Turkish Airlines sent me an email inviting me to participate in a press trip with journalists from Colombia. Of course I said yes. The airline flies three times a week to Istanbul from Panama and Colombia. The flight stops in both destinations to pick up and drop off passengers on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
Luxury business class
The press trip was three days in the destination that seemed little to me since the last time I had gone to Istanbul in 2011 I spent 8 days. I check with the organizer if we could travel at least in premium economy class to avoid arriving tired and to my surprise she told us that they would take us on business class.
I travel very little in business since I am happy to go anywhere even in the henhouse! After the events of 9/11, the aviation industry changed so much that I do not feel it is worth the extra cost or miles for the service you receive in return. When I was young and traveling with my family it was a luxury to travel and people traveled well dressed, but nowadays you see celebrities travelling in exercise clothes and think how did we get here?
Fine dining on board
We entered the cabin of the Airbus A330-200 and were greeted with juice options, I selected a raspberry juice and sat next to my friend Raul Cubilla who had also been invited. The flight attendant brought us the menu and introduced us to our chef on board. This innovative concept began in 2010 to create a sense of restaurant in the air. With your tray they give you a candle to enjoy a romantic dinner. When the lights go down it creates a magical atmosphere.
The menu has international and Turkish options featuring both cultures. They have 112 combinations so if you travel more than once you will not eat the same. Besides, they have a very complete wine list that includes Turkish wines. I select a vegetarian pasta with mushrooms and slabs of Parmesan cheese, as well as a glass of champagne. I looked at Raul and said “this is the life we all deserve.”
Before serving us the main course, a cart arrived with many options of entries from tomato soup to avocado hummus and shrimp. At the end another cart with desserts passed. You end up eating out of gluttony.
I love teas and every time I go to the Middle East I buy in the markets. You can select from a list of teas with options that include stomach wellness, sleep aid or to combat jetlag. I selected the option to sleep and a flight attendant came to make me my bed with a pillow and sheets that were kept in a compartment. I took out my eye mask from the travel kit that they gave us that was designed by Christian Lacroix and went to sleep.
Do & Co and Turkish Airlines
While in Istanbul they took us to Turkish Do & Co which is responsible for those delicacies we tried on board. Nothing good comes to mind when you think of airplane food but Turkish Airlines changed that and integrated gastronomy with the experience of traveling.
In 2007 the company Do & Co teamed up with Turkish Airlines and nowadays it feeds more than 25 airlines including the most prestigious in the world such as Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Air France, among others. We were able to meet the preparation center where we saw how they make all the fresh meals without freezing anything.
We visited the headquarters of the airline where we were attended by senior executives who told us about the growth of Turkish Airlines. Today they connect 122 countries with 304 cities, being the largest in the world. They have also won the Skytrax award for six years as the best airline in Europe.
In the end they took us to the training center for Turkish Airlines pilots. We entered the simulators where we could pretend that we landed at any airport in the world. I put Panama as a destination and of course, I crashed.
Towards a new airport
We left Istanbul from the Atatürk International Airport and it will be the last time I do so. On October 29, Istanbul New Airport opens and they will move the air terminal to what will be the largest airport in the world with an anual capacity of 200 million passengers. The terminal will have 1,300,000 square meters of space and will generate 225,000 jobs by 2025. Turkey is the 17th country in the world in air traffic but by 2035 it plans to be the ninth.
We went through a special migration that takes you directly to the Star Alliance lounge. We were able to taste the food we had previously seen being prepared at Turkish Do & Co. This lounge has 6,000 square meters on two floors with all the space to serve 1.4 million passengers per year. It is impossible to get bored because you have a pool table, virtual golf, electric train on a table, cinema, video games, children’s play area, etc.
Even the bathrooms are luxurious with shower service for those who want to freshen up. A lady provides massages passing by travelers to offer her much needed service before getting back on a plane and saying goodbye to Turkey.