I had been looking forward to this flight since I booked in back in September. Turkish Airlines is highly regarded as one of the best airlines in Europe, if not one of the best in the world. They’re particularly known for their food, and believe it or not I actually enjoy airline food. To be fair though, there’s not a whole lot of food I don’t like. Did the flight meet my expectations? We’ll see!
How We Booked It
This flight is part of a larger roundtrip itinerary we booked using United miles. The entire itinerary is as follows :
Hanoi – Budapest (via Istanbul)
Budapest – Boston (via Zurich)
Boston – Hanoi (via Istanbul)
In total the entire itinerary cost 160,000 United miles + $108, which I consider a great deal considering this would cost over $5,000 USD. Unfortunately this particularly routing, specifically our one month stopover in Europe, cannot be booked anymore due to United changing their stopover rules late last year.
Per usual with Breada and I, we showed up to the airport too early to check in. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long and the check in counters opened up a little more than three hours before our scheduled departure. Turkish uses counters A6-A12 at Noi Bai International Airport, with A12 dedicated to business class passengers. Our check in agent was friendly and efficient, and within a few minutes our bags were checked and our boarding passes were in hand.
I’m not going to get into the lounge in this post because we have an entire post dedicated to the topic. You can find that here. There’s also a second lounge you may end up in in Hanoi depending on your flight. That lounge review can be found here.
We got caught up in the lounge and ended up being some of the last people to board the flight. The flight was pretty empty overall, but we also had a stop in Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) to pick up more passengers so I wasn’t too surprised.
We had seats 2A and 2B, which overall we were very happy with. My only complaint is the seat controls were a little difficult to figure out. After a few minutes I figured it out, but I think some of the functions, like the massage feature, just weren’t working at all. Oh well.
Including Breada and I, there were only 7 people in business flying HAN-SGN and just 9 from SGN-IST. Only two other people flew the entire HAN-IST route, but considering Hanoi isn’t exactly a major hub like Bangkok or Hong Kong I wasn’t too surprised.
As soon as we sat down we were greeted by name, a small touch that I always enjoy, as well as offered a selection of fresh juices. I went with the lemonade and Breada tried the fresh raspberry juice. Both were delicious, and I was happy to see they offered them in the lounge when we got to Istanbul.
We also had a small snack, which was brought out almost immediately after we went wheels up. It consisted of two sandwiches on herbed bread, a brownie, and a raspberry cake of some kind. For a short flight it was quite tasty. I was a little apprehensive about having my hopes high for the food considering the flight was departing from Vietnam and not their hub in Istanbul. So far, so good!
By the time I finished my snack we were already descending. The turnaround time was going to be about one hour. but since we were continuing on to Istanbul we would stay on the plane. This was a new experience for me, and an interesting one. Within minutes of the passengers departing, the ground crew got on and began scrubbing tray tables, bagging used linens, and vacuuming the floors. There was also a crew change, including a new chef! Yes, Turkish Airlines long haul flights have an onboard chef, but more on that later! The only thing that aggravated me during the turnaround was the in flight entertainment (IFE) was turned off. Luckily I had other things to do, but I was caught up in an episode of 11/22/63 I was watching and was itching to finish it.
Before I knew it, the new passengers were being seated and we were ready to take off for our eleven hour flight to Istanbul. Even with the second pickup, the flight was not full. Like I mentioned earlier, the business class only had nine of the thirty-four seats occupied. It was closer to capacity in economy, but I don’t know the exact numbers. I’m curious if it’s just not a popular route, a slow day, or if the electronics ban on flights continuing to the US had anything to do with it. Possibly, and most likely, all three play a factor.
In Flight Entertainment
Turkish is known for having a great selection of IFE, and it lived up to the hype on this flight. There were hundreds of choices with something for everyone. It took about ten minutes just to go through the list of options. I personally chose to start the series 11/22/63, based on the book by Stephen King. I was nearly tempted by their not one, but four Star Trek movies! I decided in the end to keep my freak flag packed up in my bag for this flight. Plus, I wanted to watch something new!
Amenity kits are like the little goodie bags you get at the end of a kid’s birthday party. It’s like “hey thanks for coming, here’s some stuff”. This particular amenity kit was Bentley branded, and designed specifically for Turkish Airlines. The kit included socks, an eye mask, ear plugs, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a brush/comb combo, lip balm, body lotion, and a shoehorn. All of it was (and still is) quite useful, with the exception of the shoehorn. Maybe other people, particularly business travelers, get use out of it but I just don’t have that much trouble with my shoes.
Overall, I liked the products in the kid. The one complaint, which came from Breada, was the body lotion had a more manly smell to it. I have to say I agree. Some airlines have gender specific kits, which overall I think is a better alternative.
Shortly after take off, the chef came around to talk to each passenger about the dinner selections for the evening. As ridiculous as it sounds, this was the part of the flight I was looking forward to most. I mean, where else can you find a chef working on a commercial flight?
He went over the menu with us and answered any questions we had, as well as offered wine pairings with each course. I decided to go with his recommendation of the Turkish beef dish, the name of which is escaping me right now. Breada chose a rigatoni dish, because finding good pasta has been almost as difficult as finding a good steak. He also took our breakfast selections at that time, which would be served just before landing.
Shortly after he made his rounds through the cabin, the flight attendants began setting up the tray tables and laying out the silverware and bread set ups, including giving everyone a little “candle” for their table.
I love the little glass bottles of olive oil they give along with the tiny bowl of seasoning to dunk your bread in. I’ve mentioned it in so many posts on various topics but I’ll say it again : it’s the little details that distinguish a good product from a great product. This clearly falls in the latter.
The mezze cart came through shortly after with a selection of options to choose from. Breada had the traditional Turkish mezze, which consisted of hummus, tomato with tabouli, and chicken with sliced avocado. Myself, upon hearing “tuna” went with that choice, which I later regretted after seeing Breada’s. My selection, which was all seafood, was good but hers looked amazing.
Along with the mezze came a zucchini soup, which was really nice. It’s not something I would normally (or ever) order in a restaurant, but I have to say it was one of the highlights of the entire meal. Throughout the meal, one of the flight attendants kept coming around with a selection of assorted breads. The bread was delicious, but one piece was enough for me. I swear she came around at least five or six times. Doesn’t she know I need to save room for my entrée!?
Eventually the entrée came out and it was quite nice. I was hoping they would have a steak on the menu as I’ve heard their steaks are really good (and I have been craving a steak like you wouldn’t believe!) but alas no luck. This was a perfectly fine alternative though. The sauce had a nice kick to it, which was what sold me in the first place. The beef, for being 35,000 feet in the air, was quite tender.
The dessert cart came around shortly after we finished our meals, with a selection of assorted pastries, cakes, and other sweets. I decided to go with the cheesecake and was happy I did. It was the perfect end to a perfect meal.
The flight attendants began coming around asking if we would like our beds made shortly after dinner. I figured I would try to get at least a few hours of sleep so I agreed, and within a minute or two the bedding was added and I was ready to go! The bedding itself was nothing special, and Breada and I both agreed Cathay Pacific’s blankets were much more comfortable. That being said, it’s still an airline seat and I shouldn’t expect a Tempur Pedic up in the air. It was comfortable enough that I managed to fall asleep pretty quickly, something that never happens to me in economy unless I’ve had at least a few to drink first.
I woke up after just a few hours of sleep, partly because we hit some turbulence but also because I was just too excited to sleep.
With about two hours left in the flight the lights came on and breakfast began being served. I ordered Cajun chicken and smoked turkey with fried eggs and a strawberry smoothie. A plate of assorted fruits and cheeses also came out, which was a nice surprise. I swear they’re in the business of fattening up their passengers!
The chef came around and asked everyone if they would like chives on their eggs. I’m a fan of everything in the onion family so I told him to load them up!
I thought the eggs were pretty good, but Breada wasn’t as pleased. For fried eggs the whites were pretty runny, which doesn’t bother me but she wasn’t a fan. They were also more like poached eggs than fried if I’m really being picky. If I had any more room I would have eaten hers, but between the meats, cheeses, fruits, and eggs I already would be need to be rolled off the plane.
Before I knew it we were descending down towards Ataturk Airport (IST). Overall we were very pleased with the flight and I’m excited to be flying Turkish Airlines again in a few months when we return to Vietnam. Bonus points for giving us a fast lane through immigration, because IST is a massive airport and we would have been waiting around for quite a while.
Stay tuned for our post on TourIstanbul, the free service provided by Turkish Airlines, as well as posts on what we’ve been up to the last couple weeks in Eastern Europe!