Turkish Airlines is one of my favorite airlines. I’ve flown in its business-class cabin a couple of times over the last few years. I like the seats, the service and the food onboard, and the lounges in Istanbul are stellar.

One thing I don’t like about Turkish Airlines is its phone customer service. I’d never had to interact with an agent until a few months ago, and it wasn’t the best experience. After experiencing their phone support, you feel like you’re dealing with two different airlines: a bad one on the phone and a great one in the air.

Recently, my husband and I flew from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Budapest, Hungary (BUD), with a connection in Istanbul (IST). We had to deal with a schedule change, which required a few phone calls, but other than the frustrating part dealing with the call center, we had a great experience. Here’s our flight review of Turkish Airlines Boeing 777 from Washington DC to Budapest.

How I Booked Turkish Airlines Business Class

Turkish Airlines offers great award rates from the U.S. to Europe—you can book a one-way award in business class for just 45,000 miles. There isn’t a co-branded credit card for U.S. consumers that earns Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles miles, but Turkish is a transfer partner of Capital One Venture Miles and Citi ThankYou Points.

I’d been planning a trip to Budapest for a while, so when Turkish Airlines announced a 30% discount on award flights in December 2021, I had to jump on this fantastic redemption.

I transferred my Citi ThankYou Points that I had earned by opening the Citi Premier® Card to Miles&Smiles (the transfer took about 36 hours) and booked two one-way business-class seats from Washington to Budapest with a connection in Istanbul for just 31,500 miles each.

We were supposed to fly on the newer Boeing 787 Dreamliner with the 1-2-1 seat configuration in business class. That would’ve been my first time flying this cabin as all my previous flights were in the older 2-3-2 business class cabins on the Boeing 777.

However, a few months after booking, Turkish changed the time of the flight and the aircraft type from Istanbul to Budapest. The airline didn’t rebook us on another flight, and this is where the really frustrating part kicked in.

I called the customer service line. Thankfully, the hold times were reasonable, and the agent said we’d have to be rebooked on the later flight out of Washington. That flight sadly is operated on an older Boeing 777 aircraft, but we didn’t have a choice other than canceling the whole itinerary.

The agent couldn’t complete the booking and provide me with updated eTicket numbers. He said he’d pass on the reservation to some “special department” that will get back to me in no more than 48 hours.

You can probably guess where I am going with this story. A week went by, and I still hadn’t received a new confirmation with an eTicket number, so I called again.

I was told the same line about some “special department” and after I explained that I’d heard it all before, I was again assured that my request would be processed in 48 hours. As the departure date was quickly approaching, I called back, and this time I got an agent who was able to reissue the ticket and email me the new eTicket.

However, that’s not the end of this story. Because I’d booked my husband on a separate reservation, she wasn’t able to do anything about his ticket, as she could take care of only one request per phone call, she said.

A few more days went by, and I called for the fourth time, and this time firmly asked to talk to a supervisor or someone who can reissue my husband’s ticket immediately. I got some pushback and the usual “We’ll pass it on to a special department” line, but I was insistent. The agent said he’d try to reach the supervisor and put me on hold, after which my call was dropped.

I found a feedback form on Turkish Airlines website and emailed customer service. Something must have worked because I got an email with my husband’s eTicket number the next day.

Why was I so worried about getting the eTicket numbers when I already had the reservation codes? Having just the reservation code is not enough—it doesn’t mean that the reservation had been fully ticketed. You should always get the eTicket number to make sure that the reservation was ticketed correctly.

United Polaris Lounge at Washington-Dulles

All terminals at Washington-Dulles are connected airside, so after we checked in for our flight, we headed over to the Polaris lounge. The lounge just opened a few months ago, so it still looks and feels brand new.

United Polaris Lounge at Washington-Dulles

United Polaris Lounge at Washington-Dulles

Turkish Airlines has its own lounge in Washington, and it was one of the best lounges in the Dulles Airport before the new Polaris lounge opened. The Turkish Airlines lounge can also be accessed with a Priority Pass Select membership, so it could get extremely crowded.

United’s Polaris lounges have no rivals in the U.S. They feature fine dining, amazing showers with hotel-like amenities, beautiful restrooms, an amazing-looking bar, lots of comfortable chairs and even napping pods.

Only business-class passengers flying on long-haul international business class on Star Alliance carriers are allowed in, which means the Polaris lounges are typically less crowded.

If you have a domestic connection on the way home from abroad, and you flew in United Polaris business class to the U.S., you’re allowed to access a Polaris lounge on your connection, even if the last domestic segment is in economy. This doesn’t apply to passengers arriving in the United States on Star Alliance partner flights.

sit-down dining room at United Polaris Lounge in Washington-Dulles

The sit-down dining room at United Polaris Lounge in Washington-Dulles

There’s also a buffet if you’re short on time, but the food is much better in the sit-down dining room.


at United Polaris Lounge in Washington-Dulles

We had a great dinner in the sit-down restaurant.

food menu at United Polaris Lounge

And I love the fun signature cocktail names you can find there, such as Beet the Jet Lag and Pick Me Up.

Polaris lounge cocktail offerings

No visit to the Polaris lounge is complete without taking a shower, of course.

Polaris lounge shower

Polaris lounge shower

The lounge is open till 10 p.m., but the showers close one hour earlier. So when I headed over there at 8:30 p.m., I was told I was going to be their last customer because they were cleaning and wrapping up for the night. Keep that in mind if you have a late flight.

Boarding and Cabin

Turkish Airlines boarding and cabin

Although technically the boarding was supposed to start exactly one hour before the flight, I have yet to see Turkish Airlines start the boarding process on time. Knowing this, we arrived at the gate a little after the boarding time stated on our boarding passes and still had to wait.

Business-class passengers boarded first, and then the rest of the passengers boarded by row numbers. In the end, our flight was delayed by 40 minutes, significantly cutting into our two-hour connection in Istanbul, which made me a little nervous.

A pillow, a small blanket and a pair of slippers were placed on each seat. While the boarding was still in process, we were offered Turkish Airlines lemonade.

Shortly after takeoff, the flight attendants passed around amenity kits. Women got the lovely little beige cosmetic bags by the French design house of Coccinelle, and men got the green plaid pouches by the British man’s brand Hackett. The contents were almost identical and included the usual suspects, such as an eye mask, socks, ear plugs and some essential toiletries.

Turkish Airlines Women’ Amenity Kit
Turkish Airlines Men’s Amenity Kit

Turkish Airlines Women’ Amenity Kit

Turkish Airlines Men’s Amenity Kit

In spite of the outdated seat arrangement, I still like the old business-class cabin. It feels airy and spacious, and I find the seats to be comfortable if a bit lacking in storage space. There’s a large storage compartment in the footrest, but it’s not very handy, especially when the seat is in the lie-flat position.

After dinner was served, the flight attendants worked quickly to make everyone’s seat into a bed with a nice mattress pad, a fresh pillow case and a nice, warm blanket. Both my husband and I found the cabin temperature to be comfortable both for sleeping and for lounging around.

Turkish Airlines business class

Business class passengers get up to 1GB of free Wi-Fi on board. I’d call the speed acceptable for basic things like using the messenger apps, Facebook, etc.

Food and Drink

Istanbul to Budapest Flight menu

One of the best parts of flying Turkish Airlines is the in-flight catering. A couple of chefs on board prepared everyone’s meals, and the food service is back to where it was pre-COVID, including the pre-meal hot towels.

After the flight attendants placed the white tablecloths on our tables, they brought out the drink orders and some warm nuts.

Wine selection aboard a Turkish Airlines flight

Wine selection aboard a Turkish Airlines flight

I really liked my appetizer, but the steak main course wasn’t my favorite. The meat was a bit tough, bland and underseasoned. My husband ordered the ravioli, and his meal was much better.

Turkish Airlines meal
Turkish Airline meal

The Turkish desserts were delicious, and I always get one of the specialty teas offered on board.

Turkish desserts

Breakfast was served about 90 minutes before landing. My omelet was pretty good, and my husband said his pancakes were delicious as well.

Istanbul Airport Business Class Lounge

Istanbul Airport Business Class Lounge

The Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge was closed for a couple of years, but it’s finally reopened. It’s a beautiful big lounge that has showers and small sleeping rooms for passengers with long connections (more than six hours). I didn’t have a chance to take a picture, but I did peek into one that was open, and it looked like a small hotel room.

The showers at the business lounge also had hotel-like amenities and were a welcome sight after a 10-hour flight.

Turkish Airlines business lounge showers

The food was, as always, delicious, especially the lentil soup, which is a must-try in Turkey.

lentil soup

If you like pasta, you’ll love Turkish manti (tiny dumplings).

The chefs were busy at work preparing pasta and Turkish pide (flatbread) to order.

The huge tea station had a variety of loose-leaf teas, and a barista at the coffee station can prepare any coffee drink you can imagine.

tea and coffee station

There’s even a cute kids’ play area.

Istanbul airport business class lounge kids play area

Istanbul to Budapest Flight

Istanbul to Budapest Flight

After a quick 90-minute connection, it was time to head to our gate for the final flight to Budapest. Istanbul airport is huge, so always leave yourself enough time to get to the gate and wear comfortable shoes—you’ll be walking a lot. To nobody’s surprise, the boarding started almost 30 minutes later than the time indicated on the boarding pass.

The seats in business class on the Istanbul-Budapest flight were similar to the U.S. domestic first class, and the cabin was quite dated. The service, as is customary on Turkish Airlines, was great, and they managed to serve a full meal, including an appetizer and a main course, on the two-hour flight.

Turkish Airlines menu
Istanbul to Budapest Flight menu
Istanbul to Budapest Flight menu

I’m always amazed at what foreign airlines manage to do on short flights—quite the contrast with the U.S. domestic flights of similar length.

Final Thoughts

In spite of rebooking headaches, I still love Turkish Airlines for its great in-flight service and good food. I find the seats to be comfortable. And now that the business-class lounge at the Istanbul airport has finally reopened, the connections there will be a lot more comfortable than before.

Budapest is not an easy city to get to from the East Coast. Considering Turkish Airlines’ great award chart, I’d definitely consider booking an award with Turkish Airlines if I were to go to Central Europe again.