5 Things to Know Before Flying Turkish Airlines

The food, in-flight entertainment and free Istanbul stopover or tour perk make Turkish Airlines an appealing choice.
Alisha McDarris
By Alisha McDarris 

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Turkish Airlines is a viable option for international travel as the airline flies to over 260 destinations around the world, including to nearly 50 airports in Turkey.

If you’re wondering "how is Turkish Airlines?," read these five things to know first in our Turkish Airlines review.

1. You’ll have better luck with the website, not the app

Pretty much every airline these days offers an app where passengers can search for flights, check-in, select seats and more. While Turkish Airlines is no exception, don’t expect its app to be your best resource — on a recent series of flights I took on the airline this summer, app functionality was strained at best.

The app was glitchy, would frequently crash and was far from intuitive to navigate. Checking in was occasionally an exercise in futility, there was no digital boarding pass available for many flights and trying to find my flight information involved a deep dive into menu tabs.

Even a simple task, like signing into my Miles&Smiles loyalty account, was challenging at best and didn’t work at all at worst. The only task I was able to complete with confidence was selecting my meal preference for long-haul flights.

2. You can pick your in-flight menu

On that note, I was impressed with the options available for in-flight meals on Turkish Airlines international flights. No matter your dietary restrictions, there’s likely to be a meal option for you on most long-haul trips (not on domestic flights, though, so bring your own snacks if you have allergies or restrictions).

Choose from vegan, gluten-free, diabetic, Hindu, Kosher and more. Some of the meal menus may overlap at times (gluten-free and vegan, for example), but the fact that there are so many options is a plus. Meals feature Turkish or world cuisine menu items, are adequately portioned and aren’t lacking in the flavor department.

There’s complimentary beverage service on all flights, and even domestic flights often serve simple hot or cold meals like sandwiches in economy class and full meals in business class on many routes.

🤓Nerdy Tip

International business class passengers flying out of Istanbul to select destinations are able to view their main course options (including meat, seafood and pasta dishes) and make a meal selection up to a week — and no less than 48 hours — in advance of their flight.

3. You’ll enjoy comfort amenities on international flights

We'd be remiss to share our Turkish Airlines review without mentioning that the airline provides quite a few comfort items for their long-haul flight passengers depending on the route.

Upon boarding a flight from Houston to Istanbul, I found a light blanket and headphones for the seat-back in-flight entertainment already in my economy class seat, and crew members handed out amenity kits with a sleep mask, ear plugs, socks, lip balm, and a toothbrush and tiny toothpaste.

Business class passengers get an upgraded amenity kit plus access to noise-canceling headphones.

While Turkish Airlines doesn’t offer first class cabins, business class provides a similar experience depending on the route. On longer flights and depending on the aircraft, you may have access to lie-flat seats with massage functionality, privacy screens, storage lockers, an 18-inch entertainment screen and plenty of space to spread out.

4. You’ll have plenty of in-flight entertainment

Don’t worry about what to do during your transatlantic flight when flying with Turkish Airlines: there’s plenty of in-flight entertainment options to keep you occupied. There are hundreds of thousands of songs available via the music player and plenty of TV and movie options for adults and children, including Turkish entertainment, all available via a seat-back entertainment system.

As for internet connectivity, Wi-Fi is available on many international routes. Economy class passengers who are not part of the Miles&Smiles program will have to purchase service. But business class passengers with top Miles&Smiles elite status will have unlimited access to free Wi-Fi.

All other business class passengers and Miles&Smiles members in any class will also be able to access free Wi-Fi up to a limit. Once that limit is met, they can still use the internet for a fee.

5. You can schedule a free stopover or tour in Istanbul

One major perk of flying with Turkish Airlines is its free stopover option, which means your final destination doesn’t have to be in Turkey to enjoy Istanbul. In fact, on most round-trip itineraries, when you schedule a stopover in the city and stay for 20 hours or more, you can receive a voucher to stay in a partnering five-star hotel for two days (when traveling in business class) and in a four-star hotel for one day (when traveling in economy), totally free of charge.

Passengers are responsible for getting any required visas and paying for transportation between the airport and the hotel.

To check if your final destination is on the approved list and request a free hotel voucher, send an email to the appropriate destination email address listed on the airline website under the “Cities and countries in the scope of stopovers” drop-down menu at least 72 hours before your flight. You must have a voucher for a free hotel stay, and you can use the benefit only once on either your departure or return trip, not both.

Alternatively, if you have a shorter layover (between 6-24 hours) or don’t plan to spend the night in Istanbul, you can opt for a TourIstanbul experience instead, which is complimentary to all international passengers flying on a Turkish Airlines ticket.

Different tours are available depending on the day of the week — they vary from walking tours to boat tours to sightseeing tours. The tour you’ll have access to depends on your flight schedule, as tours run on a set timetable. To sign up for a tour, head to the Hotel Desk in the International Arrivals Terminal once your international flight lands in Istanbul. You’ll be picked up for the tour and driven back to the airport when it’s over.

Note that passengers can take advantage of either the stopover free accommodation service or the TourIstanbul service, not both.

Is Turkish Airlines good?

Turkish Airlines is a comfortable airline that offers flights to hundreds of destinations around the world. And while the airline app certainly leaves something to be desired, the flight experience, entertainment options, and free stopover or tour options for international passengers can more than make up for it.

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