We are inspecting and reviewing Turkish Airlines on long haul flights, twice per year; enough to get each time some pleasant surprises. That time, we could fly back from Thailand to Europe aboard one of TK very recently purchased Boeing 777-3F2ERs. An experience with a WOW factor. The TC-JJE Dolmabahçe in which we embarked was flown back from the Boeing Seattle manufacture a couple of weeks before.: the first of twelve B777-3F2ERs ordered by Turkish Airlines, to replace the four B777-300ERs leased from Jet Airways in 2008. Some passengers will miss the odd herringbone lie flat beds in the C Class, and certainly the swank -though usually empty- F Class Suites, associated to a wonderful Prime Class service prior and after the flight; but we must confess that the we have been impressed by the B777-3F2ER business class, with the temptation to experience next time the new Comfort Class (a high end premium Economy), equipped with short-haul business class seats which seamed comfortable enough for a trans-continental trip. It has nothing to do with the feared «chicken class»!
There is at least one daily flight, non-stop from BKK to IST, depending on the season. TK0061 departs from Suvarnabhumi International Airport at 11:45 pm. Considering the traffic jam, we left the ritzy Dusit Thani hotel, located in the city center, at 7pm. It normally takes 1 till 2 hours to cover the quite long distance (30km) between downtown and the new Bangkok airport. At 8:20 pm, there was already an impressive queue at TK Economy class counters. The C and F class desks allowed us an express check-in. Within five minutes, we got our boarding cards handed by the always friendly TK airport staff., together with the so useful «fast track» allowing express police and immigration controls, while it takes Economy class passengers up to one hour to get through!
Like always, we received an invitation to join the “Royal Silk Lounge”, used by Star Alliance carriers: we have been quite critical with it in the past, but the quality of the lounge ameliorated little bit. Still quite overcrowded, this executive waiting room, catered by Thai Airways, improved the quality of service: a smile at the gate, more staff to take care of the passengers in the room, a convenient selection of snacks and beverages, and more international magazines. Last but not least, the lounge is much cleaner than before, and our table was cleaned up every five minutes. The Internet speed remains extremely low: which is very usual in Thailand, due to a poor global communication network.
Before reaching the departure gate, located not far away from the lounge, we did some shopping: prices can be attractive; depending on what you are looking for. There is a splendid choice from the best and most prestigious local and international brands, Thai handicraft, and orchids nicely packed for export. Though poorly air-conditioned, Suvarnabhumi is a very beautiful, large, clean and comfortable airport, giving a wonderful image of the Kingdom of Thailand. Leaving the country of smiles would be somehow painful if we didn't get the compensation of the lavish treatment awaiting us aboard TK0061.
The boarding was amazingly quick for such a large aircraft like the B777-3F2ER. No rush. All passengers received the same treatment, without any priority the C Class boarding pass holders; which, in the good conditions provided by TK staff at Suvarnabhumi, was finally no problem. The cabin was looking -and smelling- 100% new. Some of the attendants told us that this was their first flight with this aircraft, which represents the Turkish pride. We promptly sat, relaxing in front of a glass a chilled Champagne “Gosset Brut Réserve”. Then, we must say that the all flight was like a dream. The C Class cabin is smaller, more intimate than in the B777-300ER: no herringbone seats, but a 2 - 3 - 2 disposition of wide and long flat-beds, equipped with a smoothing, controlled waved back-massage system which we used a lot during the flight. On one hand, we should have preferred a 2 – 2 – 2 display, as nobody in executive class likes to seat in the middle. We somehow felt like seated in an Air France cabin... which is everything but a reference! Those who like intimacy should check-in in advance a two seat row to concentrate on a book, sleep, or discover the sophisticated entertaining system. Featuring games, blockbuster movies, an unmatched collection of musics from around the world, and even audio books (with Internet, available very soon aboard). Seat are controlled by a very easy to use electronic control panel. They can be transformed into a fully-flat bed within a few seconds. There is a socket for PC, USB port, and a large (15.4-inch) AVOD LCD.
The General Electric GE90-115BLs, the world's largest and most powerful commercial jet engines, are so powerful and silent! After a as smooth as silk take-off, we didn't even use the ear caps provided, with Bulgari perfumed body lotion, tooth paste, and everything one might need for a long-haul flight, in a smart toilet kit. Like usual with THY and so many airlines, the cabin was slightly overheated; the air pressure was ideal, and our feet didn't inflate at all.
There was a couple of «flying-chefs» aboard: an elegant concept, bringing gastronomy higher in the air. Employed by the Turkish DO & CO, they took a close care of us during the all dinner, which came shortly after we had reached the cruising speed. After being presented a refreshing towel, with a glass of Champagne-Orange-Pinnaple cocktail, canapés and some fine Godiva chocolates, we shortly got the menu in hand, plus some options for the breakfast. The selection of aperitifs was fine. All popular brands were available. Featuring Raki of course: this Turkish specialty is an excellent pairing with seafood and grilled fish, like the “Potpourri of Seafood”, featuring marinated king prawns, smoked salmon, smoked pepper salmon and garden fresh salad: all served in a generous portion. The “Creamy Mushroom Potato Soup” with fine chopped chives was succulent. We got it with some butter and Austrian Bretzel style bread (the selection of really freshly backed bread is amazing!). We ordered one glass of well chilled French “Chablis, Michel Laroche, 2007”, which was pairing our main dish: a palate, light “Grilled Grouper Fish”, with pan-fried zucchinis, grilled red peppers and potato celeriac purée. Now that prepared by DO & CO controls also the catering from Bangkok, the quality of the cuisine increased so much: tasting so Mediterranean! The flying chef came twice, to inquire about our opinion, taking note of each remark from part of the passengers. He crossed the aisle with a trolley, with such a variety of cheese, freshly cut fruits, pastries (the “Profiterole” and the “Lemon Tarte” were mouth watering), and local “Baklavas”, that we picked up little bit of everything... There was a fine tea selection; the coffee was a still tasteless, very average brown liquid. We liked very much the quality of the wine: the Bordeau “Lamothe Pontac, Medoc, 2006” and the Portuguese Port “Graham's Late Bottled, Vintage 2003” were splendid with the cheese). The quality of digestive is fine also: we ordered Cognac Hennessy VSOP; though, travelling business class, a XO would have been more appropriate. We would award our dinner four star out of five.
The attendants asked us if we wished to be woken up for breakfast at about 4am, Istanbul time. It allowed us a 7 to 8 hours sleep. So we said yes. It was good to have “Scrambled Eggs with Turkey Ham, Cheese Toast and Grilled Potatoes”, yogurt, cheese and fresh fruits, before a soft landing in Istanbul Atatürk, at 05:30am . Right on time!
We were transiting to another destination in Europe, and therefore got some time ahead to purchase goods in what appears to be the cheapest, and one of the largest, duty free shopping mall in Europe (Cuban cigars and French perfumes are 20 till 30% cheaper than in Paris CDG!). Afterward, we reached the new «International CIP Lounge», where TK offers a lavish treatment to its business and VIP clients. The company feels proud of what we actually consider like one of the best, most impressive C/F Class lounges in the world. We got there a display of what TK offers to executive flyers. The ground attendants are helpful, smiling and actually charming. The lounge is among the most beautifully designed we have experienced. It is very spacious and has a glamorous multi-styles decoration. Many lounges comes stressing, oppressive at peak hours; we experienced it when the traffic goes intense in Atatürk. Thanks to its cleverly designed 1470 m2, there was still plenty of rooms to accommodate oneself at relative ease. It nevertheless lacks intimacy at peak hours, which seems quite logical in such an important hub like Atatürk Airport. The buffet was regularly refilled with fine quality snacks, club sandwiches, sweets for kids, and a wide choice of soft and alcoholic beverages. A separate desk serves hot Turkish sandwiches, which are simply delicious. Few airports lounges serve good expresso: at the CIP Lounge, it is strong, creamy, excellent. We liked the extensive selection of daily newspapers and magazines (most of them in English; they should also consider other major languages like Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic and Mandarin). There is a huge, extremely comfortable Internet corner (WiFi is complimentary also: using you own laptop is easy, with a quick signal shake-hand and electric plugs close to every armchairs and sofas). There is a prayers room. Long-haul flyers will like the presence of clean, well designed showers and a dark relaxing room with vibrating stretched armchairs which did us a world of good, driving us into a fast sleep. The washrooms are simply palatial: with precious marble and antique taps! All the marvels of the Orient are concentrated in this «CIP Lounge», which is well worth five star, as it actually reflects the atmosphere of a palace hotel!
Turkish Airlines has recently seen its global Quality Rating upgraded to the prestigious ranking as a 4 Star Quality Certified Airline by the prestigious and totally independent Skytrax reviewers. It is now a member of the Star Alliance. This remains one of our favorite airlines, which could become one day as prestigious as Emirates or Singapore Airlines, and we warmly recommend it to those looking to a fair value, safe and comfortable Business Class experience.
TK OFFICE BANGKOK:
C.P. Tower, 313 Silom Rd., Bangkok 10500
TK OFFICE ISTANBUL
AIRLINES OFFICIAL HOMEPAGE