Opinions on Turkish Airlines?
August 11, 2015 8:42 PM   Subscribe

I am researching nonstop flights from the US to Rome, for the purpose of booking a flight for my 18 y/o nephew. Turkish Airlines is coming in the most affordable so far. I have no familiarity with them, and want to know if they are generally well regarded, given that my nephew has limited travel experience and I would prefer that he fly with a reliable airline with good customer service. Anecdotes welcome.
posted by SmartWool to Travel & Transportation around Italy (26 answers total)
I've flown on Turkish Airlines many times. They're great. They've also won various "Airline of the Year" and "Best Airline in Europe" awards, so they're probably at least as good as their competitors.
posted by dacoit at 8:44 PM on August 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

I've flown with them once. They were fine, a definite step above cheap as chips budget airlines. Food good also.
posted by kjs4 at 8:50 PM on August 11, 2015

Oh wow, Turkish is AWESOME. Great food too and if he can get into the lounge for some reason, they are known for having some of the best lounges in the world. Don't worry at all. Plus they're in Star Alliance.
posted by k8t at 9:03 PM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

They have the BEST food. I've only flown with them twice (with good experience), but have heard only good things about them from others. And, seriously, best airline food I've ever had.
posted by hannahelastic at 9:04 PM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I flew them domestically within Turkey and they were just fine. Generally I'll always take any (non-low-cost) foreign carrier over a U.S. carrier for international flights.
posted by olinerd at 9:22 PM on August 11, 2015

I'll also vouch for them.
posted by kickingtheground at 9:24 PM on August 11, 2015

I've only flown on Turkish Airlines once, and the flight was short (no meal), but I remember it fondly. The plane had a roomy layout and turquoise upholstery, snacks were samples of Turkish exports (hazelnuts and cherries, mmm), and there was rakı to drink. Lots of rakı, as it turned out. After one flight attendant hadn't brought it for 20 minutes or so, I asked another, and naturally ended up with two cups of the stuff, both of which had been generously poured. That's the last thing I remember from that flight.
posted by aws17576 at 9:25 PM on August 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

The only complaint I've heard is that the layovers to/from Europe are long. The upside is that if it's more than 10 hours, they will get you a decent hotel for free.
posted by wnissen at 9:44 PM on August 11, 2015

Another vote for them: attentive customer service, reliable planes, tasty food and wide experience of catering to both Muslim and non-Muslim passengers. Their main hub at Istanbul airport is also pretty good - although it doesn't sound like your son's trip would take him there.
posted by rongorongo at 12:12 AM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Service isn't the best IMHO (a tad unfriendly and gruff), but generally their product exceeds the standards of most European and US airlines. Food, as many say, is excellent. Wouldn't hesitate to fly with them, although the US to Rome will of course involve a backtrack as it will obviously be via Istanbul.
posted by ryanbryan at 1:37 AM on August 12, 2015

High praise for Turkish - I fly them a lot, on purpose, and choose them over other European Star Alliance members covering the same routes. If you have any status on Star Alliance: their Prime Class lounge in Ataturk Airport is extraordinary (assume you'd lay over in IST). Their pay-for-use lounges are not bad if you have a long layover.

Generally great personal entertainment set-up with good film selection for the long-haul flights (less so for short-haul). And their delicious fresh-squeezed orange juice and fresh mint lemonade as an in-flight drink offering is a very welcome touch. I think they still give little amenity packs for the long flights in economy (socks, toothbrush, eyemask, lip balm), which may be fun for your nephew.

They've poured a lot of $$ into making the airline attractive for int'l travelers and the overseas flights are pretty great relative to the competition - domestic and flights to less "prestigious" locales are more ho-hum.
posted by oneaday at 2:42 AM on August 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

One relevant detail is that Istanbul Atatürk airport is very very very busy - it's Turkish's hub and they fly to 230+ destinations, and have expanded dramatically in the last decade - so if it's possible to build in a 90-180 minute layover instead of a 60-120 minute one, do it. It's a bit like flying in the US the week of Thanksgiving every day!

If he wants more details, tell him he will land, maybe be bussed to arrivals based on the number of gates available, and then follow signs to connections, where he will go through a security check as if in the US. People can/do move up in the queue if they have a nearby departure, sometimes without asking, but with a long enough layover this shouldn't be a huge problem for him. Then he'll be in the normal departures area of the airport where he can find his connecting gate, which may be a bus gate with minimal seating.

None of this is difficult, per se, but if your nephew is from a quietish part of the world and hasn't travelled by air much and has never been surrounded by that many people, in a rush, worried about missing their flights, all speaking dozens of languages, do warn him of the need to be somewhat more vigilant of his whereabouts and departure time/gate than he would be at home, and that it's definitely OK to ask to move up in the security line. There are also multiple flights to Rome a day; if you can arrange his arrival in Istanbul with multiple flights to Rome afterward in case his incoming flight is late or he can't get through security on time, that would be ideal.

That said, my personal favourite airport concession on this planet is there. Simit Sarayi - a literal palace of awesome bread, great sandwiches, coffee, and tea - is English-speaking and easy and it's very reasonably priced; they take euros as well as Turkish lira should he somehow still need food after Turkish's usually-great breakfasts and wants a bite.

Also make sure he tries the AMAZING sour cherry juice and lemonade on board! Yum.
posted by mdonley at 2:45 AM on August 12, 2015

I've only heard good things about it. They really want to become a hub airline for people traveling from Europe to the Middle East/Asia, and have really stepped up their game.

When I was there, Istanbul Airport's security was chaotic, but once through, it was like any other modern airport. If you have a layover with enough time, your nephew can take the tram downtown and back. Its easy, if not a bit time consuming.
posted by troytroy at 2:46 AM on August 12, 2015

I flew from London to Istanbul and had a very pleasant flight.

My brother lost his luggage with Turkish and when he got it back some of his stuff was missing. Also disrupted connections, a surprise 11 hour layover at Istanbul and non-functioning in-flight entertainment. He had return tickets and he got messed around both coming and going. I can't remember now where he was flying, but I think it was from Europe to somewhere in India. It was definitely one of the worst flight experiences anyone I know has been on in recent times and it has put me off travelling with them again. I am glad to see that his experience appears to be in the minority!
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:59 AM on August 12, 2015

Turkish is fantastic. The only downside is that the jingle from the boarding and safety video can get stuck in your head for years. "Tur-kish Air-lines, something soooomething yours!"
posted by whitewall at 4:15 AM on August 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

I *just* got back from Turkey last night, and flew Turkish Airways from DC to Istanbul, then to Ankara a few days later, and returned back last night.

Overall, I think it was a great experience. Their in-flight entertainment was excellent - hundreds of movies to choose from, with a large screen nearly the size of my Macbook Air (touchscreen!). It also had games, music, TV shows, though I didn't explore those much - but there were a good amount of options. They like to feed you. There were 2 meals on both my trans-Atlantic flights, and even the 45 minute trip to Istanbul-Ankara came with a lunch box (cheese sandwich, small salad, dessert, beverage). My only gripe is that they ran out of options on the long flight, both ways - you usually get a meal option - by the time they got to me (row K, both times) you just got what they gave you. But they always have sandwiches/beverages any time you want them during the flight.

In Economy, they still gave you a nice amenity kit in a zipper bag (socks, toothbrush/toothpaste, earplugs, eye mask, etc).

Boarding was pretty efficient and fast. When I showed up early and asked if I could get an earlier flight (Istanbul-->Ankara), they were able to accommodate me easily. When a few of us were concerned that our luggage didn't show up on the carousel in Ankara, they seemed genuinely very concerned and were on it immediately - they took it super seriously. Our suitcases showed up about 10 minutes later.

I don't fly internationally very often, but compared to all the US carriers I've flown on, none came close to the service and amenities provided by Turkish Air. Overall, I'd highly recommend.
posted by raztaj at 4:17 AM on August 12, 2015

Um, that would be row 31 (but seat K) for the lack of meal options. I'm still jet-lagged from the 22 hours of travel yesterday (not the fault of Turkish Air). They seemed to start serving meals from the very back, and the very front of economy, so maybe something to consider if you would like a meal choice.
posted by raztaj at 4:29 AM on August 12, 2015

We took Turkish to Rome when it was 700 dollars cheaper than the next cheapest option (each). The planes are pretty nice and service solid, on the ground is . . . Not ideal customer service in my view but since it effectively made our hotels free I could live with it. Some friends very recently had some serious issues with them, though of the run of the mill 'sometimes shit happens' sort on Turkish but that involved a fairly large family group and I believe domestic travel within turkey.

Tl,dr: Id do it again if it was priced well.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 4:44 AM on August 12, 2015

Perfectly pleasant airline. Certainly a step above any US airline. Would recommend.

ProTip: If you have a long enough layover in Istanbul, the Turkish Airlines lounge there is the largest, nicest and most well appointed of any lounge I've ever been to. It has an indoor golf simulator, slot car track, fresh crepe and sandwich stations, tasty food, and booze everywhere at 7am.
posted by Sleddog_Afterburn at 5:06 AM on August 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

Flew them Cape Town to Istanbul, no complaints. Comparable to BA on that route at least.
posted by PenDevil at 5:09 AM on August 12, 2015

I regularly fly with Turkish Airlines and can vouch for them, certainly my number one choice for flights from UK to the Middle East.
posted by sarahdal at 5:19 AM on August 12, 2015

Make sure you're looking at the layover time in Istanbul. If it's a long layover and a short vacation, that can really make him exhausted and annoyed by the time he reach his destination. See if you can buy him a pass for the Istanbul premium lounge - it's is amazing.

I wish our domestic airlines were half as good as Turkish Airlines!
posted by barnone at 5:38 AM on August 12, 2015

There are very few airlines that I have actively positive feelings about, but Turkish Airlines is one of them. Good food, reasonably comfy (relatively speaking), took off on time ... I would happily fly with them again.
posted by DingoMutt at 5:38 AM on August 12, 2015

Turkish Airlines is my favorite airlines to fly. Service in economy is far above US standards (great food, technology, extras like socks)
posted by cacao at 5:44 AM on August 12, 2015

Chiming in with more of the same. Good service, great food (!), and: Istanbul airport is busy (but not impossible).
posted by Namlit at 9:32 AM on August 12, 2015

Turkish Air is my favorite carrier. I still have several of the tins that their flight amenities come in as I remember the flights as fondly as you can an economy trans-Atlantic flight. Decent comfort for tall travelers, decent food, professional staff. Stupid little detail maybe, but their blankets are soft and not nasty and scratchy. Prices so good we are pretty constantly (as in, tonight at dinner before I saw this) discussing a quick trip to Istanbul.

Sounds like your nephew won't be stopping in Istanbul, but if he does, encourage him to get pistachio ice cream (Turkish ice cream is a different thing unto itself) or a cup of salep.
posted by Morrigan at 4:26 PM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

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