Turkish Airlines has been ranked as ‘Europe’s Best Airline’ for five years in a row by Skytrax World Airline Awards. Director hops aboard after being upgraded to a business flight from London Heathrow to Istanbul to see if the praise is deserved
Turkish Airlines have one of the worlds most extensive flight networks flying to 276 destinations in 110 countries with a fleet of 200 aircrafts. The hub at Istanbul Ataturk Airport offers connections to over 140 cities within a three-hour flight.
Turkish Airlines reported $845m (£538m) net profit in 2014 and has announced a $3.74bn investment this year to expand it’s fleet of 201 planes. The flag carrier operates to 261 destinations with regular flights from Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester, Gatwick and Heathrow. UKTI reports that over 2,500 UK companies operate in Turkey including BP and Shell, with Tesco and Harvey Nichols among retailers with extensive operations there.
As a gateway to the markets in central Asia, South Caucasus and the Middle East, Turkey can benefit UK companies looking to export. The country is Europe’s sixth largest economy and is set to be in the world’s top 10 economies by 2023.
As well as the award for Europe’s best airline, Turkish Airlines has picked up several other accolades including ‘Best Airline in Southern Europe’ for seven years in a row and ‘Best Business Catering Service’ in 2014. Director got upgraded from economy to a business class on a flight from London Heathrow to Istanbul. Here’s how to journey panned out…
Director checked in online 24 hours before the flight (at this stage we were travelling economy with both hold and hand luggage). The process was quick, allowing you to change your seat if you wish while giving the option to print or download your boarding pass.
We arrived at Heathrow Terminal 2 on a quiet Sunday morning for the 11.40am flight. Turkish Airlines are in Zone A with the other Star Alliance airlines. Staff were on hand to direct us to the machines where we were able to print off our luggage tags (and boarding pass if needed) and drop off our hold luggage. Although, we were all set to fly economy, I noticed that business class had it’s own designated queue for a quicker service. Once my bag was dropped off we cleared security within 10 minutes. I made use of Terminal 2’s departure lounge where there are ample shops to keep you busy before boarding. I also made note of the information on the departure screens that my gate would be called by 10.40am. Score 9/10
This was announced much sooner than expected, allowing plenty of time to walk the 15-minute journey to the gate. Boarding started at 11am, by which time a colleague had told us we were being upgraded to business class. We joined the business priority queue to board first and took the short walk down the jet bridge. Once seated, the cabin crew were on hand to offer a welcome drink and newspapers. However, the flight was delayed at Heathrow and took off half an hour later than expected. Score 7/10
The plane was an Airbus 330-200 with business class located towards the front of the aircraft, to the left of the main entry door. Director sat in seat 10J, the last aisle seat on the right-hand side of the plane. It was clean and tidy when I arrived and I was able to recline into a lying-down position. There was a reading light and the table tray was tucked into the left-hand arm of the seat. The entertainment screen was nice and large, and there was a huge selection of movies, TV programmes and music to choose from. Unfortunately my TV wasn’t displaying thumbnails properly but it wasn’t too essential for this short flight. Score 7/10
Shortly after take off the cabin crew offered us some delicious Turkish Delight and gave us a hot towel to freshen up. Then came the menu with details of the three courses on offer. The airline’s ‘flying chef’ travels on the flight and even helps serve food and drink. Starters were assorted Turkish appetizers including artichoke with carrots, peas and boiled potatoes, and prawns with cucumber. There was also an additional plate of salad, cheeses and a bread roll. For the main course, there was a choice between Turkish-style grilled beef fillet, herbed chicken breast, and Rigatoni. Director opted for the chicken served with grilled mixed vegetables and potato puree. Dessert was homemade chocolate and hazelnut mousse cake, rounded off with tea or coffee with hazelnuts. Score 10/10
After three hours and 40 minutes we arrived at Heathrow, over half an hour late due to the initial delay at take off. We then had a to wait a further 10 minutes for stairs to disembark the plane. Once we were off it was a short bus ride to passport control. A separate queue for business class usually offers a fast-track option, but there was a problem with the computer system, which held up the queue and meant we ended up waiting around 10 minutes longer than necessary. Score 5/10
Quick check in, a comfy seat and a three-course meal all made for a pleasant and fuss free flight despite the half hour delay. Total score 38/50
Turkish Airlines flight TK1980 from Heathrow to Istanbul. Turkish Airlines operates daily flights from Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh. Prices from London for business class start from £424. To book visit turkishairlines.com