Turkish Airlines’ Melbourne flights now start March 1

The Istanbul-Singapore-Melbourne flights will begin two weeks earlier than first planned.

By David Flynn, January 30 2024
Turkish Airlines’ Melbourne flights now start March 1

Turkish Airlines is bringing forward the start of its long-awaited flights to Australia by two weeks, with the first of the 16-hour marathons now departing Istanbul on Friday March 1 (instead of March 15) and touching down in Melbourne on Saturday March 2.

A spokesperson for Turkish Airlines confirmed the change to Executive Traveller – although the Star Alliance member will be running a variety of aircraft across the route’s initial weeks.

The inaugural Istanbul-Singapore-Melbourne flight on Friday March 1 will now rely on a Boeing 777 – a plane that’s far from the first pick of any frequent traveller due to its high levels of cabin noise, as well as Turkish Airlines’ dated 2-3-2 layout, which admittedly does offer lie-flat beds with great legroom, but at the expense of zero privacy plus the dreaded ‘middle seat’ (something which Emirates is also moving away from).

Turkish Airlines' Boeing 777 business class.
Turkish Airlines' Boeing 777 business class.

(As Executive Traveller has previously reported, these seats are expected to be replaced by an all-new bespoke ‘Crystal’ business suite developed by the carrier’s Turkish Cabin Interior arm.)

However, from Wednesday March 6 this jet will change to the superior Boeing 787 Dreamliner with a modern 1-2-1 business class.

Turkish Airlines' Boeing 787 business class.
Turkish Airlines' Boeing 787 business class.

And from the beginning of April, the 787 will make way for an Airbus A350, which many travellers prefer over the Dreamliner.

Seatmaps are showing this as Turkish Airlines’ standard A350 with same business class seats as the Boeing 787, rather than one of the ex-Aeroflot jets now leased by Turkish Airlines which boasts fully-private business class suites with sliding doors.

Turkish Airlines’ Istanbul-Melbourne flights

Commencing March 6, the Star Alliance member will initially run three Boeing 787 flights per week between Istanbul and Melbourne, with a stopover each way in Singapore, although non-stop flights are on the horizon following the airline’s purchase of ultra long-range Airbus A350-1000 jets sporting all-new business class suites.

Flight TK168 will depart Istanbul at 5.30pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, arriving into Singapore at 8.50am the following day; at 10.20am the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will be wheels up and bound for an 8.40pm touchdown at Melbourne.

Flight TK169 will leave Melbourne at 10.30pm every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, setting down at Singapore’s Changi Airport at 3am for 90 minutes of grab-and-go breakfast; then at 4.30am it’s time for the long leg to Istanbul, where the jet will pull up at 11.15am the following day.

Settle in for the 19 to 21-hour journey between Istanbul and Australia.
Settle in for the 19 to 21-hour journey between Istanbul and Australia.

With tickets now on sale, Turkish Airlines chairman Dr Ahmet Bolat said “we are excited to add Melbourne to our flight network as the 346th destination,” while Australia “becomes the 130th country and 6th continent under our wings.”

“Bilateral tourism, trade and business opportunities will boom as we bring Turkish and Australian people closer and the bond between our countries gets stronger.”

For his part, Melbourne Airport Chief of Aviation Jim Parashos said Turkish Airlines’ arrival will provide Australians with easy connections into Türkiye and beyond.

“Istanbul is the only city to straddle two continents and has always been an important trading post, but it is now also one of the most important transit hubs in the world.”

“It’s no surprise that Turkish Airlines has chosen Melbourne as its first Australian destination, given we are home to the nation’s largest Turkish community and our position as the capital of food, sport and culture.”

After years of waiting, Turkish Airlines is finally headed to Australia.
After years of waiting, Turkish Airlines is finally headed to Australia.

However, this doesn’t rule out the prospect of flights from Istanbul to Sydney, especially since Australian government in December 2023 approved a total of 21 flights per week – tripling the previous allocation of seven flights per week between Australia and Türkiye – with immediate effect.

This covers not only Sydney and Melbourne but also Brisbane, Perth and the new Western Sydney airport opening in 2026, with room for further growth to 28 flights per week from October 2024 and 35 per week from October 2025.

Turkish Airlines intends to ramp up the debut flight frequency from three services to five services per week, and eventually daily flights to both Melbourne and Sydney “is our strategic target,” Bolat told Executive Traveller on a visit to Australia in July 2023.

In addition, Turkish Airlines will also be able to sell a single leg of its Istanbul-Singapore-Melbourne route, such as Istanbul-Singapore and Melbourne-Singapore, under what the aviation industry terms a ‘fifth freedom right’: something chairman Bolat had previously described as “really a crucial factor” for the Australian route.

This will open up another option for Melbourne-Singapore travellers on a corridor already crowded by Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Emirates, along with low-cost carriers Jetstar and Scoot.

And with flights to Australia now on the way, Turkish Airlines is targetting top-tier Qantas Platinum Frequent Flyers with a free status match to Turkish Airlines Elite Gold.

The Turkish Airlines experience

Turkish Airlines is held in high regard by business class travellers, with one highlight of the journey being “restaurant quality” gourmet meals prepared by the airline’s signature Flying Chefs – and yes, they’re actual chefs, not cabin crew wearing a fancy hat.

Turkish Airlines Airbus A350 & Boeing 787 business class.
Turkish Airlines Airbus A350 & Boeing 787 business class.

Turkish Airlines’ Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s each have flatbed business class seats in the same design as Singapore Airlines’ Airbus A350 and Boeing 787-10 ‘regional business class’.

These seats are arranged 1-2-1 to provide privacy and direct aisle access for every passenger, with an 18-inch video screen plus free inflight WiFi.

Turkish Airlines Airbus A350 & Boeing 787 business class.
Turkish Airlines Airbus A350 & Boeing 787 business class.

That said, new business class suites are on the way, which has been developed by Turkish Airlines under the codename Crystal and are expected to be revealed in May this year.

Melbourne to Istanbul, via Singapore

Ahead of their 10.30pm flight out of from Melbourne, Turkish Airlines business class passengers – along with Elite and Elite Plus members of the airline’s Miles&Smiles loyalty program, and their Star Alliance Gold equivalents – should enjoy access to the lounges of fellow Star Alliance carriers Air New Zealand or Singapore Airlines, depending on the opening hours of those lounges.

During their Singapore stopovers at Changi Airport’s Terminal 1 – the same terminal as used by Qantas and Emirates, among others – those same premium travellers will break their journey at T1’s SATS Lounge.

There'll be plenty of time for sleeping on flights between Australia and Istanbul.
There'll be plenty of time for sleeping on flights between Australia and Istanbul.

The long leg between Singapore and Istanbul will take around 11 hours, with a total Melbourne-Istanbul travel time of around 21 hours including the Singapore stopover.

From Istanbul, of course, scores of convenient TK connections spear out across Europe, the UK and Africa.

Turkish Airlines offers an extensive network of flights across Europe and the UK.
Turkish Airlines offers an extensive network of flights across Europe and the UK.

For stopovers at Türkiye’s impressive new Istanbul Airport between six and 24 hours, the airline offers two free packages for exploring the sprawling city, which straddles both Europe and Asia on either side of the Bosporus: a choice between eight city tours, and a more comprehensive Stopover in Istanbul program including a complimentary stay of up to two nights in a five-star hotel.

Turkish Airlines’ Istanbul Airport hub features two stunning lounges – one for business class travellers, the other for frequent flyers holding Elite and Elite Plus status in Turkish Airlines’ Miles&Smiles program (and their Star Alliance Gold equivalents).

One of Turkish Airlines' two flagship lounges at Istanbul.
One of Turkish Airlines' two flagship lounges at Istanbul.

Non-stop flights to follow...

In December 2023 Turkish Airlines signed a blockbuster airplane order worth more than US$40 billion at sticker price for over 200 Airbus jets – with options for over 100 more – includes 60 A350-900s and 15 A350-1000s.

The A350-1000 forms the basis for Qantas’ planned non-stop marathons connecting Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York, albeit with modifications such as an additional fuel tank and a weight-saving ‘premium-heavy’ seating configuration compared to standard A350-1000 jets in order to travel the 17,000km between Sydney/Melbourne and London.

However, the 15,000km distance between Sydney/Melbourne and Istanbul falls within the range of the standard A350-1000, especially since Airbus recently boosted the twinjet’s scope to almost 16,500km.

Bolat said those jets would also fly to South American destinations such as Santiago and Bueno Aires.

Turkish Airlines Airbus A350 & Boeing 787 business class.
Turkish Airlines Airbus A350 & Boeing 787 business class.

Bolat’s ambition to connect Istanbul and Australia is a long-held one, noting the airline “carried 120,837 passengers in 2019 and 118,847 passengers in 2022 with airlines with codeshare agreements from Australia, where we do not have direct flights yet.”

Several months ago, Bolat also suggested to Turkish media outlet Hürriyet Daily News that Aussie actress Margot Robbie might become the new face of the Star Alliance carrier, in a move timed to capitalise the start of Australian flights.

“We are currently in discussions with Australian actress Margot Robbie. We plan to bring her to Türkiye a week before the flight and explore various places, including the historic site of Göbeklitepe.”

Margot Robbie: soon to be a Barbie girl, living in a Turkish Airlines world?
Margot Robbie: soon to be a Barbie girl, living in a Turkish Airlines world?

After star turns in everything from dramas Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and The Wolf of Wall Street to the Suicide Squad superhero franchise and this year’s smash hit Barbie, Queensland-born Robbie’s profile has never been higher.

Previous global advertising campaigns from Turkish Airlines have featured brand ambassadors such as sportsmen Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi and actors Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman.

Enjoy lounge access, extra baggage and other top frequent flyer perks on Turkish Airlines with this fast track to Star Alliance Gold status.

Hopefully, TK start flying sooner, rather than later. Such a quality airline and on board catering along with outstanding hard and soft product, wonderful airport experience and network makes it a wonderful option.

Bring it on, TK, first with flights via Singapore and then non-stop flights to & from Istanbul. Interesting to read the A350s now have a comfortable margin to handle those non-stop Sydney & Melbourne flights. I wonder if TK will bring back first class or even premium economy? First class probably isn't needed if business class is good enough, and with TK that's pretty much the case in terms of f&b and service, they just need proper business class suites like the Qsuite. But you'd have to think there would be a decent market for premium economy these days, especially on those l-o-n-g non-stop flights.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 48

Hopefully no issue getting Australian Government approval to land in Australia. The more competition the better and I would be more than happy to fly with them.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 687

Ambitious of Turkish Airlines, as they'll be going head-to-head with Singapore Airlines on the MEL-IST and SYD-IST sectors.  

16 Feb 2017

Total posts 28

So unclear as to why Turkish feel they'd be 'entitled' to have 5th freedom rights between AU and SG. A most valuable route - what's in it for Australia in terms of Turkish getting a piece of the action ? 

01 Dec 2012

Total posts 52

What's in it for Australia? Try greater competition, more services, more product choice, cheaper airfares across classes. 

16 Feb 2017

Total posts 28

In which case let's allow Turkish to also have unlimited Melbourne Sydney too ? Why stop there. How about Istanbul - Sydney - Haneda, and Istanbul - Sydney - LAX while they're at it. Would tick all same boxes. 

HI ...WHAT GREAT NEWS......we always fly TK IST to TLS as we live in SW France...sooooo convenient ...and NO CDG!!!...and no need for a bcn flight and issues with cross border rental cars!!

Great to see a bit more competition but be prepared for a bit of angst with their website- very frustrating drop-outs without any explanation, particularly at payment page. On one occasion I had to try four different cards, and each time the booking aborted I had to go through the booking process again right from the start. Also there are limited options for connecting flights to IST from European cities on full service airlines, apart from TK of course.

22 Jan 2019

Total posts 13

They already do have approval for a daily flight, but not flights (7 v 14)  which is what they want apparently. As of July no application to increase this number or any of the other approvals required had been received. So any issues ariound 5th freedom haven't formally been asked ( as of July anyway). The government 'scuppering' in December, seem to be self inflicted by premature PR.  

https://australianaviation.com.au/2023/07/turkish-airlines-yet-to-apply-for-australian-flights-says-minister/

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Aug 2023

Total posts 1

Great news.    At the end of June 2024 we're flying TK business IST-BKK, then JQ "business" back home to MEL. Would be awesome if we could just take TK all the way - fingers crossed!

08 Jul 2015

Total posts 25

Is it just me or is this story/ release on regular rotation?

 I seem to recall a few previous versions of their “ imminent” service commencement closely followed by another story of Govt approval or disapproval or some complication.  

Hope they get to Aust eventually but I won’t hold my breath.  

26 Sep 2023

Total posts 4

The hardest working person in aviation is TK's Australian publicist.

I get that they would want to capitalise on the European summer but March 2024 seems awfully close to launch an entire new market and brand campaign, particularly with the scheduling of one of the world's most in-demand names.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Aug 2015

Total posts 43

what's the most in demand name ? 

22 Sep 2017

Total posts 79

The seven flights to MEL and SYD might be a "triangle" route.  Going the indirect way would still be better than the full SYD transit experience from domestic to international.

CX

16 May 2015

Total posts 21

I think the problem that TK face is the distance between IST, and MEL or SYD. It is further than AKL-DOH and the QATAR flight which is/was the world's longest. If TK stops in SIN then unless you are going to Turkey it will take longer to reach your destination than a one-stop middle eastern, Asian or N.American carrier. If you are going on to Europe you will have two stops on TK with a change in IST. TK has a good product and I enjoy flying them, but their IST hub is just too far for Australasian passengers.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

19 Jul 2014

Total posts 28

Bring them on. More competition is urgently needed, TK is a well managed company with attention on clients, unlike Qantass.

06 Jan 2017

Total posts 14

How many airlines and how many flights do you need to provide competition and lower fares, we have dozens or airlines and 100’s of flights already.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 669

Mediocre airline on the ground and hit n miss in the air, super crowded lounges. Positives, they have a proper J class recliner seat intra EU with good catering and also the competition factor out of Australia...may go some way in taming the outrageous Qantas premium fares a tad.

30 May 2018

Total posts 33

Except that Turkey is not ‘intra-EU’. 

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 418

I think Joe means 'EU' as short-hand for Europe the continent, not the 'European Union' itself.

02 Jun 2013

Total posts 55

Based on latest Turkish Airlines schedule updates on the IST-SIN route for 2024, I think we can work out part of their new Australian schedule.

They have just published a 3x weekly additional A350 service with a suspiciously long layover in Singapore - enough time to get to somewhere in Australia and back.

If correct it will be a daytime flight SIN-Australia and overnight flight back - TK154/155, obviously connecting onwards to/from IST.

BA Gold

01 Apr 2012

Total posts 188

I think it is bizarre that despite launching flights in just over three months time they still have decided what city to fly to.

You would think they'd want to get some tickets on sale ASAP!

13 Jul 2016

Total posts 3

It feels like Turkish airlines are enjoying teasing everyone with tid bits of speculation - and this speculation leading to ongoing media coverage (which they're benefiting off). Would be good for them to actually committ to a timeframe, as opposed to this ongoing "will they" "when will they" etc. A Turkish airlines article about Australia seems to be every month.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jun 2017

Total posts 49

the singapore "regional business" class seat is pretty uncomfortable (it's fine for a daytime flight to SIN, but not really good to sleep in!).. wouldn't think is a suitable ultra-long haul flight product at all on a direct MEL/SYD-IST flight!

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 951

Could this be another Star Alliance partner for VA? 

I'd fly Turkish Airline with some of the best connections around Europe.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 687

Good question, have been thinking (wondering?) the same, IST is one seriously convenient hub into both Western Europe and the Mediterranean.  I know someone who bought an 8 BR house in IST for that purpose by his family (much cheaper than London or Paris).  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 165

And they offer 2x2 on narrow bodies, so also the most comfortable in Europe as well as well connected.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

27 Feb 2015

Total posts 18

I will now cross my fingers that AMEX adds Miles and Smiles. The devaluation from MR to Krisflyer would make Turkish an intriguing competitor.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 951

This might be a really stupid question but how did Turkish Airlines succeed when Qatar failed to gain extra flights?

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 242

No doubt the public scrutiny brought to bear on the Government's QR decision and its overall bilateral agreements has helped push things along for TK, to the point where it wanted 14 flights/week and actually got 21/week! The Government has also said that QR was invited to re-apply for additional flights and I think QR said it would be doing so, so I wouldn't be shocked to see QR get more flights soon too.

01 Dec 2012

Total posts 52

Amazing. Permitted TK flights rise to 35 a week by 2025, more than Qatar's current 28. Flexible decision-making criteria, obviously.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Dec 2011

Total posts 22

Dunno about flying TK, but i can tell you that the Istanbul J lounge is the best I've seen anywhere - Way better than SQ in Changi

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Aug 2015

Total posts 43

 Meaning of fifth freedom flight : you travel on a plane belonging to an airline from neither your origin nor destination

Your article quotes these flights. Qantas Sydney, Auckland New York.. And Sydney,Singapore,London... so thats wrong.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 464

No, you're completely wrong. A fifth freedom flight allows passengers to embark from, or disembark at, an airport in an intermediate country which is neither the country of the flight's origin nor destination.  Don't believe the crap that the internet feeds you.  The article even quotes the exact wording from the government agreement, with emphasis on the word "intermediate":  

“designated airline(s) may exercise fifth freedom traffic rights at two (2) intermediate points of choice in South Asia, South East Asia and/or the Middle East.”

19 Sep 2017

Total posts 10

Business class hard product on TK 787/350 is not strong enough, just the same as SQ medium-haul. As TK said, it may focus more on leisure market rather than business market. So It’s interesting to see TK picks SIN as the stopover but not BKK: TK has its own lounge in BKK; AU-TH market with less  competition due to weak TG; Thailand itself is a popular destination for Australian/European and supply never meet demand. 

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 669

I think they will be popular with the European June-August summer leisure destinations like Istanbul, Athens, Rome and Beirut, as I'm sure their fares will be competitive.

20 Sep 2017

Total posts 9

I see that Turkish Airlines flies the A320 to London from Türkiye and I was wondering how those seats in Business Class compare to the seats on the widebody planes that, I assume, would fly to Singapore and Australia? Does anyone have any experience? 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

04 Sep 2015

Total posts 19

So the government says it is ok for Turkish air but Qatar can get knotted for extra slots, can’t understand the logic, or maybe Qatar did not offer the powers that be a lounge pass?

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 418

Not quite, QR was denied extra slots before TK made its application. The government badly fumbled the TK application process and on the back of what happened with QR it re-visited the TK application and went all-in with more slots than even TK had asked for. In the same vein QR has been invited to re-apply, which it has said it will do, and it's highly likely that the government will this time around grant QR those extra slots too.

WML
WML

15 Feb 2023

Total posts 4

Selfishly, I would much prefer Turkish to fly via BKK than SIN. TK on board service (at least in J) superior. QF and TG need the competition. Also, magnificent J lounge in IST

13 Sep 2022

Total posts 8

"There's a very good reason why top international airlines such as Emirates and Qatar choose Melbourne as their first Australian destination, and we look forward to Turkish Airlines joining that list." This may be true, but then those airlines go on to fly to Sydney and end up adding more flights and capacity to Sydney than Melbourne. Wouldn't be surprised if the same thing happens with Turkish Airlines.

QFP

22 Jan 2013

Total posts 98

Wish they would go through Bangkok, we need some competition on that sector.  

03 Jan 2024

Total posts 1

I'm about to book a flight from Melbourne to Malta via code share with Malaysian Airlines leaving early June, will they change flying all the way with TK once they start flying out of Melbourne? 

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2560

You'd best speak with the airline about that.

01 Jul 2021

Total posts 35

This is the biggest win for Australian aviation since Perth-London started.

01 Jun 2017

Total posts 16

From load and commercial perspectives, SIN makes sense to be selected as the stop-over choice despite numerous airlines operating this route.  Agree that BKK needs some competition plus BKK has 3 daily flights from IST.  The timing for the return leg will make MEL - SIN sector rather unpopular given it will land in SIN at 3:00am. The other option is for MEL-SIN to depart around 02:00am arriving SIN 08:00 and this dovetails nicely into the original SIN-IST leg of 10:20 - 17:05.  However this will be in direct competition with EK as well as the SIN-MEL sector. Once TK receive their A350s, direct IST-MEL-IST will make a one-stop hop to Europe much closer than having to do 2 stops now i.e. SIN and IST but it is definitely a good start and win for now.  

22 Sep 2017

Total posts 79

3am isn't too bad when your body thinks it's 6am.  Just don't turn the lights on at 1am for an unnecessary breakfast service.  However I'd say the popular circa-midnight departure from MEL is still the best option - no need to rush from dinner but also arriving early enough for a coffee before a full day's work or a connecting flight.

17 Nov 2016

Total posts 15

I've checked several dates over the year and with fares for $15k to Europe in J and nearly $3k in Y, they won't last very long.  

01 Jun 2017

Total posts 16

It looks like this flight is in addition to the IST - SIN flights.  TK is already doing 2x daily IST - SIN.  These 3 MEL (via SIN) flights will be additional the double daily SIN flights. This makes sense the MEL - SIN - IST will be tailored more for travellers going straight to IST than making SIN as the final stop.  The MEL - SIN traveller will be arriving SIN at 3:00am and passengers to IST from SIN will be boarding at 04:30am - not the best timing. 

05 Apr 2017

Total posts 18

So unless I have misread this (and its not 1 April) we are talking about three different aircraft types (777, 787 and A350) with three different configurations and seat products all within the first four weeks of startup ?  Incredible planning.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jul 2017

Total posts 30

I must in part concur with Joe on Turkish Airlines. New flights to Istanbul look positive but from previous experience last year flight within

Europe lousy. Crapped out A320 where the Business class seat is in Economy with middle seat blocked, food and onboard service was terrible. The new Istanbul airport is extremely large and getting between flights entails walking some kms. Added to the fact that the airport is some distance from the City Centre involves either a very start from your Hotel or staying in the Yotel at the airport. I will stay with Qatar or Emirates if I need to revisit there.

31 Dec 2014

Total posts 46

Before anyone gets too carried away, TK have just in the last day or two announced a massive devaluation of its Frequent Flyer program (erroneously) called Miles and Smiles.

Not only have the miles required for many flights increased, but now connections (though IST) are priced as two flights rather than one. For example, what was previously priced as Europe 1 to Oceania is now Europe 1 to IST PLUS IST to Oceania. This nearly doubles the cost of many redemption flights. Even at the current rates I just priced a redemption ARN-MIL in J and the cost of taxes etc is more than a fully paid revenue J ticket which is a direct flight rather than transiting through IST and spending time in their noisy and crowded lounge.

This is the last straw for me. After about 10 years as TK Elite (*A Gold) I'll be looking for alternatives.


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