, though you may bring your own noise cancelling headphones. The lavatories on board resemble an upscale hotel, with special mood lighting and a hands free sink with a large basin.
Amenity Kit and Startup Pitches
The amenity kit, designed by either Crabtree & Evelyn or Porsche Design, includes a tube of nourishing hand cream, lip balm, toothpaste, and a toothbrush, among other items. Other perks include a complimentary pair of slippers and free satellite Wi-Fi onboard. Though the Wi-Fi is a fantastic addition, speeds can be slow at times, especially when many individuals are all attempting to connect to the internet at the same time.
The video-on-demand entertainment system, a staple of long haul international flights, is available on a big screen in front of your seat. An fascinating note is that Turkish Airlines is the only major carrier that allows you to view startup pitches onboard. The "Invest on Board" platform, which features two minute pitches delivered by startup entrepreneurs, is run by eTohum, a Turkish startup accelerator. The platform features mainly Turkish-based companies, though a number of foreign ones are also included. Turkey is a very entrepreneurial country with a thriving tech scene, and this is an excellent way to get a glimpse into promising new companies coming out of Turkey. If you are flying in business class, there is a good chance that you may be a business executive looking out for potential investment opportunities, making this an ideal option.
Snacks and Beverages
Upon settling into your seat, a Skychef will serve you a drink of your choice, in addition to an individually boxed Godiva chocolate. And that's not all. Moments later, a Turkish Airlines flight attendant will provide you with a large plate with an over sized hot towel to freshen up and prepare you for the flight ahead.
An extensive beverage selection is available, including tea, coffee, juice, soft drinks, and mineral water. If a cup of tea is exactly your "cup of tea", it's time for tea. Choose from an impressive array of hot and cold tea. To make things easier, the menu even provides brief descriptions about the primary benefits of consuming each type of tea. Hot chamomile tea helps to alleviate jet-lag, while cold fennel tea assists with stomach relief. If you are more interested in alcoholic beverages, choose from a variety of spirits, beers, and fine wines. One unique option is raki, an anise-flavored beverage, Turkey's national drink, and a favorite of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the father of modern Turkey. Raki is typically consumed with chilled water and assorted meze. Red, white, and rose wine are available, as is champagne. To accompany your initial beverage, you may receive an offering of nuts. Go nuts with a mixture that includes walnuts, almonds, and pistachios, a staple of traditional Turkish hospitality.
Bon Appetit: It's Appetizer Time
Prior to your main course, you will be presented with a selection of different types of bread to choose from. Along with bread, a Skychef will provide you with a plate of different condiments, including a small bowl of butter, a bottle of olive oil, and a mixture of spices. The salt and pepper shakers are magnetic, and therefore, attracted to the plate, making it less likely that you will accidentally knock them over while you are enjoying your delicious meal. A particularly nice touch here is an LED candle, which can set the mood for a candlelight dinner in the sky.
Before the main course, a Skychef will come around with a cart full of appetizers to choose from. One of the great upsides to this is that it is much easier to visualize your prospective choices, which can be especially helpful if you are looking to be more adventurous and try out an unfamiliar item. Potential appetizers may include a salmon and grilled zucchini wrap, Mediterranean seafood, haricot beans in olive oil, chicken Caesar salad, eggplants with tomato sauce, fried zucchinis and white cheese, yogurt with cucumber, shrimps in puff pastry, and Shepherd's salad, in addition to a creamy asparagus soup. After you make your selection, which can include a combination of any of the above items, the Skychef will present your appetizers, neatly laid out on a smooth platter.
Enter The Entree
For dinner, you will have a choice among several entrees, including a meat, seafood, and vegetarian platter. One dish that is particularly popular on Turkish Airlines is a grilled beef fillet with a tomato, green pepper, and rice pilaf. A Skychef will come around to take your order, and they will be more than happy to comply with special requests, such as preparing your meat to your desired temperature. They can also provide recommendations and offer suggestions to suit your personal taste buds.
Skychefs are experts in pairing and proper plating, as they had all previously gone through the rigorous two-month course at the Turkish Do & Co Academy. If you are having a bit of trouble deciding between two entrees, don't hesitate to ask for help. The Skychef may be able to help you sample multiple dishes, or if the flavors do not match well, provide you with multiple dishes. If you order a plate of pasta and a lamb dish with vegetables and rice pilaf, for example, they'll happily provide each item on separate plates in order to ensure that the flavors do not overrun. After you are finished with the main course, it is time to indulge your sweet tooth. Dessert options include ice cream, baklava, an assortment of cheeses, and fresh fruits.
Time For Breakfast
One of the most interesting parts of the menu is the customized breakfast form. Similar to ordering room service from your hotel room, your name is pre-filled on the form. Simply check off the beverage and food items that you would like to have for breakfast, and once you're ready, hand the form to a flight attendant to have it prepared and brought to you during breakfast time.
Magnificent Meal Service
Meal service is such an integral part of creating an enjoyable flight experience, and Turkish Airlines has done a tremendous job in catering to the needs of its premium passengers. On top of the Turkish Do & Co staff's contributions, the Skychef team puts a significant amount of effort into welcoming passengers and helping to create more pleasant onboard experience.
Turkish Airlines Arrivals Lounge
The Turkish Airlines Arrivals Lounge is a two hundred and fifty square meter facility that is open to business class and select Turkish elite* passengers on arriving flights. The design of this lounge is derived from that of the flagship lounge, which we will explore in more detail in the next section. There are 35 seats in the lounge, along with six showers, an ironing service, a library, newspapers and magazines, complimentary Wi-Fi, snacks, and a full hot or cold breakfast. This lounge is perfect for those who want to freshen up after getting off that red eye flight. One of the highlights is the breakfast bar, where a Skychef is on hand to help you create your very own breakfast omelet with the ingredients that you desire. If you are not so keen on omelets, other options include boiled, fried, and scrambled eggs.
*To determine eligibility, use LoungeBuddy to create a trip with your elite status entered in your LoungeBuddy profile.
Turkish Airlines Flagship CIP Lounge
The Turkish Airlines Flagship CIP Lounge at Istanbul Atatürk Airport is one of the largest and most impressive airport lounges in the world. Consisting of two levels, the lounge's unique architecture shows influences from the Ottoman and Seljuk periods of Turkish history. Following their recent expansion, which culminated in the opening of the lounge's lower level on February 11th, 2014, the lounge has astonishingly doubled in size, from three thousand five hundred to an amazing six thousand square meters (approx. 60,000 sq ft). Currently, the Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge serves four thousand passengers per day, with enough seats to cater to a little over a thousand guests at a time.
The lounge is located just past security and immigration near Section H on the Departures level of the International Terminal, and there is a dedicated security and immigration line for Turkish Airlines premium passengers that leads directly into the lounge. Access is currently available to Turkish Airlines business passengers, as well as Elite and Elite Plus members of Turkish's Miles and Smiles frequent flyer program. In addition, Star Alliance Gold members departing on a Star Alliance flight are eligible for entrance. Once you have your boarding pass in hand, all you have to do is go through this special line in order to complete the standard security and immigration procedure. Once you are done, you are all set to access your very own Turkish airport oasis.
Your Oasis Awaits
From the lounge's main entrance, you will enter into the upper level of the lounge, which is where most of the lounge's guests tend to stay. Give yourself a moment to recollect your thoughts, because the magnificence of the lounge will leave you breathless. Immediately upon entering, you'll notice the incredibly high ceilings, which certainly help when it comes to enhancing the perception of grandeur. At the heart of the lounge is a large atrium with a spiral staircase that connects the two floors. The staircase is encased by a truly amazing spherical structure, topped off with a golden Turkish Airlines logo. This grand monument represents Turkish Airlines' ambition of bringing global destinations ever closer through their rapidly expanding route network.
An Astonishing Array of Amenities
Like most airport lounges, the Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge provides basic amenities such as complimentary Wi-Fi, snacks, comfortable seating, and entertainment options ranging from televisions to newspapers and magazines. If you want to catch up on some TV, there are multiple walls that are conveniently furnished with 9 television monitors (3 rows and 3 columns) each. If you choose to watch one of the shows on these television monitors, there are wireless headsets that allow you to listen to the audio for the television you wish to watch. Simply tune in to the station corresponding to that show, and you can listen to the audio from your seat.
Bathroom facilities are available, and there are eight luxurious showers that are available for you to freshen up. For those who are looking for a place to store or charge electronic devices, there are special lockers with outlets and a variety of adapters available. There are also large storage lockers for carry-on bags.
Now that we've had a chance to look at the basic amenities, let's take a look at the wide range of unique features that are not typically offered anywhere else. One obvious example, of course, would be the ability to sample all the baklava that your heart may desire. If you have a particularly long layover, you can take advantage of one of the lounge's eight (four on each floor) private oases. Though not as comprehensive as a hotel room, they are quite comfortable, and each room provides a single bed, television, desk, and telephone. For music connoisseurs, there are two grand pianos in the lounge, one on each level. The piano on the lower level is located on top of a stage, and musicians come in at certain times to demonstrate their talents for your listening pleasure.
Other exclusive amenities include a prayer room, billiards table, library, cinema, and children's room on the upper level and a massage area, slot car racing course, video game consoles, golf simulator, stage, and Austrian bistro on the lower level.
If you are traveling with children, bring them down to fun-filled CurioCity, which will keep the kids entertained while you can relax nearby. Video game enthusiast? Head on over to the Playstation 4 consoles to help get your game on. If you are looking for an opportunity to work on your golf swing for that Pro-Am you just registered for, take advantage of the Foresight Sports virtual golf simulator, which provides two full sets of clubs.
One very novel amenity that you may not find at another lounge is the customized Scaletrix slot car track that includes special Istanbul monuments such as the Bosphorus Bridge and the Hagia Sophia. If this excites your interest, be sure to bring your slot car when you visit the lounge. Hone your skills against other slot car enthusiasts, and who knows? If you get lucky, you may even get the chance to face off against world slot car racing champion Vladimir Horky.
If you're looking for a place to wind down and relax, take a quick stroll on over to the automatic massage beds. If massage beds are not your thing, there are also two masseurs who walk around the lounge to provide massages from the comfort of your seat.
Quench Your Thirst
The lounge offers an excellent selection of premium alcoholic beverages. Choose from a variety of red and white wines, or if you prefer, Turkey's most popular beer, Efes Pilsen. There is also an extensive selection of spirits, including raki. Many well-known international brands, such as Bacardi, Captain Morgan, and Smirnoff, are represented. Of course, there are numerous non-alcoholic beverages, including soft drinks, fruit juices, teas, coffees, and water.
Turkish Tea Trees
Turkey has an extensive history and culture of tea consumption, which is reflected in the numerous tea trees that are grown within the lounge. In the courtyard, located in the central atrium area, you can sit down, converse with fellow guests, and try out some of the different loose leaf teas that are offered, including jasmine, fennel, carnation, garnet, chamomile, and hibiscus tea. As an accompaniment to your tea, there is a cart in this area that holds a delicious Turkish bread called simit. These carts are ubiquitous throughout the city of Istanbul, and this circular bread is very popular throughout Turkey as a quick takeaway item.
Gourmet Food Galore
As mentioned in the first part of our feature, all of the catering for this lounge is provided by Turkish Do & Co, so there is no shortage of delicious culinary Turkish delights to try out. One signature item is pide, a Turkish flatbread dish that, with a number of toppings placed on it, is similar to thin crust pizza. Typically, pide contains numerous toppings stacked on top of a thin layer of pita bread. As the lounge features a transparent open kitchen, you can actually take a look at how your food is prepared by the Skychefs on hand. This is perfect if you want to try your hand at recreating pide for your extended family to try out once you get home.
Another option that you may want to try is gözleme, a traditional Turkish wrap that is comparable to a crepe or quesadilla. A thin wrap made of dough envelopes a number of different fillings, which can include a variety of meat, vegetables, and cheese. If you are looking to quench your thirst, grab a cup of ayran, a traditional fermented yogurt drink with a foamy texture that can be served either on its own or as an accompaniment to a full meal.
For dessert, Turkish Do & Co provides a selection of homemade cakes and pastries inspired by the famous Viennese pastry shop, Demel. To acknowledge their Austrian origins, Do & Co provides these delicious pastries, in addition to Austrian inspired decor, in a dedicated section of the lounge.
Turkish Airlines has been moving forward rapidly with their modernization program over the past several years, and words can hardly describe how impressive their accomplishments have been. From doubling the size and capacity of their state-of-the-art flagship airport lounge to creating a joint venture with Do & Co in order to improve their gourmet food service capabilities, Turkish is pulling out all the stops in order to provide their passengers with a world class travel experience. Turkish has their sights set on becoming a Skytrax five star airline, and if they continue up the current path, they'll almost certainly achieve it. If you are looking for an airline to help widen your world, or if you simply want to take a visit to one of the world's absolute best airport lounges, look no further than Turkish Airlines.
To learn more about Turkish Airlines' business class offerings, be sure to check out their official website.