Edited by: Nick Ellis
& Keri Stooksbury
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Airline: Turkish Airlines (TK)
Aircraft: Airbus A350 (THY84U)
Flight #: TK186
Route: Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to Istanbul Airport (IST)
Date: January 12, 2024
Duration: 10 hours, 20 minutes
Cabin and Layout: Business class, 28 seats, 1-2-1 configuration
Cost: 31,500 Turkish Miles&Smiles miles or from $4,292 cash
Turkish Airlines is well-known for its fantastic service and top-notch inflight catering. This is especially true for those flying on long-haul Turkish Airlines flights in business class.
Having already flown some of the best business class products available, I wanted to give Turkish Airlines a shot. I had an idea of how this experience would go. However, there were a few pleasant surprises on this flight.
Let’s look at how I booked this award ticket and the entire flight experience, including check-in, the inflight service, the numerous amenities, the business class cabin, and the seat itself.
With Turkish Airlines being part of Star Alliance, there are several options for booking Turkish Airlines business class. Some popular programs for booking Star Alliance partner awards include Air Canada Aeroplan, Avianca LifeMiles, and United Mileage Plus.
Of course, you could also book through Turkish Airlines’ loyalty program, Miles&Smiles. This is the method I chose as the Turkish Airlines award chart has some sweet spots, with business class awards between North America and Europe being one of them.
On top of that, in late December 2023, Turkish Airlines had an incredible promo for Miles&Smiles members where award tickets could be booked for 30% fewer miles.
According to Turkish Airlines’ zone-based award chart, one-way awards between North America and Europe can be booked for 45,000 miles. With the promo, I was able to snag this award for just 31,500 miles one-way.
As you can imagine, this promo made a sweet spot even sweeter. Many airlines price one-way economy awards between North America and Europe for more than what I paid for this business class seat.Hot Tip:
Interested in booking a Turkish Airlines business class award? Check out our step-by-step guide on the best ways to book Turkish Airlines business class with points!
Although the Turkish Airlines website is not the best for looking up Star Alliance award space, it is a good option for strictly Turkish Airlines awards. I was able to find award space on the very first date I searched.
My schedule was quite flexible so I decided to go ahead and book the award immediately. Since I didn’t have the necessary miles in my Miles&Smiles account, I would need to transfer some points over.
Turkish Miles&Smiles is a transfer partner of several transferable points programs, including Bilt Rewards, Capital One Miles, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy. All of the programs, except Marriott Bonvoy, transfer at a 1:1 ratio. Marriott Bonvoy points transfer at a rate of 3:1, with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points transferred.
The one-way business class fare from Chicago to Istanbul would have set me back $4,292 if I’d paid cash. Since I used just 31,500 Turkish miles for this one-way award, I got an astounding 13.6 cents per point!
This is significantly higher than our valuation of 1.3 cents for Turkish miles.
I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve® to pay the taxes and fees for this award ticket, which came out to just under $286. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is my go-to card for travel as it provides an extensive range of travel insurance and protections.
The morning of my flight turned out to be a hectic one, as most of the Chicago area was placed under a winter weather advisory earlier in the morning.
A few minutes after getting in my Lyft, I got a text message stating that the flight was delayed an hour and 20 minutes. Since the roads were in bad shape, I decided to continue to the airport. The normally 25-minute ride from the northwest suburbs took about an hour.Hot Tip:
If you’re heading to O’Hare from the city, the CTA Blue Line provides a direct connection to the airport, making it a great option to beat the usually heavy traffic.
Although I was able to check in online the day prior, I was unable to get my boarding passes. This meant I would have to stop by the check-in counters.
Turkish Airlines flies out of Terminal 5 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, as do most international flights. Its counters are near the end of the check-in hall for departures.
Turkish had 4 check-in counters for economy passengers and 2 for business class and Star Alliance Gold passengers.
Although the flight was delayed by almost an hour and a half, the check-in counters were quite busy with several families lined up. For business class, there was a queue for about 5 minutes.
As I made my way to the check-in counter, I was greeted by a smiling Turkish Airlines agent who informed me that the flight was delayed as many passengers were not notified through text or e-mail.
The agent then asked if I had any checked bags and promptly handed me my boarding pass.
I was also given a separate pass that granted me access to the Swissport Lounge near gate M7, as Turkish does not have its own lounge at O’Hare. Having been to the Swissport Lounge a few times in the past, I decided just to head in to get a coffee.
The Swissport Lounge is quite poor overall and not worth going out of your way to get into. The lounge is a member of the Priority Pass network, though it’s known to refuse Priority Pass members with frequency. In fact, I have been denied to the Swissport Lounge on 4 separate occasions when flying out of Terminal 5 in a non-premium cabin.
The lounge has outdated furniture and seating for 25 to 30 people. The lounge doesn’t have a single window, making it feel even more chaotic. Power outlets are incredibly hard to come by inside and worst of all, the Swissport Lounge does not even have a bathroom. You need to exit the lounge and use the public restrooms in Terminal 5.
This is a lounge used by several airlines for business class passengers, including those flying on Qatar Airways and EVA Air. It’s a shame that business class passengers on certain airlines do not have another lounge option.
With how hectic the morning was, I just wanted to have a seat. Unfortunately, the lounge did not provide that so I decided to head to a nearby gate with no departure flight.
After finishing my coffee, I headed to gate M20 where my flight was scheduled to depart.
From one of the windows near the gate, I was able to see the Airbus A350 that would be taking me nearly 5,500 miles to Istanbul.
My flight was supposed to depart at 11:35 a.m. but was delayed until 12:55 p.m. However, when I made it to the gate, it was announced that the cabin crew was still not onboard. They arrived at the gate at 12:40 p.m.
Although it’s customary for international flights to board 1 hour before departure, the boarding process was a bit delayed. Turkish was a bit disorganized when it came time to board, however, agents were strict on only letting business class passengers and those who needed assistance to board first.
Boarding was completed in under 25 minutes which was quite surprising given the number of passengers. We started taxing right at 1:20 p.m.
As I boarded the A350 through Door 2, I was met with a pleasant surprise. The business class cabin was not what I had been accustomed to seeing for Turkish’s A350-900s.
This aircraft was one of Turkish Airlines’ handful of A350s that were originally intended to be flown by Russian airline Aeroflot. Aeroflot placed an order for 22 Airbus A350-900s — though only 7 were delivered. However, due to economic sanctions, Aeroflot was no longer able to take delivery of these planes. Turkish Airlines stepped in and took over these planes.
As I made my way on board, I was genuinely excited as the cabin was nothing like I expected.
This particular A350 configuration consisted of 28 seats in total, spread across 7 rows in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration. This ensures that each passenger has direct aisle access. This is a very welcome feature since many of Turkish Airlines’ wide-body aircraft (particularly its Boeing 777s) feature a 2-3-2 or 2-2-2 layout in business class.
For even more privacy, each seat features a sliding door that makes the seat a proper suite when the door is closed.
The seat configuration varies a bit depending on which row you are seated in. For the middle section, seats in odd-numbered rows are closer to each other. These are ideal for those traveling together.
However, these seats are a good option even if you’re traveling alone thanks to a privacy divider. Seats in the even-numbered rows are closer to the aisle.
For the window seats, those in even-numbered rows are closer to the windows and farther from the aisle, making these the best options for solo travelers.
These A350s feature the Collins Aerospace Horizon product, which is unique as Turkish is currently the only airline featuring this cabin. The cabin was visually appealing and the decision to remove the overhead bins in the center made it feel even more spacious.
Although I had selected seat 7K, the flight attendants let me know that I was okay to take any empty seat as the business cabin was only half full. I decided to stay in my seat, and although it was relatively close to the galley, the noise didn’t bother me at all.
As soon as I sat down, I began exploring everything the seat had to offer. One of the first things I noticed was that there was a good amount of space in the footwell.
And when seated, there was also plenty of privacy. Even with the door open, I could not see the passenger sitting across the aisle from me thanks to the divider.
When it came to storage, this seat excelled. There was an enclosed storage compartment that even featured a mirror. This provided enough space for me to store most of my electronics as well as my passport and wallet. However, I was unable to fit my MacBook in the storage compartment.
Below the storage compartment, there was the AC power outlet, a single USB-A outlet, and the headphone jack.
The seat controls were located right at the edge of the counter next to the seat, in what I think was a not-so-great position. There were a total of 5 controls including a “do not disturb” button.
Since there was no armrest on the left side of the seat, I would find myself resting my arm on the counter. This was frustrating as I accidentally hit the recline button several times throughout the flight.
The controller for the inflight entertainment screen was located right below the seat controls. However, since the seat featured a touchscreen, I did not use the controller once.
The controller was also poorly placed as I repeatedly hit the power button with my elbow.
Across from the storage compartment, there was a closet that was wide enough for me to hang some clothes. However, it was too shallow to hold anything besides my sweater.
The tray table was also placed interestingly. It was located just above the footwell and folded outwards at an angle. Overall, though, the tray table was relatively spacious.
Shortly after takeoff, I was able to close my suite’s door. The door provided a ton of privacy, on par with some of the best business class seats in the world, including Qatar’s Qsuite.
The seat also reclined into a fully flat bed. The mattress pad fit perfectly over the seat.
Turkish also provided a pillow along with bedding. The materials used for both were excellent.
Overall, the seat was comfy and spacious. There was a ton of privacy thanks to the dividers and sliding door. There was ample storage next to the seat. However, there wasn’t a great place to keep my camera and laptop bag.
Overall, this was a thoroughly modern, comfortable, and practical business class seat, and I’m very pleased I got to try it out on my flight!
Without a doubt, the inflight catering was the thing I was looking forward to most during this flight, as Turkish Airlines has a reputation for serving some of the best food in the sky — the airline even boasts an onboard chef!
The chef came by and introduced himself and provided me with the menus for the flight. The flight would feature an entire lunch course and a breakfast shortly before landing, as well as snacks whenever I wanted.
A separate wine and Champagne menu was also provided. Selections were available from numerous regions across Türkiye, France, and Spain.
Shortly after takeoff, the flight attendants started the lunch service. They first came to each business class passenger and offered beverages.
I started with a homemade lemonade with fresh mint and a Coke Zero. The beverages were accompanied by an assortment of nuts that featured almonds, cashews, peanuts, and pistachios.
I then ordered my appetizers. The flight attendants allowed for multiple selections from the trolley. These included an octopus salad, marinated prawns, and smoked salmon.
I was also offered some creamy tomato soup with croutons, which was among the best soups I’ve ever had.
Shortly after, the flight attendants brought out the main course. I went with the steak and arugula salad with roasted potatoes. I was even provided with ketchup and mayonnaise packets for the potatoes. The steak tasted fantastic and was plenty filling.
After the immaculate appetizers and main course, it was time for dessert. I went with the potpourri of traditional Turkish delights and a berry almond cake with vanilla sauce. I was even provided with a fresh fruit salad.
The traditional Turkish pastries were among the best I ever had and made me want to get some more as soon as I landed in Istanbul.
A few hours after lunch, I requested some snacks from the snack bar menu.
From the snack menu, I ordered some dried strawberries (although they were not listed on the menu), homemade savory cookies, chocolate, and potato chips.
The chocolate came in the form of a Snickers and Twix bar, which disappointed me slightly. The potato chips were also just a small container of Pringles. Regardless, it was nice to have something to snack on while I watched a movie.
About an hour and a half before landing, the flight attendants began serving breakfast. Breakfast started a wide selection, including a fresh fruit salad, a mix of chicken breast and smoked turkey slices, an assortment of cheese, and some yogurt.
I could also choose between a mozzarella and tomato omelet or French toast with vanilla sauce and mixed berry compote. I went with the French toast, which was great — although it was a bit too sweet.
Overall, the food was superb, the selection was expansive, and because the cabin was only half full, they had enough of everything and allowed me to sample many different items.
The entire experience lived up to the hype. In my opinion, the catering was on par with first class meals I have had with ANA and Japan Airlines.
I was thoroughly impressed with the amenities Turkish Airlines provided for its business class passengers.
Although I didn’t use the IFE much during the flight, it’s still nice to have. The screen measured 18 inches and had a high resolution. There was a good selection of movies and U.S. TV shows as well as numerous Turkish dramas.
Turkish also provided Denon noise-canceling headphones. Although I didn’t use them — I was set with my AirPods — they did feel quite sturdy and comfortable.
Turkish also provided a Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kit. The pouch was a high-quality leather-like material and felt luxurious. Amenity kits can be hit or miss, but this one felt like something of value.
The amenity kit was well-stocked and included thick socks, an eye mask, a dental kit featuring a toothbrush and toothpaste, ear plugs, and some Salvatore Ferragamo-branded body products (body lotion, lip balm, and facial mist).
Turkish Airlines also provided business class passengers with slippers, which proved to be useful when heading to the lavatory.
Turkish Airlines also provided onboard Wi-fi for passengers, with 1 GB of data complimentary for business class passengers. The Wi-Fi was surprisingly fast and was good enough for some light browsing and messaging. I did multiple speed tests and was able to get download speeds of up to 16 Mbps.
Connecting was easy — all I needed to do was enter my last name and seat number.
The business class experience on Turkish Airlines was simply incredible. A big part of that came down to the service of the courteous and professional cabin crew.
The flight attendants put a lot of effort into the meal presentation and worked hard to make sure I enjoyed my experience. They were also personable and tried their best to make the experience feel personalized. It was evident that Turkish Airlines takes pride in its service.
Although we left Chicago almost 2 hours after our originally scheduled departure time, we arrived in Istanbul just 45 minutes after our scheduled arrival time.
With how large Istanbul’s new airport is, we had a relatively long taxi time of approximately 20 minutes.
As we were pulling into our arrival gate, I was able to take a picture of this Boeing 777-300ER parked at the next gate. I was happy to have flown on the A350 as most of Turkish’s 777s feature an outdated business class cabin.
I wanted to experience Turkish’s business class lounge in Istanbul, which is currently the biggest lounge in the world. However, I had a relatively quick connection as my onward flight to Madrid was scheduled to depart in an hour.
This experience in Turkish Airlines business class was phenomenal — it was everything I expected it to be. The food, the service, and the business class cabin and seat were all fantastic. It goes to show how much Turkish prides itself on being one of the best airlines in the world.
The fact that I was able to book this ticket for 30% fewer miles (all thanks to a Turkish Miles&Smiles promotion) made this experience that much better. For just 45,000 miles, flying between the U.S. and Europe is a fantastic deal. For just under 32,000 miles, it’s absolutely a no-brainer.
I was fortunate enough to try out a cabin I wasn’t expecting to fly. I cannot wait to fly business class with Turkish Airlines again. While I would be happy to fly in this cabin again, I do want to try the configuration found onboard Turkish’s other A350s so I can see how they stack up to one another.
Turkish Airlines business class passengers receive 1 GB of complimentary Wi-Fi. To log in, simply connect to the network and enter your last name and seat number.
As Turkish Airlines is a member of Star Alliance, you have plenty of options when it comes to award redemptions. Some popular options include Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles, Air Canada Aeroplan, ANA Mileage Club, and Avianca LifeMiles.
Miles&Smiles charges 45,000 miles plus taxes and fees for one-way awards between the U.S. and Europe.
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Ehsan is an avid traveler who has traveled to 100 countries, diligently using points and miles to fund his journeys. Currently, he holds 32 active credit cards and earns over a million points and miles annually, primarily using them for luxury hotels and long-haul premium cabins.
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