Turkish Airlines Review

••• Turkish Airlines' head chef, Christian Reisenegger. © Susan Breslow Sardone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

What is Turkish Airlines?:

A contemporary flying carpet fleet, Turkish Airlines whisks some more than 60 million passengers a year to more than 300 international and domestic destinations in clean, modern, comfortable airplanes. One of the fastest-growing airlines in Europe, Turkey's national carrier has been named "Best Airline in Europe" multiple times by Skytrax. Turkish Airlines' gateway is modern Ataturk Airport in Istanbul.

Turkish Airlines Web Site
US Reservations Number: 1-800-874-8875

Turkish Airlines Equipment:

Turkish Airlines flies nonstop to North American gateways in New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Houston and Boston. Depending on the equipment, planes carry 312 or 337 passengers in Business/ Comfort Class/ Economy sections. The oldest planes flown between Turkey and the USA are five years old, and appear well maintained. We weren't certain whether it was the pilots' skill or the advanced equipment — perhaps both — but takeoff and landing were exceptionally smooth and quiet.

Dining Aboard Turkish Airlines:

Turkish Airlines excels in feeding passengers well, thanks to its Flying Chefs program. On long-haul flights, business class passengers feast on authentic Turkish and international dishes from on-board chefs. Our favorite new taste was white Turkish eggplant, prepared as a tasty variation on babaganoush.

Smoked salmon rosettes were equally delectable.

We were fortunate to meet Turkish Airlines' amiable head chef Christian Reisenegger on our JFK-to-IST flight and wondered how he turns out such flavorful fare in a minuscule kitchen. Answer: Items are cooked on the ground, heated (but not microwaved) in the air.

Turkish Airlines Business Class:

How civilized it is to fly business class on Turkish Airlines! After takeoff, a personalized menu with multiple choices is distributed for passengers to select dinner and breakfast items for the next day.

But first, a complimentary cocktail arrives. Then the chef presents a tray of hors d'oeuvres. By the time the dessert trolley rolls to your seat and you make that choice, a nap starts to sound like a brilliant idea.

Seats recline fully. A pillow and quilt, noise-cancelling headphones, and an amenity kit with Hermès products are provided. Bathrooms are uncommonly large and have Hollywood-style mirror lights.

Turkish Airlines Comfort Class:

More and more airlines have been adding a class of service between economy and business. On Turkish Airlines' 777s, it's known as economy comfort class. There are seven seats per row, in a 2-3-2 configuration. At 19.5 inches, comfort class seats are 1.5 inch wider than those in economy. And the pitch differential is substantial: 32" in economy, 46" in comfort. Although passengers don't have as much space as those in business, they can certainly stretch out and flex in their seats during a long flight. Comfort class also has a dedicated chef, touchscreens, and USB and iPod connections at each seat.

Turkish Airlines Economy Class:

Let's face it: It's no fun to fly economy class on any airline. Seats are narrow and too close together — even for honeymoon couples. On Turkish Airlines, where there are 9 seats per row in a 3-3-3 configuration, seats are 18 inches wide (which is still generous, compared to other airlines).

One feature on Turkish Airlines that elevates economy comfort class is the cuisine. Although passengers in economy don't have their own chef, they won't feel deprived. Turkish Airlines was the 2010 recipient of the World's Best Economy Class Catering Award from Skytrax.

Turkish Airlines Entertainment and Crew:

Passengers in all classes are provided with the same entertainment choices, although the screens are different. Business- and comfort-class passengers get a swing-out touch screen from which to select movies, games, music, and Voyager, which tracks flight stats.

Economy-class passengers make the same selections from smaller screens embedded in seatbacks.

Crew is Turkish and solicitous, although their English is rudimentary. Depending on the equipment flown, the crew-to-passengers ratio in business class is about 1-to-10 and 1-to-40 in economy class.

Turkish Airlines Lounge at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul:

To ease you into the journey home, Turkish Airlines has made its business class lounge at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul a luxury destination. Two floors of chic, contemporary design are home to a tea garden, golf simulator, library, children's playground, billiards area and more.

Food, drink and dessert appear at every turn as chefs prepare Turkish classics such as pide flatbreads and manti dumplings before your eyes. If you crave space away from other travelers, indulge in a shower, nap in a private rest area, or work out those kinks on a massage bed. Business class, Miles & Smiles Elite, Elite Plus card holders and Star Alliance Gold members are welcome. — Rebecca Louie

Turkish Airlines Drawbacks:

On our flight from JFK to Istanbul, announcements were made in both Turkish (first) and then English. In business class, the audio on the public address system was unclear. Additionally, despite four requests to turn down the temperature, the cabin was kept uncomfortably warm and there were no personal fans. Flying home on different equipment, neither of these problems occurred, and each business class seat had an adjustable personal fan.

Insider Tips:

If you've read this far, this information is your reward: It's possible to upgrade to comfort class from economy at check-in — if a seat is available. The cost is 200 Euros, a significant bargain when compared to a regularly priced comfort class ticket.

Turkish Airlines' frequent-flyer program is Miles & Smiles, with miles applicable toward flights, certain accommodations, car rentals, and other Star Alliance members.