Martin Jacobs takes to the skies as a guest of Turkish Airlines, and reports back on how the mega brand has mastered the art of Business Class luxury. Buckle up for a supremely comfortable ride…
There’s something very telling about being in an airport at 3am. At Istanbul Airport it is in many ways the ideal hour to suss out just how passenger friendly the transportation hub is at one of its quietest moments. Does one of the world’s busiest terminals – a major gateway to all four corners of the globe – offer its passengers the same opportunities and experiences as it does 12 hours earlier, when the international departures floor resembles New York’s Fifth Avenue pavements at rush hour? And in a year when global air travel has been fraught with no end of delays, cancellations, personnel shortages, and lost luggage, what does this mean for the hundreds of millions of Turkish Airlines passengers passing through the city’s newest airport? As a guest of Turkish Airlines, I was to find out.
Thankfully, my one and only disappointment came early, on my arrival. A flight delay; mercifully only by three hours. By 2022 standards, does that even count? Impressively, when I scan the board listing the hundreds of departures – from global hotspots to cities I’ve never heard of – mine is the only flight delayed. And it’s these additional hours that give me the time to comprehensively explore the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge. One of two lounges elevated on a mezzanine above the main departures floor, it hosts over 700 passengers in a multitude of spaces and rooms – so a sense of privacy is not just welcome but guaranteed. It’s an impressive lounge, entirely considered and contemporary in its design, conceived to keep even the most restless of post-midnight passengers comfortable, sated, informed, and entertained.
LOCKED, STOCKED (AND WITHOUT THE TWO SMOKING BARRELS)
Upon entry, there’s quite possibly the most stylish locker ‘room’ I’ve ever seen – with row upon row of glass lockers illuminated from within, glowing warmly like beacons that subliminally communicate, ‘take a load off.’ It’s your cue to lock away the hand luggage that weighs you down, and free up your hands to max out on the perfectly stocked buffets and counter service of both Turkish and international cuisine. Late night the offering is dinner. An array of hot and cold dishes, everything from a healthy Turkish lentil soup to purslane and pomegranate salads, tabbouleh, and tapenades. Meat and fish dishes, six varieties of olive (you’ve got to sample all, right?!), and a tasty almond and cucumber salad worthy of a special mention. Shortly after midnight, the counter service closes, but the buffet remains well stocked and, by 4am, has been updated with a breakfast bonanza – everything from baklava to Bircher muesli, cortado to cake.
If you’re anything like me, a night owl rather than an early bird, there’s no shortage of early-hours amusement. There’s a golf simulator for those keen to practise their swing, and a Carrera racing simulator for the fast-and-furious petrolhead eager to race the streets of Istanbul. Those in need of news of the world are kept informed not only by a wall of screens offering global news channels (with headsets in a multitude of languages), but by a selection of international print media. Book lovers can head to one of the more secluded lounges and nestle in a sofa with any number of coffee table books as escape. And if screen time is the stimulus needed to keep you alert and awake, head to one of the many desktop terminals, take advantage of the complimentary Wi-Fi and browse to your heart’s content, or catch up on emails and plan itineraries. The nearby concierge is textbook patience and politeness, even at those hours when the city sleeps. I should know; I approached her more than once with a barrage of questions.
Global village that our world has become, even in the darkest hours pre-dawn, there’s little excuse not to look your best for that Teams Meeting catch-up with your colleagues back home. Turkish Airlines Business Lounge offers an ironing service that, while not completely available round the clock, allows you to check in garments in need of pressing. This is the moment you’ll want to make use of the private showers and bathroom facilities and book a pre-flight massage with a mobile therapist. Looking 007 suave, now’s when you’ll want to reserve one of the six meeting rooms, and link into the video- and teleconferencing facilities for that Zoom presentation you’ve been rehearsing all week.
UP IN THE AIR
As any aviation fan will tell you, it’s up in the air where the magic happens. The Business Lounge, indulgent as it may be, is only the portal to the luxury that sets a Turkish Airlines Business Class flight apart. As is a prerequisite in any premier flight cabin nowadays, there’s an ample ratio of cabin crew to passengers, making the flight a pampered and personalised experience. By the end of my ten-hour journey home, I’d enjoyed several chats with the Flying Chef, who’d personally stopped by to take my dinner order, and to expand on the wine pairings she considered best with my meal. As if I needed convincing that the Taittinger Brut Reserve was the way to go! Snug as a bug in a cocooned mile-high rug, I popped on the Denon noise-cancelling headphones, tuned out the engine’s purr (they are remarkably effective at doing so), and tuned into the entertainment system, with more notable good films than my flight home allowed time for.
Yes, the bed’s amazing and the food on a par with that in the lounge. Yes, the seclusion and ample space offered by the seat design make for a most comfortable flight. But for me, it is the attention to detail and personalised touches that marked the experience. There’s the Movie Bar, an assortment of snacks and chocolates to enjoy while watching the latest releases. And there’s my double take when dinner high above the clouds arrives by candlelight (open flames on a plane?!) – only to realise that the warm glow of the flickering flame is battery powered. Nice touch, Turkish Airlines. It’s the anticipation of passengers wants and needs – some of which we’ve not yet considered ourselves – that, be it day or night and on the ground or in the air, Turkish Airlines has mastered.