Edited by: Nick Ellis
& Juan Ruiz
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Airline: Turkish Airlines (TK)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 (TC-LLA)
Flight #: TK186
Route: Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to Istanbul Airport (IST)
Date: January 13, 2023
Duration: 10hr 15min
Cabin and Layout: Business class, 30-seats, 1-2-1
Cost: 63,000 Avianca LifeMiles or from $4,151 cash
I’ve long heard about Turkish Airlines’ excellent soft product and top-notch inflight catering, but the airline operates a Boeing 777-300ER with its inferior business class product from my home airport of Miami International Airport (MIA), as opposed to its stylish business class on its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which flies from other U.S. cities.
This is why I didn’t think twice about booking a positioning flight out of MIA to a city where Turkish Airlines offers its swankiest business class product.
Let’s go through the details of this flight, including check-in, inflight service, and the product itself.
As Turkish Airlines is a part of the Star Alliance, there are several possibilities for booking its business class.
You might think that searching for award space with Turkish Airlines directly would be a natural place to begin looking. And while it would be one place to search for award seats, the carrier’s website is not always the easiest to navigate, especially if you’re flexible with your travel dates.
Instead, you should search for awards on the website of another Star Alliance airline, such as United, Air Canada, or Avianca. Since all 3 airlines are part of the Star Alliance, you can use any of their frequent flyer programs to book the same Star Alliance award seats.
Hot Tip: Check out our step-by-step guide on the best ways to book Turkish Airlines business class with points!
When it comes to business class award availability, I find Turkish Airlines to be very generous, but I was having trouble locating award space from cities served by aircraft equipped with the carrier’s newest business class.
About a month before my ideal date, seats.aero notified me that 4 award seats in business class on a Turkish Airlines flight departing from Chicago (ORD) were available.
I quickly went to the Avianca LifeMiles website, searched for flights from Chicago (ORD) to Istanbul (IST) on the date I wanted, and booked my seat for 63,000 LifeMiles and $25.30 in taxes and fees. Avianca Lifemiles can be transferred from American Express Membership Rewards, Brex Rewards, Capital One Miles, or Citi ThankYou Rewards at a 1:1 rate, or from Marriott Bonvoy at a transfer rate of 3:1.
The one-way business class fare from Chicago to Istanbul would have set me back $4,289.
I could have also used The Platinum Card® from American Express, which offers 5x Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent on tickets booked directly with the airline or via Amex Travel (up to $500,000 per year), but I greatly value the Chase Sapphire Preferred card’s superior trip insurance.
As I noted earlier, I wanted to experience Turkish Airlines’ finest business class product and the only award space I could find was from Chicago, so I left Miami on a flight to Chicago at 6 a.m. and arrived at O’Hare Airport at 8:30 a.m.
Fortunately, there were no delays with my positioning flight, so I got to Chicago with approximately 3 hours before my 11:40 a.m. departure to Istanbul.
I didn’t need to go to the check-in counters since I had my mobile boarding pass and a carry-on bag with me, but I still needed to make a choice.
I could either walk 20 minutes from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1, where I could enter the posh United Polaris Lounge, or head directly to Terminal 5, from where my Turkish Airlines flight (and most international flights) was to depart, and spend some time in one of the several ORD airport lounges there.
With the first option, I would need to leave the lounge with sufficient time to utilize ORD’s Airport Transit System (ATS) to get from Terminal 1 to Terminal 5 and pass through security.
I was eager to explore the United Polaris Lounge and compare it to American Airlines Flagship Lounges, so I committed to a hectic morning and embarked on a brisk walk to Terminal 1’s United Polaris Lounge.
Premium airline lounges, such as the Polaris Lounge, exist to improve the premium travel experience for passengers who have already spent thousands of dollars (or miles!) on premium tickets on United or its Star Alliance partners.
As I walked through the motion-controlled automatic doors, I saw the wide reception desk that was staffed by United agents.
After handing over my passport and mobile boarding pass, the friendly agent gave me a quick tour of the lounge space and I was on my way to enjoy its many amenities.
My first impression upon entering the Polaris Lounge was that it looked elegant and that I would most likely have the lounge to myself since there weren’t many passengers this early in the day.
I took a stroll across the entire lounge to inspect the seating options. Thanks to an abundance of unoccupied seats, I had my choice of where to sit.
While I don’t believe this lounge gets as crowded as American Express Centurion Lounges because only international premium cabin passengers have access and there are no guest privileges, finding a seat on a busy day shouldn’t be a problem given the abundance of seating options, including chairs of all types and configurations.
I was impressed not only by the plentiful seating options but also by the number of restrooms available for guests.
I made a quick pit stop at the buffet to check out the à la carte food options as it was breakfast time.
Along with breakfast meats such as sausage and bacon, the buffet had its fair share of variety to satisfy every palate.
Ingredients to make your own granola and yogurt bowls were readily available.
There was also a dedicated coffee bar where I made a cappuccino with almond milk for myself, along with an assortment of fruits.
Since it was still relatively early in the morning, there was no bartender yet at the cool-looking bar, but I imagine this being a buzzy area during afternoon and evening hours when many international flights depart.
Unusual for me, I hadn’t researched what to anticipate at the Polaris Lounge beforehand, so when I saw what seemed to be a restaurant with table service by the name of The Dining Room, I knew exactly where I would be having breakfast.
A comprehensive menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is displayed in the entryway of The Dining Room. Because of my early departure from Miami, I had no time for breakfast, so I was eager to enjoy a hearty meal at the Polaris Lounge.
I waited to be seated by the hostess/waitress and she took my drink order immediately upon ushering me to my table.
She handed me a menu and after a glance, I knew I wanted an omelet.
I placed an order for a customized omelet with applewood bacon, onion, spinach, tomato, roasted vegetables, and goat cheese, which was divine.
With about 1 hour left until boarding, I inquired with the Valet Services attendant about Shower Suites availability, as I wanted to freshen up before my 10-hour flight to Türkiye.
Since I was the only passenger in the Valet Services area, I was escorted to Shower Suite #1 and the attendant quickly went over the amenities within the suite.
If you forget your toiletries at home or pack them in your checked luggage, Polaris guests can ask for complimentary toiletries such as a dental kit, deodorant, hair dryer, and more.
The suite was spacious and well-equipped with extra-large Saks Fifth Avenue towels, slippers, and other essential bathroom toiletries. The water pressure in the rain shower was powerful and I felt refreshed after the hot shower.
Before exiting the Valet Services, I checked out the daybeds, which can be reserved and used to nap or get some rest before a long flight.
While I was pressed for time, I cherished my brief visit to the Polaris Lounge and was thoroughly impressed, but found myself wishing I had more time to unwind.
However, I was worried about how long the security queues would be at T5, so I left the lounge with approximately 40 minutes before my flight would begin boarding.
A TSA agent attempted to scan my boarding pass but it wasn’t accepted. He asked for my passport and once they confirmed my identity in their system, I was allowed to proceed through security.
I arrived at gate M14, where my flight was scheduled to depart from, with little time to spare. To my surprise, no passengers were standing up near the boarding lanes, as you commonly see when flying.
Since my mobile boarding pass hadn’t worked, I walked up to the gate agent and asked for a paper copy. She told me that the mobile boarding passes were giving them a lot of trouble and gave me a new one.
Before boarding, I was hoping to get a look at the beautiful 787-9 jet I’d be flying, but due to the gate’s location, there were no plane views to be seen.
Because our gate was immediately next to Air India’s flight to New Delhi, I had a sneaky hunch that the queues to board at both gates might create some chaos, so I stood near the sign for business class passengers and waited for boarding to begin.
Our flight was supposed to depart at 11:40 a.m., but rather than board 1 hour earlier which is customary for international flights, the boarding process was delayed a bit and we started boarding closer to our scheduled departure time.
Meanwhile, the Air India flight next to ours had a later departure time but was already boarding. Later, I discovered that gate personnel were waiting for the flight crew to arrive and settle in before starting boarding, which explains why we were a few minutes late.
Once they called on business class passengers to begin boarding, I was the first person in line, which gave me a few seconds alone to photograph an empty business class cabin.
I had long heard about Turkish Airlines’ premium onboard dining experience, but this was my first flight with the airline, so I was eager to see whether the flight would live up to the hype. My first impression of the business class cabin was that it was visually stunning and just my style!
Even though I had seen it online many times, the design of the cabin took my breath away as soon as I stepped inside. The cabin was sleek-looking, with a black-and-gray color scheme and hints of copper.
The business class cabin consisted of 30 lie-flat seats in 1-2-1 forward-facing, staggered configuration. Window seats are more private, particularly in even rows, as the seats are closer to the window and away from the aisle.
The seats in the middle section vary in proximity to the aisle. Even-numbered rows are closer to the aisle, while odd-numbered rows are farther apart. Still, all of these business class “pods” offer sufficient privacy.
I was curious and wanted to check out the economy cabin, so after I took a glance at my seat and the cabin, I quickly went back to take a peek at the 3-3-3 configuration in the economy cabin and saw a different cabin color scheme.
Once I was done observing both cabins, I went back to my seat and saw that a bag with slippers was waiting for me.
A friendly flight attendant came by and offered me a choice of colorful fruit juices, and I opted for the raspberry lemonade.
Although we boarded late and took off 37 minutes behind schedule, the pilot informed us that they would try to make up the time in the air.
Business class on Turkish Airlines’ 787-9 Dreamliner is as stylish and enticing as the airline itself.
I chose seat 8A because it offered the greatest amount of privacy in the back corner of the port side of the aircraft, despite a galley being located behind me (it never disturbed me).
While the seat was spacious, the immediate window beside me was partially blocked by the pod’s curved shell, which is a design flaw in my estimation. Still, I was able to lean forward and look out of my 2 windows while in flight.
The seat reclined into a fully flat bed that measured 6 feet 3 inches.
The footwell was cozy but provided enough space for my average frame (I’m 5 feet 8 inches tall).
I had direct aisle access and enough privacy such that I couldn’t see another passenger when in a seated position.
The long tray table pulled out from under the monitor and was easy to fold back into its slot when not in use.
The touch screen panel by my right arm could turn the TV on and off, call the flight attendants, change the seat position from upright to a lie-flat bed, and adjust the seat’s lighting.
In addition to the touch screen, there was a remote control for inflight entertainment.
If a bit of light was needed, this smaller panel on the pod’s shell could illuminate the seat — perfect for reading a book or checking your phone.
The back of the pod in front of me had a hook built in, which is a useful feature for people who want to hang their jackets or coats.
As expected, there was a USB port in addition to the other electrical outlets.
One of the seat’s flaws was its limited storage capacity. Due to the lack of available storage space, I had to set my small backpack on the floor up against the wall, next to the window.
I stored all other valuables — including my wallet, cell phone, and passport — in the power outlet storage cubby.
I couldn’t wait to try the airline’s food, as it’s received many accolades for its inflight catering. In fact, Turkish Airlines takes onboard food so seriously that it features an inflight chef service.
This flight had 2 meals: a lunch course and a breakfast course.
The menu was broken up into lunch selections above and breakfast options titled “before landing.”
In addition, a wine and Champagne list with selections originating from Türkiye, France, Spain, Portugal, and Argentina was made available to customers traveling in the business class cabin.
There was also a snack menu — business class passengers could order snacks at any time during the flight.
To start my inflight lunch service, I ordered a glass of Taittinger Brut Reserve, which is a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. It was stellar.
The Champagne was accompanied by an assortment of nuts.
I then ordered the mezze (a variety of dips, including hummus) and a bowl of creamy pea soup as my appetizers. The soup was ridiculously tasty.
For my main course, I ordered mushroom ravioli with leek, cherry tomatoes, and parmesan sauce. This dish was of restaurant quality — I wanted more, but refrained from asking for another plate since I felt embarrassed.
Finally, I chose a variety of traditional Turkish pastries for dessert, which provided just the appropriate amount of sweetness to balance the previous dishes.
I also finished the meal off with a cup of hot tea to boost my immune system.
After a few hours after lunch, I requested a fruit cup from the snack menu.
With approximately 2 hours until landing, breakfast was served. The meal started with an assortment of fresh fruit, bread, yogurt, cold cuts, and cheeses.
For my main breakfast dish, I chose the mozzarella and tomato omelet instead of the french toast with strawberry compote and had zero regrets. The omelet was tasty and filling.
All the food and beverages I had on board were as good as advertised and I was very satisfied with my meals.
The 18-inch IFE screen was fantastic. And I found its size to be perfect considering the distance between where I was seated and the monitor.
There was no shortage of entertainment options in the IFE system, with hundreds of movies, TV shows, and games to keep me busy.
When I wasn’t watching a movie, I was mesmerized by the map showing the location of our flight.
I’m not a headphone expert but the inflight Denon noise-canceling headphones provided to business class passengers felt sturdy and of high quality. I have Bose headphones at home and these felt very similar and performed admirably.
As for the amenity kit, the bag itself was made by Hackett London, and the items inside were made by Qiriness, neither of which I had heard of before.
The items inside were a sleep mask, a pair of socks, ear plugs, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and skincare products.
Turkish Airlines provides business class customers on long-haul flights with slippers in a shoe bag for use. I wore the comfortable slippers during the flight and on my trip and then stowed them in my carry-on to bring home.
Among the amenities offered by Turkish Airlines, onboard Wi-Fi was top-notch and surprisingly fast. Wi-Fi service of up to 1 GB is complimentary for business class passengers. While I didn’t take a speed test, I can tell you that I never had a problem accessing my email and posting on my social media accounts.
The business class experience on Turkish Airlines is on par with that of first class on some other premier airlines. The physical beauty of the hard product is matched by the exceptional quality of the soft product.
The cabin crew was highly polished and personable, but maintained a professional demeanor and worked efficiently at the same time. They checked on me often to see if there was anything I needed, but they were not invasive in any way. I felt taken care of and looked after throughout the entire flight.
Although we were delayed by about 40 minutes leaving Chicago, we arrived in rainy Istanbul just before our originally scheduled arrival time.
Because it wasn’t even 7 a.m. yet, the airport was deserted. I breezed through customs in about 5 minutes. I then strolled through the gorgeous international arrivals area to exit the airport and grab an airport taxi to my hotel.
Positioning myself to Chicago for this trip was well worth the 4 a.m. alarm.
Turkish Airlines’ new business class cabin looks great. The seat and lie-flat bed were comfortable for the 10-hour journey to Istanbul. While the IFE and service were excellent, it’s really the unrivaled inflight catering service that sets the airline apart from the competition.
I’d love to experience Turkish Airlines business class again, but in the meantime, I’ll cross my fingers and hope that the new business class seats will be introduced on other North American routes, such as Miami to Istanbul, in the near future.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
Turkish Airlines’ new business class seats are only available on its Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s.
The best seats for solo travelers and those desiring a window are “A” and “K” seats in the even-numbered rows (2, 4, 6, and 8). When flying with a companion, the middle seats in an odd-numbered row are the best options.
If you’re traveling with Turkish Airlines in business class or are a Miles&Smiles cardholder, you get up to 1 GB of complimentary Wi-Fi. Economy passengers may pay for inflight Wi-Fi by the hour or for the entire flight.
Turkish Airlines currently flies to/from 12 U.S. cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York (JFK), Newark, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
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