Via Istanbul (Not Constantinople): Trip Planning
Turkish Airlines A330 Business Class KUL-IST / IST-KUL
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines A321 Business Class IST-MAN / MAN-IST
Virgin Trains East Coast First Class (York – London Kings Cross)
Conrad London St. James (King Deluxe Room)
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the mains, there was a choice of a mix of grilled seafood, grilled beef or mushroom ravioli. I opted for the seafood.
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?
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.
They also provided fake LED candles to help add to the atmosphere.
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?
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!
A few hours later, breakfast was served.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.