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Via Istanbul: Turkish Airlines Business Class IST-MAN / MAN-IST

Following my extremely pleasant stopover at Istanbul, the moment of truth had finally arrived.

I had booked my air tickets because I’d felt the promotional rates were simply too good to pass – somewhere along the way, though, I was alerted to the fact that the short-haul leg of my journey was likely to be in seats like these:


(Image from Aaron’s earlier post)

They look nice enough, but they’re essentially reupholstered economy class seats with the middle seat blocked out as cup holders.

At the same time, I’d heard that the newer A321s (that I was flying) were supposed to look more like this…

Turkish short haul business class
(Image from Turkish Airlines website)

…so I was immensely relieved to see that this was indeed the case upon boarding the plane. Phew!

The seat was comfortable enough – though nowhere as roomy as my previous long-haul leg of the journey, there was more than enough legroom to play with.

Turkish short haul business class legroom

The new(-ish) safety video that OMAAT had blogged about was playing. I think it’s cute, but since most of the ‘magic’ was done with the use of camera tricks, I didn’t really find it all that impressive (or entertaining).

Turkish airways safety video

I was also relieved to find a personal screen folded away in the seat’s armrest. Though way smaller than its long-haul equivalent, I actually quite liked having the screen within touching reach – the interface is clearly optimised for touch controls, and it was somewhat cumbersome using the remote to control the larger screen (which was also positioned further away from the passenger).

Turkish airlines short haul business class screen

Seat controls were not motorised – it’s the old type of controls where you hold the button and adjust the seat position by leaning/pushing as appropriate.

Turkish airlines business class seat controls

Which isn’t ideal, but I guess it still works.

Breakfast, IST-MAN

There was no option to indicate your orders on this breakfast menu – I suppose on a short-haul flight, they don’t expect you to need to place your orders before going to sleep for hours.

Turkish breakfast menu

The ‘flying chef‘ was (from my perspective) just helping the flight crew deliver food to the passengers – I’m quite curious about what exactly they do onboard other than this… I’m sure they’re supposed to be involved in food preparation, but what exactly can you do when you’re up on an aircraft?

Turkish flying chef

I realise now that this is was my first encounter with “gözleme”, so it was here that my adventurous spirit prompted me to try the Turkish breakfast option that I ended up not liking. Why, then, had I not learnt my lesson on my flight back from IST to KUL? If I remember correctly, they had actually run out of eggs by the time they’d reached me, which was rather disappointing. Not something I’d expect to happen on business class!

Turkish business breakfast appetisers
Various breakfast sides

Turkish business breakfast
My not-quite-favourite Turkish wrap

Dinner, MAN-IST

Again, the flight was pretty much identical on the return leg, though I had dinner on the return journey instead of breakfast.

Turkish dinner menu

I wasn’t a fan of the fish on my previous flight, so I decided to get the beef instead.

Turkish dinner sides
Attempting to keep up with the millennials with a flat lay of the breakfast sides

Turkish business dinner
Sautéed fillet of beef – pretty decent, though not exactly something I’d rave about

Conclusion

I guess my expectations had been set pretty low, but for a short-haul flight I found it more than adequate – rather pleasant, actually! If you’re able to confirm that your aircraft is not in the old configuration, I’d say that the short-haul flights with these newer seats will not negatively impact your business class flying experience.


Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to maximise his frequency of travel in business class or better.

He travels with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stands in for him in vacation photos. Griffles continues to amuse (and confuse) air stewardesses, hotel staff and just about everybody else, all around the world.

Via Istanbul: Turkish Airlines Business Class KUL-IST / IST-KUL

I’d mentioned in my previous post that, due to a combination of bad luck and sub-par planning, I had been idling at Kuala Lumpur International Airport for about 12h after having woken much earlier in the morning than I am usually used to. Despite improvements in recent years, KLIA is still not a particularly interesting place for a stopover (spoilt Singaporean that I am). Rather grumpy and tired, I was rather looking forward to finally getting some rest on the lie-flat business class seats on the Turkish Airlines A330 that would be bringing us into Istanbul.

turkish business lie flat
(Image from Turkish Airlines website)

Upon boarding the plane, I was relieved to note that the seat looked reasonably comfortable and that the official publicity pictures were not, in fact, a pack of lies.

Turkish airlines business class seat

Being set up in the 2-2-2 configuration, there’s not that much privacy for the solo traveller, though it was perfectly fine for a party of two. The ottoman area in front of the seat allows for efficient storage with quick access (e.g. if you want to grab your tablets or computers). I was especially pleased with the amount of legroom available.

Turkish airlines business class legroom

Slippers were provided, but they’re rather flimsy and typical hotel-style disposables; not really worth keeping. They had provided an initial set of Turkish-branded headsets at our seats, but later started distributing an alternative set of noise-cancelling Denon headphones that were noticeably superior in quality (and comfort), at the same time highlighting that they would be collecting back the new headsets before the end of the flight.

Old Turkish headsets New (trial?) Turkish headsets

My guess is that they are still in the process of transition and were perhaps even still testing the new equipment, although since we weren’t asked about our experience at all, I guess they weren’t seeking customer opinion on the headsets.

Not too long after taking off, they also started asking passengers if we’d wanted bedding fitted onto our sheets. I thought it rather odd timing, given that we hadn’t eaten yet, but I suppose that’s just part of their workflow.

Griffles seated on Turkish

I didn’t think the extra layer made that much of a difference to comfort levels, but since I didn’t try sleeping without it on I guess I can’t really say for sure.

Amenity Kit, KUL-IST

I’m not really a big fan of amenity kits, so I’ll just quote the official description – the one I got flying to Istanbul was Cerruti-branded.

Turkish business amenities bag Turkish business amenities bag contents

The Cerruti branded bag is a fashionable bag made of a specifically developed leather-like material to create the sense of nonchalant chic which is typical for Cerruti. The heritage of the house of Cerruti is in textile and fashion. The design of the bag is elegant and simple, with a front flap which adds sophistication. It’s in a perfect size for passengers to reuse the bag as toiletry bag or to store personal items when travelling. Inside the bag is a variety of comfort items including cosmetics from ‘Institut Karite’ range with a high concentration of shea butter to hydrate the skin both during and after the flight.

The Menu, KUL-IST

They soon passed menus out. We were served dinner and breakfast on our flight; the breakfast menu doubled as an order form, which I thought made a lot of sense.

Turkish menu Turkish breakfast menu

There was a rather wide spread of alcohol to choose from, though since I know next to nothing when it comes to alcoholic beverages, I decided to just default to champagne, particularly since many frequent travellers seem to make a big deal out of it.

Turkish wine menu Turkish drinks menu

For the mains, there was a choice of a mix of grilled seafood, grilled beef or mushroom ravioli. I opted for the seafood.

Turkish dinner menu

While studying the menu, a stewardess came by dispensing a bowl of mixed nuts and a drink of choice (the previously mentioned champagne). I especially enjoyed the shelled pistachios in the mix. Wonder if there was any way to get a bunch of those alone?

Turkish nuts

Dinner, KUL-IST

The various courses were dispatched by trolley, which does help to give everything a more restaurant-like feel; as does the onboard “flying chef”, though ours pretty much acted pretty much like the other stewardesses, when it came to meal service. Presumably she also does some sort of behind-the-scenes food preparation when not delivering dishes directly to our seats.

Turkish meal trolley

They also provided fake LED candles to help add to the atmosphere.

Turkish dining setup

Which is all very well and good, I suppose, but as they say – the proof’s in the pudding. Or in this case, the food. Just how good is the food on Turkish Airlines business class? Was it to be as life-changing as they say it is?

Turkish dinner appetiser
King prawn & grilled scallop

Turkish dinner entree seafood
Potpourri of grilled seafood – king prawn, butterfish and salmon

Turkish dinner dessert
Potpourri of traditional Turkish desserts

Alas, it wasn’t the case for me. I found the grilled fish to be tough and dry and actually rather unenjoyable. I don’t know if I was just unlucky, but I found that having the onboard cook didn’t really seem to do much for this meal experience.

After the meal was done and everything had been cleared, they started dimming the lights and I figured it was time to catch up on lost sleep. This part, I definitely enjoyed – no complaints from me!

Turkish business life flat bed

Breakfast, KUL-IST

A few hours later, breakfast was served.

Turkish breakfast fruits
Seasonal fresh fruit salad

Turkish breakfast omelette
California style omelette

Happily, I found the food much tastier this time round. Faith in the flying chef gimmick was restored somewhat. I guess eggs are harder to mess up than fish!

Amenity Kit, IST-KUL

The return flight was pretty much on the same hardware and everything, but I did get a different menu so I thought I’d just append some segments to the review.

Turkish business Jaguar amenities bag

The Jaguar branded bag comes in a quality high tech material symbolizing the “grace, pace and space” of Jaguar cars. The technical aspect of the pouch is also represented in the re-use value of it as a tablet case or document holder. Detailing adds a touch of luxurious practicality to the bag. For example, the size of the bag can be expanded by undoing the zipper so that passengers can carry more or larger items. The bag also contains inner pouches (a pencil case and soft drawstring pouch) so that the comfort items and cosmetics can be organized and packaged beautifully.

Meals, IST-KUL

Turkish business menu IST-KUL

For dinner entrees, we got to choose from Potpourri of grilled seafood, Traditional “dolma” varieties or spicy chicken skewer. Mindful of my bad previous experience with grilled seafood, I opted for the spicy chicken skewer this time.

Turkish dinner appetiser
Smoked salmon with “daikon”, white cheese tabbouleh, stuffed sundried red pepper

Turkish dinner spicy chicken skewer
Spicy chicken skewer

Turkish dinner dessert
Chocolate ball with mango, fresh fruits

Dinner was a pleasant experience this time round – I suspect that fish is simply the harder dish to get right, especially up in the air. Breakfast, however, I enjoyed less.

Turkish breakfast appetiser
Miscellaneous breakfast sides

Turkish breakfast wrap
“Gözleme” flat pastry with cheese and leaf spinach & sauteed potatoes

This one I chalk up to taste, however – I wanted to try out the local breakfast option, but realised too late that a cheese and spinach wrap wasn’t really my kind of thing. Should probably have stuck with the eggs option.

Conclusion

All in all, I enjoyed the Turkish Airlines business class long-haul flight experience. The seats were comfortable and conducive for proper sleep and the food was pretty good (with the exception of the fish). The language barrier did pose some challenges to communication, though ultimately functional communication was still very much possible.


Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to maximise his frequency of travel in business class or better.

He travels with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stands in for him in vacation photos. Griffles continues to amuse (and confuse) air stewardesses, hotel staff and just about everybody else, all around the world.

Via Istanbul (Not Constantinople): A trip planned around promotional rates

TLDR version: you can access some really remarkable deals if you keep your eye out for them, but it takes some effort to monitor, some luck for the deals to coincide with what you actually want to do, and possibly some sacrifices in terms of convenience in order to fully utilise them. It’s great if you find that enjoying the journey is part of the joy of vacations (I’d suggest bookmarking this FlyerTalk forum and checking it from time to time); but if not, it’s probably better to stick to using miles to get to where you want to as quickly and comfortably as possible.

While playing the miles game is probably the main focus of travel hacking, promotional rates for air travel and hotel fares pop up every now and then, and if you are able to capitalise on them you might find yourself positioned to enjoy (relatively) affordable rates for premium travel.

I was lucky enough to make use of three such deals on a recent trip of mine, and for me it really helped to make the voyage even more enjoyable (and memorable).

Highlights of itinerary

(Reviews coming up – will add links after they’ve posted!)

Planning process

I’d been intending to revisit the UK and had actually already redeemed SQ award tickets for the trip when I spotted this amazing offer for KUL-MAN on Turkish business class – I’d previously bookmarked this forum on FlyerTalk in the hope that something usable would crop up, and this effort was finally paying off.

Having been intrigued for some time by what some (like Aaron) have deemed as the best business class lounge in the world, I jumped at this opportunity to secure business class return tickets at less than S$1,900 per person.

turkish istanbul business lounge

Along the way, there came the amazing (and short-lived) offer allowing 2-night Conrad stays for the price of 1. I immediately cancelled my 4n booking for the (very nice) Hilton London Bankside and made two bookings (under two different guests) for the Conrad London St. James instead.

conrad london st james

The original plan had been to stay 1n at the Conrad and 4 at the (much more affordable) Hilton using the Citi Prestige 4th night free benefit, but once again the siren song of promotional rates proved irresistible to me.

The final offer that came my way was a relatively minor one, but (for me) it was still a new experience that I wouldn’t have tried without the promotional rate. I had booked advance train tickets from York to London, and a week before the day of travel I received an email offering an upgrade to first class at £15 per person.

Virgin Trains first class

First class rail tickets are not something I’d usually bother with (2 hours in a standard carriage is hardly an ordeal), but since I’d never tried it before, I figured… why not?

Filling the gaps

Unfortunately, it wasn’t totally smooth-sailing. Since some cancellations were made, there were some (relatively minor) penalties involved. The biggest hiccup for me, however, was with regard to the addition of the initial journey from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.

I had (foolishly?) booked the cheapest available return tickets on Singapore Air for the SIN-KUL route, guess-timating the time required for transit (I’d budgeted 3h to be on the safe side). These were the non-refundable tickets, with no changes permitted, and of course, as luck would have it, that later came back to haunt me.

As it turned out, the KUL-IST flight out of Kuala Lumpur was rescheduled and I was suddenly left with a 12h stopover at KUL, with no way to change the SIN-KUL flight other than to forfeit the existing booking altogether.

I ended up biting the bullet and enduring the 12h stopover, and that resulted in an ordeal involving waking earlier than necessary, some time spent exploring a rather uninteresting airport, a grumpy wife, and a much longer journey than initially planned for.

turkish business lie flat
(Image from Turkish Airlines website)

Thankfully, the comfortable full-flat seats on the KUL-IST leg of the journey allowed for some recuperation along the way!

Evaluation

The biggest savings this trip was probably from the Turkish airlines promotional fare. A return business class saver redemption for SIN-MAN on Singapore Airlines costs 136,000 miles and S$817 (slightly more if flying to London instead) in additional surcharges. Valuating each mile at 2¢ each (a rather conservative value), that puts my personal price for the ticket at about S$3,500. Even factoring in the cancellation fees and additional price of the SIN-KUL ticket, I consider the ~$2,100 spent on airfare to be a steal for what I got.

The Conrad offer, even with two nights free, did result in me paying more than initially planned – but given the superior location and convenience of not having to switch hotels, it was still an experience I relished. As for the first class train experience, I found it surprisingly enjoyable – I wouldn’t mind doing it again, though I wouldn’t be particularly upset if I never received the offer again.

All in all, as a travel geek I found myself enjoying the journey as much (if not more) as the destination this trip, and am glad to have been able to make good use of (at least) one promotional fare in my lifetime!


Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to maximise his frequency of travel in business class or better.

He travels with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stands in for him in vacation photos. Griffles continues to amuse (and confuse) air stewardesses, hotel staff and just about everybody else, all around the world.