When Turkish Airlines announced in 2014 that it would be offering direct flights to Istanbul from Montreal, we knew little about this airline in Quebec. Turkish Airlines has since been providing three weekly direct flights from Montreal and Toronto to Istanbul primarily because the airline wants to increase the number of Canadian visitors to the Turkish metropolis while also promoting the business opportunities between the two countries. It was quite a risk, but it has proven successful. The company is well established and reputed in Canada nearly five years later.
What distinguishes the carrier from other airlines serving Turkey? They now serve more countries worldwide than any other airline, and offer a free stopover in Istanbul for those wishing to explore this unique city without having to pay for two plane tickets. This also allows the airline to showcase their one-of-a-kind business lounge at the brand-new Istanbul airport, which is now known to be one of the largest and most modern airports in the world.
I recently flew from Montreal, my Canadian hometown, to the largest city in Turkey, Istanbul, aboard Turkish Airlines Business Class. Here is an insider’s look at this luxury flight experience.
- Flight: TK35
- Aircraft: Airbus 330-300
- Flight Plan: Montréal (YUL) to Istanbul (IST)
- Depart: 11:05 PM on Tuesday
- Arrive: 2:45 PM, next day
- Duration: 9 hours, 45 minutes
- Seat: 5A Business Class
Before boarding, Business Class passengers have access to the very chic Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge where acclaimed chef Antonio Park offers signature dishes and Veronique Rivest features select wines by the glass. Before the return flight, guests can experience the unique Turkish Airlines Business Lounge where you will find 3 restaurants, a movie theater, a kid’s club and an art gallery (thanks to the airline partnership with the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art).
Flying Business Class on Turkish Airlines also includes the services of a “chef on board” (who even wears a real chef’s hat!) who engages in conversation with each guest before takeoff to take their order and inquire about their preferences, allergies and intolerances while asking what time they want to enjoy their meals. There is no “meal time” imposed in this case, it is up to the guests to choose when they want to be served. I pre-ordered my breakfast to be served “45 minutes before landing,” and selected freshly squeezed orange juice alongside pancakes, yogurt and homemade jams. Guests can also choose from a wide range of beverages, which includes Tattinger Champagne by the glass, an impressive collection of premium wines, a variety of hand-selected teas, coffees and creative cocktails.
First-class amenities include an exciting travel pouch (note: Turkish Airlines recently partnered with Versace to design travel comfort kits for women (fuchsia) and men (marine). The Versace Flight Comfort Kit includes an eye mask, warm socks, earplugs, toothbrush and travel-size body and face creams by Versace. For dinner, guests can select from 3 appetizers (creamy tomato soup, potpourri of seafood, Turkish mezzes), 3 mains (steak & salad, mushroom raviolis, filet of salmon*) and 5 desserts (Turkish delights, strawberry ice cream, pistachio chocolate cake, cheese plate, fruit salad).
Foodies won’t be disappointed since the food is delicious, presentations are restaurant quality and the service is first-class. It truly shows that this airline takes everything seriously: think Turkish salt and pepper disposers, “candlelight” dinner, traditional Turkish tea service and special-demand treats.
While guests enjoy the in-flight dinner, DENON wireless headphones are provided to each passenger to allow them to listen to a wide selection of movies and TV shows without being disturbed by ambient noise. A wireless remote control is attached to each seat that allows each customer to call an attendant, turn off/on the lights, and change the sound or program on their personal flat TV. Slippers, shoe bags, bottles of water, pillows, blankets, books and magazines are also available to guests at all times during the flight.
After the meal, an attendant arrives to “prepare” each guest’s bed by transforming the seat into a 180-degree flat bed. Bottles of water are brought for “the night”, the light is dimmed and each guest is asked again whether they wish to be woken for breakfast or enjoy some additional sleep.
The bed is comfortable, but remember we are in an airplane. However it is indeed a flat bed with the mattress pad, pillow and blanket that are complimented by the mask, stockings and earplugs – making it possible to sleep for several hours. A divider screen offers privacy between the two seats in the row when traveling alone.
Finally, after a few hours of sleep, you arrive more refreshed than if you had taken another transatlantic flight in Economy Class, of course. Upon arrival, your hot (and delicious) breakfast is served and your bed will be “tidied up”. You will be able to keep the classy Versace travel pouch and other accessories… except for the DENON wireless headphones that are collected at the end of the flight.
Final verdict: impeccable service, exquisite food, a cozy night (providing the circumstances) and an absolutely fabulous experience that we should offer ourselves more often if we have the opportunity. This is the way travel should be enjoyed.