Turkish Airlines currently has 37 Airbus A321 Neo Aircraft, so I was excited to try business class on this type and compare it to the Boeing 787-9. You can read more about my flight from London to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines here.
The Airbus A321 NEO operates most flights on the London-Istanbul route, so you have the most chance of getting it if you don’t check the aircraft type. The Boeing 787-9 usually flies once daily, so you would be lucky to get that aircraft on your flight. You may even get to try out a 777 on this route, as they do use them occasionally.
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The business class service at Istanbul Airport is superb! You enter the airport through a different door just for business class, and after a quick bag scan, you can check your luggage in with no fuss. If you are flying in economy, you can use this entrance if you have Miles and Smiles Elite or equivalent.
When we were there, the business class check-in area was quiet. It’s spacious and clean, with some good seating options. Even without baggage, you still have to check in at the counter.
Security was very near the check-in area. There was a 5-minute queue, but this was very quick compared to the line for security at the main entrance visible on the other side of the hall, which looked very long.
New technology at Istanbul airport means you can keep everything in your bag, saving time on removing electronics and liquids for security screening.
You can access the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge with a business-class ticket. The lounge is huge and overlooks the departure hall. You can read my full Turkish Airlines Business Lounge Review here.
There was quite a long walk to the departure gate from the lounge. Because most flights from the airport are operated by Turkish Airlines, the lounge can’t be positioned right next to the gate for every flight, meaning you should allow time to get from the lounge to the gate as walks can be very long at this airport. We arrived just in time for boarding, but on arrival, the gate was very busy with people already queuing.
The flight departed about 20 minutes late due to air traffic control restrictions at Heathrow. The departure kept being pushed back.
When it was time to board, business class boarded first as you would expect. The business class cabins are located in the first two sections of the plane. Compared to our inbound flight, where you turned left as you board for the business cabin, this seemed more hectic as the entire plane walked through the business cabin after we had sat down. In some ways it would be nicer to board last as some airlines do for premium cabins.
The Cabin and Seats
The Airbus A321 Neo is configured in a 2-2 formation. The economy class has a 3-3 formation. This is not the kind of cabin with a blocked seat in the middle like in BA club class but a wide and extra comfortable seat.
There’s a 13″ entertainment screen with over-ear headphones and a nice compartment for belongings. The overhead lockers are spacious.
The headrests are adjustable to help sleeping, and the wings on the side of the seats can be pulled out very slightly for more privacy.
The seats reminded me of BA short-haul Club Europe seats in that when you reclined, you encroach on the person behind’s space, unlike a long-haul business class seat. However, with so much leg room it is not really an issue. There was also an extendable leg rest and footrest.
The seat controls are straightforward to use. An extendable leg rest also comes out to rest your legs flat.
The tray table was very large and almost identical to the one on the outbound flight. I like how you can fold it in half to hold smaller things which also has a drinks rest.
Food and Drink
Having just been to the revamped Turkish Airlines inflight dining launch, I was excited to try the menu again. The cabin crew gave us a welcome drink as soon as everyone had boarded.
We were also given the menu after boarding. This was the second-day Turkish Airlines served its new menu. Drink choices included homemade lemonade, raspberry lemonade and water.
I opted for a special vegetarian meal. I enjoyed the starter, which consisted of bread and hummus, fresh lemon, baked peppers and a warm roll. I also had a garden side salad, Turkish porridge and a cheese selection.
It would have been nice to include the unique meal options on the menu or give a separate menu card, so I knew exactly what I was eating. The food was delicious, but I preferred my starter on the outbound flight.
The Main course
When the hot dish was served, I discovered it was exactly the same dish I had been given the day before – Paneer curry with Bombay Potatoes and rice.
Drinks on Board
There was an excellent selection of drinks available. I opted for the Torres wine because I had tried the other wine on the outbound flight. I preferred the Torres wine to the Kavaklidere, although both were very nice.
There was a good selection of drinks. My only suggestion would be to include more wine choices. There were two choices for each type of wine.
Soon after the end of the meal service, we were given a packet of Turkish Roasted Hazelnuts.
The screens were just as responsive as the outbound flight.
I had time to watch a few episodes.
The service overall was better than the flight the day before. The cabin crew were friendly and happy to help with anything. We were even given a hot towel which was much appreciated.
The toilets were the same on both flights, with lovely-smelling Molton Brown toiletries. Nothing beats the Finnair business class toilets, which have a window.
Arrival at Heathrow Airport
After a steep landing, we were soon back at Heathrow. However, the allocated stand was occupied, so we waited at least 15 minutes on the runway.
This was the opposite of my last visit. Immigration was not slow, but it wasn’t fast. The out-of-EU arrivals queue was empty this time, and the UK/EU one was very busy.
Short-Haul Business Class with Turkish Airlines: Final Thoughts
I enjoyed my time flying in business class on the Airbus A321 Neo. The food was excellent, the airport and lounge were fantastic to spend time in, and the service was excellent. However, I much preferred flying on the Boeing on the outbound flight. I feel a lie-flat seat and more privacy make business class more worth the price. Even the seats on the A321 NEO are far better than you would get on most European carriers, so Turkish is a good choice for flying short haul and can often be cheaper than BA despite having superior seats.