Turkish Airlines is adding new destinations, seemingly by the day, and is now operating flights to the capital of the Philippines, Manila, three times a week (going up to six times a week later in 2016).
All flights are currently operated by Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, and depart Istanbul at 0130 with an arrival the same day of 1845. With the introduction of the extra frequencies, these timings may change slightly.
We tried them out in Business Class. Read on for the verdict.
Note: it was bliss to not have to go through security control again (thankfully, all passengers coming off EU flights now are exempt from being checked again).
While this is probably more the airport's fault than Turkish Airlines' fault, the airline is still responsible for the shambolic queueing system and boarding calls. There is technically priority boarding for Business Class passengers - it's just hardly ever effectuated for any flight I've been taking with Turkish, and today's flight was no exception.
The ensuing bus ride took ages and we were dropped off literally at the Turkish Airlines hangar where our Boeing 777-300 was parked.
With the demise of Comfort Class (premium economy class) all Boeing 777s will eventually be configured like this aircraft; in a 2-3-2 Business Class configuration with seven rows (49 seats in total). All seats are forward-facing.
I find the seat very good; it goes fully flat (well, to 177 degrees), and has a pitch of 78in (22in wide). It's very comfortable, and has all the amenities you'd need - massage function, foot rest (which is located almost too far away due to the generous legroom) and plenty of storage space. The table is of a good size and certainly adequate for working at. Another bonus: complimentary wifi.
I was quite impressed with the bedding provided; crew assist you, quickly, with creating a very comfortable sleeping environment - a plump pillow, quilted blanket, seat/bed covers and a special back pillow for lumbar support are all provided. It's quite a simple setup, really, but it created the best sleep I've had onboard a plane in a very long time.
A Jaguar amenity kit (for men) was provided; it was not very exciting, but contained the necessities of eye mask, socks, a dental kit and moisturiser (As well as a shoehorn (I don't get why you always have to be provided with a shoehorn...)). The bag itself could be reused as container for a tablet - I left it onboard.
A major issue, which unfortunately keeps marring practically all Turkish Airlines flights I take, is the robotic and impersonal service. While there were many - many! - crew members milling about, practically none of them seemed to even pretend to enjoy their jobs.
Printed menus for both food and drink were distributed, and, on paper, it all looks amazing - particularly the food (see picture for the menu itself).
However, while my pumpkin and chickpea soup was nice, the main of king prawn, swordfish and seabass was disappointing (dry). My travel companion, who is a vegetarian, was not over the moon with his pasta either - and it was a quite spectacular service mishap that he was served a starter containing chicken when it had been confirmed - twice - by the crew that there was no meat in the food served to him (by the way, there was no apology for this - just a shrug from the maître de cabine...)
Also included in the printed menu was a breakfast menu with numerous options you could then pre-select and hand the card containing your order in to the crew.
In theory, this is a great solution, as it saves time and still enables you to choose what you want to eat. However, although I had selected a smoothie, I was woken up with orange juice and a limp cup of coffee. I also didn't receive the yogurt I'd asked for. The eggs were very runny. What's worse; my travel companion's order was completely ignored.
The drinks were excellent though; particularly the Chablis (no, I didn't have white wine for breakfast....).
In short; while there are plenty of bells and whistles (examples: you are provided with a small LED tealight for "candle lit dinner in the sky" - and there are plenty of drinks runs and small treats (like Godiva chocolates on arrival)), the actual service delivery lets the good intentions down.
Although it's not in the league of the very best, it's still a great system. Two major niggles: there are simply too many announcements from the crew (pausing your viewing) and, super annoying...: both TV shows and movies are heavily censored for content.
The cabin was acceptably clean and neat on arrival and crew seemed happier now than at any time during the flight (possibly because their jobs were done....).
We were quickly at the gate and disembarked via an airbridge into Terminal 1.
I was pleasantly surprised by the terminal (Manila airport's poor reputation precedes it...) and we were through immigration within minutes. Bags appeared on the belt within 15 minutes. All fine.
However, service delivery is a serious issue and hampers the good intentions. Food and drink were slightly less impressive than expected.
All being said and done: I would fly Turkish Airlines Business Class on this route again without hesitation. Although our combined rating is unexpectedly low, all the tools of a great airline are there.