Date: September 3, 2017
Flight No.: TK80
Route: San Francisco International to Istanbul Ataturk
Airline: Turkish Airlines
Type: Boeing 777-300ER
Flight Duration: 12 hrs 46 min
The last part of my September round-the-world trip included two segments onboard Turkish Airlines’ business class.
The first one of those was a flight from San Francisco to Istanbul. The flight was operated by a Boeing 777-300ER, and at over 6,700 miles and almost 13 hours, it was my longest business class flight to date.
Keep reading to see what the experience was like.
Departing from San Francisco Airport’s International Terminal
The international terminal at San airport must be one of the best US airport terminals – at least it feels so judging from the ones I visited so far. It’s airy, it’s artsy, and it’s very easy to move around.
I arrived there quite early due to my early arrival from Phoenix. So early in fact, that the check-in was still closed. The opening time was 2:30PM – 3 hours and 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time.
I did not check in until around 3PM, though, as I met one of my college friends at the airport before my departure. By that time, the check-in lanes, including the business class and Star Alliance Gold ones, were quite busy.
After receiving boarding passes for both my flight to Istanbul as well as the connecting flight to Delhi, I headed airside. Prior to my departure, I visited EVA Air’s Evergreen Lounge as well as United Club.
As the departure time approached, I headed towards gate G97 where the flight was departing from.
One of the things I love about San Francisco airport is that gates at the airport are decorated with beautiful local paintings – and my departure gate was no exception.
When I was standing close to the gate counter, a staff approached me asking if I could swap a seat with an elder couple who need to sit together.
I asked her if the alternative seat was a window seat as well, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
It was an uneasy situation.
But, I politely told her that I would prefer not to do so as sitting by the window was a important to me. I was really looking forward to enjoying views of Greenland.
She understood and said that she’d try to arrange the swap with other passenger.
Turkish Airlines’ Boeing 777-300ER Business Class Cabin
When it was time to board, I was greeted with a smile by one of the friendly crew members – Canan – at the aircraft’s entrance.
Once I entered the cabin, I was surprised of its spaciousness.
There were just four rows of full flat seats in a “2-3-2” configuration. And, while there was the dreaded middle seat, each of the seats had enormous leg room. At 167 cm tall, I couldn’t reach the ottoman when stretched in my seat, 3K.
Just as I sat down in my seat, the elderly couple from earlier approached me.
The gentleman was assigned as my neighbor, while his wife was assigned an aisle seat in the middle three-seat block two rows behind.
Apparently, the ground agent was not successful in making them sit together.
I let them know once again that I would swap if there was a window seat available. And, even tried asking Canan for help – but, she said the cabin was full and she couldn’t do much.
As such, the lady went back to her seat. But, some minutes later she came back saying she found someone who was willing to switch a window seat. As such, even though it was a bulkhead seat which is not my favorite, I agreed to swap.
Turkish Airlines Business Class Pre-Departure Service
My new seat was 5K in the first row of the second business class cabin.
It turned out that the seat was more or less identical to a non-bulkhead seat, except for a slight difference in the position of the entertainment screen. Luckily, the crew member serving that part of the cabin – Adem – was very friendly as well.
“Hi, my name is Adem and I’ll be looking after you today. Nice to have you onboard,” he said as he went around introducing himself to all the passengers he was responsible for.
Shortly after that, an unusually large menus were handed out. More details about the contents of the menu later, though.
The welcome drink followed. The options provided included water, strawberry juice, orange juice, and rose sherbet which is a traditional drink made with rose petals.
By the time the welcome drink service got to me, all rose sherbet was all taken. And so, I opted for the strawberry juice which included a little piece of fresh strawberry as well. Luckily, however, a second round followed soon, and so I had a chance to try the rose sherbet. It was delicious – no wonder it was the most popular welcome drink!
Once the welcome drink service was finished, amenity kits were distributed. Interestingly, they were Bentley-branded. I had no idea they were in the cosmetics market!
Separately from the amenity kit, there was also a pair of slippers waiting on the ottoman upon boarding. It came in a bag with a note explaining how providing slippers to guests was a Turkish tradition.
The last thing that I was handed before departure was a Denon noise-cancelling headset.
Then, the safety video featuring Zach King was played. The video was quite fun to watch, but I am a bigger fan of one of Turkish’s previous videos that featured Manchester United.
While waiting for our push back, I also had a quick look into the seat pocket and at the IFE remote control which featured a large screen.
Enjoying a Do & Co Business Class Dinner After Departure
We were pushed back from our gate next to a United 747 with some delay. As such, by the time we took off, it was getting quite dark outside.
Nonetheless, we got into the air, and soon after take-off, the service started.
First, chocolates were offered.
Then, it was for a nuts and drink service.
Below is the drink menu. I have to say that I was quite impressed with Turkish’s tea selection…
Since their “Wellness Tea Selections” offering was so unique, I decided to pick one of those teas. After some deliberating, I chose “Comforting Tea” – an ice tea made of rooibos, chamomile, mint, lavender, and date syrup mix.
And the actual taste? Simply sublime.
After the drink service, it was time for the highlight of this flight – the dinner service.
Here, I want to note that besides the usual cabin crew, there were also two so-called “Flying Chefs” onboard. Apparently, they are actual chefs from Do & Co – the catering company providing Turkish Airlines business class (as well as Lufthansa first class and Austrian Airlines business class) meals.
Now, going back to the actual meal service…
First, Canan came to setup the table.
The thing that stood out the most at that point was a candlelight box that Turkish Airlines provides as part of the dinner service. Of course, it wasn’t a real fire but a light. Nonetheless, I found it to be a very nice touch.
As for the dinner itself, here is the menu:
To start with, I opted for the smoked salmon and seafood salad, creamy tomato soup, and garden fresh salad. All of them were very tasty.
For the main dish, I chose a steak.
Although it was delicious, the meat was cooked well-done rather than my favorite medium. At that moment, I realized that according to halal, any meat should be cooked properly without any blood left, so I understood why so.
In spite of that, I enjoyed the steak and I washed it down with a glass of Turkish red wine.
As someone with sweet tooth, the next course – the dessert – was the real “main” for me.
And, Turkish Airlines did not disappoint in this field either.
The desserts were presented beautifully on a cart – allowing each passenger to see the options first before having to choose.
Since I could choose as many items as I wanted, I chose picked a caramel nougat tart, a cheese plate, a chocolate mousse, and a fresh fruit salad.
Actually I wanted to try one more item, but there was no more space to place another plate on my table. First world problems…
All of the desserts were very good, even though the tart was a bit too dry for my liking.
To finish off the meal, I had a cup of Turkish coffee and some Hennessey VSOP.
Turn Down Service & A Lavatory with a View
With the dinner service finished, the crew came around the cabin, turning seats into beds.
Rather than standing around during the bed-making process, I decided to check out one of the lavatories.
It was nicely designed with ivy above the sink – and even a graphic of a window placed on the wall. While it wasn’t quite like some of the 787 lavatories, it was still a lavatory with a view!
On a separate note, the amenities were provided by Molton Brown.
By the time I got back to my seat, the cabin lights were turned off.
Also, my seat was turned into a lie-flat bed with a sleeping mattress, as well as a blanket and a full-sized pillow on top of it.
I have to say that I love the idea of having the mattress as I believe it makes the business class experience much more comfortable and hygienic. Unfortunately, many airlines don’t offer this perk…
The one thing I was worried about – given that the window seats in this configuration lack direct aisle access – was that I would have to disturb my neighbor when going to lavatory. However, it turned out that wasn’t the case since the seat gets quite low when turned into fully flat mode, making it easier to cross over the neighboring seat.
In-Flight Wi-Fi and a Japanese-Turkish Movie
Even though the bed was very comfortable, I could not sleep on this flight. The reason being that I wanted to be sure that I was awake when flying above Greenland.
Not being able to sleep was not a problem though. There was in-flight wi-fi as well as a decent entertainment system – and an excellent crew to take care of me.
In fact, at one point when one of the crew members found out that I was still awake, I was offered a salmon sandwich and a cheesecake. But, since I was still full from the dinner, I declined.
As for the wi-fi, the speed was decent – and it was offered for free to business class passengers as well as Turkish Airlines’ status holders.
Besides testing out the wi-fi, I also browsed through the IFE selection. And, I decided to watch a Japanese-Turkish movie released in 2015 titled Ertuğrul 1890.
The movie is based on a true story, and it’s about an Ottoman navy ship breaking off a Japanese coast. Japanese villagers noticed the ship and helped rescue many sailors that were then able to get back to Turkey onboard another ship.
About 100 years later, during Iran-Iraq War, Saddam Hussein declared that all aircraft flying above Iranian airspace would be shot down. And, at the time there were many Japanese expats living in Tehran.
When the city was starting to get bombarded, many foreigners were able to leave with their governments’ support. However, the Japanese government was responding very slowly, and was unable to provide assistance to their citizens. Hearing this, Turkish government sent a Turkish Airlines aircraft to save Japanese people – remembering the event that had happened in Japan 100 years prior.
It was quite a moving movie that highlighted the historical ties and friendship between the two nations.
Amazing Views While Overflying Greenland
Several hours into the flight, we finally reached the coast of Greenland – the world’s largest island.
I opened the window a bit, and the views were spectacular.
It was just snow white for a while. Then, we reached the eastern coast of the island where we could see glaciers – and even some icebergs.
At that time, the rest of the cabin was asleep. And, once we crossed Greenland, I decided to take a nap as well.
A Slightly Boring Breakfast: Eggs? Or… Eggs?
I woke up after a couple of hours of sleep, and shortly after – about an hour and a half before arrival – the breakfast service commenced.
First, a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice was offered.
And then came the breakfast itself based on the choices I made on my breakfast card before:
Before the main, I received the breakfast tray with a large fruit plate along with some cheese, fresh creamy yoghurt, a croissant, a tasty homemade mixed berry smoothie, and a cup of Turkish lemon tea.
A plate of chicken breast and smoked turkey was missing from the plate, but I didn’t mind that given that I was still not too hungry because of the great dinner.
Once I was done with the fruits, the main dish was served.
I found the choice of eggs (omelet) and (fried) eggs pretty boring and uncreative, to be honest. I decided to go with the omelet since it came with vegetables.
In spite of the underwhelming main dish, I still enjoyed the meal a lot – especially thanks to the yoghurt, smoothie, and croissant which was probably the best one I’ve ever had on a plane.
Cruising Above Europe and Landing in Istanbul
Europe was mostly covered in clouds during the cruise, but as the plane approached the Mediterranean the sky became clear.
At this point, I was playing with the IFE, and I found an interesting feature on the moving map. It was showing the prayer time at the exact location of the plane, as well as the time remaining until the next prayer.
Due to the speed of the aircraft and the position of sun changing frequently, it was interesting to see how the “Time Until Prayer” number kept changing almost every second. It must be really tough to pray at the right time on a plane!
With the breakfast finished we were landing at Istanbul Ataturk airport in no time.
Before landing, I could enjoy some nice views of the Marmara Sea that surrounds the south side of Ataturk airport, as well as Park Florya – a popular plane spotting location in Istanbul.
Due to Ataturk airport’s lack of capacity (a new airport is being built in the city), we parked at a remote spot with a 44-minute delay.
Then, we were bussed to the terminal – which could also be called “Ataturk Zoo” due to its over crowdedness.
Luckily, I had access to Turkish Airlines lounge – a little “oasis in the zoo” – but more on that in the next installment.
Turkish Airlines 777-300ER Business Class Summary
In short, I am a big fan of Turkish Airlines.
They take a great pride in their “Turkish-ness”, and they place importance on attention to detail – including offering free wi-fi service, providing sleeping mattresses, and offering unique a selection of beverage.
On top of that, the great crew members – Canan and Adem – made the flight a very pleasant one. And, while I wished there were some more Turkish options when it came to the food (e.g. kebab), the meal was still top notch.
If I had to mention one negative, it would be the seat.
I had no problem crossing over my neighbor and the seat itself was very comfortable. Still, it would be great to see Turkish Airlines offer direct aisle access for all seats (for example by offering reverse herringbone seats).