In a nutshell: Although Turkish Airlines A330 business class offers lie-flat seats, the product is dated. With comparatively small IFE screens, little at-seat storage, and no direct aisle access at a window seat, I wasn’t a huge fan. The catering is also poor, but this could be a function of the COVID-19 pandemic, or maybe the fact this was a short-haul route. I’d fly it again in a pinch but would actively avoid it for any long-haul flight, especially if traveling solo.
My flight in Turkish Airlines A330 business class was the final segment on my itinerary between California and Istanbul, Turkey. I booked the entire trip for 77,000 United miles and $48.30, which included two United segments, a Lufthansa long-haul, and the final Turkish Airlines segment. Flight info:
- Airline: Turkish Airlines
- Equipment: Airbus A330-300
- Date: Monday, August 31, 2020
- Origin: Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
- Destination: Istanbul, Turkey (IST)
- Assigned Seat: 2A
Transfer and Lounge at Frankfurt Airport
Stepping off my Lufthansa A340-300 business class flight, the first thing I wanted was a shower. This is pretty much all I ever want after so many hours in the air. My hope was to make it through the airport to the gate for my Turkish Airlines flight, or at least know where it is, and then find a Lufthansa lounge with a shower.
Unfortunately, getting from Concourse Z to Concourse B at Frankfurt was a bit more of a chore than I anticipated. I felt like I kept following signs forever. Stupidly, I never studied the airport map, and this was my first time passing through. My connection was only 1:40, so I had no time to spare. I’m sure for anyone familiar with the airport, this is no trouble at all. But I kept second guessing that I was going the correct direction, as the airport was thoroughly deserted outside the set of gates being used in Concourse Z.
Passing through security was another unexpected necessity. I’m used to this at Heathrow when transferring to Terminal 5, but I didn’t expect it at Frankfurt. Luckily, there was no one in line, so it went quickly. There seemed to be a lot of planes at Concourse B, but it felt like a ghost town until you got close to the gates. This can’t be the normal Frankfurt experience. I know numbers have been running about half of last year’s through the summer. Frankfurt has been more badly affected than many airports.
Once I found my gate, I backtracked to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge near gate 43. There is one closer to my departure gate, but it is still closed. I didn’t have time to enjoy anything more a shower.
But that was what I needed most. The Lufthansa Senator Lounge has plenty of shower stalls. I had no issue getting a shower room right away when I arrived.
Each room offers a full bathroom including a toilet, sink, as well as the shower. The lounge facilities were very clean. The attendant was able to provide a toothbrush kit as well, which was better than the one provided in the Lufthansa business class amenity kit.
I wish I would have had another 30 minutes to enjoy the lounge, but by the time I finished showering and changing, it was nearly scheduled boarding time.
Boarding and Initial Impressions
I headed back down into the Concourse and toward the gate just to find…it had changed. When I made it to the new gate, boarding had not yet started, although it was a couple minutes past the scheduled time.
The waiting area for the flight was very full. Seats were blocked off to promote social distancing, but nearly every available seat was taken. Most of the passengers appeared to be Turkish, although I was able to pick out a handful of other Americans on the flight, including the passenger who ended up seated next to me in business class. Turkey started accepting international arrivals on June 12, 2020 without restrictions.
Boarding of our Turkish Airlines A330-300 started nearly a half hour late. The gate agents did not provide any explanation. Boarding started with rows 40-30 and progressed forward, with business class boarding essentially being last. The announcements that were made were pretty clear in German, English and Turkish, and I never caught one for the business cabin until the “all rows” announcement.
Had I known boarding would start 30 minutes late and business class would be last, I would have stayed in the Lufthansa lounge a while longer. But you never know what is going to happen. As a measure to combat COVID-19, the gate crew was taking everyone’s temperature before boarding.
The Turkish Airlines A330 business class cabin is a bit underwhelming as an introduction to an airline known for having excellent business class. True, much of this is in the soft product from all reviews I’ve read, but their new Dreamliner seats look spectacular. You can’t say the same for the A330-300. The cabin offers 2-2-2 seating in the business class cabin. There are a total of 28 business class seats.
The style of the seats leaves the cabin feeling very open and exposed. Flying solo, I prefer a more private reverse-herringbone product. Turkish Airlines A330 business class is much better suited for those traveling with a companion. The business class cabin on this flight was mostly full. The mystifying part was that the pair of seats directly behind me was empty. I wish that Turkish would have moved my seat mate to that row.
The one flight attendant present when I boarded handed out “COVID kit” to everyone. It contains a mask and sterilizing wipes.
As I mentioned, the guy next to me was also American. From his accent, I guessed that he was from the NYC area. I had a good internal chuckle watching him apply for his Turkish e-Visa on the spot before the flight took off(!). Mine was issued immediately, so this could technically work. But it seems unwise to wait this long. I do recall reading that you should be able to obtain a visa on arrival(?). The e-Visa is super easy to obtain, so I would not suggest delaying this long.
Turkish Airlines A330 Business Class Seat
Selecting a seat on my Turkish Airlines A330 business class flight was a bit of a chore. Because I’d made the booking through United, I had to find the Turkish record locator, log into the Turkish Airlines site, and select my seat. I picked 2A, a window seat. The seats are maybe as wide as the typical domestic first class seat on a U.S. carrier, which is a major downside, given how close you are to your companion. These really aren’t much different than the Lufthansa seat I’d just flown, but I prefer the style of the latter more.
The business class seats on the A330 do offer a ton of legroom. The bit of seat storage in under the ottoman.
Each seat does convert to a fully-flat bed, which means that you can at least get some sleep on a long haul. Just remember than you’ll be about six inches from your companion.
To the side of the seat is the headphone jack and a USB outlet. This is definitely the first time I’ve ever seen an ethernet port, though. Will it really work?? I didn’t have a cable to test.
The IFE controller is to the side of the seat as well. I used the controller for all IFE operations, since the screen is so far away. I actually didn’t check to see if Turkish Airlines A330 business class offers touch screens. They would be annoyingly hard to operate, if so.
All passengers were required to wear face coverings due to COVID-19. I had no issues with my neck gaiter, which is the same thing I wore on my Lufthansa flight. Here I am just before seat 2C was occupied.
Is Turkish Airlines A330 business class a seat I’d seek to fly long-haul? Not in the slightest. I’d certainly avoid it if traveling solo. If traveling with a companion, it would be a whole lot more bearable. Still, if you can fly the new Turkish Boeing 787-9 business class, I’d opt for that instead.
I had no idea what Turkish Airlines would offer in terms of meal service for the hop between Frankfurt and Istanbul. This is a fairly short flight, but I’d hoped it’d still be decent. I’d read about major service downgrades on even Turkish long-haul business class, which didn’t bode well.
Turkish did offer a menu on my flight. Well…for beverages.
Lunch was underwhelming when it arrived: everything is boxed. This is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as everything is pre-packaged so that flight attendants just have to pass them out. Yay for reduced contact. Boo for passenger experience.
Lunch consisted of a lame sandwich of simply lunch meat, cheese, and red pepper. The sides were a tomato salad and their yoghurt-based cacik (I think?), plus dessert.
Very underwhelming, overall. Definitely not the first experience I wanted to have with Turkish Airlines. I’m going to make sure to fly their Dreamliner on a long-haul flight in the future.
IFE and Wi-Fi
Turkish Airlines offers up to 1GB of free internet access in business class. You just need to enter your last name and seat number to connect. I connected, checked email, and caught up on a couple things. But as it was during the wee hours of the morning back in California, there wasn’t much happening on social media.
The IFE screen isn’t especially large, given how far away it is from you. I decided not to watch anything, opting to edit and organize photos during the flight on my laptop instead. Thus, I don’t know what Turkish Airlines offers in terms of movies and TV shows. Sorry.
Arrival at Istanbul Grand Airport
The flight itself was uneventful. The thick cloud later eventually parted and I was able to get nice views of Bulgaria and then Turkey. Turkish Airlines has moved operations to the new Istanbul Grand Airport. The old Istanbul Ataturk Airport closed permanently to passenger flights last year.
Our lovely landing was followed by some sadness as we passed dozens of parked Turkish Airlines aircraft. It was a brutal reminder of the havoc that the pandemic has wreaked on the travel industry. We parked opposite a Turkish Airlines aircraft painted in a retro livery, tail number TC-JNC. I’d wanted to see some of the British Airways Boeing 747-400 retro liveries in person. Now I may never get that chance.
I was caught off guard when we didn’t deplane using a jet bridge. Business Class passengers deplaned first onto a dedicated bus. Maybe this was to save us the walk back down the terminal? We were parked near the end of one of the concourses with only two gates beyond ours.
The new Istanbul Airport is enormous. The halls are tall and expansive, and there is so much glass. It’s beautiful. I can’t help but recall the controversy surrounding the new airport, however. The number of worker deaths was outrageously high over its construction period.
Immigration was no issue at all with my Turkish e-Visa in hand. I felt a bit sheepish saying that I was only going to be in the country for three days, but the officer didn’t bat an eye. After immigration is a Wi-Fi kiosk. You need to use this to connect to the airport Wi-Fi, which is super annoying. It’s free, but you need a password from the kiosk. I don’t know why places make this frustrating when its easy to have an open network in public places like airports.
The exterior of the airport is almost more impressive. I’d have a chance to admire it more when I returned after my three days in Istanbul. At this point, all I wanted to do was hail a cab and make it to my hotel. It had been quite a long “day” at this point.
Turkish Airlines A330 Business Class: Final Thoughts
My short-haul experience flying Turkish Airlines A330 business class wasn’t the best introduction to an airline that typically gets high marks. The seats are dated, and the cabin feels exposed with its 2-2-2 layout. The service and catering is also not good right now. The fact that it was an intra-Europe short-haul is the only reason the box lunch is forgivable. There are plenty of other airlines that are doing better than Turkish is during COVID-19.
I’d fly Turkish Airlines A330 business class in a pinch if traveling with a companion, but I’d otherwise avoid the product. Hopefully they don’t operate these aircraft on their true long-haul routes anymore, although last I checked they fly them to Boston and destinations in Asia.