Turkish airlines is a premier Star Alliance carrier, with one of the best Business Class products available, with an excellent lounge, stunning food, and good ground services (free transfer hotel, city tour). Further, they release a good amount of award availability, and Aeroplan doesn’t charge fuel surcharges to redeem on them! For this trip, we were flying Malta – Istanbul – Toronto in Business Class.
Prior to boarding, we visited the lounge in Malta. Turkish uses the Air Malta lounge, which is perfectly fine. It had local wine, beer, and delicacies like octopus and pastizzi, as well as a large and reasonably functional business center.
Boarding was slow and disorganized, being conducted by Air Malta ground-crew. We were left waiting at the boarding gate while half the plane boarded, as they were “missing” a bus!
Once we were on the plane, we started to receive the excellent Turkish service.
To start, the Turkish meze were excellent. For my main, I was going to do the Turkish ravioli, but it didn’t look great on the trolley so had the kebab, which was excellent. The dessert was nice, and so was the alcohol selection. This was probably the best European Business Class flight we’ve had, feeling more like a trans-continental flight in North America. It certainly was far superior to the Lufthansa European Business Class flight we had earlier in the trip.
We landed at night and took advantage of the Turkish Airlines free hotel program. The lineup was long but not horrible. We weren’t sure what to expect, and were tempted to just book our own room as a speedier option where we could control the quality. However, it was not an issue as they put us (and everyone) up in a DoubleTree. It was a packed bus ride, and upon arrival we were told to wait until we were called. Since I have Hilton Diamond, we talked to a concierge who quickly processed us separately and gave us an upgrade with welcome gift (and the others gave us dirty looks as we left the lobby first). The room was excellent, as was the [included] breakfast the next morning. The only issue we had was the shuttle to the airport in the morning was both late and very slow, which gave us some concern about arriving early enough to enjoy the lounge. Overall though, the Turkish free hotel program is highly recommended if you meet the qualifying terms.
We ended up having a good amount of time in the lounge (especially since our flight was delayed). It’s grand in scale, but also fairly packed. While it has more amenities than most lounges (including a pool table, mini-put, and race cars for kids), it is unfortunately packed and loud. The newly opened downstairs is much better than the main level though, as fewer people venture down there. The alcohol selection didn’t look interesting, but the kiosks offering food made on the spot were nice, especially the Turkish ravioli which is the best I’ve ever had!
If we thought boarding in Malta was bad, it was nothing compared to boarding in Istanbul. The gate area was glassed in with only one entrance, packed shoulder to shoulder, and lacked any kind of lines or order. It was absolutely sweltering from so many people packed into a small room.
When boarding finally began, the lines didn’t move for minutes as there wasn’t room for business passengers to advance. Eventually, the agents insisted passengers move aside, and we slowly made our way up. It was the worst mob I’ve seen, and there were many economy passengers trying to push their way up early. One guy took down the velvet rope and tried to force his way on!
On-board, it was a world of difference. We were quickly offered a welcome drink and menu. Additionally, we had the most delicious Turkish Delight.
Once again, the meze was the most delicious part of an already delicious meal. It also came with Turkish wedding soup which was not something I had before and really enjoyed.
Before landing, we were served: grilled chicken, yogurt, dolma, vegetables, and chocolate cake. Very yummy!
At this point, less than an hour before landing, we were presented with a “celebration cake” that we had requested months before and entirely forgotten. It was presented by the chef, along with some glasses of champagne. It was definitely a highlight of our Turkish service. (Note: anyone with a Turkish Airlines FFP, regardless of status, can request a celebration cake).
Overall, Turkish offers one of my favourite Business Class products, with only Cathay and EVA beating them out.
Sorry for the photo quality – I’m terrible at taking pictures, and my partner insists on keeping his 10 year old Blackberry.