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Turkey has been on my bucket list for a number of years but a trip there just never seemed to work out for me. I’ve heard lots of stories about Istanbul, Cappadocia, Bodrum, and countless other cities that seem to have so much to offer.
That all changed in October 2021 when I finally pulled the trigger and booked a trip to Istanbul. Like any trip, now came the fun part. How do I fly there and where should I stay?
The only carrier that flies non stop from the US to Turkey, Turkish Airlines tends to have a pretty good reputation in the aviation world. The airline offers great service, world class food, and actually flies to more foreign countries than any other airline. I had a great food experience on a Turkish Airlines economy flight so naturally couldn’t wait to see what business class was like.
My mind was made up, Turkish Airlines seemed to make the most sense and now I needed to figure out how to book. I did have a few hiccups throughout the booking process I must mention but this didn’t have any effect on my on board experience.
Flying from the New York area, Turkish Airlines flies to both JFK and EWR. I was in New Jersey at the time so EWR made the most sense and with Turkish only offering 1 flight a day at 11:55pm this was an easy choice.
I was sitting on a number of Capital One miles and was looking for a way to burn them. Here is where I saw my window to book roundtrip business class for 90,000 miles per person. Since Capital One transfers to Turkish at 2:1.5 I ended up using 240,000 miles to book for 2.
Note: Capital One updated to transfer at 1:1 to Turkish Airlines after my booking. This means you will only need 90,000 miles each for a roundtrip ticket.
The cash price of this ticket would be about $4,200 round trip meaning I got a whopping 4.6 cents per point in value. Given how points and miles work this is an incredible deal.
We would be flying to Istanbul from EWR in an Airbus A330 and return home to JFK on a Boeing 777.
This trip had been a long time coming so to say I was excited was an understatement.
I arrived at Newark Airport in the evening and it was pretty quiet, which is always nice.
The check in counters were also fairly empty making he process pretty easy.
I shared my passport as well as a Turkish health form that is not only needed to fly but entering almost every hotel or store when you are in Istanbul.
The only damper on my trip was that I was told there is no lounge at EWR currently open. Turkish Airlines business customers would usually have access to the United Polaris Lounge and the Lufthansa Business Lounge, both of which are still not operating.
Bummed about this I went towards my gate and waited for boarding. It didn’t help that I passed the Lufthansa Lounge just to remind me I wouldn’t be able to go in.
The boarding process was pretty uneventful, with business class passengers going first throughout the same lane as economy.
The A330 cabin we arrived into is a 2-2-2 layout, and luckily this was the updated version with new entertainment screens and privacy dividers added between each seat.
This configuration is not the best Turkish Airlines flies, which would be the 1-2-1 to Atlanta, Chicago, and others but I found it to be comfortable enough.
Before I settled in too much into my seat I took a quick peak at economy. Turkish Airlines tends to have some interesting colors as well as a very animated safety video that tries to add a light tough to their experience.
Economy didn’t look too bad, especially providing a 2-4-2 configuration that makes it not a bad way to fly overseas.
Back in business class, I settled into my seat and noticed a pretty packed cabin on our way to Istanbul. This was unexpected since the seat map was pretty open the day before the flight but I didn’t think much of it.
No pre-departure beverages are served but I was ready for take off when the flight attendants came around with an amenity kit. A nice tough with Turkish Airlines is they provide a different one for men and women, provided by Versace.
I found both amenity kits to be stylish and well stocked with essentials. This is actually one of the few kits I’ll end up keeping to future use.
Turkish Airlines provides each passenger with two menus, one for food and the other for wine. The menus also were very on brand and stylish.
I started by going through the food menu. I was happy to see them serving their traditional mezzo on today’s flight as well as seeing a vegetarian option – not what I expected from seeing past menus with no option.
I moved over to the wine list and it was nice to see some local Turkish wines. I would definitely be ordering a glass as well as some Tattinger Brut Reserver champagne that I could not resist.
A pro tip I received from a friend was to also get the homemade lemonade with mint. There is something about it that tastes like you are in a spa so I was absolutely going to try a glass.
Meal service started not long after take off and I got the chance to finally try the Turkish Airline food so many have raved about.
First up was a tomato and mozzarella salad served with bread and two mezzes of babaganoush and muhammara, both of which are some of my favorite dips.
Babaganoush is a smokey eggplant based dip while muhammara is made of red peppers and walnuts. I found both of these to be excellent, they were well spiced and had great flavor.
The tomato and mozzarella salad was good but to be honest nothing to be overly excited about.
As they came through the cabin with mains I had the options of chicken, fish, or pasta. While I initially was considering the fish I decided to go with the chicken since the saffron risotto it was served with tempted me.
The chicken actually tasted better than it looked and was paired with a nice sauce that I couldn’t quite tell what it was made of. However, the risotto was a bit disappointing, not bad or good just so so.
My partner had the asian vegetarian meal, which if I’m to be honest had better flavor than my chicken. If I had known in advance I would’ve been happy eating this dish on any flight.
I didn’t really eat much of my dessert that seemed to be a chocolate pudding and had already moved my mindset to coffee. Yes it was already 1am and I should get to be but I always love an espresso post meal.
The espresso was actually surprisingly very good and came in a very stylish cup. I sat there drinking this until my mind finally convinced me it was time to get some sleep.
The seats on Turkish Airlines do go into a lie flat however there is a slight slant to them. It didn’t tend to bother me but for those wondering there is a very minor tilt to the seat in bed mode.
One thing I had to call out was how hot the cabin was. It was a first for me on an airplane that the temperature was a bit unbearable that I had to tell the flight attendant if we can cool the cabin a bit. Luckily this was no problem and after 10 minutes the cabin was comfortable enough to fall asleep in.
After getting a decent amount of sleep I woke up as we were about 2 hours away from arriving. This flight was set to land around 4:45pm Istanbul time but oddly they were planning to serve breakfast before landing.
I didn’t complain and I eagerly awaited another meal.
Breakfast started with a serving of fruit, a pasty, slices of turkey and chicken, cheese, and a yogurt. I found all the dishes to be pretty refreshing although the fruit was served very cold so I let it sit for a few minutes.
Next up was a choice between an omelette or what they described as a crepe. Even though I’m usually a fan of savory breakfast I decided to go with a crepe since omelettes are pretty standard on airplanes.
The crepe was actually delicious and served piping hot being paired with a bit of raspberry jam. I liked that while this dish looks very sweet it actually wasn’t over the top. It made for a great way to start my morning (but really afternoon) into Istanbul.
We landed in Istanbul not too long after and I would say the overall flight experience on Turkish Airlines was positive. While it wasn’t the best business class I’ve been on and I don’t think the food rivals what I had on Singapore Airlines on either an A380 to Singapore or A350 to Newark, but it turned out to be the best choice from the US to Turkey.
So would I fly it again? Absolutely.
It feels like more and more people are traveling to Turkey and with that will continue to come improvements to their airline offering.
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