Airline: Turkish Airlines (TK)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 (TC-LLA)
Flight #: TK66
Route: Istanbul Airport (IST) > Ngurah Rai International-Bali (DPS)
Date: October 31, 2019
Duration: 12hrs 50min
Cabin & Layout: Business Class, 30-seats, 1-2-1 config
Miles Used: 71,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Miles + $171.67 in taxes
Typical Retail Cost: $2,000 (₺12,108) per person one-way
Following a trip to the U.S. where I was fortunate to fly Delta’s new Airbus A220 in both economy class and first class as well as experience a helicopter transfer to New York City on Blade, it was time to head home to Sydney. I routed my trip, in true AvGeek style, via London on Virgin Atlantic’s new Airbus A350, then to Dubai on British Airways Boeing 747 in Club World, which connected to an Emirates Boeing 777 to Istanbul and then to Bali on Turkish Airlines’ new Boeing 787.
From New York, the entire trip to Bali took 2 days and 10 hours, over 15,169 miles (24,413 km), spanning 4 flights and 2 airport hotels.
The Turkish Airlines flight would be the final leg ahead of 4 nights of relaxation in Bali at the Laguna, Luxury Collection resort before flying back to Sydney.
I’ve always heard great things about Turkish Airlines’ “soft product” and food and service. However, it always seems to be let down by an outdated “hard product” — the seat.
A brand-new aircraft with a brand-new seat design would surely make for a perfect flight then?
Booking Turkish Airlines Business Class
Turkish Airlines is part of Star Alliance, so you can book award flights using miles from member airlines.
I used ExpertFlyer to check availability on the date I wanted to fly and thankfully it was available.
I booked this flight using 71,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles as they’re a transfer partner of the Business Platinum Card® from American Express, issued in Australia.
The paid fare was worth approximately $2,000 for a value of 2.8 cents per mile, more than double our estimated value of 1.35 cents per KrisFlyer miles.
It’s worth noting that for 49,000 KrisFlyer miles you can fly between Istanbul and Bali in business class on Singapore Airlines. The trip is across 2 flights and adds nearly 3 hours to the travel time with the flight from Singapore to Bali in the 787-10 with the same new seat as Turkish Airlines.
At Istanbul Airport
My inbound flight on Emirates arrived at 5:47 p.m. and my flight to Bali wasn’t scheduled to depart until 1:45 a.m., leaving me with an 8-hour layover.
Flying east is always challenging on the body clock and considering the 2 short red-eye flights from New York to Dubai that I had taken the previous 2 days, my body needed rest. But, I also had a 13-hour flight ahead of me.
To reduce the impact of jet lag, I’m always conscious of my destination’s time zone and plan my flight and rest accordingly. Bali time was 4 hours ahead of Istanbul. This meant the 1:45 a.m. departure would be 5:45 a.m. in Bali and a 7:30 p.m. arrival. So, I really needed to stay awake for the entire flight to Bali if I wanted to give my body the best chance of fending off jet lag — that meant I needed to find a place to sleep as soon as I arrived in Istanbul.
This was my first time flying to Istanbul, and my first chance to experience its new airport that only opened 6 months earlier.
The new airport terminal is stunning and uses a mix of timber, metal, and glass with huge vaulted ceilings and wide-open spaces. The slatted roof alternates in angles to create a play on light.
The main central hall is home to a circular lighting feature, large flight screens, and a huge duty-free store.
I had read that Turkish Airlines has sleeping rooms available for connecting passengers with long layovers in its new lounge however, this wasn’t available to me as I flew in on Emirates and not Turkish Airlines.
Instead, I headed to the Yotel Airport Hotel. A full review of this hotel will be published soon.
Turkish Airlines Business Lounge
After much-needed rest and a shower, I was back into the terminal and headed to the Business Lounge.
For guests requiring an elevator, an entrance closer to the central hall is available between the duty-free stores.
For everyone else, the main lounge entrance is near gate E1.
The lounge, which is considered one of the best business class lounges in the world, is open 24 hours a day for all Star Alliance business class passengers.
Heading to the escalator with 2 other passengers ahead of me, a lounge agent stepped directly in front of me and said, “This is the business class lounge, are you flying business class?” I presented my boarding pass and she stepped out of my way. I’m unsure why I was singled out and questioned and the other guests were not.
At the top of the escalators, you scan your boarding pass at the electronic gates and enter the lounge. There you are greeted by an enormous screen.
Off to the left, there was a luggage storage area that I only discovered towards the end of my visit.
I was then drawn to the right side of the lounge with its self-playing piano centerpiece.
The lounge is much longer than it is wide, so from this point, the lounge extends all the way back to above the central hall.
The star of this lounge was without a doubt the food.
While most business class airport lounges have a single, small buffet, the Turkish Airlines lounge has multiple live cooking stations and open kitchens spread through the center of the lounge complex.
You’re spoilt for choice and I was really impressed by the presentation, quality, and freshness of everything I tasted.
Although the terminal ceilings are high, the designers have done well to create some intimacy around the dining areas with the use of wooden roofs — it looks fantastic with the stone feature columns.
Large fridges house non-alcoholic beverages, and while the food was the star of the lounge, it felt like the alcoholic beverages were an afterthought.
There are a couple of DIY spirit stations — 1 in a small lockable cupboard and the other sitting on a table.
I also had to go searching for wine and this was tucked away in a corner on a black trolley against a black wall in a whole different section to the spirits.
I would have preferred to see one of the many cooking stations to be transformed into a tendered bar instead.
Seating areas of the lounge feel like you’re just sitting out in the terminal.
But if you prefer a cozier space, there was a dimly lit section with a low ceiling just off the main dining area.
It featured some snacks and a beverage fridge.
The lounge features Wi-Fi throughout, but it clocked less than 20 Mbps up and down, which was okay, yet I was expecting faster for a brand-new facility.
To connect to the Wi-Fi, you need to obtain a unique code by scanning your boarding pass. This seemed unnecessary as the terminal is enormous and I doubt passengers would be able to connect to the lounge Wi-Fi signal from anywhere else but inside the lounge.
The lounge was home to several unique amenities, like a Foresight Sports virtual golf simulator.
A play area for kids — dubbed CurioCity — was at the far end of the lounge, complete with an aircraft to climb in.
Unique TV nooks and child-size seating, along with a popcorn stand, filled the space.
A custom Scaletrix slot-car track featured iconic Istanbul landmarks, like Hagia Sophia and the Bosphorus Bridge.
PlayStation 4 consoles and seats were available for video game enthusiasts.
Wireless headsets are available in the TV zone, allowing you to tune in to the audio for your desired channel.
An art gallery featured a selection of works through a partnership with the Istanbul Modern.
A business center was located on the opposite side of the entrance, near the luggage storage.
Meeting rooms were also available.
Overall, I was really impressed with the lounge, primarily for the phenomenal focus on food. It’s beautifully designed and has a variety of zones to find somewhere comfortable to sit. Plus, several unique features help keep everyone occupied.
The downside to the vast terminal was the lack of people movers, and naturally, my gate, F18, was at the far end of one of the terminal piers.
For my 1:45 a.m. departure, I ended up leaving the lounge at 12:35 a.m. Even whilst speed walking, it still took 12 minutes to get to the gate. The terminal was quite warm, so I worked up a sweat in the process.
In what seems to be an afterthought, there are stickers marked on the terminal floor where buggies are used for passengers with limited mobility.
The terminal was stunning, yet the lack of people movers was a serious oversight in the design.
TK66 was operated by the airline’s new flagship, the Boeing 787-9. Turkish Airlines currently has a fleet of 9 Boeing 787 aircraft with 21 still on order. My aircraft was delivered 4 months earlier in June 2019.
The aircraft is configured with 30 business class seats, occupying the space between door 1 and door 2, and 270 economy class seats in a 3-3-3 configuration through the rest of the aircraft.
Boarding commenced right at 1:00 a.m. with guests from both cabins boarding through Door 2.
Guests are welcomed by a large Turkish Airlines logo on the wall of the galley.
The styling continues through to the rear bulkhead of the business class cabin with the copper-on-charcoal color scheme carried through the rest of the cabin. It looked stunning.
Turkish Airlines selected the Symphony seat from STELIA Aerospace, as seen on Singapore Airlines regional 787-10.
The staggered seats ensure each passenger has direct aisle access which was a welcome departure from the 2-3-2 or 2-2-2 found on the rest of the Turkish Airlines wide-body fleet.
Not all seats are created equal, though. The even-numbered A/K seats are closer to the window with the console by the aisle, providing maximum privacy. The odd-numbered A/K rows have the seat by the aisle and the console next to the window.
For those looking for a seat that is closest to the window, the Turkish Airlines seat map was a bit deceptive as it labels both styles of seats A on the left side of the aircraft or K on the right side. This was similar to what I found on Qantas’ Airbus A330 staggered seat.
On the Singapore Airlines website, I could see I had been auto-assigned 7A at the time of booking. You can’t change partner seats on the SQ website, and the Turkish Airlines website also wouldn’t allow me to change my seat online, so I had to phone. The agent was adamant that all A/K seats are window seats and wouldn’t move me from 7A. I had to hang-up and call again to request 8A.
Couples traveling together will want to opt for the middle seats in the odd-numbered rows which are closer together. If needed, these seats have a height-adjustable privacy divider if you get stuck with a stranger. The seat shell does extend out in a way that obstructs you from speaking to your seatmate without leaning forward.
The middle, even-numbered seats would be the least desirable in the center of the cabin, with the seat alongside the aisle.
My seat, 8A, was in the very last row of the cabin and was the most private.
Unfortunately for window seat lovers, the seat shell does obstruct the view and you really need to extend forward to look out.
Thankfully, 2 air vents are located overhead for all business class passengers.
The color scheme and detailing were beautiful.
I loved the pattern stitched into the Alcantara fabric seat shell liner. The Alcantara also helps to absorb cabin noise and cocoons you when you convert the seat to a flat-bed.
The embossed Turkish Airlines logo on the black leather headrest adds to the elegance.
There was a 3-zone spotlight integrated into the seat shell.
There is an 18-inch high-definition touchscreen ahead of you.
Directly under was the footwell, and although it wasn’t the widest, it’s quite tall and very deep.
Storage was available directly under the footwell that was large enough to store my shoes and my camera bag.
Down at floor level alongside the aisle was the literature pocket.
Above this was a hook to hang a coat.
At the back of the console by the seat was a small storage space with a closing door and an enclosed USB and power socket.
On the outside was a hook that was ideal for hanging your headphones.
A flip-out mirror was available.
The seat controls are found on the leading edge of the console, along with the IFE remote and headphone socket.
Hidden at first, the seat controls will illuminate when you tap them, but they aren’t very responsive. There was a delay for the action to happen, so you’ll end up pressing it twice, which then cancels out the action.
Armrests on both sides of the seat can be lowered to provide an extra 6-inches of width when you’re ready to sleep or just need the extra room.
Speaking of width, the seats are just 20-inches wide, which was fine for me, but larger passengers may feel the squeeze. They’re actually 1-inch narrower than the Delta domestic first class recliner seats on its new Airbus A220, to put it into perspective.
Passengers in window seats need to get from the aisle via a narrow walkway.
The tray table extends out from under the IFE screen in half and flips over to reveal the full size. It’s an excellent size and very sturdy.
The problem is, once it’s open full size, window seat passengers (and I’m sure the seats in the middle of the cabin) can’t exit the seat. You can see how the tray table extends from the seat in front to my armrest.
Although I planned to stay awake the entire flight, 6 hours into the flight I decided to test out the bed whilst watching a movie.
The seat converts into a 76 inch (193 cm) long flat-bed.
With the console by the aisle and wraparound seat shell, the bed feels very private, especially 8A at the rear of the cabin. The galley was directly behind, but I had no issue with light or noise.
Although I wanted to stay awake the entire flight, I thought 2 hours of sleep wouldn’t hurt and I had the crew make up my bed to test it out.
The crew installed a mattress-topper (too thin to be a “mattress pad,” but it did the job) and supplied a duvet, which was the perfect thickness. I found the bed and duvet very comfortable to sleep in and the cabin temperature was just right.
Though footwell was not very wide, I found that my legs had ample room to move about.
Side sleepers who prefer facing to the left, like myself, will prefer the A seats as they provide more legroom if you find yourself in the fetal position. The shell of the seat in front was in the way of your knees if you turned over to face the aisle.
There’s also a do-not-disturb indicator, should you not wish to be disturbed by the crew during your flight.
You can also see how obstructed the window was by the seat shell.
There was a single lavatory up the front and 2 at the rear of the cabin providing an excellent passenger-to-toilet ratio of 10:1. They had Molton Brown amenities. Each visit, I also noticed the crew had proactively installed toilet seat protective tissue paper.
Business class passengers have slippers waiting on the console in a reusable shoe bag upon boarding that were comfy to wear. There was also a blanket offered that was thinner than the duvet. Everything was wrapped in plastic.
The crew then came around and delivered either a dark men’s or white women’s Versace-branded amenity kit that includes Versace products.
The padded eye mask was a nice improvement over standard airline masks, as were the fluffy socks that also had non-slip feet (but make sure you wear the slippers when you’re walking around the cabin). They were a noticeable improvement over the thin white budget socks provided to me on my Emirates flight just hours before.
I asked the crew member if I would receive pajamas and she replied, “Yes, you’ll get them soon.”
No pajamas arrived. Later in the flight, I asked another crew member who told me that they don’t supply pajamas.
A crisp and responsive 18-inch touchscreen in front can easily be angled down for when you’re lying in bed.
The system was excellent to use so I didn’t need to use the touchscreen remote control.
After settling into my seat upon boarding, after the amenity kit arrived, I was also handed a set of Denon noise-canceling headphones.
These were probably the best set of headphones I’ve used in business class, but still weren’t as good as my Bose set. The crew also collected them 2 hours before arriving at Bali, with the option to use a cheaper set of earbuds for the duration of the flight.
Although the system had lots of content, most movies didn’t have trailers. Thankfully, the included IMDB scores helped me decide what to watch from the list movies I hadn’t heard of before.
There were 30 seconds of advertisements before the start of each movie.
There was also an interactive map to keep the AvGeeks occupied.
And a forward-facing camera.
Turkish Airlines offers all business class passengers fast and free Wi-Fi. The download speeds were actually faster than in the lounge on the ground!
The IFE system also promotes you can use your mobile device as a remote, yet I couldn’t get it working. But as mentioned, the screen was easy to use, so this wasn’t missed.
Meal and Service
Soon after boarding, the onboard chef introduced himself to every passenger, handing out menus and making recommendations.
The menu itself was an elaborate multi-folding piece with individual pull-out wine, beverage, and breakfast cards.
There was an impressive number of wines: 3 whites, 5 reds, 1 Champagne, 1 rosé, and 1 port.
A selection of non-alcoholic pre-departure beverages soon followed that included water, orange juice, lemon-mint juice, or a raspberry juice. I went with the latter. I don’t think the single-use plastic stirrer was necessary as it’s obvious on the tray of different colored beverages which was which.
The scheduled 1:45 a.m. departure time slipped to 2:01 a.m. by the time we were airborne.
Hot towels were distributed, and the crew set to work and prioritized a turndown service for those who wanted to sleep, but I was ready for more Turkish cuisine.
Post-departure beverage orders were taken around 2:50 a.m. and I decided on a Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne ($48 a bottle) to kick things off.
Turkish Airlines doesn’t offer a dine-on-demand service, which was fine as I was hungry again and happy to eat.
The tray table was set 8 minutes after and an amuse-bouche arrived 2 minutes later. Yet no Champagne.
After another 10 minutes, I had to ask a crew member to bring it to me as they had forgotten.
Strangely, warm nuts arrived next. I would have thought these would be served straight after take-off, before the amuse bouche instead of before the meal.
I went with all the chef’s recommendations that started with the “Potpourri of seafood” and the “creamy roasted red pepper soup with pesto and parmesan.”
My table still hadn’t been set when my soup arrived and then the crew realized I had nothing to eat my soup with.
A selection of bread arrived with the rest of my place setting and the cold seafood appetizers so I could start to eat.
I decided to switch to the Sauvignon Blanc and asked the crew member whilst pointing to the menu option. To which she replied, “The Cotes d’Avanos?” I said, “No, the Sauvignon Blanc, thanks,” whilst pointing directly at the Turkish translation of Sauvignon Blanc and she replied, “The Chablis?” Nope, but third time’s a charm.
Overall, I was impressed by the starter, the soup had a rich flavor, and the seafood was fresh and tasty.
But before I was even halfway through my seafood, my main arrived.
The chef recommended the traditional “dolma” varieties and “karniyarik.” But, by the time I finally got to start the dish, it was only just warm.
I thought the Turkish minaret-style salt and pepper shakers and the LED tea light were a cute touch that you can see behind the plate.
The dish was fine, but I wish I had some time to pace the meal so I didn’t have to rush and for it to go cold.
The traditional Turkish “dessert potpourri” was the final chef’s recommendation. A few minutes after finishing my main, someone else’s ice cream was delivered to my seat which I sent back.
My dessert arrived a few minutes later, just 30 minutes after the first soup was delivered — I didn’t know how I was going to fit it in.
I did try each of them and they were all delicious.
The tray was cleared around 4:00 a.m. Istanbul time (or 8:00 a.m. Bali time) and a final hot towel was distributed.
After the main meal service, I decided to catch up on some work and watch movies. There were no proactive check-ins by the crew during this time and I had to buzz if I wanted a drink refill.
The windows on the 787 were locked to their darkest setting as we were flying into the sunrise.
After watching a few movies and having a 2-hour nap, I caught up on some work on the fast and free Wi-Fi.
Around 8 hours into the flight, the electronically dimmed windows could be “opened” to 50% opacity.
Around 11:20 into the flight and just over 2:30 hours to go to, the cabin lights were turned on ready for the second meal service.
I had already pre-ordered my breakfast before departure — the gözleme flat pastry with cheese and leaf spinach and sautéed mushrooms.
Considering we were landing at 7:30 p.m. Bali time, I didn’t want the scrambled eggs as that would psychologically mess with my body clock.
Breakfast was also served with fruit salad, cheese, pastries, marinated olives, and tomato spread. I also selected a strawberry smoothie and black coffee.
I really enjoyed the gözleme, yet once again, there was a lot of food in a short period of time.
Just after the meal service, the 787 windows were finally fully unlocked so I could enjoy the view and the sunset before landing into Bali.
For my first time flying Turkish Airlines, I left really impressed… and about 11 pounds (5 kg) heavier.
The new business class cabin looks spectacular and the seat was a comfortable place to spend 13-hours watching content on the excellent IFE, using the fast and free Wi-Fi, working on your laptop from the large and sturdy tray table, or slipping into a food coma following the meal service in the long flat-bed.
Larger passengers may find the seat a bit too narrow, though.
Whilst I have heard amazing things about the Turkish Airlines soft product, the food absolutely lived up to this expectation, but the actual service and service flow were pretty sloppy.
For a 13-hour flight, I would have loved to have grazed through the first meal service rather than have it rushed over 30 minutes.
Flying east is always tough on the body clock and I wish more airlines focused on the destination time zone rather than the origin for the service flow — or at least give passengers the choice when to eat.
But my plan worked perfectly — staying awake for the majority of this flight meant I experienced no jet lag upon arrival in Bali.