The crew were lovely on this flight, and I got along with them so well. But the hard product was outdated, and one of the seats even decided to eat my watch mid-flight...
After spending a refreshing period of time with friends of family at home and with plans to return soon, it was time to fly back to London via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines.
Turkish Airlines only operates once daily to Hong Kong with a 777 (that’s more than the zero times daily most airlines were offering to Hong Kong due to their strict entry requirements), so I flew their 777 back to Istanbul. I’ll preface that while I was hoping to try out Turkish Airlines’ refurbished 777 business class product, we ended up on the exact same plane (obviously, with the same seats) as I flew on my outbound flight from Istanbul to Hong Kong, which was the oldest 777 in Turkish Airlines’ fleet.
I’ve written a full review of my flight on Turkish’ 777 business class in the other direction, from Istanbul to Hong Kong – check that review out for a more extensive description of the hard product, onboard service structure, etc.. I’ll focus on the soft product in this post, as well as the things that made this flight unique.
Upgrades at the Check-In Counter To Turkish Airlines Business Class
I checked in at Hong Kong Airport roughly two hours before my flight, which was a relatively smooth process, especially because neither Turkey or the United Kingdom have any COVID-19 entry requirements. One thing I found rather interesting was that you could upgrade this segment to Istanbul for 990 USD (this would’ve exceeded the price I paid, though I know Turkish Airlines can charge a fair bit for flights out of Hong Kong, in which case this may have been a slightly more appealing offer).
Upgrade Price to Turkish Airlines Business Class
I’ve already written about my experience exploring Hong Kong Airport two years after my last visit, so we’ll pick up from when I boarded. Boarding was listed for 9:50 PM, exactly an hour before departure, which seemed a tad early – to my surprise, we actually began boarding at 9:50 PM, starting with business class passengers.
Boarding at Hong Kong Airport
Turkish Airlines Flight TK71
Monday, September 26, 2022
Origin: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 29 Dep: 22:50 (22:35)
Destination: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: B9 Arr: 05:15+1 (04:55+1)
Duration: 11 hr 25 min (11 hr 20 min)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER Reg: TC-JJE
Seat: 3J (Business Class)
Back In Turkish Airlines’ 777 Business Class Cabin
Sometimes by way of writing I say that I’m “back in” a certain cabin if I’d flown the same seat on a previous flight, though in this case I was literally back in the same Turkish Airlines business class cabin I’d been in three weeks prior. For variety I’d actually assigned myself a seat in the forward cabin this time, which featured four rows in a 2-3-2 configuration, for a total of 28 seats. A smaller cabin exists behind door L2 featuring a further three rows.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Forward Cabin
I’d initially selected myself seat 2K, a window seat in the second row of the business class cabin.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Seats 2J and 2K
I had a peek at the bulkhead rows (rows 1 and 5 on Turkish’s 777s). Since all of these seats have basically unlimited legroom and non-confined footrests in bed mode, there isn’t much of an advantage to sitting in the bulkhead, though not much of a downside either, apart from the activity from the lavatories and galley noise. There was a little partition near the aisle seat footrests presumably to prevent trolleys or other passengers from bumping into the aisle seat passenger’s feet in bed mode, though I guess bumping would still be fairly annoying at times. I’d probably avoid the bulkhead aisle seat for this reason, though I don’t think I’d feel strongly about it.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Bulkhead Seats
As noted in my review of my outbound 777 flight, you really do feel like you have a lot of space in front of you, and I appreciated that you were able to store a backpack under the footrest during takeoff and landing.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Ottoman and Storage Space
These are some of the least competitive fully flat business class seats out there, and the flight was completely full, meaning that all of the middle seats were taken. Middle seats in business class are not fun. That being said, the seats are definitely more comfortable than other business class seats out there, which I detailed in my full review of this business class product.
The guy who was assigned the seat next to me was travelling with a partner, and she was seated in the aisle seat behind him. I decided to offer to switch to seat 3J, since I hadn’t really flown an aisle seat in this configuration before, and they gladly took me up on my offer. I do prefer the window seats in this configuration, though figured I’d try something new in the process of doing something kind – this seemed like the flight to do so, since the entire flight would be flown in darkness. I struggled to sleep on this flight, and even now I’m not sure if it was because it wasn’t that late, or because the “cocooned” feel of the window-seat was much more sleep conducive.
My seatmate (in 3K) spoke mainly Chinese and was on a Zoom call while we were still at the gate. He was courteous to the cabin crew, though I didn’t actually speak to him until we landed (where we shared a brief conversation about our onward travels).
Industry Leading Amenities in Turkish’s 777 Business Class
Before departure, we were handed his-and-hers amenity kits from Hackett. I received a male amenity kit, and really liked it (the inside, which I forgot to photograph, featured eyeshades, earplugs, fluffy socks, and amenities from Qiriness).
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Amenity Kit
We were also handed high-quality headphones from Denon.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Headphones
In addition, all passengers are provided a plush pillow, day blanket, and separate bedding (mattress pad, pillow cover and duvet). I’d say that Turkish Airlines’ amenities in business class are industry leading.
A “Real” Sink In Turkish Airlines’ 777 Lavatory
Shortly before takeoff I checked out the lavatory at the front of the cabin. Turkish Airlines’ lavatories feature Molton Brown amenities, and I was quite impressed by the “real” sink.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Lavatory
Takeoff from Hong Kong Airport
After we boarded, I was offered a choice between orange juice, raspberry lemonade, mint lemonade, and water. I chose mint lemonade (for some reason I’d forgotten to photograph it). We were also handed out menus.
Around 10 minutes later, the onboard chef also came to take our meal orders, though didn’t take my drink order (he seemed to take everyone else’s). On Turkish Airlines, the left aisle is served first, followed by the right aisle. This was a non-issue for me personally, as I wasn’t tired, and Turkish was consistently good at not running out of meal options. I’d also note that while masks are required on flights to and from Hong Kong, this wasn’t enforced on the flight – in fact, the onboard chef’s mask was off when he took orders around the cabin.
Boarding actually wrapped up well ahead of schedule, at around 10:30 PM (our flight was scheduled for 10:50 PM). The captain came onto the PA, though I couldn’t really hear what he was saying, since the PA system was quite muffled in the forward business class cabin (I don’t believe this was a safety issue, as cabin crew announcements came through just fine). The safety video was screened, and it was about 10:45 PM by the time we pushed back, five minutes ahead of our scheduled departure time.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Safety Video
Since I’d switched to an aisle seat I didn’t have great views of the tarmac. I saw a row of Cathay Pacific aircraft parked by the Midfield Concourse (either those were China-bound flights or they were just inactive airframes) – gone are the days where Hong Kong Airlines used to dominate the Midfield Concourse.
Cathay Pacific Planes Lined Up At Midfield Terminal
We took off at runway 07R at around 11 PM, and mood lighting was turned on. Mood lighting wasn’t ever used on my previous flight, despite being on the same aircraft, so this was a pleasant surprise.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Cabin Upon Takeoff
After takeoff two videos played on our seatback screens – a video about Turkish “reversing the split of continents” featuring Morgan Freeman…
…and a video about Istanbul that promoted Türkiye’s new name.
Both of these videos were exactly a minute long. I won’t talk about the IFE much more on this flight (check my outbound flight review for more details – there’s a fairly impressive selection), though I will note that the system makes you watch through a few seconds of an ad about inflight WiFi before you’re allowed to skip it.
Turkish Airlines’ 777 Business Class WiFi
Speaking of inflight WiFi, it took a couple of minutes for the WiFi to start working (we were well over 10,000 feet, and probably at cruising altitude by the time it started working properly), though I was eventually able to connect around 20 minutes after takeoff.
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. For some reason on this flight about 100 MB of my allowance disappeared after about 10 minutes of usage, but the rest of my data allowance was used up at a much more reasonable rate, and I still had just under half of my allowance left by the end of the flight.
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.
Speeds were good, but not amazing (I forgot to do a speed test on both of my flights) – the only issue was that the portal to purchase WiFi/enter my seat details would always take a while to load, and occasionally required reloading the page several times. 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’ 777 Business Class Post-Takeoff Meal Service
The menu handed to me before takeoff read as follows:
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Food Menu
Here were the non-alcoholic beverages on offer:
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Drinks Menu
Meanwhile, here was the wine list:
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Alcohol and Wines Menu
Since my drink order wasn’t taken before takeoff, I decided to ask a crew member if he had any recommendations for Turkish wines. The male crewmember serving my aisle was absolutely fantastic – I’ll speak more about him during the course of this post, though he was so eager to please. He asked if I was thinking of a red or a white (I purposely didn’t request either from the get-go just in case one of the wines was hands down better than the others), though recommended a blended wine from 2019.
45 minutes after takeoff my table was set – what an attractive presentation! My table wasn’t secured properly at the beginning, and the male crewmember insisted on helping me re-set the table.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Set Table
I was soon presented with the Turkish wine and some hot nuts. I will say that the Turkish wine wasn’t as splendid as the Spanish wine I had on the outbound flight (I don’t know much about Turkish wine – let me know if I should’ve gotten a white instead, though I sampled a Turkish white wine in the lounge!), though I still enjoyed it.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Turkish Wine and Nuts
For the starter I ordered the marinated prawns and zucchini soup (the menu quite clearly states that the soup is an “and/or” option), and they were served in that order. The prawns were more delicious than they looked – the vinaigrette in the seasoning was on point.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Appetiser – Marinated Prawns and Mango Salad
The zucchini soup was very good as well.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Appetiser – Zucchini Soup
Along with each course, we were offered hot bread, which was served with whipped butter (not ice cold nor rock hard!) and zaatar – delicious!
For the main course I ordered the grilled cod. While the vegetables served with the cod were very well cooked and seasoned, the cod was quite overcooked, so this wasn’t my favourite main course on Turkish. I’d recommend sticking to meat dishes when dining on Turkish Airlines (where the meal service is a highlight – also, yes, that’s my seatmate bare foot in the below photo, which I personally wouldn’t do, though he was courteous in every other way).
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Main Course – Grilled Cod Fish
For dessert I decided to have the potpourri of Turkish desserts. I was hoping for some Turkish ice cream and didn’t get any, though the desserts that were served were all delicious.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Dessert – Potpourri of Traditional Turkish Desserts
I asked if they had any spare pudding left, and the flight attendant serving me obliged, saying “of course!”.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Dessert – Bread Pudding
The entire meal service, from when the first course was served to when my table was cleared, took 35 minutes. I had five separate dishes, and some airlines take longer than that to clear a plate, even in business class. I will say that my experience was consistent with my outbound flight, where I’d always feel like the crew came to clear plates just shortly after, or even before I was done.
Turkish Airlines’ 777 Business Class Service
Every single crewmember on this flight was fantastic, and wanted to make sure we were having a good time. Within their own temperament there were always big smiles, and many of the little touches stood out. This is despite the fact that I stand by the fact that Turkish’s elaborate meal service always seems a little rushed and/or stressful (and this crew was particularly unlucky, since it was the last day of the “closed loop” system, where flight attendants had to stay in their hotel rooms in Hong Kong after operating the previous evening’s outbound flight).
I’d already listed a couple of examples above, but when I went to check out the snack bar between business class cabins between flights, the male flight attendant serving our aisle proactively came and told me “if you like the taste of butter, try these cookies, they are my favourite”. I dropped my watch into the seat when I was sleeping (more on that later), and the crew was very quickly updated on the situation, and made sure that I would be alright before landing.
I’d note that the crew addressed passengers by name on some occasions (mainly taking meal orders and drink orders after takeoff), though since I’d swapped seats I was addressed by someone else’s last name. I told the flight attendant serving me that, and he just said “okay” – there did seem to be a little bit of a language barrier, since this wasn’t his attitude on any other occasion during the flight.
Turkish Airlines’ 777 Business Class Food Options Between Meal Services
After the meal service, everyone who was awake was passed a little menu with a range of food options. Unfortunately at this point I was feeling stuffed and congested – I debated trying the homemade cookies, though ultimately decided against it. Ultimately Turkish advertises a “dine on demand” structure on their longhaul flights (although nothing about the meal service seems particularly dine on demand), though the movie bar menu itself didn’t feature any substantial meal options.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Movie Bar Menu
There’s also a snack bar on the left side of the cabin behind row 4, featuring some packaged snacks (the homemade butter cookies that the flight attendant recommended were indeed very delicious).
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Snack Bar
Turkish Airlines’ 777 Turbulence Announcements
What didn’t help was that we hit a fair bit of turbulence after the meal service, and the seatbelt sign would turn on and off accordingly. This happened a couple of times through the night, especially during the first couple of hours – every time the seat belt sign was turned on, this would be followed by a loud announcement with an automated voice asking passengers to put their seat belts on. I’d much prefer to be invited to keep my seatbelt sign on at my seat, and for crew to walk through aisles checking that seat belts were put on, rather than be woken up by a loud announcement every time we hit turbulence.
I tried to go to sleep after dinner since I was tired, though for some reason didn’t really sleep well, either because it wasn’t that late, or I wasn’t used to sleeping in an aisle seat (the turbulence announcements didn’t help, though they weren’t too frequent). I decided to press the call button and order a “relaxing tea” off the menu, which advertised that it promoted sleep – sure enough, I did sleep fairly well for a few hours afterwards (either because of the tea, or because I sat up for a bit).
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Relaxing Tea
Turkish Airlines’ 777 Business Class Pre-Landing Meal Service
I drifted in and out of sleep for a few hours, though eventually woke up to mood lighting. Turkish Airlines’ seats have quite low “shells”, which isn’t amazing for privacy, though does make for a very nice cabin when the mood lighting is turned on. I also appreciated that the mood lighting wasn’t overused, and was only used to transition between lights-on (for meals) and lights-off (for takeoff, landing, and sleeping).
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Mood Lighting
I decided to test out Turkish’s Asian catering, not only for variety, but it also seemed most likely to hit the spot at the time. The condiments served with breakfast were all for the Asian main course, though everybody received the same starter.
Breakfast began with a fresh fruit platter, and I also asked for a Turkish coffee.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Breakfast – Fresh Fruit
The Asian main course was a beef and mushroom congee. For some reason I’m normally not a fan of congee (I promise it’s the one and only major defect I have as a foodie from Hong Kong), though this really did hit the spot, especially with the flavourful and tasteful condiments that came with it. The beef slices in the congee and mushroom were very flavourful as well.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Breakfast – Beef & Mushroom Congee
I’d only gotten a few hours of semi-solid sleep, so knew it’d be a long day ahead of me, especially since I was travelling back in time (timezone wise). I decided to stock up on caffeine, and ordered myself an espresso, which was excellent.
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class Cappuccino
Turkish Airlines’ 777 Not-A-Storage-Pocket
I’d put quite a few loose personal belongings in what I believed was a storage pocket before I went to sleep, and sometime during the flight my watch had fallen in a gap between the pocket and the seat. I later realised that this probably wasn’t designed as a storage pocket, since the bottom surface slanted downward towards the seat (luckily, I didn’t lose my phone or my AirPods in the same way, though this would’ve been very possible and extremely annoying if it happened). Upon trying to retrieve my watch back, I realised I wasn’t alone – I found a power adapter and some other loose items, though wasn’t able to reach my watch. The female flight attendant serving my aisle advised me not to adjust my seat (something I couldn’t end up obeying as I had to put my seat upright for landing anyway), and assured that ground staff would meet the plane on landing.
So this isn’t a storage pocket…
I was (more than) mildly annoyed at myself, as I was just celebrating us being ahead of time for landing into Istanbul, and I could maximise time exploring the city. I was more concerned about immigration lines and whether I’d be able to cross off my bucket list and make it back in time, since I didn’t know when ground staff would be awake to meet the flight (at that point, in my head I’d envisioned a couple of hours, which is silly in retrospect). The flight attendants reassured me that I definitely wasn’t alone in dropping small personal items below the seat – if you’re flying Turkish’ 777 business class, don’t use the nook under the armrest as a storage compartment, especially in the lie-flat position!
An Early Landing into Istanbul Airport
The captain came onto the PA at 4:15 AM to announce that we were landing into Istanbul shortly, and about 20 minutes later (4:35 AM) the seatbelt sign was turned on and the cabin was prepared for landing. I appreciated that not a large buffer was left between when the cabin was prepared for landing, and when we actually started our descent (it’s fairly annoying when a cabin is prepared for landing 45 minutes before actually landing).
We landed into Istanbul at 4:50 AM. The taxi to the gate was very short (considering how large Istanbul Airport is), and we were parked by 4:55 AM.
Getting My Watch Back at Istanbul Airport
While it was time for me to bid farewell to everybody else in the cabin, I still had to retrieve my watch. I waited patiently in the cabin, and the crew were sure to keep me updated – they were so good-natured and not annoyed at all at my carelessness, and I couldn’t be more thankful for them. Both cabin crewmembers serving my aisle seemed genuinely delighted when I told them I’d gotten my watch back.
I decided I’d make the most of being the only passenger in the forward cabin (since everyone else deplaned through door L2), and asked the male flight attendant if he could take a picture of a slightly sleep-deprived me in the cabin – don’t mind if I do!
Making the most of having to wait in Turkish Airlines’ 777 Business Class
An engineer boarded the flight a few minutes after deplaning started, and skillfully took apart my seat for me. Within 5 minutes, I was on my way, making sure to thank everybody involved first.
Conclusion: Turkish Airlines’ 777 Business Class
As I’d noted previously, Turkish Airlines has an underwhelming hard product and an industry-leading soft product, at least if you’re flying longhaul on their 777. More than anything, the crew on this flight were memorably a joy to fly with, and I once again remembered how elaborate Turkish Airlines’ service structure is, in a good way (though presumably this needs to be trained in a way where cabin crew feel comfortable and can completely “own” the role, since I felt like the cabin crew seemed mildly stressed out on all four flights I flew with Turkish Airlines).
On my next flight with Turkish I got to sample their new A350, which was a good indicator of the forefront of what Turkish Airlines offers in business class.