The secret sauce of TURKISH AIRLINES’ business class

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As I boarded a Turkish Airlines flight last week for the nonstop from Istanbul to Los Angeles, I looked around and wondered what in the world might make its business class stand out over luxury competitors like Emirates, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines.

Turkish’s lie-flat seats had a full range of position options that kept me more than comfortable throughout the entire flight. There was plenty of personal space, including benches that double as storage compartments and great amenity kits with both sock and slippers. Those, however, area among the usual little perks you expect up front.

But not long after takeoff it became clear why Turkish Airlines consistently wins top honors in the Skytrax World Airline Awards: the service and the food.

One of the chefs who create fresh meals for business class travelers on Turkish Airlines.

One of the chefs who create fresh meals for business class travelers on Turkish Airlines.

Flight attendants in business class are generally much more attentive than those having to contend with hundreds of cramped and often crabby passengers in coach. But this crew really went the extra mile, down to making every effort to freshen the lavatories after every use.

As an admitted obsessive about overhydrating to stave off jet lag, I don’t even want to guess how many trips I made over those 13 hours. But nearly every time, the sink area had been cleaned and a fresh paper seat cover put in place.  I was even stopped going in once by a flight attendant offering to “get it ready for me.” Talk about personal attention.

But enough about the bathrooms. For normal people, the key differentiator is likely the cuisine, which for business class is not brought on prepackaged trays but prepared with fresh ingredients by two onboard chefs.

I was skeptical that anything prepared in the tight space of an airline cabin, without open flames, would be much different from what’s prepared in other galleys. But I’m not exaggerating when I say they delivered a truly fine dining experience, which included local favorites as good as those I had eaten in restaurants across the country.

Most of the chefs come from Turkish restaurants. They work closely with the airline catering service on the menus and are trained extensively in how to make the best of the onboard ovens to prepare fresh meals that might normally require an open flame. They can cook steaks, eggs and other items to individual passenger preferences.

Meals include many traditional Turkish options prepared by two onboard chefs.

Meals include many traditional Turkish options prepared by two onboard chefs.

On my flight, the appetizer cart included marinated prawns, salmon tartare, roast beef caesar salad, hunters borek, carrot hummus, stuffed red peppers, smoked eggplant salad, homemade yogurt with walnut and fresh mint as well as sweet pumpkin soup. Entree offerings included homemade Turkish ravioli, grilled salmon or beef teriyaki.

The dessert cart, of course, was filled with Turkish treats.

And that was just the first meal. Gourmet sandwiches were available on request throughout the flight. Another round of full meal options (not just an omelet and yogurt) came before we landed.

The airline’s commitment to fresh, gourmet-style dining carries over into the airline’s lounges. At the massive, two-story lounge in Istanbul there were multiple food stations where passengers could watch chefs prepare everything from traditional Turkish dishes to stir-fried chicken and vegetables that were chopped on the spot. Self-serve bars and beverage stations were also strategically placed throughout the lounge. And there are children’s play areas, video games, snooker tables, a golf simulator, a slot-car racing track through a model of Istanbul’s prettiest areas, and a movie theater.

It’s a lounge experience that promises to only get better come October when Istanbul opens the first phase of a new, ultramodern airport, which will be the world’s largest airport in terms of passenger capacity upon completion.


Jeri Clausing



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