Executive travel: Turkish Airlines business class from Abu Dhabi to Istanbul

What Turkish Airlines’ business class cabin lacked in the flat-bed department, it made up for with punctuality and entertainment.

The business class seat aboard Turkish Airlines’ Airbus A321-200 is big and plush with loads of legroom. Courtesy Turkish Airlines
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The man in the seat in front of me pressed the button to recline his seat. But it didn’t go back very far at all. Two stewards came over to help. They tried giving the seat a push – no luck – and then tried for better results on one of the empty seats in business class; but again no luck.

This was on the daily Turkish Airlines flight from Abu Dhabi to Istanbul, which has a 1.50am departure time.

Given the take-off slot, whatever part of the plane you’re in, you just want to sleep. But if you’re paying for business class, you expect to be able to lie flat.

However, this is no longer a standard on this route. And there are not any other options. While Etihad, which also flies to this destination, used to offer lie-flat beds, its planes servicing the Istanbul route have now been changed to the A320 and A321, which does not offer fully flat beds.

I did manage to sleep for much of the night flight to Istanbul, but only in fits and starts.

The seat aboard its Airbus A321-200 was big and plush with loads of legroom, which helped. But I cannot honestly say that I arrived in Istanbul rested.

When it came to in-flight Wi-Fi, that too is not available on Turkish Airlines between Abu Dhabi and Istanbul. Etihad does offer it on their flights.

OK, but how was the food?

It was either quite good or quite cold. On the outbound flight, the puff pastry was nice but the plate was freezing and the appetisers (cheeses, olives) were cold. On the return trip the mezze was good but the potatoes were hard and cold.

But there were a number of positives: the flights to and from Istanbul left and arrived on time. The business-class passengers disembarked first and had their own bus to the terminal. The in-flight entertainment had pleasant surprises – movies by Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. And the second leg of my trip, between Istanbul and Malta, was smooth.​

q&a a little worn at the edges

Rob McKenzie reveals more about on his journey with Turkish Airlines:

How do fares compare?

Based on a check of the airlines’ websites, return fares for business class between Abu Dhabi and Ataturk airport start from US$2,213 (Dh8,126) on Turkish and Dh8,460 on Etihad. Turkish flies A321-200s from the UAE, Etihad an A320-200 and the A321-200.

How was Turkish Airlines’ business class lounge at Ataturk?

It has elicited reams of favourable publicity since it opened in 2013. And while the lounge has much to recommend it – fresh-made pide, a simulated driving range, free-range masseuses offering neck rubs, a pool table, lots of space, views of outdoors – it is beginning to show the first signs of age.

Such as?

In the downstairs garden area, some of the plush seats had rips or stains, and some of the coffee tables had wads of paper under one leg to stay level.

How was the Istanbul-Malta leg?

I liked this part. The views of Rhodes from above were lovely. And for a shorter flight during daylight hours, you don’t need lie-flat seats and you can get by without Wi-Fi. Also the Turkish lounge at Valletta was cosy – small but not cramped, friendly staff, windows.

Last thought?

Let’s end with an observation from the business lounge at Ataturk. You look at these people with their phones and laptops, and you realise: Apple totally owns this space.


* The writer travelled as a guest of the airline.

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