Going First Class in Turkey

Turkey is still probably one of the most value-centric destinations in Europe and Asia. But if your clients can afford it, nothing beats heading off to exotic Istanbul for a first class experience with Turkish Airlines and a stay at the ultra-luxe Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul.

Turkish Airlines’ first class experience—the Boeing 777 service was just launched in October of 2009—kicks off the minute you walk up to the first class desk at JFK. Ticketing is fast and efficient and a friendly attendant escorts you up to the Star Alliance Lounge to await boarding where free Internet is available, as well as plenty of plugs for last-minute charging of laptops and cell phones, and snacks and complimentary drinks to take advantage of while you’re waiting to board.

On board, it’s every frequent flyer’s dream come true. Every First Class Suite offers you your own private space of about 26 sq. ft. and 90-inch seat pitch and with just about every kind of amenity you can imagine, not to mention a moving door to provide extra privacy. Believe us when we say that when mom sends you to your room on this roomy triple-7, you’re not going to mind at all. Each of the eight First Class Suites offers an 83-inch-long flat bed and a 23-inch flat-screen monitor, and a wardrobe. In each First Class Suite, there is a VIP/Business Jet-style table that makes it possible to sit two together facing one another, although we didn’t see anyone utilizing it.

Feeling a little stiff and cramped after flying up to JFK in herd class economy? Not to worry, First Class Suites also offer 8-point massage technology and adjustable LED lights for a little mood lighting. Of course, the first class crew are all over you—taking your coat, offering you refreshments, newspapers and magazines and pointing out the other amenities such as Bose earphones—unfortunately, you have to give them back—amenity kits from Bulgari, sleep sets—that’s pajamas to us common folk—slippers and both hot and cold towels. That’s followed by a welcome drink and canape.

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Next comes the specially designed menus—four of them, in fact, listing a variety of soups, meat, fish, far Eastern or vegetarian entrees. Go for the lamb chops—it was to die for. But first—this is first class, after all—it’s cocktail time served with hors d’oeuvres of caviar and various international and Turkish delicacies, many of which were totally unrecognizable but totally delicious, anyway. Following dinner, there’s enough varied desserts, cheeses and fruit selections to strike down an army of diabetics and served with traditional Turkish tea with lemon, Turkish coffee and Turkish delight, as well as a selection of alcoholic and alcohol-free beverages.

To keep you entertained during the flight, that 23-inch flat-screen monitor offers more movies and a huge selection of music albums, documentaries and short features on demand than you could ever manage to enjoy if you flew back and forth from Turkey for a month. The entertainment section features 30 classic, box-office, international and children’s movies; a short-feature channel with 40 TV series, documentaries and animations; a local and international music stream comprising 250 CD albums ranging in genre from pop to mystic; a game channel with 17 interactive multi- and single-player games and, for kids, a separate children’s channel and audio books. The entertainment section is continuously updated and expanded, and the airline plans to increase the number of movies to 60 and the number of short programs to 70.

The communications section of the screen allows you to send and receive short messages and e-mail, reach those in other seats or even call family, friends or business associates on the ground by telephone. On the connections channel, passengers can receive information about connecting flights and the news channel delivers text-based news on demand.

The first class treatment doesn’t stop when you land either. Airline representatives are on hand as you deplane to expedite you through customs and wait with you at the luggage claim area to ensure your luggage is there and to assist you in bringing it to your transportation.

Here’s an important point you might want your clients to know—Miles & Smiles, Classic and Classic Plus members earn double Status Miles compared to the actual miles flown and Elite and Elite Plus members earn triple Status Miles compared to the actual miles flown on any first class travel. Also, while in Istanbul, a Turkish Airlines limousine will pick up your client and take them back to the airport for the return flight home. Nice touch.