After spending three weeks in Asia, it was time to head to the next destination on my around the world itinerary – Istanbul. To get there I booked a non-stop flight in business class on Turkish Airlines from Seoul, South Korea.
I had heard good things about Turkish so I was really looking forward to this flight and I wasn’t disappointed! Turkish is now my favorite airline, and after spending two days in Istanbul, I am a little (ok, a lot) obsessed with Turkey. I especially loved Turkish food; I can’t stop talking about the food in Istanbul and can’t wait to get back to Turkey and eat my way around the country.
Check-In and Asiana Lounge at Incheon Airport
The check-in was quick, there wasn’t anyone in line and I breezed through security because it was pretty late at night and the airport was half empty.
Turkish Airlines doesn’t have its own lounge at Incheon, so business class passengers have the option of using the Asiana Airlines business class lounge. The lounge is located on the mezzanine level and the signage wasn’t very clear, so it took me a few minutes to find it. The Asiana lounge looks like a standard, and unremarkable, business class lounge. There are showers, a couple of different sitting areas and a work area with electrical outlets and narrow work desks. I was there around 9 P.M, so the lounge was practically empty.
For food, the Asiana lounge at Incheon airport gets a D grade. The hot food wasn’t hot, what they call “Italian Dressing” was actually plain mayonnaise (I am still baffled by that), and the bread and jam served so late at night looked out of place (why is there breakfast food at 9 P.M.?). The mango salad was clearly the canned variety and tasted like fish. Also, there were cups of instant noodles, which should never be served in an international business class lounge; they just don’t belong there.
The food counter looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in a while, there were grease stains everywhere and the hot food, in addition to being lukewarm, was inedible.
Boarding and Cabin
Boarding started later than the indicated time on the boarding pass, something I later noticed is a regular occurrence with Turkish Airlines, but we boarded through two doors and boarding was completed in 15 minutes.
Turkish flies an older Airbus A330 on its Seoul-Istanbul route with a 2-2-2 configuration in business class. Nevertheless, the business class cabin looked and felt very spacious, and you really got the feeling of lots of open space.
After I found my seat, a flight attendant came around with welcome drinks, including two kinds of delicious lemonade. That’s a welcome change from the standard orange juice and water.
I thought the seats were nice and wide and very comfortable if a bit lacking in privacy and storage space. There’s free limited wifi on board for business class passengers but I found it to be too slow to do anything meaningful. The cabin temperature was a little on the warm side, even for me, and I am always freezing on the plane.
I thought the inflight entertainment system was very good. You get a big screen and a good selection of international and U.S. movies and TV shows.
After take-off and dinner, the crew came around and offered to make up beds with a nice cushy seat pad and a duvet. They even had pillowcases for pillows that were already on the seats. The pillowcases were definitely a nice touch, and something I haven’t seen before.
The amenity kit included the standard assortment of toiletries, eye mask, and earplugs and came in a lovely black bag. We also got a pair of slippers.
Side Note: I always have a pair of slippers with me on long flights, even in economy. It’s so much more comfortable than wearing regular street shoes inflight.
Food in Turkish Business Class
Turkish really knows how to wow you with their dinner service. Shortly after takeoff, an onboard chef, wearing a real chef’s hat, brought out the menus and asked passengers to choose the dinner entree.
First came the beautifully presented trio of appetizers. Don’t mind the askew meatball. After the horrible food in the lounge, I was so hungry I almost took a bite before taking a picture. Trust me, the presentation was pretty.
Then came the salad course. And yes, that’s a little tea light candle on the top right. Candlelight dinner in the sky!
For the main course, I chose the beef and it was delicious!
I don’t eat gluten or dairy so it was fruit for dessert for me.
This was the best meal I have ever had on an airplane!
After the meal service, the crew set up a snack bar with chips, cookies, sandwiches, dried fruit and various kinds of tea. I highly recommend trying the tea; it was delicious and served in a really pretty teacup.
The chef also asked us to choose breakfast ahead of time and when I woke up in the morning they served it within a few minutes.
They forgot my eggs at first, but I made sure to remind the crew because I wanted to try everything.
In spite of the little snafu with my eggs, Turkish Airlines crew gets A+ for food and onboard service!
The New Istanbul Airport
We landed in Istanbul 70 minutes ahead of schedule and taxied for about 10 minutes. Istanbul’s new airport (IST) is huge, and it took me a good 15 minutes to reach immigration. The airport is beautiful, but there are no moving walkways, so wear your walking shoes, as you’ll have to cover some significant distances.
There’s a well-marked shortcut for transit passengers with short connections. So if you are transferring in Istanbul, just follow the signs. All departure monitors display the approximate walking time to the gate, which is a really helpful feature when you are in a hurry.
As it was early in the morning, there was no one at immigration and my bag arrived a few minutes later. The first thing I do when I arrive at any foreign country is to go to an ATM to withdraw money with my trusty Charles Schwab debit card. One ATM-looking machine turned out to be some kind of bill paying machine and not an ATM at all. Thankfully, there was another one just by the currency exchange kiosk. That one worked perfectly. Because Charles Schwab waives ATM fees, I never take out too much cash at a time, especially when I am traveling alone.
The new airport is really far from the city. To get to Istanbul, you can take a bus for about $3 or a taxi for about $25-$30 (depending on traffic). I arrived at 4:00 A.M, I was traveling alone and I had a suitcase, so I opted for the taxi. I’ve read about many ways taxi drivers might scam tourists, so I made sure the driver turned on the meter. Everything went smoothly and I arrived at my hotel about 30 minutes later.
I really enjoyed the flight and especially the food onboard. I loved the seat too – it felt wider and more spacious than seats in other business class cabins I’ve flown in so far. The service was prompt and always with a smile. Turkish Airlines is my favorite airline now, and I can’t wait to go to Turkey again!
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