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TravelTurkish Airlines 787 business class review: What's all the fuss about?

Turkish Airlines 787 business class review: What’s all the fuss about?


Quick take: A comfortable seat and delicious food are let down by sloppy service. Still, it’s a useful option to explore far-flung parts of the world.

Pros

  • Modern, lie-flat seat
  • Delectable dining options
  • The broadest international route network of any carrier

Cons

  • Cold, unpolished service
  • Nonsensical meal timings
  • Difficult transit through Istanbul

Star Alliance carrier Turkish Airlines operates a plethora of domestic and international routes out of its megahub at Istanbul Airport (IST).

In fact, it has earned the title of the airline servicing the highest number of countries (more than 120) of any global carrier, operating flights to all six inhabited continents.

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I had the chance to fly the airline’s flagship business-class product on a trip to Sri Lanka in April 2024. This was my fifth time flying the airline, with my last trip with it three years prior. So, I was excited to try out the Boeing 787-9 for the first time and see what may have changed. Unfortunately, it was a mixed bag.

Read on for what to expect from flying Turkish Airlines business class and how to book an award redemption.

ARTUR WIDAK/NURPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

How much does business class cost to book on Turkish Airlines?

I booked a one-way award flight from Cancun International Airport (CUN) to Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) in Colombo, Sri Lanka, via Istanbul for 110,000 Air Canada Aeroplan points plus $130 in taxes. I could have booked just the Cancun-to-Istanbul flight for 90,000 points.

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I chose this routing because the twice-daily flights from Cancun to Istanbul each had four award seats available, whereas no flights from U.S. airports had award availability for the date I wanted. And it takes about as long to fly from Austin to Cancun as it would to connect through Atlanta or Chicago, so this option worked for me. I booked this flight four months before departure.

Here is a sampling of how much a round-trip business-class flight from one of the U.S. airports that Turkish Airlines serves to Istanbul would cost:

Class Economy Business class
Airfare  From $851 From $3,774
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles 80,000 miles plus $219 in taxes 130,000 miles plus $472 in taxes
United Airlines MileagePlus 88,000 miles plus $48 176,000 miles plus $48
Air Canada Aeroplan 80,000 points plus $151 (all airports east of Chicago)

110,000 points plus $151 (West Coast, Denver and Texas)

140,000 points plus $151 (all airports east of Chicago)

180,000 points plus $151 (West Coast, Denver and Texas)

Avianca LifeMiles 108,000 miles plus $93 126,000 miles plus $93

LifeMiles is the cheapest option for a business-class redemption.

Booking through Turkish Airlines’ own Miles&Smiles program attracts the highest fuel surcharges, so it’s best to use one of the other Star Alliance programs.

Aeroplan is also reasonable if you are flying from the eastern half of the country (including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, New York City and Washington, D.C.) — especially if you want to take advantage of adding a stopover for an additional 5,000 points. Aeroplan redemptions are higher for the West Coast, Texas and Denver.

Our guide to credit card transfer partners can tell you which of your credit card rewards points transfer to these programs. You can maximize your points by taking advantage of a transfer bonus.

Suppose you can’t find availability to or from the U.S. and are open to being creative. In that case, you may look into Bogota, Colombia; Cancun; Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver in Canada; or Panama City — and book a positioning flight, as I did to Cancun.

Turkish Airlines does not offer a first-class or premium economy cabin.

Checking in to and boarding business class on Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines business-class passengers can expect the following priority services at the airport:

Lounge available Yes: Turkish Airlines, Star Alliance and third-party contract lounges
Fast Track access Yes
Boarding group Group 1

When departing the U.S., you can also take advantage of TSA PreCheck if you’re a member.

My friend and I booked a positioning flight from our home base in Austin to Cancun on American Airlines and overnighted at a hotel near the airport. Then, we returned to Terminal 4 the next day to check in for our flight to Turkey.

There were two business-class counters, and we waited three minutes to be attended to. The whole process took another 10 minutes, which is longer than it usually takes me to check in to a business-class flight.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

We had preselected the two center seats in Row 3 months before our flight but were told at check-in that they were broken and we had been moved to Row 1. I wasn’t thrilled about this as I feared the movement and lighting around the galley would disrupt our sleep, which is exactly what ended up occurring.

I was further disappointed when, upon boarding, the two center Row 3 seats were taken by the parents of two children sitting in Row 2. I would have appreciated the check-in agent being upfront that we had been moved to accommodate a family. Perhaps it would’ve also been reasonable to seat the parents in Row 1 and allow us to keep our original seats in Row 3, but maybe the parents (or airline) thought the seats behind the children would be a better place to keep an eye on them.

After breezing through immigration and security, we headed to the Plaza Premium Lounge near our gate. This third-party facility is a solid option, with excellent food options and fast Wi-Fi. While not part of the Priority Pass network, Plaza Premium lounges are accessible by select American Express and Capital One cardholders.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

If you depart from a United hub in the U.S., like Chicago, Newark or San Francisco, you’ll have access to the excellent United Polaris lounges.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Passengers departing from non-Star Alliance hubs, such as Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth and Miami, will tend to use inferior contract lounges. Check out this Turkish Airlines page to see which lounge you can access, then search for reviews of the lounge on our site, Google Maps or LoungeBuddy. If it’s a subpar option, consider accessing a superior lounge with one of these credit cards.

Back in Cancun, boarding started 15 minutes later than the time printed on my boarding pass. Business-class passengers were invited to line up, and I was the first to board.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

However, we waited in the (hot) jet bridge for 10 minutes to get the all-clear to step on board. I would’ve appreciated spending that time in the air-conditioned terminal — not the greatest start to the flight.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

Then, I realized I wasn’t the first on board — there was a handful of passengers already in their seats as this flight is a triangle route originating in Mexico City, with a layover in Cancun to refuel and pick up passengers.

Those originating in or transiting through Istanbul, however, are in for a treat, with three main advantages.

The first is that Turkish Airlines serves the most countries of any carrier globally. You can get one-stop connections from the U.S. to popular destinations like India, South Africa and many airports in Europe, as well as throughout the Middle East, East Africa, and Central and Southeast Asia.

FLIGHTCONNECTIONS

Secondly, the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge — and there is only one — is one of the best in the world and a TPG reader favorite. It features made-to-order gozleme and pasta, an abundance of Turkish desserts, and even a golf simulator. It’s open 24 hours a day and definitely worth a visit.

We spent the second half of our eight-hour layover in the lounge, freshening up in one of the spacious shower suites and fueling up on dinner before our overnight flight to Sri Lanka.

ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY

Finally, Istanbul is a fantastic stopover city. If you have an extended layover of at least seven hours, I’d recommend heading into the city to explore. You can catch a taxi for about $30 each way, noting that the journey into the city can take more than an hour with traffic. Alternatively, you can take the M11 metro line from the airport, with the journey to the central Gayrettepe Station taking 25 minutes and departing every 20 minutes.

When we landed in Istanbul, we looked at the traffic on Google Maps and were surprised to be able to get into the city in less than 40 minutes. It was the first day of Eid, meaning that traffic was light — but the atmosphere on a beautiful spring day was jubilant, with families and friends out and about in the city’s streets and parks celebrating the end of Ramadan.

In the space of 4 1/2 hours, we traveled to and from the airport by taxi, got a coffee in Taksim Square, and walked down to the waterfront. From there, we caught a ferry along the Bosphorus Strait over to the old town, where we observed the stunning Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque (from the outside — the lines were way too long to risk missing our connecting flight). Our highlight was lying on the lush grass in Gulhane Park (next to Hagia Sophia), taking in the tulips and treetops, and appreciating seeing locals and tourists enjoying an idyllic spring day.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

Plus, U.S. citizens no longer need to pay about $50 for an e-visa to enter Turkey — you can get your passport stamped at immigration for a stay of up to 90 days.

So, what are the two downsides of transiting through Istanbul?

Firstly, the massive airport lacks a people mover like the Skylink at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and sufficient automated walkways. Depending on which gate your flight is leaving from, you may have a long walk, especially if your first flight lands at a different wing of the airport.

Secondly, planes tend to taxi between the runway and the terminal for a long time, sometimes up to 40 minutes. I timed our taxi from landing to the gate, and it only took 13 minutes, though.

How comfortable was business class on Turkish Airlines?

All of Turkish Airlines’ 787-9s and most A350 aircraft sport the same business-class seats, staggered in a 1-2-1 configuration. The seats number 30 (on the 787) and 32 (on the A350), spread across eight rows. The seats on the A350 are slightly wider than those on the 787.

Here’s the basic layout of the cabin and seats:

Cabin layout 1-2-1
Recline Fully flat, 76 inches
Seat width 20 inches
Screen size 18 inches

We were assigned the two center seats in the first row: 1E and 1F.

There are a few seats to avoid, especially those near the bathrooms and galley:

Best seats for couples 3E and 3F, or 5E and 5F
Best seats for solo travelers A and K seats in rows 2, 4 and 6 (closer to the window, further from the aisle)
Seats to avoid Any A or K seat in rows 1, 3, 5 and 7 (closer to the aisle, further from the window)

All seats in rows 1 and 8 as well as 7E and 7F (due to proximity to the galleys and bathrooms)

The seats are among the narrowest in the sky and were tight around my shoulders.

However, they are a huge improvement over the carrier’s dated A330 and 777-300ER seats, which are set up in a 2-2-2 and (woeful) 2-3-2 configuration, respectively. (Luckily, the entire 777 fleet will get an upgraded business-class product starting in 2026.)

The outdated 777-300ER product. CHRIS DONG/THE POINTS GUY

As you can see, the (even-numbered) window seats offer the best privacy out of any seat in the cabin.

ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY

Back in the center, the mechanical privacy divider can be raised after takeoff. However, it doesn’t reach very high, so you will still be somewhat exposed to your seatmate and any light coming from their entertainment screen, especially when the cabin is dark.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

Storage is a downfall of this product. Compartments are limited to a shoe cubby underneath the ottoman and a small, lockable compartment above the side table. Neither the cabin crew nor I could work out how to unlock or lock the compartment (it seems unnecessary, anyway). There is a slide-out mirror for makeup and touch-ups, but it is too low to be of use to people taller than 5 feet, 8 inches without having to crouch down uncomfortably.

This storage compartment screams poor execution despite a well-intentioned design. The interior light stays on when the compartment is even partially opened. You cannot charge your devices with the door closed, even with a simple USB-A cord, which defeats the purpose of wanting to charge (and lock away) your devices while you sleep.

The fold-out table is pretty standard and sturdy but had crumbs on it from the previous flight.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

The excellent inflight entertainment touchscreen is crisp and measures 18 inches, with a flight map and overhead camera.

One of the highlights of my flight was the bed. Barely two minutes after my dessert course was cleared, the crew offered a turndown service, during which I changed into my pajamas (the airline does not provide passengers with pajamas, so I brought my own.)

I returned to a thin mattress pad, a lean-but-plush blanket and a small pillow.

The bed felt tight around my shoulders until I realized I could lower the armrests on both sides, significantly improving my comfort. The footwell was spacious enough that I didn’t touch the bulkhead or the sides.

The cool cabin temperature and immediate dark lighting after dinner service helped me get four hours of uninterrupted sleep on this 12-hour overnight flight.

I also appreciated having individual air nozzles to increase airflow around my seat.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

For those wanting to read, there is a three-level reading light embedded in the seat.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

Amenities in Turkish Airlines business class

The inflight entertainment system offers a huge library of more than 650 movies and 1,600 TV episodes. The touchscreen was crisp and responsive, and I appreciated that there were no ads at the start of any content.

One thing I hadn’t seen on a plane before was the IMDb rating for most movies, which helps you choose highly rated content. After boarding, I usually frantically browse the library to see what’s on offer and use my cellphone (if it has service) to check the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, so this saved me that step.

The noise-canceling headphones worked very well. The cabin crew came through to collect them from passengers 40 minutes before landing; however, I appreciated that they let me finish my movie and picked them up after landing.

Business-class passengers get 1 GB of data, with unlimited data for Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Elite and ElitePlus members. The Wi-Fi was unavailable for the first half of the flight and then clocked solid speeds of 6-7 Mbps for the remainder.

You’ll receive a useful Salvatore Ferragamo-branded amenity kit, with the standard inclusions of earplugs, an eye mask, a toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, lotion, lip balm and — my favorite — facial mist to keep your skin hydrated on long flights.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

My friend was proactively given his amenity kit but I had to ask for mine.

Passengers are not provided with pajamas; however, slippers, a shoe bag and a blanket are left waiting at their seats.

There are three bathrooms, making for a fairly decent 10-to-1 passenger-to-lavatory ratio in this cabin. They’re of the standard Dreamliner variety, with touch-free controls, though Turkish has added a fragrance diffuser, lotion and high-end Molton Brown amenities to jazz them up.

How was the food in Turkish Airlines business class?

I love the alcohol-free welcome drinks that are offered upon boarding, with a selection of juices and still water; I chose the refreshing lemon-mint juice. No sparkling wine was offered.

The cabin crew members taking care of our aisle introduced themselves by their first name; it would’ve been a nice touch for them to address each passenger by their last name, too.

A brisk 20 minutes after takeoff, a (wrinkled) tablecloth was set on my fold-out table.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

And (room temperature) mixed nuts were served.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

I appreciated the thoughtful touch of a (battery-powered) candle to accompany my meal.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

Then, I tried the raspberry juice, which was sickly sweet and would’ve been better watered down or with some ice.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

Next, a gorgeous bread basket with a selection of warmed baked goods, including rye and seeded bread and ciabatta rolls.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

Dining on Turkish Airlines is a whole production, with the appetizer tray arriving 50 minutes into the flight.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

You’ve got choices galore for appetizers. I loaded up on:

  • Smoked salmon
  • A smoky and creamy baba ghanoush-like eggplant dip (one of the best I’ve ever had)
  • A creamy carrot soup with seed bread
  • Marinated artichoke with spices
  • Caesar salad (even the dressing was to die for)
MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

Additional options included honey mustard chicken and Mexican-style dishes such as guacamole, empanadas, and a bean and corn salad.

With my stomach already 70% full, I accepted the challenge of getting through my main course of delicious grilled sea bass with potato gratin and Tuscan-style roasted vegetables. The other options were a beef fillet with the same sides, or spinach and cheese cannelloni.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

To my horror, a full dessert cart was then rolled out, and I made my momma proud by getting not just one or two but three Turkish desserts (baklava, pistachio and walnut) along with vanilla ice cream — everything was decadent and packed with flavor. Additional options included a blueberry muffin with vanilla sauce, an Austrian chocolate cake, cheeses, and fresh fruit.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

The entire meal service finished two hours after takeoff, which I found reasonable for the number of courses. Then, it was time for some shut-eye.

What didn’t make sense to me was that the crew turned on the lights and started breakfast service a full 3 1/2 hours before landing. This was way too early and didn’t allow passengers to maximize sleep.

Breakfast service was quick, finishing 40 minutes later, and then the lights were turned off again with just under three hours of the flight to go. This wasn’t because of any turbulence we were expecting closer to Istanbul, so I’m uncertain why this occurred. I asked a friend who flew recently from Washington, D.C., to Istanbul, and he had the same complaint.

Breakfast was a less extravagant affair. I chose the fruit tray, yogurt and the Middle Eastern staple of cheese, tomato and cucumber to start off, accompanied by orange juice (with pulp).

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

And then an (average) zucchini and red pepper omelet with a delicious cheese pastry. The other option was a blueberry pancake.

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

Other than the pastry, nothing from breakfast disappointed or stood out to me.

Here is the one-page food menu:

MATT MOFFITT/THE POINTS GUY

And the three-page drinks menu:

Unfortunately, cleanliness was a persistent problem throughout my flight. As mentioned before, my fold-out table had crumbs from the last passenger. And I had to ask the crew three times to clear away used packaging and trash, after which they still left crumbs on the side table.

Would you recommend Turkish Airlines business class?

I don’t really see why there is so much fuss around Turkish Airlines.

It has effective marketing, with advertisements featuring Morgan Freeman and its latest business-class product (this one, on the 787 and A350). However, a sizable chunk of its long-haul fleet still features seats in a 2-2-2 or, worse, 2-3-2 configuration.

Sure, it has delicious food and an excellent inflight entertainment system. However, they are not up to the standard of Gulf competitors like Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates.

In my five flights with Turkish Airlines, I’ve never found the cabin crew warm or engaging, and they miss basic service steps. While Istanbul offers excellent connectivity worldwide, it is not an easy airport to transit through, requiring you to walk up to 30 minutes between gates.

Turkish Airlines used to offer a sweet-spot redemption through its Miles&Smiles program, with one-way business-class flights to Turkey or Europe for only 45,000 miles (or 2,000 more to connect anywhere in the Middle East). However, that was discontinued in February 2024.

If I wanted a nonstop flight to Istanbul or a one-stop journey to a less-visited destination like Rwanda, Mongolia or Armenia, I would definitely look at an award redemption on Turkish Airlines — for convenience.

However, if I were traveling to Europe or the Middle East, I’d look into alternative options because Turkish Airlines’ glitzy and refined marketing doesn’t live up to the hype in real life.

ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY

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