Review: what it’s like to fly Turkish Airlines business class

The long-awaited arrival of Turkish Airlines brings fresh five-star style to the skies…

By David Flynn, March 13 2024
Review: what it’s like to fly Turkish Airlines business class

Turkish Airlines is now flying between Melbourne and Istanbul three times a week, directly connecting Australia to the historical European city founded almost 3,000 years ago as Byzantium – later Constantinople – and which today sprawls across both Europe and Asia, connected by and straddling the Bosporus Strait.

The 16-hour journey includes a quick stopover in Singapore, although non-stop flights are on the cards for 2026.

And before then, indeed by the end of this year, Turkish Airlines plans to spread its wings to Sydney.

For now, however, here’s what you can expect on the 16-hour marathon in Turkish Airlines business class.

Turkish Airlines raises the standard for international business class flights.
Turkish Airlines raises the standard for international business class flights.

Turkish Airlines’ Melbourne-Istanbul flights

At the time of writing, Turkish Airlines flight TK169 leaves 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; come 4:30am it’s time for the long leg to Istanbul, where the jet pulls up at 11:15am the following day.

TK168 departs Istanbul at 5.30pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, arriving into Singapore at 8.50am the following day; at 10.20am it’s wheels up and bound for an 8:40pm touchdown at Melbourne.

Turkish Airlines’ Singapore stopover

Until Turkish Airlines launches its non-stop flights between Istanbul and Australia, both the Melbourne-Istanbul and Istanbul-Melbourne flights make a short stopover at Singapore’s Changi Airport.

It’s a similar deal to the Qantas and British Airways flights to and from London: you’ll leave the plane (taking all your cabin bags and belongings with you) for a quick refresh while the aircraft is refuelled, new supplies of food and drink loaded, and the cabin made ready for the next onwards leg.

  • the Melbourne-Istanbul flight TK169 arrives at Singapore’s Changi Airport at 3am and departs at 4:30am
  • the Istanbul-Melbourne flight TK168 arrives at Singapore’s Changi Airport at 8:50am and departs at 10:20am

On both legs you’re looking at a quick 90-minute pit stop – and allowing for the time to walk from the gate to the main part of the terminal and the lounge, and walk back again ahead of the mandatory at-the-gate security check, you’d be lucky to have 60 minutes of actual downtime.

That’s enough time for a wander around this always-buzzing terminal, or calling into the lounge – which for these TK flights is the Marhaba Lounge at Terminal 1 – for a bite of breakfast, a cup of coffee and a shower – but not, we suspect, all three.

Turkish Airlines’ business class seat

For the rest of March, Turkish Airlines’ Melbourne flights will rely on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner – but as of April, they shift to an Airbus A350-900.

While many travellers prefer the A350 over the Dreamliner, both planes sport the same flatbed business class seat: a curved high-walled pod in a 1-2-1 layout with a pleasing degree of privacy, despite lacking sliding doors (those are coming in Turkish Airlines’ next-gen ‘Crystal’ business class).

Turkish Airlines business class.
Turkish Airlines business class.

It’s actually the same model seat as Singapore Airlines’ medium range ‘regional’ business class seen on the Singaporean flag-carrier’s Boeing 787-10 fleet and some of its Airbus A350s.

Turkish Airlines business class.
Turkish Airlines business class.

Finished in a dark colour scheme with hints of copper, these seats have all the mod cons you’d expect: AC/USB power, a decent degree of personal space, a ‘Do Not Disturb’ button, a handy mirror and a small cabinet for stowing everything from your Kindle or a small tablet to reading glasses, passport and what-not.

Turkish Airlines business class.
Turkish Airlines business class.

Each Turkish Airlines business class seat fold reclines to a 1.9m lie-flat bed with an adequately -sized nook for your feet, as long as you prefer to sleep on your back rather than your side.

Turkish Airlines business class.
Turkish Airlines business class.

However, while travellers receive an upmarket Ferragamo amenity kit and comfy slippers, you’ll need to bring your own PJs or other lightweight clothes for sleeping.

Turkish Airlines business class amenity kit.
Turkish Airlines business class amenity kit.
Turkish Airlines business class: BYO sleepwear.
Turkish Airlines business class: BYO sleepwear.

If you’re travelling with a partner, select one of the paired E and F middle seats which are closest together.

Turkish Airlines business class: the E and F seats are closest together.
Turkish Airlines business class: the E and F seats are closest together.

If you’re flying solo and want maximum privacy, a window seat (A or K) in any of the even-numbered rows (specifically rows 2, 4, 6 and 8) puts the side-table between your seat and the aisle – although while these are technically ‘window seats’, your view to the outside world will be partially blocked by the curved ‘wing’ of the seat’s frame.

Turkish Airlines business class.
Turkish Airlines business class.

And if you can, grab seat 1A or 1K: in prime spot at the very first row of the business class cabin, they have a larger foot-cubby than the other seats...

Turkish Airlines business class foot nooks: 1A and 1K (left) vs all other seats (right).
Turkish Airlines business class foot nooks: 1A and 1K (left) vs all other seats (right).

... while also making available this additional bench space where you can plonk your laptop bag during the flight.

Turkish Airlines business class: extra space at seats 1A and 1K.
Turkish Airlines business class: extra space at seats 1A and 1K.

Turkish Airlines ‘Flying Chefs’

Perhaps above all else, Turkish Airlines’ business class is famed for its meals – most specifically the ‘Flying Chefs’ program, developed in partnership with Austrian catering colossus Do & Co and which sees trained chefs serving up true restaurant-grade fare above the clouds alongside cabin crew.

Flying Chefs are the cornerstone of Turkish Airlines' business class dining.
Flying Chefs are the cornerstone of Turkish Airlines' business class dining.

Even the dinner setting attests to Turkish Airlines’ attention to detail, with an elongated side plate for olive oil, bread, butter and dukkah, and a small paper lantern containing a flickering LED ‘candle’.

Turkish Airlines business class dining.
Turkish Airlines business class dining.

Dinner on our flight from Istanbul to Melbourne via Singapore began with the appearance of an appetiser-laden trolley which added to the sense of theatre and evoked a ‘how things used to be’ vibe.

Turkish Airlines business class dining.
Turkish Airlines business class dining.

Starters on offer – with enough on hand so passengers could make several choices – included

  • smoked salmon with horseradish 
  • octopus and prawn salad
  • Taramosalata cured fish roe spread
  • marinated artichokes
  • white cheese and cherry tomatoes salad with mint and oregano
  • Turkish pastrami and cheese pastries
  • olive salad with pomegranate
  • fennel and celeriac soup served with rosemary pide
Turkish Airlines business class starters: fennel and celeriac soup, and smoked salmon.
Turkish Airlines business class starters: fennel and celeriac soup, and smoked salmon.

You could easily graze your way through a generous selection of them all, but that’d mean forgoing on the mains, which on our flight from Istanbul included

  • mixed kebabs of beef and chicken with roasted eggplant, grilled tomato end green peppers, served with Turkish pide bread
  • teriyaki salmon served with marinated greens on a bed of Japanese rice 
  • tagliolini pasta with burrata, slow-roasted tomato sauce and fresh basil
Turkish Airlines business class main course: tagliolini pasta.
Turkish Airlines business class main course: tagliolini pasta.

Rounding it all off, the trolley made another appearance in the aisle, this time packed with desserts – ranging from a ‘Turkish dessert platter’ to pear strudel, apricot ice cream, assorted cheeses and fruit salad.

Turkish Airlines business class desserts: apricot ice cream and a fruit salad.
Turkish Airlines business class desserts: apricot ice cream and a fruit salad.

These are easily some of the best business class meals you’ll ever enjoy – although it’s also worth noting the meal service on Turkish Airlines takes longer from start to finish than most other airlines, purely because it’s so involved and comprehensive.

At other times during these Istanbul-Melbourne flights you can expect to see salmon carpaccio, beef fillet with black pepper sauce, grilled snapper, poached eggs with spinach, a healthy bowl of chia with coconut and blueberries, potato & leek quiche, crepes, cheesecake and of course Turkish delight and baclava.

Turkish Airlines business class dining: salmon carpaccio.
Turkish Airlines business class dining: salmon carpaccio.

That said, the meal service varies with each leg of these flights between Melbourne and Istanbul. 

The 10:30pm departure of TK169 from Melbourne is a ‘dine on demand’ dinner service so that business class passengers can maximise their sleep on the eight-hour overnight leg to Singapore, while the daytime Singapore-Melbourne leg of TK168 follows a standard meal service of a main course and a lighter ‘before landing’ snack.

The full Flying Chefs trolley service is (quite literally) wheeled out on flights over eight hours, which includes the longer Singapore-Istanbul and Istanbul-Singapore legs.

The drinks selection embraces whites and reds from Türkiye, France, Spain and South America, capped by Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne and four types of Scotch (up to a 15yo Glenfiddich Single Malt).

Also deserving a mention are the ‘Fly Good, Feel Good’ wellness teas for relaxing and sleeping, aiding digestion, being a pick-me-up energiser and supporting the immune system.

Turkish Airlines business class also carries a great selection of elegantly-served teas.
Turkish Airlines business class also carries a great selection of elegantly-served teas.

Inflight entertainment and WiFi

The 18” screen of Turkish Airlines’ business class seat packs a solid roster of movies – including a strong learning towards ‘modern classics’ which can be an ideal rewatch during flights – and boxed sets of TV shows, plus an extensive music library, with quality Denon headphones supplied.

If you hold Miles&Smiles Elite or Elite Plus membership (and remember, Elite status can be yours courtesy of the Turkish Airlines status match) you’ll get unlimited WiFi from start to finish throughout the flight.

Business class passengers without that Elite tier face a 1GB data limit, although they still get unlimited messaging.

Turkish Airlines business class includes free WiFi.
Turkish Airlines business class includes free WiFi.

All economy flyers with Miles&Smiles membership get free unlimited messaging, with between 250Mb and 400MB of Internet access depending on their tier.

During my flight, Turkish Airlines WiFi hit a steady 5Mbps for both downloads and uploads – quite sufficient for most Web browsing and emailing, and also for some passengers to decide a FaceTime call at 30,000 feet was a good idea.

Turkish Airlines also streams live TV channels from BBC World News, CNN International, CNBC and Sport 24.

However, there were extended periods during the flight when the satellite connection dropped out entirely. 

Lounges

Turkish Airlines’ business class passengers and frequent flyers will encounter some very different lounge experiences as they trek between Melbourne and Istanbul.

At the time of writing the Turkish Airlines website doesn’t specify which lounge it uses at Melbourne – however, a Turkish Airlines spokesperson tells Executive Traveller that lounge-worthy travellers will be directed to the Air New Zealand lounge.

Air New Zealand's Melbourne lounge.
Air New Zealand's Melbourne lounge.

This is a popular go-to for most Star Alliance airlines with ample variety of seating, a decent spread of food and a tended bar.

(In theory there’s scope for a cheeky visit to the Singapore Airlines SilverKris Business lounge located one level above the AirNZ lounge, by dint of Singapore Airlines also being a Star Alliance member – but given the Singapore Airlines lounge opens only at 9.35pm and TK169 departs at 10.30pm, you’d not have time for more than a quick serve of satay.)

When TK169 touches down at Singapore’s Changi Airport Terminal 1 around 3am – and also the mid-morning arrival of TK168 from Istanbul – it’s off to the T1 Marhaba Lounge.

The Marhaba Lounge at Singapore Changi T1.
The Marhaba Lounge at Singapore Changi T1.

Sitting just past the Qantas Singapore First Lounge and close to the D Gates wing of Terminal 1, the Marhaba Lounge is a basic ‘tick-the-boxes’ exercise to provide food, drinks and somewhere to sit until your onwards flight to Istanbul is ready to board.

The Marhaba Lounge at Singapore Changi T1.
The Marhaba Lounge at Singapore Changi T1.

In fact, if you’re travelling light, I’d recommend leaving the Marhaba Lounge to stretch your legs with a leisurely walk around T1 before headed to the gate.

(And before you ask: no, there really isn’t time to hop on Changi’s Skytrain people mover across to Terminal 3 and visit the superior Singapore Airlines flagship lounges – not when you have to hoof it to the T1-T3 Skytrain at the far end of the terminal and back, while also allowing for Changi’s time-consuming ‘security at the departure gate’ procedure.)

Then it’s wheels up from Changi around 4.30am for the 12 hour haul to Istanbul, where TK169 lands at 11.15am.

There’s no arrivals lounge at Istanbul Airport, so you may as well make a beeline for your hotel.

However, when it’s time to fly home to Melbourne – or onwards from Istanbul to hundreds of destinations across Europe and the UK – prepare to be wowed by two of the world’s best business class lounges.

Turkish Airlines' flagship Istanbul business class lounge.
Turkish Airlines' flagship Istanbul business class lounge.

The Turkish Airlines Business Lounge (for business class travellers) and Miles&Smiles Lounge (for frequent flyers) are sprawling facilities with multiple live cooking stations plating up Turkish specialities such as Gözleme, pide and other pastries, pasta and other dishes of chicken and lamb, plus simit (a circular seed-encrusted bread) and so much more.

Turkish Airlines' flagship Istanbul business class lounge.
Turkish Airlines' flagship Istanbul business class lounge.
Turkish Airlines' flagship Istanbul business class lounge.
Turkish Airlines' flagship Istanbul business class lounge.

A dizzying array of sweets balances the healthy buffet.

Turkish Airlines' flagship Istanbul business class lounge.
Turkish Airlines' flagship Istanbul business class lounge.

Seating induces cafe-style tables and booths, buzzy open areas and a cosy ‘library’...

Turkish Airlines' flagship Istanbul business class lounge.
Turkish Airlines' flagship Istanbul business class lounge.
Turkish Airlines' flagship Istanbul business class lounge.
Turkish Airlines' flagship Istanbul business class lounge.

... shower suites and private sleeping rooms for longer layovers...

Turkish Airlines' flagship Istanbul business class lounge.
Turkish Airlines' flagship Istanbul business class lounge.

... while diversions range from a children’s play area to a golf simulator and slot-car track.

Turkish Airlines' flagship Istanbul business class lounge.
Turkish Airlines' flagship Istanbul business class lounge.

Our tip: arrive early (and take advantage of the security fast-track for Turkish Airlines business class passengers) and take your time relaxing and exploring these lounges ahead of your flight.

The frequent flyer scheme

The Australian debut of Turkish Airlines also sees its Miles&Smiles loyalty program come in for a local landing.

As it happens, Miles&Smiles already has many Australians on its books, including a large clutch of Elite tier members – thanks to a Qantas status match offer – who enjoy perks such as lounge access, free inflight WiFi and seat selection, extra baggage and more.

Take advantage of the Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Qantas status match.
Take advantage of the Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Qantas status match.

The Turkish Airlines status match comes with four months of free Miles&Smiles Elite membership right off the bat – and by taking just one international Turkish Airlines international flight within those four months, either in economy or business class, your Miles&Smiles Elite status is locked down for a full year.

So if you’re planning on travelling with Turkish Airlines soon, that’s a deal worth looking into.

Flying in Turkish Airlines business class between Melbourne and Istanbul will earn you between 13,000 Miles and 16,800 Miles, depending on your fare type and Miles&Smiles status.

Based on a return trip, that’s anywhere from 26,000 Miles to 33,600 Miles – which is enough for a business Promotional Award Ticket or a standard economy Award Ticket from Istanbul to anywhere in Europe on the Turkish Airlines network.

Of course, you can also choose to credit your Turkish Airlines flights to the rewards program of any Star Alliance airline such as Air Canada, ANA, Singapore Airlines or United Airlines.

Istanbul stopovers

If you’re flying from Melbourne to Istanbul and then onwards again with Turkish Airlines, there are two innovative offers for breaking their journey in Istanbul.

For connecting flights between six and 24 hours, the complimentary Touristanbul service lets you explore the city’s top sights on one of eight carefully-selected tours to fit your stopover schedule.

As an alternative, business class stopovers beyond 20 hours can include a complimentary two-night stay in a five-star hotel (or one night in a four-star hotel, if you’re in economy). 

The author travelled as guest of Turkish Airlines.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 706

AND, without getting too specific David, I think we'll find that the 'Saver' fare of TK's business class is extremely competitive (add emphasis on EXTREMELY) compared to the usual suspects.    

CX

16 May 2015

Total posts 23

The food is better than the wine. Last year I flew return Asia-IST-USA on TK and the wine selection was the same on each flight. A bit unimaginative, particularly as the non-Turkish wines were better than the Turkish ones.

16 Oct 2012

Total posts 44

Great review. Although I have to say the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge at IST is IMO, one of the most shockingly overcrowded and unpleasing lounges I’ve ever visited. 


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