20 Things You Didn’t Know about Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines has created a reputation for quality and service for travelers in European and Middle Eastern countries. It continues to rack up awards for airline service and operation. However, there are more than two sides to a story, so we have collected a number of facts that we hope will give you a bigger and more accurate picture of the airline. In this list of interesting facts about Turkish Airlines you will find some amazing, some questionable, and some unsettling. But it is better to know too much than not enough, so here are 20 things to consider when you are looking for an international airline that has had a solid reputation for many years.

1. Its 2013 ad campaign starred two of the world’s most well-known and popular fan faces.

NBA Los Angeles Lakers star and world soccer star Lionel Messi were paired up as the centerpiece of an ad campaign that showcased the more than 100 international destinations of Turkish Airlines. The goal was to bring awareness of the growing fleet the airline had put on the tarmac, and that it wasn’t an airline that only flew to Middle Eastern locations.

2. That same ad campaign was voted Ad of the Year by YouTube.

As it turned out, to celebrate its 10th year of existence YouTube held a competition for the best YouTube ads of the decade. From the five finalists emerged the Turkish Airlines ad which shows Bryant and Messi globetrotting the world from miles apart, with Bryant photobombing Messi at the end of the ad.

3. You can fly from Istanbul to Los Angeles non-stop in just under 14 hours.

This is the airlines’ longest flight at 13 hours and 50 minutes. You can choose an Economy, one-way ticket for about $600 or a Business Class option for just under $3400. The airline also has flights to San Francisco and Sao Paulo (Brazil) that take 13 hours and 30 minutes, though the prices differences are not all that great.

4. They offer a free stay at a hotel if you meet certain conditions.

Whether you are flying Economy or Business class, if you are facing an extended layover you can get a free hotel room. As an Economy passenger you must be facing a layover of no less than 10 hours between your arriving flight and connecting flight. Business Class passengers have that layover time reduced to just 7 hours. Finally, both flights must have boarding passes with Turkish Airlines. Still, if you are a frequent flyer this is a great way to stay and save during your travels.

5. Alcohol is served on Turkish Airline flights under certain conditions.

This is intended to clear up rumors that the airline never serves alcohol aboard its flights. If you are traveling between points with the country of Turkey, there will not be any alcohol offered. If your flight is of the international variety, it is an option. Even if your destination takes you into other countries where alcohol is prohibited, such as Saudi Arabia, you can still get drinks on the plane.

6. All food served on its flights are Halal certified.

Because Turkey is an Islamic nation, it prescribes to certain dietary standards when it comes to all their food. You will find all meal offerings Halal certified whether it is in the country or international. The good news is that even on shorter hops within the country they are generous with their portions. If you are flying as a Business Class passenger it is possible an online chef will be available to prepare the food of your choice.

7. Expect long delays between connecting flights if you are traveling internationally on Turkish Airlines.

This is one of the most common complaints heard about the airline, but it isn’t always certain that it is the airlines fault. Flying into Istanbul can be chaotic but for people from the Western parts of the world on time connections are not always guaranteed in other places. Turkish Airlines seems to understand this potential inconvenience, and offer the aforementioned free hotel stay in case of such situations.

8. Its customer service has fallen in quality when compared to a few years ago.

With growth comes a greater burden to address the many problems of travelers who are looking for a reliable air carrier. Turkish Airlines has steadily increased its number of flights and the number of passengers it serves, but its customer service has not kept up with the growth. Some of the more commonly reported problems are long delays in reaching a destination, rude employees, and mishandled baggage.

9. English speaking passengers need to be more aware of the Turkish culture and customs.

As the old adage goes, “when in Rome…” Many English speaking travelers believe there is always someone at the airline who speaks and understand English fluently. This is not always the case and can result in a miscommunication that can have you missing a flight – or worse. The airline strives to meet the needs of its customers but your general experience will be much better if you have a familiarity with Turkish customs and exercise a little patience.

10. Their on board entertainment options are first rate.

This evaluation comes from passengers of a variety of ethnic and national origins. It is also true for passengers of all ages. This is especially important if you are on a long flight and toting several children who will have difficulty staying seated for hours on end. Whether it is music, movies, or games, there is something that will keep everyone’s mind off of the long hours in the air – except when it is meal time.

11. Speaking of food, there has been a noticeable decline in the food service since 2010.

A decline in the quality of the essential services seems to be the norm for the airline recently, as the quality and variety of food available has degraded according to regular passengers. For the shorter hops this may not be a deal breaker but when in the air for 10 plus hours the food can be a major issue. The standard Economy faire has been reduced to chicken or a pastry, with a definite decline in quality. If it has been a while since you last bought a ticket on Turkish Airlines you may want to do your homework before spending any money on a ticket.

12. If you are on a layover at Istanbul, you will need a visa just to walk outside of the airport.

The visas generally cost about $20 but are essential if you want to avoid any problems with airport security or the Turkish police. Many first time travelers using Turkish Airlines fail to pay attention to this fact and find themselves complaining about the treatment they receive. Security is a priority at airports all across the globe, and with Istanbul having one of the world’s largest airports the demand for security is near the top. Also remember this if you are going to a hotel for a layover rest.

13. Turkish Airlines is rapidly expanding its service to meet the needs of African nations.

As the people of the world grow closer together, having a number of option to travel to every part of the world is becoming more important. The base location of Turkish Airlines in Istanbul is ideal for short or long trips to the continent of Africa. The airport acts as a hub to connect to a wide variety of European, Middle Eastern, and African nations. Whether you are traveling to Africa for business or pleasure, you are likely to find Turkish Airlines you best bet for convenience and price.

14. In 2015 it was considered one of the best by Skytrax.

That was four years ago, but the airline certainly made significant strides in its reputation as a European and international choice for best airline. It won the “Best Airline in Europe” awarded as well as “Best Airline in Southern Europe,” “World’s Best Business Class Airline Lounge,” and “World’s Best Business Class Lounge Dining” by Skytrax. These awards cover both preflight and in-flight categories, and Business Class fliers in European countries seem to prefer it to just about any other airline. The two biggest reasons are ticket prices and the number of destinations served.

15. Its fleet of aircraft is among the youngest in the industry.

With an average age of just 6.4 years, Turkish Airlines clearly has been rebuilding and upgrading its planes. It started out with a DC-9 several decades ago, and among its fleet can be found popular and technologically advanced planes such as the Airbus brand and the Boeing 777-ER model. The most recent models will be found on the longer trips to LAX and San Francisco, so paying more for the Business Class in-flight experience is very likely to be worth it.

16. They serve the largest number of countries of any airline in the world.

Including this fact in this list was actually a no-brainer, as most people, especially in the Western parts of the world, are unaware of this unless they are frequent international flyers. One reason for this common oversight is due to the fact Turkish Airlines focuses more on its business than its advertising budget. They say the best type of advertising is word of mouth, and the airline definitely is getting a significant part of its business from that form.

17. A Turkish Airline flight inadvertently sounded an in-flight emergency alarm.

This happened in 2014, when instead of hitting the button to request a landing he hit the alarm. What happened afterwards was more than unsettling for the passengers. First, the cabin depressurized. Then, the cockpit went silent for an eerily long time. Because it was an alarm, the Austrian air force sent up a couple of fighter jets that would escort the plane to Vienna International Airport, where it was finally revealed that it was a false alarm. It took 40 minutes to come down from alert status.

18. If you didn’t know there were corporate awards for managing finances, Turkish Airlines won at least three of them.

Financing in business is really more of an art than a science, and the executives fashioned several deals a few years ago that caught the attention of the business world, leading it to receiving these three awards:

  • Structured Finance Deal of the Year Award (Bonds & Loans)
  • Tax Lease Deal of the Year 2014 (Airfinance Journal)
  • Engine Deal of the Year 2014 (Airfinance Journal)

Based on other items in the list, the company definitely had its act together back in 2014, as they grew financially and received high marks for the overall company reputation.

19. Their record of accountability is somewhat sketchy.

Despite all of their awards, the airline certainly has had its share of questionable events. One of the more recent examples is the incident that took place in a residential neighborhood in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Turkish Airlines flight 6491 crashed into the residential area near Bishkek, with the result of 34 residents of the town and all four crew members being killed. However, the airline denied any direct responsibility for the incident, saying the airplane was on lease to ACT Airlines and stated the responsibility fell on them.

20. They are invested in European sports teams.

The company inked a deal to sponsor the Euroleague Basketball League through the year 2020. They founded “Our Team” – a program that is intended to promote corporate social responsibility in European nations. In addition, Turkish Airlines sponsors both individual players and teams, such as the Turkish Football Federation National Team and Turkish Basketball Federation National Team.

After reading this list of ifs, ands, and buts, it is not easy to conclude whether the quality of the airline has lived up to all it has been advertised to be. It might be that the alternatives are worse, which would bring the entire European airline industry into question. Another side is that the airline has been unfairly criticized, with the criticisms fairly normal for a business of its size. Currently, Americans are discouraged from visiting the country of Turkey, and since most connecting flights will pass through Istanbul, choosing Turkish Airlines as an alternative carrier may not be the wisest choice.


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