I normally rave about Turkish Airlines and consider their Business Class to be a super product. The ‘super’ refers to an up-front experience that’s not quite First Class, though exceeds the expectations of a ‘standard’ Business Class. However, on this Regional flight from Paris to Istanbul, I found the flight lacked warmth and sincerity which is not indicative of Turkish Airlines altogether because I absolutely loved flying internationally with them from Istanbul to San Francisco, a flight I previously reviewed.
I was on my way to Malta and booked an award ticket from Paris - Istanbul - Malta for 25,000 United MileagePlus miles and taxes.
Airline: Turkish Airlines (TK)
Route: Paris (CDG) - Istanbul (IST)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Duration: 3h 25m
Service: Business Class
Turkish Airlines and its Star Alliance partners operate from Paris - Charles De Gaulle (CDG) Terminal 1, which is the airport's first-ever Terminal built in the 1960’s. For aviation lovers and history buffs, this neo-futuristic and landmark Terminal provides a small glimpse into airline travel 60 years ago during what was considered the Golden Age of flying. I’m crazy about the long underground tubes, unique boarding gates, and octopus-like Terminal design. This building went up during the same time as the TWA Saarinen Building and original PanAm Terminal 2, both at JFK - each one sharing similar Star Trek-like design notes.
I remember flying through Terminal 1 as a kid and noticing how unique planes would park along the side of the Terminal, instead of nose-in, giving planes the ability to leave on its own without a pushback tug. Today, this design limits the number of planes that can be served at any given time, but the design still stands out for its innovation during its heyday
I made my way over to the Star Alliance Lounge once I arrived into Terminal 2 using the airside shuttle bus. It was a seamless transfer from the massive Terminal 2 though the ride felt much longer than it probably was.
Since Terminal 1 was built 60 years ago, the windy tunnels and roundabout walkways feel maze like reminding you that security checkpoints and TSA once never existed. I eventually made it to the Central Terminal and found the Star Alliance Lounge on the 5th floor.
The Lounge itself is not very big, but does a good job maximizing the space with one main open area for the buffet and socializing, two separate quiet areas, and a sizable open outdoor patio designated for smokers. There’s a decent amount of seating in the lounge but it was quite busy in the late afternoon right around 4PM.
The Lounge has a design forward aesthetic with clean lines and decorative elements. Take for example the chain curtains to divide the seating areas without eliminating sight lines. A unique elements aside, the furniture and wall colors are your typical grays, beige, and blue.
Food options were plentiful and predominantly Middle Eastern cuisine. Beverages and spirits were also flowing freely with Lounge seekers making a B-line to the bar. There was usually a line to get a drink.
After a light refreshment, I decided to head to the gate.
The Boarding Process
The flight’s boarding was scheduled to begin at 4:45PM. At that point, Business Class and loyalty passengers were invited to queue up for boarding. After being scanned in, guests entered a secondary holding area for a few minutes, and then a third until the crew was absolutely ready to receive us. We were essentially inching forward 10 feet at a time for about 5 minutes.
Again, given the Terminal’s unique design, we were nearly parallel to the aircraft which made for cool photo opportunities
The flight was operated by an Airbus A330-300, the stretched version of the aircraft variant. It’s a large wide-body plane with two aisles, which makes for a popular medium to long-haul regional aircraft. Turkish Airlines operates a variety of single-aisle and wide-body aircraft between Paris and Istanbul with varying onboard experiences. When possible, I would recommend flying on a larger aircraft for greater comfort.
I was welcomed at the aircraft door by a few flight attendants who were pleasant, though lacked polish. I selected seat 5A, which was in the middle of the cabin along the window. Waiting at my seat was a pillow - headsets were later distributed.
The onboard chef offered signature mocktails, the menu, and a pack of Turkish nuts shortly after settling in. I selected the homemade Lemon-Mint beverage which was both refreshing and incredibly sweet. I always looked forward to interactions with the onboard chef as if he was going to say something profound.
The Cabin + Seats
The Business Class cabin consisted of 38 seats. There were 6 rows of 6 seats, and a 7th row with just 2 on the left side of the aircraft. The cabin layout looked strange to me as it had a lot of seats from what I previously remembered. I attempted to look up the aircraft afterwards and could not find a seat map with these specs, so perhaps someone here could enlighten me. It looked like the galley around Door 2 was removed perhaps to accommodate a higher density seating.
Boarding ended 15 minutes later with a grand total of 4 passengers in Business Class. During pushback, the airline played their latest safety video featuring the cast of the Lego Movie. A very cute video and partnership.
The taxi out to the runway was longer than usual. We found ourselves in a queue for take-off 20 minutes after pushing back, which my guess was due to high afternoon traffic. We took-off from Runway 27L behind a Vueling A320 10 minutes later
Hot towels were distributed 7 minutes after take-off, while the aircraft was still climbing out. This was followed by drink orders, which I selected a split bottle of white wine and water.
Mere seconds later, my meal was served on a single tray along with my drink order. Turkish Airlines mezze service may be one of my favorite courses of any airline. For long-haul flights, the onboard chef brings around a cart with a dozen different spreads, dips, and hummus’ to savor. For this 3 hour flight, the mezze was pre-plated and consisted of eggplant, hummus, and a dip, along with a fresh salad. All very delicious.
A few minutes later, as I was finishing my appetizer, my main entreé was served. I ordered the swordfish, which was decent.
Also, the Sauvignon Blanc I ordered was produced by a local brand called Egeo exclusively for Turkish Airlines. The wine did not taste very good.
For dessert, the tray included a small fruit-flavored flan and cheese and grapes, which was a nice way to finish off the meal. Lastly, the onboard chef offered after-dinner drinks and Turkish coffee from the cart.
The meal concluded in 30 minutes, which may have been the fastest meal service for me. It felt like a race to the finish for the crew who sped through the entire experience.
No second beverage service was offered, which didn’t seem hard to do considering the light load.
The Entertainment + WiFi
The airline’s entertainment system was fantastic. From movies to games, it’s refreshing to see Turkish offer significantly more content onboard compared to industry standards. I watched “I Feel Pretty” which features the hilarious Amy Schumer.
Another nice touch was free Wi-Fi service for Business Class passengers. No vouchers or codes were needed, passengers could access the service by logging in with a seat number and last name. The Wi-Fi integration with the passenger manifest felt seamless.
I managed to doze-off for an hour after the movie ended. While angled lie-flat seats aren’t the latest and most comfortable seats out there, it was certainly sufficient for a regional flight onboard a widebody aircraft.
Descent began 30 minutes before scheduled arrival - right as the sun’s final rays were disappearing for the day. Considering our late departure, I was pleased to see we had made-up time. As the crew prepared the cabin for arrival, one of the flight attendants stopped by to ask what I thought about the flight, aircraft, meal and service. Normally, this would be a lovely and thoughtful gesture. The problem was the flight attendant asked in the most insincere way.
The flight touched down and we made our way over to the gate a few minutes later. As we were deplaning, I noticed I was missing the same jacket I brought onboard. I had to ask the crew to retrieve my jacket for me.
Considering what a typical ‘regional’ and intra-European Business Class flight is, I thought this was a nice flight. Not only was the cabin empty, I found the seats plush and comfortable for the 3-hour journey, and the food tasty.
Hard product and food aside, the problem was the crew’s approach towards service, which lacked genuine warmth and sincerity. Instead the service felt cold and rushed over. The meal service was hurried in 30 minutes, which meant the inflight service ended very soon after take-off since a second drink service wasn’t offered. I believe attention to details and personalization sets apart a good crew from a great crew - and, sadly, this crew just didn’t seem to care.
Overall, I love Turkish Airlines and think strongly of their brand, though this flight was sadly a miss.