Vienna to Istanbul via Tokyo: Turkish Business Class Tokyo Narita to Istanbul

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For a brief period a few years back Turkish leased some 777-300ER aircraft from Jet Airways, which featured fully enclosed suites in first class.

Turkish first class in the good old days

They released an unreal amount of award space and even so their first class cabins were almost always empty. I flew them with my brother from London to Istanbul and Istanbul to Hong Kong, and on both flights we were the only passengers in first class. Suffice to say it was a phenomenal experience. The food served aboard both flights was among the best I’ve had on any airline, not to mention the sheer quantity of food was ridiculous.

The highlight had to be the ground services in Istanbul, as they not only escorted you from the door of the plane past immigration, but also provided a complimentary chauffeur service into Istanbul for their first class passengers. And their lounge in Istanbul at the time was possibly the most exclusive airline lounge I’ve ever been to.

Unfortunately they terminated their lease of Jet Airways’ 777s as they took delivery of their own 777s, except instead of first, business, and economy class, they featured business, premium economy, and economy class. So I couldn’t wait to see how their business class product was years later, having only flown their first class.

As you start reading this report, be sure to turn on the “Turkish Airlines Globally Yours” music (whether you prefer the Ethiopia, Ramadan, Kobe Bryant, Manchester, or classic version — yes, what random themes) and join the support group.

Turkish 51
Tokyo (NRT) – Istanbul (IST)
Friday, February 1
Depart: 12:55PM
Arrive: 6:10PM
Duration: 12hr15min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 4B (Business Class)

There were several flight attendants at the door as I boarded, though none made eye contact or said anything to me. I headed to my aisle seat in row four. The business class cabin is quite small at only 28 seats, with four rows in a 2-3-2 configuration.

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

Waiting at my seat were a large pillow and blanket.

Seats 4A & 4B



The seats in business class are fully flat, and they each have an ottoman that acts as leg support when you fully recline your seat. The legroom was plentiful, and even when stretching out my legs I couldn’t reach the seats in front of me.

Tons of legroom!

Ottomans and entertainment screens

Center console and entertainment screens

On the center console were the seating controls, which were easy to use.

Seating controls

Once settled in I noticed that row four had a missing window, though I had an aisle seat so that didn’t really bother me much.

Missing window

Waiting for me in the storage compartment at the front of the seat were slippers and an amenity kit.

Slippers and amenity kit

The amenity kit and toiletries were Lanvin branded, and consisted of a pen, comb, moisturizer, lip balm, socks, eye shades, shoehorn, toothbrush, and toothpaste.

Amenity kit contents

The business class cabin quickly filled up, and eventually all but one center seat was taken. My seatmate was a Japanese guy in his 40s, while most of the business class passengers were Turkish.

To avoid being (too) repetitive, I’ll say upfront that the crew was efficient yet disorganized and completely lacking any personality. While Turkish might be “globally yours,” they sure don’t “fly for your smile” like Austrian (which is admittedly an extremely cheesy slogan). The crew had the personality of a box of rocks, and that’s being generous.

Anyway, about 15 minutes after settling in I was offered a pre-departure beverage, and selected orange juice.

Pre-departure beverage

A few minutes later one of the two onboard chefs came by to distribute menus. These must be the largest and most elaborate business class menus of any airline. There was a wine list inside the three panel menu. Reminds me a bit of the days in middle school where I had to do science projects on the three panel cardboard. *Shudder*



Shortly thereafter the other chef (who I believe was in fact working premium economy) came by to offer each passenger a Godiva chocolate — now that’s a nice touch!

Onboard chef


As departure time approached the captain came on the PA to advise us of our flight time of 12hr2min, which, even with a quick taxi, would put us into Istanbul a bit late. We commenced our pushback, and the safety video played to the cult-like “globally yours” soundtrack.

Cabin at pusback

As the safety video played the chef popped a zit and proceeded to walk around the cabin at least a handful of times while holding a tissue to his lower lip and wiping off the blood. Really, you can’t do that in the galley behind closed curtains? Eventually he put a comically large band aid on top of it, that covered a majority of his chin and area under his lower lip.

We taxied to runway 16R, which took about 10 minutes. During that time the same chef came around the cabin to take drink and entree orders. There weren’t many planes ahead of us for takeoff so we were airborne shortly after 1PM.

Turkish makes their entertainment system available on the ground, so for the climb out I was able to browse their selection, which was impressive. The flight also featured Wi-Fi, which Turkish offers for free on all their equipped planes (at least for the time being). I tried to connect to the Wi-Fi after takeoff, though it didn’t seem to work, so I figured I’d try again after lunch.

About 30 minutes into the flight the meal service began, starting with hot towels. I thought it was a nice touch that they presented the hot towels on plates instead of just handing them to you.

Hot towels

The lunch menu read as follows:

And the beverage list read as follows:

And the wine list read as follows:

It’s worth noting that Turkish’s catering is done by DO & CO, which I find to be consistently top notch. Add to that the fact that I love Turkish food, and I was quite looking forward to the meal service on this flight.

The service began with assorted canapes, consisting of a prawn, cheese, and chicken. Unfortunately these were all brought out at once and served 15 minutes before any drinks, which I found odd.

Assorted canapes

After that beverages were served, along with a massive ramekin of nuts.

Diet Coke with lemon and warm nuts

After that the appetizer cart was rolled around. Again, there was no charm to the service, but the flight attendant was reasonably efficient.

I love the fact that they let you choose your appetizers at the seat while looking at them.

Appetizer cart

I ordered a selection of all the appetizer choices, and it was simply effin’ spectacular. There’s some food that’s good when you put into perspective that it’s being served on a plane, but this was restaurant quality, simple, and tasteful.

Assorted appetizers

For the main course I ordered the sea bass, which, again was really good.

Grilled fillet of sea bass

To finish off the meal the dessert cart was rolled around, and I went to town and had them give me a little bit of everything. Again, it was amazing, especially the crepe.

Crepe with apricot marmalade, panna cotta, green tea ice cream, and some Turkish dessert

Seriously, this was one of the simplest (in the sense that it’s three courses), tastiest airline meals I’ve ever had. DO & CO does a rocking job.

After lunch water bottles were distributed.


I was pretty tired given that I had flown in from Vienna the same morning, so conked out with about 10 hours to go to Istanbul. I have to say that the seat was extremely comfortable, including in the reclined position. With seven seats per row the seating is a bit tight and you don’t feel like you have much privacy, though it’s nice to have a fully flat surface, and I found the pillow and blanket to me comfortable. The one downside to non-staggered seating is that there’s very little seat storage, so unless you get up and place something in the forward console there’s really nowhere you can store things.

I got about four hours of sleep, and woke up about halfway through the flight, with six hours to go to Istanbul.

I took a quick peak into the large premium economy cabin (which Turkish will soon be doing away with), and in stark contrast to the business class cabin it looked empty.

Comfort Class

For what it’s worth the business class lav was quite nice though, with one of the fancy sinks found in many airlines’ first class cabins.



After waking up I asked one of the flight attendants for an iced coffee, and she said “we don’t have.” I’m not sure how you can not have iced coffee, so I instead asked the chef, who gladly made me one.

Iced coffee

I spent the next several hours online given that the Wi-Fi was finally working. I’m not sure whether they offer free Wi-Fi as an incentive for people to fly Turkish, or because they haven’t rolled it out fleetwide yet and don’t want to sell something that isn’t consistently available. While I was happy to have free Wi-Fi, it was excrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrruciatingly slow. Let me put things into perspective. Gogo in-flight in the US is slow. Wifi on Emirates is much slower than that. And the Wi-Fi on Turkish was about 90% slower than that. It took literally a couple of minutes to load an email. But hey, free is free, and when you’re stuck on a plane it doesn’t sting quite as much to watch the status bar on your browser.

So in a period of about four hours I managed to write a single blog post. About two hours out the pre-arrival meal service began, starting with a flight attendant coming around with a tray of juice.

Orange juice

The pre-arrival menu read as follows:

The pre-arrival meal starter consisted of veal carpaccio, humus, shrimp salad, and the profiteroles dessert was also already on the tray. Another flight attendant came around with the bread basket, and unlike the first service they had pretzel bread (score!).

Pre-arrival meal

Once I finished the veal carpaccio I was offered the choice between a fillet of salmon and pasta. Since I had sea bass as the entree with the first service I decided on pasta. It consisted of gnocchi, penne, and ravioli, and was possibly the best pasta I’ve ever had on a plane.

Tris di pasta

The dessert was delicious as well.

About 45 minutes out of Istanbul the captain came on the PA to advise us we’d begin our descent within a few minutes.

Airshow on approach

Sure enough we did, though we got put in a bit of a holding pattern, though had some of the most stunning views I’ve ever had from a plane as we circled over Istanbul right as the sun was setting. Unfortunately I wasn’t in the window seat so couldn’t really take pictures.

Our touchdown in Istanbul was as smooth as “did my best friend have a baby with my husband?” week on The Maury Show, though at the end of the day any landing where you can taxi to the gate is a good one in my book.

It was rush hour in Istanbul as we landed, and walking through the terminal at the beginning was a bit like a game of Frogger. Since I was in business class I could use the priority immigration line, and since I have an EU passport I could breeze through without a visa. Woot!

Istanbul terminal

I grabbed a cab to the Park Hyatt where I’d be spending the night.

The food on Turkish was among the best I’ve had in the sky. Actually the Austrian flight right before it was great as well, so I think I can conclude that DO & CO is the way to go with airline catering. Everything about the flight was pleasant, with the exception of the crew. Still, I found Turkish to be an all around great product (I’m still trying to decide whether I prefer amazing food or an amazing crew), and Istanbul is one of my favorite cities in the world, so flying Turkish is great for a stopover there (and wait till you see their lounge in Istanbul coming up later in the report).

How you can use miles/points for Turkish Business Class

The two best ways to redeem for Turkish business class are through United and US Airways. It’s worth noting that Turkish also flies to North America, with service to Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, Toronto, and as of April, Houston. They also offer extensive service to the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

The best program through which to book in most cases is United. You can book Turkish business class roundtrip between the US and Europe for 100,000 miles, or Turkish business class roundtrip between the US and most of their other longhaul destinations for 120,000 miles roundtrip. In each case you’re allowed a stopover and an open jaw, so you could stop in Istanbul while enroute to any of those destinations if you wanted to. The best way to rack up United miles is through Ultimate Rewards, which is their 1:1 transfer partner.

Earn United Miles
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  1. I spent 5 days in Turkey and I have to say some of the most unfriendly people in the world. It must be the culture. BTW the best menus are of Qatar. Ben, if you provide your email address, Ill sent you pictures of my trip on Qatar.

  2. So how does the seat compare the Cathay’s BC seat? It does look more spacious, but if it’s full, not having aisle access could be annoying.

    Also, I love it when airlines serve hummus in premium cabins. Nothing premium about it lol

  3. You always list business and first class mileage requirements, why don’t you list economy mileage amounts ?

  4. I agree with you regarding the crews – they gotta be one of the most disinteresting group of people that you have ever met. I even doubt their career choice and how they even passed the training. My personal belief is that Turkish is expanding rapidly and needs many F/As, and therefore standard is not maintained.

    The Do & Co catering is excellent and I notice that they are offering these individual bread baskets, as well as re-introducing the canape service.


  5. MAAAN!! I never (and let me emphasize the word NEVER) get sick of reading trip reports about TK!! You just cant go wrong with TK!!

    Great report …again!!

  6. “…as I boarded, though none made eye contact or sad anything to me.”
    I’m sure you meant none of the FA “said anything” to you. Though I have to agree it was a pretty sad situation…

  7. It’s not at all certain that TK is removing premium economy. According to the thread on FT ( there was only one news article that reported this, and then another article came out saying that TK’s new 777’s would have a 3 class configuration.

    So it’s confusing. I don’t think we’ll know until TK takes delivery of the new 777s or makes a firm statement about CC.

  8. whats your secret to finding Turks Business ? I have a trip in the summer to Asia but want to come back to lax via europe(IST) same routes as yours via NRT-IST-LAx. I have looked at UA far in advance and no Turks showed up. could you shed some light on this booking. thanks

  9. With the 90,000 (USairways) miles for roundtrip to asia via Europe, can you do a stopover in EU?
    => when going to EU for a week, include a 1day visit to Tokyo…

  10. One thing I noticed but forgot to mention: this isn’t a knock against the quality of the food, but it is interesting that their meal isn’t really catered to Japanese taste buds (as opposed to other airlines, which split the choices offered between 1/2 local to the airline, 1/2 to Japanese cuisine)…and no, 1 out of seven appetizers and a scoop of green tea ice cream doesn’t count 😉

  11. You did NOT say that Turkish’s J seats come with “an ottoman that acts as leg support when you fully recline your seat.” They’re called Turks these days… ; )

  12. @ wwk5d — How does it compare to Cathay Pacific’s seat? It doesn’t, Cathay’s is leaps and bounds ahead of the Turkish seat. I think the Cathay style seat is better in almost every way.

    @ Derek — I always list the mileage requirements for the cabins I fly, which is usually business and first class. I tend to think that’s the best use of miles, and I’m all about maximizing miles.

    @ Thomas Gou — That’s correct, though sad works too! 😀

    @ snic — Interesting, thanks for the link.

  13. @ choi — The secret is to avoid some routes. Award space to LAX is extremely rare, but take a look at JFK instead, where they have 3x daily service, where availability is very good. It’s also great on their new IAH route.

    @ Zz — Yep!

    @ oliver2002 — Is there a case where an airline does Do & Co catering and it’s not top notch? I can’t think of a case.

    @ as219 — LOL!

  14. Great post!

    So just so I’m clear:

    1) If I use my USAIR miles — I can fly LAX-IST (STOP 2 DAYS) -NRT (STOP 2 DAYS) and then I must return NRT-IST-LAX correct? I can’t just come back NRT-LAX on the return for 90K?

    2) Do you have a guess when USAIR miles will be merged with Oneworld and you won’t be able to use them on Turkish anymore?

  15. @ Michael — You could do that for 90K, though you can also just come back NRT-LAX if you want to. When will the programs be merged? If I had to guess I’d say Star Alliance redemptions won’t be possible anymore in maybe six months or so.

  16. @wwk5d – While I agree its odd to not have a separate “Japanese” menu, they did offer fish for both meals, one entree in the first meal used a very Japanese flavor profile and several of the appetizers straddled the line of familiarity for Japanese people (grilled asparagus, shrimp salad, etc.)Seems like they made an effort, but didn’t go as far as some other airlines.

  17. A small correction: Not all EU citizens can enter Turkey without a visa. (German and French passports, for example, are fine, but for instance UK not.)

  18. Just wondering what is the purpose of the M+ and MR on the Seating controls? Is this to save your preference sitting setting? Thanks.

  19. Disappointing to hear that Emirates wifi is slower than gogo… I thought one benefit of sat-based wifi was speed/capacity…

    When I used it on a Lufthansa 744, it was very fast for being over the Atlantic Ocean… about as fast as a 3G hotspot with only one computer on it… much better than gogo.

  20. I’ve got a SIN-IST booked in TK business class in a few months. But that’s on the A330 — is the A330 business seat different to this one? I was under the impression that it was an angled-flat rather than fully-flat.

  21. Unfortunately Turkish has horrible customer service. I will never fly them again (ground service sucks, in air is fine).

  22. Does Turkish ever release LAX-IST business class seats for United award redemptions? I’ve checked the entire month of december using the ana award tool, but maybe im doing something wrong!

  23. @ Hugh — Correct, the A330 has angled flat seats in business class.

    @ Sam — It’s the toughest route on which to find award space, though it’s not impossible to come by.

  24. I’ve flown TK short-haul (intra-europe/mideast/etc.) several times and have found them excellent for all the reasons you wrote in your post. Plus, Istanbul and the IST lounge are fantastic as well.

    The problem is that I’m GRU-based and I’ve been dying to do GRU/IST on TK, but they’re extremely stingy with their award space. I have literally never seen a business class seat on offer on this route — the times I’ve looked, obviously. Between them and JJ, being GRU-based is rough! 🙁

  25. If I had to average out all the TRs I’ve read about TK, the main problem with the cabin crews seems to be they are usually not quite as polished as FAs on other airlines. Some are friendly, some are cold, some are polite but efficient, etc. A wide variety, to be sure, but the main knock against them is they’re not the most refined crew out there.

  26. I’ll be flying an award ticket in Biz from PEK thru IST to ZRH, with a long layover in IST. Flying into IST on Turkish Air, continuing to ZRH on Swiss. Does any of this qualify me for lounge access at IST?

  27. the most overrated airline in the industry. i dont believe the “voted best in europe” thing for a second

  28. Turkish does fly from IAH to IST on a 777 as well. I thought about checking out that flight, if I can find some good avail in the fall. Unfortunately, I missed a good opportunity on a business class fair for $2k on that same flight.. :( would have been great to rack up some eqm lol. Great review!

  29. Can you enter the Turkish Airlines lounge in IST if that is your final destination? I will be flying business class next month and since my ticket is an open jaw, I will not be departing from IST on business class, only arriving. I would love to see the lounger if possible. Thanks!

  30. Just to clarify the answer to my own question from months ago, now I’ve taken the flight: it turns out that it’s angled lie-flat on the A330-200s, but the A330-300s have basically the same fully flat product pictured here. I guess the aisles must be a lot wider on the 777 because the 2-2-2 configuration is the same.

    I flew the A330-300 from SIN to IST and it was a great flight, very comfortable. My one regret is that I slept through dessert.

  31. Just booked two ATH-IST-JFK biz seats for Xmas Eve on Turkish using 45.000 Aegean miles + about $308 per ticket. Considering Aegean miles are crazy easy to get in Greece through a variety of credit cards (up to 16 miles per euro in some occasions!), I consider this a steal!

  32. Last week I flew TK on MUM-IST sector. I had booked an economy ticket. At check in the staff was offering an upgrade to Business Class for US$ 300/-. I got excited as this was a steal when compared to the regular business class fares available for this sector. I also got the opportunity to check out the massive lounge in the brand new Mumbai T2. The check in staff informed me I will be awarded Jet Privilege miles as they have an arrangement with Jet Airways. Upon getting on the Plane I found out it was a Boeing 777-300 which was leased from Jet Airways. One of the cabin crew was having Jet Airways badge, I asked him regarding this he said TK has leased out the Aircraft from Jet hence some crew from Jet also works in this flight to assist the Turkish Crew.Over the PA they even announced welcome onboard TK 721 operated in association with Jet Airways!I checked it was an Indian Registered aircraft with the starting letter allotted to Indian carriers VT.

    The business class cabin was reverse herringbone with 1-2-1 config. It was a very old aircraft with a lot of rattling. The personal screens were a challenge to stowaway.Not much of a choice in the entertainment system. No wifi on board.Seats worn out. Overall very sub standard cabin.I have flown on much better economy class cabins on other carriers than this TK Business Class Cabin! The food was nothing great. As it was an early morning flight the only good thing for me was I could get a good 4 hour sleep as the seats were lie flat.

    I felt paying even US$ 300 for the Business Class upgrade was not worth for this quality of cabin. In the return sector also the same aircraft was used. I guess for the MUM-IST-MUM sector TK is using the leased out Jet 777.

  33. Last month December, i flew Lisbon to Tokyo and back, in turkish airlines, in business class, and it was awesome.
    The crew was friendly, always looking in the eyes and constantly asked if everything was OK!
    Only downside , I think, were the pilots. No wonder the turbelence and not land the plane. Let him fall 🙂

  34. We are going BC on TK from their new departure point, San Francisco to Istanbul this May and we are very excited. Thanks everyone for this input.

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