Review: Turkish Airlines A330 Long Haul Economy

Turkish Airlines Economy Class Breakfast

Travel-Dealz founder Johannes scored a nice Error Fare in March of 2016 – a €250 flight from Cologne to Tokyo via Istanbul – operated by Turkish Airlines. After arriving from Germany and a quite pleasurable experience in Turkish Airlines’ CIP lounge, his journey continued in the middle of the night. This is his review about his twelve hour trip from Istanbul to Tokyo in Turkish Airlines’ Airbus A330 economy class:

Boarding

Since our plane, like many others, was parked on an apron position, our trip to Tokyo started with a bus ride. Of course, it was pouring at the time! Thankfully, the Airbus A330 is a rather large plane with two aisles, so it didn’t take long until we were able to get inside. Despite the stairs having no roof, we weren’t completely soaked when we got to our seats 32 A and B.

On our return flight from Tokyo, our A330 was connected to the Terminal with two Gangways, one for business class and one for economy class passengers. Because of the excellent ground staff, the boarding process was efficient and finished quickly. Business class and Star Alliance Gold customers were to board first, followed by economy class passengers grouped by their seat number.

Turkish Airlines Economy Class Kabine Airbus A330
Turkish Airlines’ Airbus A330 economy class cabin.

Comfort

Our first imperession of Turkish Airlines’ economy cabin was underwhelming, to say the least: Only 23 cm space between armrest and thes seat in front and 64 cm from seatback to seatback! On our soon-to-start twelve hour flight, we had 10 cm less space than on hour 3 hour trip from Cologne to Istanbul aboard an Airbus A320 of the very same airline.

Even if we did not trust our eyes, our knees told the same story. It was impossible to find any seating position that would allow us not to press our knees into the seat in front of us. If this alone wouldn’t be uncomfortable enough, the footrest made it even worse, as it prevented us from stretching out our legs or put our feet underneath the seat in front. Only with the footrest deployed, it was somehow possible to reach a comfortable position.

Sitzabstand in der neuen Kabine im Airbus A330 von Turkish Airlines
Seat pitch (or lack thereof) in Turkish Airlines’ A330 economy cabin.

Even after removing all magazines and safety instructions from the seat bag, leg space was still way below average – and I’m just 1,82 m. We were lucky that there was only a single person sitting in the row in front of us, that did not recline its seat all flight long. Otherwise, it would’ve gotten even more cramped.

On our way back, wo got TK’s old economy design, with a bit more space between seats. The seat pitch measured 67cm, 3 cm more than in their retrofitted cabin. Otherwise, the seats hardly differ. Leg rest and mechanics are pretty much the same. Wherever those 3 centimeters more space came from, they did wonders for space and provided something close to constant bloodflow in our lower legs.

Turkish Airlines Economy Class A330 Sitzabstand
Old economy layout seat pitch in Turkish Airlines’ Airbus A330.

Not only the seat backs are adjustable – you can alter the position of your headrest as will. For me, this didn’t do anything in terms of comfort. Far better was the option to adjust the outer parts of said headrest. When deployed, they make catching some sleep far easier.

Turkish Airlines Economy Class Sitze A330
Seats in Turkish Airlines’ old economy layout.

Amenity Kit

Economy passengers received a Batman v Superman branded amenity kit including a tooth brush, socks, slippers, lip balm, earplugs and a sleeping mask. Sadly, the entire kit and all of its contents smelled badly of plastic. I wore the sleeping mask a mere seconds, but couldn’t stand the smell this close to my nose.

Inflight Entertainment

The inflight entertainment, with flawless touch controls and – most importantly because of the narrow seat pitch – without a bulky box beneath the seat, proved to be a real highlight. It offered a multitude of movies who started in cinemas just a couple of months before. Among them blockbusters like Star Wars – The Force Awakens, which we initially intended to watch on the big screen.

Further, you had access to two outside cameras and a moving map. Sadly, the flight path wasn’t interactive so you’re not able to select a specific map or region. Other airlines like British Airways offer a superior product in this case.

Despite the old cabin’s displays being a little smaller and their hardware obviously older, software and selection of movies remained the same.

A nice touch was that our outbound plane offered WiFi, priced $9,99 für one or $14,99 für 24 hours. Even though prices were attractive, I passed in favor of some sleep. Business class passengers enjoy complimentary WiFi access.
The inbound A330 was not equipped with WiFi. Back then, you needed a bit of luck to get the right plane.

Food Service

Before meal service started, flight attendants started to give out hot towels. Because of rather severe turbulences after take off and we’re still being full after taking advantage on the CIP lounge’s buffet, we bypassed dinner. Nonethenless, it looked and smelled marvelous and was complemented by a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, which we drank. We missed the juice dearly on our way back, on which it wasn’t served.

Turkish Airlines Economy Class Menü Langstrecke
Menü in der Economy Class von Turkish Airlines auf Langstrecke

Approx. two hours before arriving in Tokyo, another round of dinner was served – it was six in the afternoon at our destination after all. The presentation in hard plastic dishes was great and accompanied by metal cutlery.

The chicken was awesome and the side salad complemented it greatly. The smoked salmon seemed delicious as well, it was just a little too early (or late??? – damned jetlag) to do something of such distinct flavour justice.

On our inbound trip, another dinner was served two hours after take off, later on followed by breakfast two hours before landing. We choose the chicken again, which sadly was severly overcooked this time. My breakfast omelett lacked stuffing, but was delicious nonenthenless.

Turkish Airlines Economy Class Essen Mittelstrecke Rückflug
Breakfast on our return flight.

At the end of each meal service, flight attendants gave out another round of hot towels, usually an amenity reserved for business class passengers. Only Lufthansa, Swiss, Singapore Airlines and Emirates offer the same to their economy glass guests.

While Turkish Airlines is rather famous for it, I personally found it rather amousing that one flight attendant strolls through the cabin dressed like a chef. In all seriousness: What is this chef’s task? Prepare freshly cooked meals for 200+ passengers? From where I stand, by doing this Turkish Airlines tries to give passengers the illusion of something that’s plain impossible, which severly hurts their credibility.

Turkish Airlines Economy Class Long Haul
  • Check-in & Boarding
  • Comfort
  • Meal & Board Service
  • Inflight Entertainment
  • Extras
3.9
Fazit

To start with the worst – Turkish Airlines’ long haul seat pitch is nothing short of catastrophic! If their narrowbody feeder flights offer a more generous seat pitch than their long haul fleet, something is seriously wrong. This results in 2 of 5 possible stars in the comfort department. On the other hand, their food service and entertainment system truely deserves the full monty. Despite mainly using my iPad to watch my own selection of movies or series as of late, i dove into Turkish Airlines’ inflight entertainment this time. Their selection of new and newest movies really convinced me. The food service reminded me more of proper business class delicacies instead of usual tourist class dishes – the freshly squeezed orange juice just adds to this already great experience. A true highlight, that’d make me choose Turkish Airlines time and time again. Sadly, the seat pitch on their long haul planes pretty much ruined it for me…

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