There are a lot of options for long-haul international business class, with different seats, prices and levels of service. I’ve found the international carriers just seem to offer a better product than what I’ve experienced from domestic carriers. I had the opportunity to fly Turkish Airlines’ Business Class service on the 12-hour-long flight from Los Angeles to Istanbul, Turkey. The combination of a comfortable new aircraft, efficient and warm service, and delicious food made the flight a wonderful experience that added to my overall enjoyment of that beautiful country.
Turkish Airlines has separate Business Class check-in areas in the airports they serve and we had no wait at LAX to get our journey started. We were checked in quickly, all the way to our final destination in Antalya and directed to the lounge to await our flight.
The L.A. – Istanbul flight is on a B777-300 aircraft fitted for Business Class, Comfort and Economy classes. They use separate doors for Business and Economy class, so we boarded the plane quickly with no hassle. The seats are large and comfortable, easily reclining to a full bed. And a flat bed, as in horizontal to the floor. I’ve flown American Airlines’ international business class in the past and although the seat turned into a flat bed, the bed wasn’t horizontal to the floor, leaving me at an odd angle.
After a welcome drink of fresh orange juice and vintage champagne, I enjoyed my amenity kit from Lanvin, presented to each passenger, along with noise-cancelling headphones. The seat includes a large, 19″ flat screen with a entertainment system ranging from current movies to video games and you can even connect with an iPhone, iPad or other USB device. The system also allows for texting, emailing and web surfing. I like having a power outlet at the seat, so I could use (for email and web via WiFi) and keep my phone charged throughout the flight.
Overall, the in-flight service was extremely friendly with flight attendants who genuinely seemed to enjoy their job and interacting with the passengers. They were constantly available to respond to any request.
With my 19″ flat screen and hours of movies and television shows to watch, I had no problem filling up the 12 hours of flying time. There are a lot of sitcoms, I watched far too many episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” and I also enjoyed the documentaries and travel shows.
The flights currently offer free WiFi in Business Class, so I found myself emailing people at home, Tweeting and posting on Facebook as I flew across the globe. The map options are also fun to look at and track progress during the flight. The plane was equipped with cameras looking forward and down, and I also enjoyed watching these during flight. The forward camera was available to watch the landing, and this was a lot of fun, to watch the flight’s final few minutes as it approached the airport, then touched down.
The food on the plane was good enough to deserve a special mention, it was a delicious mix of Turkish specialties and fine modern cuisine. Each international flight carries its own chef, who prepares the meals for the Business Class passengers. The meals started with mezze, which is like Turkish finger foods and included salmon and grilled zucchini wrap, Mediterranean seafood salad, haricot beans in olive oil, chicken Caesar salad, fried eggplants with tomato sauce, yogurt with cucumbers and shrimp in puff pastry. The main course was a choice of a Turkish style grilled beef filet, filet of red snapper (swordfish on the return flight) or porcini ravioli. Deserts were amazing Turkish delights along with a lot of fresh fruit, ice cream or a fresh made apricot marmalade crepe. After the overnight portion, we were woken up with fresh fruit, yogurt and three hot breakfast options.
The wine list was no joke, champagne was the Gosset Brut Grande Reserve, which was perfect, along with a selection of wines from France, Spain and Turkey. I had a 2009 Chateau Lamothe Pontac Medoc which was a ideal pairing with my beef.
One reason the food is so good is that catering for the flights is done by DO & CO., a company who also caters the VIP areas of Formula 1 races, several Olympics and UEFA EURO soccer matches. The food was fresh and I could not believe how good even the basic stuff tasted, like the chicken in the chicken Caesar salad. As a big fruit eater, I loved having a constant supply of fresh grapes, watermelon and pineapple to enjoy throughout the flight.
The International CIP Lounge in Istanbul is amazing, combining luxury and functionality. Private resting rooms with bathtubs, a library, pool table, iMacs to use and even a screening room offer travelers a wonderful little oasis to await their flights. Clear lockers are available to store carry-on luggage, which I found very convenient. The lounge offers free WiFi. I also visited the CIP lounge in Antalya, which also offered a good selection of Turkish foods and drinks while we waited for our domestic flight to Istanbul.
In Los Angeles, passengers use the Star Alliance lounge in the international terminal which features free WiFi and a nice selection of snacks and drinks, including beer and wine.
The Turkish Airlines Business Class experience is available from four U.S. gateways: New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC and Chicago and will add Houston in April, 2013. The airline is an ideal option for travel to Turkey, but using Istanbul as a hub, it’s also a good option for travel around Asia and the Middle East, as they service over 200 cities around the world. After I returned, I was talking to a friend at the bank and the manager of my branch told me she too had just flown Turkish Airlines, to visit her family in Egypt. She flew Economy class and found it an excellent value.
Our whole trip (LAX – Istanbul – Antalya and back) was quite perfect, with no problems or even delays. All the flights were on time and as I’ve described, the service (both at airports and on-board) was consistently friendly and efficient. One note for travelers overnighting in Istanbul: We were scheduled to overnight in Istanbul, before flying on to our final destination of Antalya. When I was told our bags were checked through to Antalya, I realized that meant we would not collect our luggage in Istanbul, even though we would need it to change clothes and freshen up. Travelers should be aware of this and ask for their luggage to be available for collection in Istanbul.
Freddy Sherman is a world traveler and editor of the travel blog travel4people.com. You can follow him on Twitter @thefredsherman
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