Review: Turkish Airlines new business class on a Boeing 787-9
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This is our review of business class on a Turkish Airlines Boeing 787-9 from London Heathrow to Istanbul.
Whilst the majority of Turkish Airlines’ seven daily London flights are operated by narrowbodies, once or twice a day you can normally find a widebody long haul aircraft plying the route. This comes complete with lie-flat seats in business class and nose-to-tail in-flight entertainment.
If you’re really lucky, you get one of Turkish’s new 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, introduced in 2019, with their next generation business class seat. This is a significant upgrade over the older Boeing 777s which have 2-3-2 seating and therefore do not offer direct aisle access to all passengers.
The new 787s feature a new seat from French seatmaker Stelia Aerospace which Turkish Airlines calls its ‘Aurora’ seat. This is the same seat that Indian airline Vistara flies on its 787 fleet and that Singapore Airlines uses for its regional aircraft, but which I hadn’t flown on before.
As I was flying from London to Istanbul – with a flight time of just over three hours – I didn’t get the full long haul experience. (Turkish provided the flight so that I could attend the launch on their new food service in Istanbul). I did get to take a good look at the seat and the service you get on Turkish Airlines which is consistently ranked as one of Europe’s top airlines. Can it live up to the hype?!
As I checked in online and had no luggage to check in, I quickly proceeded through security before settling down in the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge at Heathrow Terminal 2 (review here). This is one of four lounges you can visit, along with the Lufthansa Business Class lounge (in the main terminal) and the Singapore SilverKris lounge and United Club, both in the satellite.
Although it doesn’t have a particularly impressive food offering, I find the Maple Leaf lounge to be quieter than the others. It is also, in my opinion, the most stylish.
Turkish Airlines’ new business class cabin
I managed to board first, so I was able to get some good shots of the empty business class cabin.
There are 30 business class seats on Turkish Airline’s Boeing 787-9s, all of which are located in a single cabin between the first and second doors of the aircraft.
The cabin features a staggered layout, which isn’t usually my favourite, but which I think works well here. That means that window seats alternate between being closer to the window or aisle. Seats in even-numbered rows are closer to the window and therefore more private, with a 30cm wide console table protecting you from any passers-by in the aisle.
You can see the staggered layout here:
I was lucky enough to get the last window seat in 4K:
Despite having no door, these seats do offer a lot of privacy thanks to their winged design. This adds a layer of protection even if you’re on the aisle. This was the view from my seat:
The only problem with this design is that is is unnecessary in the window seats and ends up blocking an entire window:
Other benefits of the seat include a vast, 30cm deep console table. This can be used as a place to store items, or you can put a laptop on it during the meal services.
Next to the console table is a small storage cupboard which can be closed. Inside were a set of headphones as well as a charging port with universal socket and USB-A connection. A hook for hanging your headphones is next to it. There is also a pull out mirror:
Just underneath you’ll find the seat controls (these light up when you touch them) as well as the aux port for the headphones in the common two-pronged design.
The seat itself was very comfortable. The wrap-around ‘wing’ was in a sort of grey suede with wavelike stitching, which was comfortable and helped to dampen sound.
The seat itself is in a darker grey and features flecks of gold thread that glint in the light – a subtle but effective touch. The cushion and three-point seat belt are in a golden sand colour, which was very stylish against the rest of the seat which is otherwise very dark grey.
On both sides of the seat are retractable armrests that can move up and down, depending on your preference.
In front of the seat you have an 18″ HD screen. Beneath it is the latch for the bifold tray table which folds out to create a very big space:
Underneath this is the typical foot coffin with some storage space underneath perfect for shoes. I’d say the cubby hole is mid-sized, being neither the biggest I’ve used or the tightest.
In fact, the biggest issue I have with the seat is not the foot cubby hole, which these days is pretty standard, but the overall length of the seat. I popped it into bed mode to give it a go. At 6’2″ (188cm) found I was touching the bottom with my feet and the top with my head when fully stretched out.
This is one of the few times I’ve ever had this problem, as most business class seats tend to be around 200cm long. This one needed just a few more inches to make it comfortable, although I could have made it work as I normally sleep curled up on my side.
No bedding is provided on this short flight, and I didn’t ask for any.
I don’t normally write about airline toilets …. but in this case it is worth mentioning, as the toilets were the nicest-smelling plane toilets I’ve ever encountered! Molton Brown toiletries are provided.
In-flight entertainment and wifi
Although not 4K, the IFE system was very responsive and clear on my flight. You aren’t going to run out of entertainment as it was stocked with 659 films, not to mention countless TV shows and other entertainment. There were plenty of new releases as well as a vast back catalogue of favourites, with plenty of choice for families.
The headphones are a fairly basic but comfortable model from Audio-Technica. The sound quality was good, although I found they didn’t go very loud when I gave them a go.
The aircraft also features two onboard cameras, so you can watch the view in front or beneath you.
I was impressed by the wifi. All business class passengers get a free allowance of 1gb. To put this into perspective, British Airways only gives First Class passengers free wifi whilst Aer Lingus (review here) only offers 700mb of free wifi on its transatlantic flights which are significantly longer. 1gb was more than enough to last me the short flight. It was fairly fast throughout, and only dropped out for a 10 minute period midway through.
Although this was (mostly) a day flight, the cabin crew were very aggressive in dimming lights and windows. Fortunately, I still had full control of my own but the windows were all dimmed long before the sun set outside, which feels very early.
Food and service onboard Turkish Airlines
One thing that particularly stood out to me on this Turkish Airlines flight was both the food and service. It is a night and day difference to what you can expect on other European carriers.
Turkish Airlines is famous for its flying chefs – specially trained members of crew who are genuine chefs and oversea the preparation and presentation of the meal service. Unfortunately in-flight chefs are only onboard flights of eight hours or more, so I didn’t get to see one in action.
Whilst both Turkish Airlines and British Airways both use the prestigious DO&CO catering firm, Turkish clearly gives them a much bigger budget.
Juice was offered shortly after boarding, with a choice of orange, raspberry or lemon-mint. I opted for the latter, which I love:
Crew also came through with hot towels and menus for the flight, with a choice of three main courses:
- Islim kebab with slow roasted tomato sauce and buttered rice
- Grilled fillet of salmon with oven roasted cherry tomatoes, black olives, spinach and pan-fried zucchini in olive oil
- Homemade mozerella mezzelune with parmesan tomato sauce and cherry tomatoes
Lunch was served in two halves. First up came the sides and starter of Turkish mezze, which consisted of an artichoke dish, pastrami on a bed of yoghurt pistachios and something else I couldn’t identify but which was delicious.
Bread rolls are also offered. Sides consisted of a salad with beluga lentils and labneh, plus a selection of cheese.
I chose the salmon for my main course, which was delicious:
The whole thing was rounded off with double chocolate cake.
To drink I tried the Ayran yoghurt drink as well as a glass of (unnamed) champagne.
Overall, the quality and quantity of the food was impressive, given this was a three hour flight. It was better than many long haul business class meals I’ve had.
Overall, I was impressed both with Turkish Airline’s new business class seat but also the food and service.
The seat was comfortable, private and spacious and avoids the beige-grey curse that some airlines inflict on their cabins. PriestmanGoode, the design agency, have done a good job here with dark grey plastic surrounds with sand-coloured accents. Whilst it’s an off-the-shelf seat, it looks and feels custom. That said, the short bed is frustrating for those of us who are taller.
The crew were excellent throughout the flight. Whilst only a main meal service was offered, they were quick to attend the call bell when I requested top-ups, always addressing me by name. Portion size and quality of the food was also great, and I can see why Turkish Airlines has such a strong reputation.
Frankly, if you are heading to Istanbul and you are able to book Business Class, you would be insane to book British Airways Club Europe when this is the alternative.