Turkish Airlines Brings Back Flying Chefs

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In April 2021 Turkish Airlines resumed hot inflight meal service, after having very limited service for over a year. Now the airline is bringing back its popular inflight chefs.

Turkish Airlines inflight chefs make a comeback

As of May 2021, Turkish Airlines’ inflight chefs are once again taking to the skies on flights of eight hours or longer. Turkish Airlines’ flying chefs work in business class on long haul flights and oversee the meal service — they do everything from welcoming passengers, to taking meal orders, to handling the preparation and presentation of meals.

Turkish Airlines long haul flights once again have chefs

As Turkish Airlines’ Chairman of the Board, M. Ilker Ayci, explains the decision to bring back chefs:

“Throughout the past year, we’ve had to make many adjustments to our product and service offerings to protect the health and safety of our passengers and employees. Our award-winning dining service and Flying Chefs program is a distinguishing aspect of the airline and we are happy to reintroduce this our worldwide guests to make the flight experience as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.”

It’s not entirely clear to me how much service will be changing as a result of the reintroduction of inflight chefs, though I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. While Turkish Airlines has indeed resumed most of its pre-coronavirus service, the airline still hasn’t been using display trolleys for meals, and hasn’t been serving pre-departure beverages.

The Turkish Airlines trolley still hasn’t made a comeback

I don’t believe that will be changing for now, even with the reintroduction of inflight chefs.

It’s great to see an airline actually resume service

At the start of the pandemic I was totally in favor of airlines cutting service in order to minimize contact between passengers and crew, and maximize the amount of time that people have their masks on.

However, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that some travel brands consider this to be the new normal, and are using the pandemic to cut costs in the long run:

In that sense I think it’s worth giving a lot of credit to travel brands that are committed to actually restoring service cuts. Some airlines, like Lufthansa and Qatar Airways, have continued to offer nearly full service during the pandemic.

Lufthansa business class service hasn’t changed much during the pandemic

Meanwhile other airlines, like Turkish Airlines, made drastic cuts, but are also quickly adding back service to restore the experience. Kudos.

Bottom line

Turkish Airlines is bringing back its flying chefs. At the start of the pandemic I wondered if the cut of inflight chefs might be permanent, so I’m happy to see that’s not the case.

While there might be an element of style over substance to the whole inflight chef concept, it’s something I definitely do appreciate, as Turkish Airlines has the best business class catering in the world.

Are you happy/surprised to see the return of Turkish Airlines’ flying chefs?

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  1. Greg

    Good for them - no more excuses for food and beverage service cuts on a health basis

    Wake up Delta, United, AA

  2. Alec

    What do the Chefs actually do that a FA couldn't (or not as well)? Aren't they literally just heating things in an oven

  3. EthFlyer

    @Alec

    It certainly looks that way when you fly an American airline. I dont think the concepts of taste or presentation matter much to them.

  4. Johnny A

    @Lucky (& others) — is there any news on Turkish schedule changes? I have been monitoring a few Turkish flights and trying to plan a trip for late summer, but Turkish seems to be cancelling/re-scheduling a lot of flights (both long-haul and short-haul). Has there been any coverage of this or is there any expectation as to when schedules will be more or less “set”? It’s very hard to redeem points on Turkish when there...

    @Lucky (& others) — is there any news on Turkish schedule changes? I have been monitoring a few Turkish flights and trying to plan a trip for late summer, but Turkish seems to be cancelling/re-scheduling a lot of flights (both long-haul and short-haul). Has there been any coverage of this or is there any expectation as to when schedules will be more or less “set”? It’s very hard to redeem points on Turkish when there seems to be little certainty on the schedule...

  5. Andy

    @Lucky: I couldn’t agree more on your remark that the flying chefs are “style over substance”. They are not really cooking the food, but only heating it up, same as regular cabin crew.

    Also, at least in 2019 and early 2020 most of them had been trained to also exercise the security related part of the job, e.g. they were more and more assigned a door they would have to operate in case of...

    @Lucky: I couldn’t agree more on your remark that the flying chefs are “style over substance”. They are not really cooking the food, but only heating it up, same as regular cabin crew.

    Also, at least in 2019 and early 2020 most of them had been trained to also exercise the security related part of the job, e.g. they were more and more assigned a door they would have to operate in case of an emergency. Earlier, they were additional cabin crew, asigned to a door together with a regular crew member.

  6. TravelManager

    When chefs are crewed on flights, does that change the number of flight attendants legally required? As far as what they do for the meal service, I have flown Turkish several times, and have seen the chefs make omelets. Not heat them up, make them. They also plate the food per spec, not just dump it on the plate.

  7. Tyler Schmidt

    @johnny a

    I am a victim of those service cuts. Was scheduled to fly from CPT to IST to SFO to SEA early September, just saw today they cut service from CPT to IST. Unfortunately, on a reward ticket with United and they wouldn't reaccomidate me. Not the end of the world, they put me in business from JNB to EWR to SEA, so only have to book the quick flight from CPT to JNB on my own.

  8. Peter

    @Ben I'm flying them Sunday, shorthaul 789 to long haul 777. Happy to report back with regards to the extent of the service on both (and also wishing I had the new 789 for the long haul leg since I'm flying solo...).

  9. MM

    @Alec, perhaps its marketing? I will say that I flew Turkish once in business from ORD-IST and the food/chef were excellent. I look forward to flying them again. And their old lounge was spectacular with so much delicious food and cakes.

  10. Ryan

    I flew TK from ORD to IST this past Saturday. The chefs were onboard.

    They did nothing of value that an FA could not otherwise do. The meals were served in plastic covered trays with no choice of side dishes or dessert. The main courses were pre-plated, presented, covered, on the serving trolley and put on your tray covered. There was literally nothing for the chefs to do.

    So, while it is nice to...

    I flew TK from ORD to IST this past Saturday. The chefs were onboard.

    They did nothing of value that an FA could not otherwise do. The meals were served in plastic covered trays with no choice of side dishes or dessert. The main courses were pre-plated, presented, covered, on the serving trolley and put on your tray covered. There was literally nothing for the chefs to do.

    So, while it is nice to see the chefs return, the truth is that the service that made having the chefs special has not returned and what is in its place is a very, very poor substitute.

  11. srrra

    Worst customer service in Instanbul, and razor thin network... slightest delay leads to 8 hours stuck. DO NOT FLY THEM1

  12. Indopithecus

    I am not sure what these 'flying chefs' do but I've flown Turkish business class a few times and all I saw was this guy in a chef's getup hovering near the galley. So I think it is a lot of 'style over substance'. When I asked for something different that I thought a 'chef' could prepare, I was told it was not possible, sorry. Still, good to see some of the pre-covid practices returning.

  13. Steven M Jacoby

    Forget onboard chefs, Turk Air should replace every flight and ground attendant. They are, beyond comparison, the nastiest airline employees I've ever met. My wife and I have each flown more than 1,500,000 miles, including being Million Milers on United. We first flew them as students, for a summer abroad, in 1972. They were great. We next flew them in 2012, on a lengthy trip to Turkey. They were good, but the plane was decrepit....

    Forget onboard chefs, Turk Air should replace every flight and ground attendant. They are, beyond comparison, the nastiest airline employees I've ever met. My wife and I have each flown more than 1,500,000 miles, including being Million Milers on United. We first flew them as students, for a summer abroad, in 1972. They were great. We next flew them in 2012, on a lengthy trip to Turkey. They were good, but the plane was decrepit. Our last time, literally and figuratively, was on a trip to Egypt in 2019. We flew TK008 and TK007, IAD/IST. Purchasing tickets online was cumbersome. We were told, after many efforts, that we couldn't buy an upgrade. At Dulles, on the plane, and in Istanbul, any Turk Air staff was nasty and unhelpful. We've flown great some super and some not so super airlines. Turk Air is the bottom of the barrel. Never again.

  14. Julia

    I don’t think anyone is buying what you are selling, Steven.

  15. JD

    Was waiting for this awesome news. Turkey here we come!

  16. Motion to Dismiss

    It doesn’t seem like this at all affects the passenger experience if the food offerings are no different as a result. Am I wrong?

    I’m eagerly hoping for the reintroduction of full meal service, including trolleys with choices for apps and desserts. I’ve got a booking with them in August—fingers crossed I’ll get the whole shebang by then.

  17. KB

    When I flew Austrian Business over the holidays the one service difference due to their flying chef’s absence seemed to be the second meal wasn’t customizable by ingredient. Other than that the only difference was appetizers were no longer served from the cart. You chose them beforehand. Oh, and I believe no pre-flight drink so your mask stayed on while others were boarding.

  18. AK

    Flying Turkish biz tomorrow. Yay for chefs. Flew many routes with them pre pandemic and 3 in last year and it was a huge difference.

  19. SN

    @Lucky
    I too am glad to see a resumption in pre pandemic service here. I’m growing particularly frustrated with the covid service cuts that United airlines has made. Good luck getting anything to drink when flying their regional Skywest. “Expected turbulence” and “Covid Safety” seem to be the excuse to not offer any service at all every flight I take with Skywest in First, and I’ve had to fly them a lot now on...

    @Lucky
    I too am glad to see a resumption in pre pandemic service here. I’m growing particularly frustrated with the covid service cuts that United airlines has made. Good luck getting anything to drink when flying their regional Skywest. “Expected turbulence” and “Covid Safety” seem to be the excuse to not offer any service at all every flight I take with Skywest in First, and I’ve had to fly them a lot now on commute. Rarely does the expected turbulence actually occur. I say if an airline can serve you dinner while flying over the Andies then it certainly can’t be that risky to serve us a drink on a commuter flight.
    Anyways, I’m over it. If you pay for first class you should get first class service. Hats off to Lufthansa for maintaining quality business service during most all of covid. I hope they will bring their first lounges back soon... any idea when they will reopen ?

  20. iamhere

    Aren't they just an FA dressed differently?....

  21. Ryan

    All.

    Again, based on actual experience from less than a week ago. The return of the chefs does not mean the return of the old meal service. It is the same pandemic meal service. No appetizer trolley service. No choice of appetizers. No choice of desserts. Choice of three pre-plated main courses. Served covered so you can't look before you select. No cheeses. The chefs literally added no value.

    If you are flying TK soon...

    All.

    Again, based on actual experience from less than a week ago. The return of the chefs does not mean the return of the old meal service. It is the same pandemic meal service. No appetizer trolley service. No choice of appetizers. No choice of desserts. Choice of three pre-plated main courses. Served covered so you can't look before you select. No cheeses. The chefs literally added no value.

    If you are flying TK soon and expecting the old service, you will be disappointed.

  22. Iqbal Hasan

    My experience with Tukish Airlines is aweful. It was my return flight from Dhaka to Toronto via Istanbul.
    July 31st 2020. Service was terrible. No hot food. No drink. Cold sandwitch in a brown bag. It was just like a dog food. Though Qatar air lines and Emirates was serving hot food in the flight. I decide, I will never fly with Turkish Air again.

  23. Kent

    Have flown with Turkish several times and never understood the chef concept except for as a marketing gimmick. If anything, the experience was comical for us - especially my wife who is actually a head chef.

  24. Ryan

    No material difference in service ex-IST. Chefs really haven't much to do.

Featured Comments Load all 24 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Ryan

No material difference in service ex-IST. Chefs really haven't much to do.

Kent

Have flown with Turkish several times and never understood the chef concept except for as a marketing gimmick. If anything, the experience was comical for us - especially my wife who is actually a head chef.

Iqbal Hasan

My experience with Tukish Airlines is aweful. It was my return flight from Dhaka to Toronto via Istanbul. July 31st 2020. Service was terrible. No hot food. No drink. Cold sandwitch in a brown bag. It was just like a dog food. Though Qatar air lines and Emirates was serving hot food in the flight. I decide, I will never fly with Turkish Air again.

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