So everyone knows that flying business class on intra-European flights is kind of a joke, right? It doesn’t matter if you’re flying on British Airways, Lufthansa or Swiss, the seats in business class are the same seats as in economy class with a 3 x 3 layout. The only differences between business class and economy class seats are that you get an upgraded menu and the middle seats are blocked “for your comfort.” Because the middle seats are not sold, everyone gets either a window seat or an aisle seat but the seats are exactly the same. There’s no additional width, pitch or recline.
But don’t get me wrong, an upgraded menu and not having a seatmate (or getting stuck in the middle seat) are definitely nice perks, but I’m not so sure the price difference justifies the perks, especially on short intra-European routes.
So that’s common knowledge and that’s what I was expecting on my short, three hour flight from Istanbul to Frankfurt on a Turkish Airlines Airbus A321. Now, imagine my surprise when I boarded the aircraft from the forward cabin door and found a small cabin of eight legitimate business class seats. There were four rows of recliner seats in a 2 x 2 layout.
Flight: TK 1591
Aircraft: Airbus A321
Istanbul (IST) to Frankfurt (FRA)
Depart: 11:50 AM on Sunday (12:10 PM actual)
Arrive: 2:05 PM on Sunday (1:50 PM actual)
Duration: 3hr 15mn
Seat: 3F Business Class
After presenting my boarding pass to the flight attendant, I found my seat (3K) on the right side of the plane. I threw my carry on into the overhead bin and my backpack under the seat in front of me. Waiting at my seat were a pillow, day blanket and set of regular headphones. The A321 seats were wide, comfortable and would be a notch above any US domestic first class seat. In-flight entertainment monitors and tray tables were located in the armrests and the seats were also equipped with leg rests and universal power outlets.
This Airbus A321 was an older plane with an older hard product but I’ll take this seat over a brand new plane with a European business class seat any day. Fellow UPGRD blogger Matthew also reviewed this A321 in economy class. You can read his review here.
I can’t confirm it but I’m pretty sure these were the older version of Turkish Airlines’ current Comfort Class (premium economy) seats. According to Seat Guru, these seats offered 20 inches of width, 33 inches of pitch and 111 degrees of recline. I’m not too confident on those numbers as the seat felt wider than 20 inches and there definitely was more pitch than 33 inches. Just look at the pictures!
The old school seat controls were located in the outer armrest and were fairly simple to understand. On this flight, the cabin was almost full with 14 of the 16 seats occupied.
I quickly settled into my seat and the onboard chef came by to offer me a non-alcoholic pre-departure beverage, warm towel and Turkish Delight. It’s such a novel idea and I loved that Turkish Airlines had onboard chefs. I don’t know if they actually did any cooking (or anything more than what the flight attendants did) but I just loved the idea of having a chef onboard. There was one flight attendant and one onboard chef working the business class cabin on this flight. Alcoholic drinks were not served on the ground.
Once we reached our cruising altitude and the seatbelt signs were turned off, the flight attendant and onboard chef sprang into action. After a few minutes in the galley, they came out to serve lunch. Interestingly enough, there was no printed menu for this flight and I had no idea what I was eating (or how much I would be eating).
Lunch was served from a trolley. Without asking us what we wanted for food, each passenger was presented with a tray of food. The tray had three small cups (cheese, eggplant and dessert) and a main dish with three items. I think two of the items were a hummus and a tuna tartare. I didn’t know what the third item was. Thinking that this was our whole meal, I ate everything including the dessert. It wasn’t until after I devoured everything that the chef came by and presented my main course to me. I then finished that too.
Like I said, there was no printed menu or further description of the food so I had no idea what I was eating. It didn’t matter though because the food was catered by gourmet catering company, Do & Co, and it did not disappoint. Even though I didn’t know what I was eating, everything tasted great and made me want more of it (whatever it was).
After dinner, my table was cleared and I took some time to explore the in-flight entertainment system. The IFE monitor wasn’t the best. It was older, not very clear and was hard to watch during daylight but it doable for the short, three hour flight. There was a small selection of on-demand movies (Captain Phillips, Gravity, Enough Said), TV shows (Brain Games), music and a moving map. I ended up watching Captain Phillips (great movie!) and an episode of Brain Games.
Service wise, this crew was more typical of what I have heard Turkish Airlines flight attendants to be. They were not rude by any means but nothing special either. They didn’t engage us in conversation or take steps to proactively take care of us. Drinks were no automatically refilled and not once did they walk the aisle to check on passengers.
Overall, this was a better than average experience for a short, intra-European flight. Even though this was an older plane, I appreciated the true business class seat, in-flight entertainment and fantastic food. The crew wasn’t bad and it didn’t bother me that much for this short flight. Although, I would imagine there would be some issues if this was a longer flight. But all things considered, Turkish Airlines is still one of my favorite airlines to fly and I would choose them over any of the other European carriers any day.
Other trip reports in this series:
- The new Star Alliance Lounge at LAX
- The new Korean Airlines Skyteam Lounge at LAX
- Turkish Airlines business class from Los Angeles to Istanbul
- Hilton Istanbul
- Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge at Istanbul
- Turkish Airlines business class from Istanbul to Frankfurt
- Lufthansa Senator Lounges at Frankfurt
- Asiana Airlines first class from Frankfurt to Seoul
- Asiana Airlines first class lounge at Seoul
- Asiana Airlines business class from Seoul to Shanghai
- Westin Bund Center Shanghai
- VIP lounges at Shanghai Pudung International Airport
- Thai Airways business class from Shanghai to Bangkok
- Thai Airways Royal First Spa and Lounge
- Thai Airways first class from Bangkok to Paris
- Star Alliance Lounge at CDG
- Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at CDG
- Air Canada business class (Executive First) from Paris to Montreal
- Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at Montreal
- Air Canada business class (Executive First) from Montreal to Los Angeles.