But it doesn’t have to be.
When the word “Greece” came up, I knew come hell or high water I was going to be in Business Class. You may remember my review of United’s Business Class flight from London Heathrow to Houston which changed my long-haul world. I did a lot of research on different ways to navigate to Santorini, but time and again Turkish Airlines kept coming into view.
Turkish Airlines recently started a non-stop service from Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) to Istanbul, Turkey via a 777. Twelve hours later, you arrive on the other side of the globe and then you’re only a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from Santorini, Greece. Check. Oh and they had Business Reward availability so it was a done deal.
Since the day I booked our flight on Turkish, I have searched for reviews on what I was getting myself into. I heard mixed reviews about the service being lackadaisical or rude, the plane hot but the food delicious. Ultimately, there weren’t a lot of reviews to find, so I knew my own would be a must.
Check-in and Boarding
Being a Premier flier with United in Houston, I am used to a fairly easy and beautiful check-in at Terminal E at IAH. Walking into Leeland Terminal D at Bush was a throwback to an old-school, “rode-hard-and-put-away-wet” terminal. The attendants were nice but quiet and we saw our first and final Elite Check-in desk of the trip. If you are a Gold Card or high Premier traveler, make sure you bring the actual card with you on a trip like this. It will get you far!
The Turkish boarding pass didn’t display a “business class” logo, so when we went to the security check point, the initial officer told us to get into the regular line. I immediately let her know that was not going to happen and she reluctantly let us through the business class line- rightfully so.
At check-in we were instructed to walk to Terminal E to use the United Club in lieu of a Turkish Airways Lounge. We did see the BA lounge, complete with crystal chandeliers, modern furniture and champagne glasses readily awaiting parched lips. I felt like the lady in the old Mervyn’s commercials– “open, open, open”, but unfortunately, I was left to $12 Moet glasses in the United Club. Anybody else miss Veuve? I digress.
Boarding was delayed by an hour with no information as to why, although the aircraft was at the gate. Once the process started, we were on board easily, shown our seats and on our way to a new adventure.
Seats, Food and Service
The interior of the THY 777 Business Class is a 2-3-2 configuration and was full on both our flights to and from Houston. D and I were in the middle and found the seats to be more than comfortable, although no seat can be THAT comfy for over 10 hours. The seats laid flat and had a recline option with foot rest, which we used the majority of the flight.
One design flaw is the hole underneath the armrests. The area looks like storage and hosts the electrical outlets, but when your seat is up, there is a black hole that gobbles up items. My eaten item was my contact solution. Lovely. I’m sure many have lost their iPhones, wallets, etc. After 10 hours and countless requests, the “skychef” finally supplied me with bread tongs to retrieve the item from its hollows. On our return flight, we saw a lady clamoring over the back of her chair in search of an eaten item, so I shared my secret of the SkyChef tongs. Surely this happens so often they have a pair ready and waiting.
As soon as we were seated, the crew came around with a fresh raspberry cocktail, mint lemonade or water, although no alcoholic cocktails were offered. The mint lemonade was a refreshing treat and helped set the tone of what was to come.
Once take-off occurred, we were immediately given a personalized menu and served a small sampling of snacks followed by a beautiful 6 course dinner.
“Meze” in the Middle East is a collection of small dishes served almost as an appetizer– or in this case, a prelude to the appetizers. The THY trolley came around as soon as we were served cold nuts and cocktails– a wonderful selection of fine French wines and true Champagne, Scotch, Whisky, Vodka, and even the liquor we would come to know as Raki in Greece. I’ll get to that one later.
The Meze Trolley had items like marinated shrimp, grape leaves, baba ganoush, stuffed peppers, etc. There were probably 10 individual dishes on the trolley– all of which could have substituted as an incredible dinner. And check out that mood lighting!
We had multiple options for each course and everything that came out was beautifully presented, all on bright white china. I’m told the food in THY’s “Comfort Class” and Economy is also wonderful, but this meal was a travelers treat. We felt like we were at a resort dining on some of the finest options.
When the dessert cart arrives, do not forget the Turkish Coffee, port and without a doubt the baklava. The baklava was the best I’ve ever had anywhere in my life.
On the flight to Turkey, we were served breakfast about 1.5 hours prior to arrival into Istanbul. Seeing I’m a breakfast snob (among other things), there really isn’t a breakfast I find appealing on a plane. THY’s attempt was lovely, again with fine china and multiple options in courses to appeal to everyone.
I asked for a glass of champagne, and the flight attendant did not hold back her shock and made a face like I was a psychopath– or an alcoholic. HEY. It’s 3pm in Turkey and I’m on “holiday” lady. BACK OFF.
I never got my champagne.
The service on our flight to Istanbul was fine, but certainly not stellar, nor up to United’s Business service. They were slow and forgetful, but redeemingly pleasant. On our return flight, the attendants were almost from a different company and were efficient, helpful and warm. And the very different trait that I was not expecting– 90% of the flight attendants on Turkish Air and Aegean, which we took to Santorini, were BEAUTIFUL. I mean stunning. Not run-of-the-mill people, more like Middle Eastern Barbie (do they even have Barbie there?).
As far as the food service went, I literally felt like a Veal– stuck in a box and being fed fabulous food to fatten me up. And it was all so fabulous you wanted to eat everything. Too bad they haven’t figured out a way to get a gym on a plane yet.
Entertainment and Amenity Kit
On our outbound flight, the amenity kit was nice and from Crabtree and Evelyn. The case was large enough to hold an iPad or tablet, and was filled with standard goodies like socks, comb, lotion, lip balm, etc. D didn’t find it necessary to keep the kit, where as I collect them for some unknown reason. Considering I only take carry-on luggage and was already packed to the gills, maybe I should have left mine, too. Thankfully, I didn’t because on our return flight, the amenity kit was Turkish’s new style– from Porsche! D was thrilled! This was a smaller, hard black case with a more rugged look, complete with all the same style products just a different maker. Both were nice and a good option for THY.
As for the entertainment system, I thoroughly enjoyed the outside view cameras on takeoff and landing, and there were great movie options, particularly on our return flight. D immersed himself in the Godfather trilogy, while I zoned out to Hangover 3, and various other options. The wifi on board was spotty, but still a nice touch. There is certainly enough options to keep you entertained.
Overall, our flight to/from Istanbul was great. It’s never exciting to have to travel such a long distance on one flight, but THY did a great job making our travel part of our vacation experience, instead of a pain. If you’re in Houston or anywhere Turkish flies, definitely consider them as a carrier contender.
And DO NOT miss the CIP Lounge at the Istanbul airport. I could move in there. That review is coming soon!