Review: Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class (IST-LHR)

For the last leg of my itinerary on Turkish Airlines, I flew Turkish Airlines’ A350 business class from Istanbul to London. The A350 features the newest longhaul business class seat that Turkish Airlines introduced in 2019, so upon seeing that they were operating the A350 between Istanbul and London Heathrow, I jumped upon the opportunity to check it out. Turkish Airlines typically flies their A350s to a variety of longhaul destinations across the world, though it’s not uncommon to see A350s scheduled on flights to Europe (Athens, Amsterdam, London, etc.), the Middle East (such as Beirut), or even domestic flights within Turkey.

This review will cover my experience flying Turkish Airlines’ A350 in business class, where I’ll cover my thoughts on the seats, amenities, food, service, WiFi, and other details relevant to my flight.

How I Booked Turkish Airlines’ A350 Business Class

I booked a cash roundtrip business class ticket from London to Hong Kong, departing from Gatwick and arriving at Heathrow. My itinerary cost a total of £2,480 (~HK$21,810 as of time of writing). This was cheaper than both a direct flight in economy with Cathay Pacific, and the cheapest premium economy option on Lufthansa (which priced at around £2,500).

My itinerary was as follows:

05/09 TK1998 London Gatwick – Istanbul dep. 17:10 arr. 23:10
06/09 TK70 Istanbul – Hong Kong dep. 02:10 arr. 17:25
26/09 TK71 Hong Kong – Istanbul dep. 22:50 arr. 05:15 (+1)
27/09 TK1971 Istanbul – London Heathrow dep. 14:45 arr. 16:45

While there was an earlier flight from Istanbul to London Heathrow also operated by an A350, I decided that I’d maximise my time spent in Istanbul (this came at the expense of a free nap room in Turkish Airlines’ business class lounge at Istanbul Airport, since those are only allocated to passengers with connection times of between four and nine hours – I figured this wasn’t much of an issue since I’d be out in Istanbul anyway, though I definitely was dead tired by the time I boarded this flight).

As Turkish Airlines is a Star Alliance carrier, I credited all earned miles to my Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer account.

My Experience Flying Turkish Airlines’ A350 Business Class

After visiting the Turkish Airlines business class lounge at Istanbul Airport, it was time to catch my flight from gate D10. To my surprise, all passengers on this flight received a full-body pat down, and bags were searched. I believe non-handheld electronics were briefly prohibited on UK-bound Turkish Airlines flights in 2017, and this may have been a remnant of the procedures implemented during those times.

Once I was in the “sterile” gate area (i.e. my boarding pass was scanned, and I was invited to take a seat before boarding the flight), I managed to sneak in a nice view of the A350 that would be taking me to London.


Turkish Airlines A350 Istanbul Airport

My boarding pass indicated that boarding would start at 1:45 PM, a full hour before departure. While I was already in the sterile gate area before this time, boarding really only started at 2 PM, starting with passengers who needed help, followed by business class passengers.

Turkish Airlines Flight TK1971
Tuesday, September 27, 2022
Origin: Istanbul (IST) Gate: D10 Dep: 14:45 (14:45)
Destination: London Heathrow (LHR) Gate: B42 Arr: 16:45 (16:35)
Duration: 4 hr (3 hr 55 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900 Reg: TC-LGD
Seat: 8A (Business Class)

Both the walkway to the jetbridge and the jetbridge itself afforded views of Turkish Airlines’ sleek A350.


Turkish Airlines A350 Views Enroute to Boarding

Once onboard the Turkish Airlines A350, I asked a cabin crew member if I could photograph the cabin, and she warmly said yes. Another cabin crew member promptly came out from the galley and said “please do not take video, that is forbidden on this flight”. The first cabin crew member had a word with her in Turkish, and she just said “oh okay”, and smiled at me. I wasn’t way too comfortable with taking photos after this, so was a little bit more conservative than usual – my apologies if the quality of my photos reflects this.

Turkish Airlines’ A350 Business Class Cabin and Seat

Turkish Airlines’ A350 business class cabin features 32 staggered business class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, spread across 8 rows in a single cabin. The cabin felt stylish, and I liked the wavy patterns throughout the cabin.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Cabin

The center seats alternated between “honeymoon” seats that were closer together, and seats that were further apart and closer to the aisle. All seats had quite substantial privacy dividers (which cannot be raised or lowered), so in reality you’d still have to learn forward a little bit to chat, even if you were seated in a center “honeymoon” seat.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Center Seats

Meanwhile, seats by the window also alternated between seats closer to the window and seats closer to the aisle. Pictured below is seat 7A, which is closer to the aisle. It’s still plenty private, though there’s a console between you and the window, and you could feel a little exposed in bed mode.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Seat 7A

Meanwhile, here’s the seat I picked for this flight, 8A – the window seat in the last row of the cabin. It’s positioned flush against the window with a console closer to the aisle, and the seat is a distance from the aisle, making it more private in bed mode. The concept of a staggered configuration is that the footwell of each seat lies under the console next to the seat in front, in order to maximise space – obviously this wasn’t the case for my seat, since I was in the last row.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Seat 8A

After settling into my seat, I had a little look around and explored its features. To my right were some extensive seat controls, featuring a seat recline and fully flat button, a “Do Not Disturb” button, a flight attendant call button, a TV screen on/off button, and reading light adjustment controls. Unlike the older generation 777 seat you couldn’t adjust each individual seat feature, though I never found this to be an issue (as is standard with this configuration, these seats didn’t feature fold-out legrests). The seat controls were touchscreen-style, and I liked the haptic feedback – I also didn’t feel like they were in a position where my elbow would accidentally bump into the controls, despite being worried that this would be the case.

Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Seat Controls

The “Do Not Disturb” button just turned on an indicator by each seat number, and prevent crewmembers from waking you up for meal services, etc..


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Do Not Disturb Sign

Storage at this seat was plentiful. To my right was a side table, with a surface large enough for a book, laptop, or to store loose items when sleeping.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Side Table

Also to my right was a large storage compartment, complete with a universal 110V power port and USB charging port. It’s worth noting that you can lock these compartments, though I never managed to get the keypad to work (and the crew wasn’t very helpful in this regard, despite explaining that I could input any code I wanted). A label advised not to lock up the compartment when something battery-powered was inside.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Side Compartment and Power Port

Next to the storage compartment was a slide-out mirror, which doubled as a privacy partition (not that I particularly needed one, though I can see a few cases where I’d appreciate having a mirror by my seat).


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Sliding Mirror

To my left were three separate adjustable reading lights, all of which angled towards different parts of the seat, presumably to help with reading when sitting upright, reclined, and in bed mode.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Reading Lights

In front of the seat was a TV screen and footwell. The footwell was spacious (I’ll talk more about the seat in bed mode later) and well-placed as a footrest when lounging, and I appreciated that there was space below the footwell for a bag or backpack during takeoff and landing.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Ottoman and Storage Area

A bi-fold tray table came out of the seat in front, and was large and sturdy, though I couldn’t pivot it in a way where I could leave my seat during meal services.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Tray Table

In addition, I was please to see that this Turkish Airlines A350 featured air nozzles, which were helpful, since the cabin was fairly warm while we were on the ground at Istanbul (and at this point I was trying not to fall asleep).


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Air Nozzles

Overall this is a great seat for longhaul flying, and a spectacular seat for a four-hour, intra-Europe flight. It’s worth noting that Singapore Airlines uses this exact seat as their regional/mid-haul product, which is absolutely insane – I’d be totally happy with flying a longhaul flight in a seat this private and comfortable, with this much storage. Obviously I had one of the more private seats in the cabin, though all in all this is a quite competitive product (I say this as someone who’s been stuck in a honeymoon seat next to a stranger in a similar configuration). Note that there’s an extra car-style shoulder strap that you need to put on during taxi, takeoff and landing.


Yours truly, not wearing his shoulder strap as he should’ve been (to be fair, we were still at the gate)

At the same time, I wouldn’t call this seat industry leading – Qatar Airways still features a better product with their QSuites (which were introduced before these seats were), and generally I still believe that reverse herringbone seats (with/without door) feature a greater degree of space and privacy. Keep in mind that Turkish Airlines inherited a few A350s from Aeroflot, which do feature doors in business class – equipment swaps between the two A350s do happen, though they tend to be scheduled on specific routes.

I’d note that despite being less than two years old, these seats were already starting to show signs of wear and tear – what a shame!


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Scuffing

Also, while I loved the privacy of being cocooned in the back corner of the cabin, it’s worth noting that the overhead bin above my seat was used as a storage area for crew. This meant that I had reduced overhead bin storage, and there was a fair bit of foot traffic as the crew retrieved things inflight. I didn’t mind either of these things, since I only had a backpack (which fit under the footwell) and the crew were friendly, though even under those conditions I might possibly pick seat 8K next time, or a seat a bit further forward in the cabin.

Turkish Airlines’ A350 Business Class Amenities

At my seat was a plush pillow (the same pillow used on longhaul flights, sans pillowcase), and I also requested a day blanket. The pillow was great, and I was quite happy with the blanket on this short flight.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Pillow and Blanket

Here’s a picture of the headphones provided on my A321neo flight (which were identical to those provided on this flight, though I forgot to take a picture):

 
Turkish Airlines A321neo Business Class Headphones

No amenity kits were offered on this short four-hour flight.

Turkish Airlines’ A350 Business Class Entertainment System

While I didn’t check out the entertainment system until the end of the flight, I’ll mention it here for continuity, as the entertainment system was working gate-to-gate. Turkish Airlines features a revamped entertainment system on their A350s, with a large touchscreen TV featuring a wide selection of movies and TV shows.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Entertainment System

The selection was excellent, and in particular I enjoy that seasons of TV shows were uploaded (though I spotted a few where not the entire season was uploaded, which would’ve been quite annoying).


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Entertainment System

There’s also the ability to watch live TV (BBC World News, etc.) on the A350.

My favourite part of the entertainment system by far was the stunning, high-resolution tail camera on the A350, and I tuned in upon taxi, takeoff and landing. The moving map was also more interactive than its 777 counterpart.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Moving Map and Awesome Tail Camera

Furthermore, there’s a touchscreen handheld controller tucked underneath the seat controls, which was easy to navigate, and allowed me to select the movies/TV shows I wanted to watch. As aforementioned, I was also able to turn off the TV screen via the seat control panel, which I appreciated.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Entertainment Controller

As I’d mentioned in reviews of previous flights, Turkish Airlines’ entertainment system selection was unexpectedly excellent, and you’re unlikely to get bored on Turkish Airlines even if you’re not planning to buy onboard WiFi (more on that later).

Turkish Airlines’ A350 Business Class Pre-Departure Service

As was consistent with my other flights on Turkish Airlines, service was performed front-to-back on this flight. This meant that as somebody in the back row, I was last to be offered a pre-departure beverage, about 20 minutes after I boarded. Despite this, I was happy to receive my first choice of drink, which was a refreshing mint lemonade (the other options on offer were water, orange juice, and raspberry lemonade).


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Pre-Departure Beverage

The crew also handed out menus at this point.

Taking Off from Istanbul Airport

Boarding was fairly rushed, and especially being seated just ahead of door L2, I heard the crewmembers as they directed economy class passengers towards right and left aisles. I’d estimate that boarding was completed around 25-30 minutes after it started, at around 2:30 PM.

By this point I’d already turned on the tail camera for entertainment (if I squinted hard enough I’d probably be able to see the passengers in the terminal about to board our plane, though I didn’t).


Turkish Airlines A350 at Gate

The safety video played at about 2:40 PM, and I found it cute that it was played on both the main TV screen and the handheld monitors.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Safety Video Screening

The captain also came onto the PA to announce our flying time of 3 hours and 5 minutes, and warned that the initial climb out would be bumpy before a smooth remainder of the flight. He also advised that the weather at Heathrow would be quite cloudy.

We pushed back at 2:45 PM. The windows by my seat were obstructed by the jetbridge during the boarding process, but once we pushed back I was able to see the Turkish Airlines A330 headed to Boston parked next to us.


Turkish Airlines A330 at Istanbul Airport

On our way to the runway I also spotted an Aeroflot 777, which you won’t find in many other places around the world nowadays.


Aeroflot 777 at Istanbul Airport

Due to the slight “fisheye” effect of the tail camera, I was also able to see the Aeroflot plane in the periphery on my personal TV screen.


Taxiing at Istanbul Airport

Our taxi to the gate took 10 minutes maximum, though for whatever reason we held short of runway 18 for a good 20 minutes as a series of planes landed ahead of us. Specifically, four Turkish Airlines planes landed on the runway before we were cleared for takeoff – these were an A321neo from Nice, an A321 from Stuttgart, a 787 from Atlanta, and an A330 from Copenhagen. From my left window seat, I had nice views of all of these aircraft as they conducted their final approach.


Turkish Airlines A321neo, 787 and A330 Landing At Istanbul Airport

Eventually it was our turn, and we lifted off at 3:10 PM, 25 minutes after our scheduled departure time.


Taking Off at Istanbul Airport

I had nine stunning hours in Istanbul (including time at the airport, travel to/from the airport, etc. – I probably spent a total of 2.5 hours properly in the city), and I can’t wait to spend more time here. A lot of my friends regard Istanbul as their favourite city in the world, and I can see why – even in my really short time there I felt like there was so much to do, and the people were so friendly. These musings crossed my mind as our climb out and left turn over the airport afforded views of the country’s northern coastline, despite not actually having any views over Istanbul itself, as the city was on the other side from our flight path.


Views Over Istanbul

We reached a calibrated altitude of 40,000 feet, and stayed there until our descent into Heathrow.

Turkish Airlines’ A350 Business Class WiFi

WiFi took a good 15 minutes to start working on this flight (Turkish Airlines isn’t one of the airlines that turns on WiFi the second you hit cruising altitude), though I was able to connect shortly afterwards.

One of the USPs of flying Turkish Airlines business class is that they offer 1 GB of free WiFi to business class passengers. Turkish used to offer unlimited WiFi for all passengers, so this seems stingier, at least on the surface; however, Turkish’s WiFi was renownedly unusable before they started charging for it, due to how much bandwidth was stretched out. On all four of my flights, no flight took up more than 75% of the data provided, despite my flights to Hong Kong being over ten hours (and I was on my phone a fair bit, since I couldn’t sleep well).

The allocation of data varies both by class of service and elite status:

  • Business class passengers with Miles & Smiles elite status get unlimited free WiFi
  • Business class passengers get 1 GB of free WiFi
  • Economy class passengers with Miles & Smiles elite status get 400 MB of free WiFi
  • Economy class passengers with a Miles & Smiles account get 10 MB of free WiFi (at that point, why bother?)

If you’re flying economy class without a Turkish Airlines frequent flyer account and/or you’ve used up your allowance, the pricing is as follows:

  • 20 MB of WiFi costs US$2.99
  • 50 MB of WiFi costs US$4.99
  • 100 MB of WiFi costs US$7.99
  • 250 MB of WiFi costs US$14.99
  • 500 MB of WiFi costs US$24.99

This pricing is just about standard for airline WiFi – while it’s annoying that Turkish Airlines prices WiFi based on data usage, at least 500 MB (or 1 GB, for that matter) is a decent amount of WiFi.

The portal to purchase WiFi/enter my seat details would always take a while to load, and occasionally required reloading the page several times; however, once the WiFi started working, speeds measured 6.07 Mbps down and 4.08 Mbps up, with a ping of 787 ms (this is quite good for airline speeds). WiFi worked for the entire time that the plane was at cruising altitude, and only cut off just ahead of our final descent.

Turkish Airlines’ A350 Business Class Recline and Bed Mode

While we were warned of a bumpy ride as we climbed out of Istanbul, this wasn’t our actual experience, and the entire flight was quite smooth. I took the opportunity to check out the seat in its preset reclined position, as well as bed mode.

The reclined position was comfortable, and unless you’re overly tall or overly short, you should be able to comfortably use the footwell as a footrest.

Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Recline Function

I found the seat to be very spacious in bed mode, and the seat was also well-padded.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Bed Mode

I was wondering whether I’d actually prefer the airline’s older generation seat for sleeping, since that seat didn’t require putting my feet into a footwell. However, I had no issues moving around in this seat when lying down, and there was plenty of room for my feet. Obviously you won’t be able to make snow angels or literally “kick back” while relaxing, though I didn’t find the footwell to be an issue at all.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Bed Mode Footwell

Turkish Airlines’ A350 Business Class Meal Service

The meal service started (and ended) with a hot towel, which was presented to me about 20 minutes after takeoff.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Hot Towel

At this point the meal service started. The menu read as follows:

|
Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Menu

Turkish Airlines uses trays on shorthaul flights (and caters main courses with trolleys), unlike their longhaul flights, where they serve food directly onto your tray table. This probably made the meal service more efficient at the expense of personalisation, though our trays with appetisers were brought to us without the use of a trolley.

The appetiser was a smoked salmon and celeriac salad, which wasn’t phenomenal, but was perfectly fine. I was served this course 20 minutes into the meal service.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Meal Appetiser – Smoked Salmon and Celeriac Salad

15 minutes later my appetiser was cleared and I was served my main course by trolley. “Manti” (Turkish ravioli) is one of Turkish Airlines’ signature dishes, and I did indeed think it was delicious, though it was presented more simplistically than it would’ve been on a longhaul flight (I noted the absence of yoghurt, etc.). I also wondered whether the reheating process was less refined on shorthaul flights (since the top of the manti seemed to dry out in the heat of the oven, which I don’t think should’ve happened), though it was super delicious nonetheless.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Meal Main Course – “Manti” Homemade Turkish Ravioli

Dessert was a decadent mousse served with the appetiser – DO&CO never fails to impress even with the simplest of desserts. In addition there was a salad and cheese plate, and I had an “energy tea” to go with my meal. The meal service wrapped up at around 4:15 PM Turkey time, an hour and 30 minutes after departure.

Even on shorthaul flights, Turkish Airlines doesn’t fail to impress with catering – not only was the meal service elaborate, but I thoroughly appreciated the Turkish elements of the meal. This wasn’t just limited to the main course, but the drinks menu also featured Turkish teas and wines, Turkish coffee, as well as ayran.

Turkish Airlines’ A350 Business Class Lavatory

After the meal service I had the chance to check out the lavatory, which was clean and featured Molton Brown toiletries.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Lavatory

Having slept 10 cumulative hours in the past 3 days…

…I just returned to my seat and reclined it into bed mode, and slept like a baby for two hours. We continued cruising for a couple of hours, and there weren’t any on-demand snacks on offer on this shorthaul flight. Given that it was already late in Hong Kong, I hadn’t slept much on my overnight flight to Istanbul, and I had evening plans, I figured knocking myself out for the rest of the flight was a very good use of my time.


Turkish Airlines A350 Business Class Cabin upon Cruising

I ended up waking up about an hour before landing, which meant that I’d napped (well) for an hour or so. I spent the rest of the flight browsing on my phone using the inflight WiFi while lying down – I was definitely tired.

Landing into Heathrow Airport

Around 45 minutes before landing, the captain came back onto the PA to announce an approximate 4:30 PM arrival time, and noted that it was cloudy at Heathrow, with a temperature of 13°C. As per usual, around 25 minutes later the cabin was prepared for landing, and cabin crew were instructed to take their seats.

It was a beautiful day above parts of England, though sadly this wasn’t true of rainy London (the weather did clear up later that evening).


Sunny skies landing into Heathrow Airport

While those seated on the right side had great views of the city, views on the left side were restricted to Streatham, Clapham and Richmond (not the most exciting places in Greater London – I say this as someone who frequents these places, and lives in equally unexciting Fulham).


Not so sunny skies landing into Heathrow Airport

When the rain started obstructing the photos I could take out of the window, I switched to the tail camera, which had cool views of Heathrow and the runway.


Landing into Heathrow Airport

We touched down into Heathrow Airport’s runway 27L at 4:30 PM local time, and made our way towards Terminal 2, where we’d be arriving. On the way I saw an Air France A319, as well as a stunning Virgin Atlantic A350 parked at Terminal 3.


Traffic at Heathrow Airport

I also saw the A350 that had left Istanbul an hour earlier (this is the flight I would’ve taken if I wasn’t planning to spend time exploring Istanbul).


Turkish Airlines A350 at Heathrow Airport

We made it to gate D42 at 4:35 PM, and deplaning began shortly after. We deplaned through a single jetbridge, which meant that I was able to catch a final view of of the A350 from the jetbridge window.


Turkish Airlines A350 at Heathrow Airport

D42 was one of the gates furthest from the immigration hall, and it seemed like an Air India 787 and Ethiopian Airlines 777 arrived at approximately the same time, so I tried to pace it to immigration before the line lengthened. This actually worked well – the line for non-e-gate eligible passports lengthened significantly about five minutes after I joined the queue, and I only lined up for about 25-30 minutes before having my passport stamped, whereas I imagine I’d have had to wait significantly longer if I walked slowly. 25-30 minutes would be considered long for any other airport, but my standards are very low for Heathrow – this is one of the reasons I’m planning on joining the Registered Traveller Service.

My suitcase was already on the carousel by the time I arrived, but hilariously I had to wait an extra 30 minutes for the 5.5 kg of Turkish delight I’d checked in, which fed out in the “oversize baggage collection” conveyor belt.

Conclusion: Turkish Airlines’ A350 Business Class

Turkish Airlines’ A350 features a competitive business class seat, and even amongst similar staggered configurations, I found the seat to be comfortable and very well designed. The food and beverage offerings on this flight were also great, and the entertainment system and free WiFi were also very solid offerings.

I’ve mentioned before that comparing Turkish Airlines against its competitors is slightly complicated, as the airline competes with the ME3 (Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad) for hub-and-spoke travel, as well as European airlines for intra-European travel. Obviously this was a spectacular product for a four-hour intra-Europe flight, considering intra-European business class often just consists of economy class seats with a blocked middle seat; however, even amongst the ME3, Turkish Airlines’ A350 competes well against the best of Emirates and Qatar’s seats (I haven’t flown Etihad before). Keep in mind that most intra-Europe flights on Turkish Airlines are operated by (still very good) narrowbody aircraft with recliner seats in business class, though Middle Eastern airlines can often operate similarly inferior products to secondary European destinations as well.

This particular flight featured Turkish Airlines’ shorthaul service structure, which was very, very good, especially among European airlines. The ME3 do feature more elaborate service structures on their European flights – that’s fair enough since those flights are longer, though you might want to take that into consideration when booking hub-and-spoke travel on either of these four airlines.

Turkish Airlines’ longhaul business class service is industry-leading, so I’d imagine when paired with this hard product, the A350/787 would be a joy to fly longhaul in business class.

Have you flown Turkish Airlines’ A350 before? How does my experience compare to yours?

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