Turkish Airlines Economy Class Review: Is Economy Class on a Long Haul Flight WORTH it?

turkish airlines vegetarian meals

I’ve had flying with Turkish Airlines on my bucket list for years. It finally happened so I’m doing my Turkish Airlines economy class review.

As part of the Star Alliance team, I heard from other travelers that Turkish Airlines economy class had first-rate Turkish service and offer complimentary hospitality for qualifying layover guests, ranging from a stay at Turkish Airlines free hotel to a free day tour of Istanbul.


Read My guide to surviving layovers & how to maximize them

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My Turkish Airlines Review: Is a Long Haul Flight in economy class Worth it?

When I knew I’d been accepted to attend a Social Travel Summit blogger conference in Ravenna and my conference expenses would be sponsored by the Emilia Romagna Tourism board, I researched flights and was thrilled to see an itinerary flying Turkish Airlines Economy Class. Granted, it was the most inconvenient schedule but now I’m not sure that was a good idea.

The flight itinerary I chose was not for the weak of heart.  I would be traveling for 40 in-transit hours total. Flying Turkish Air from San Francisco to Bologna, Italy would cost 13 hours flight hours and 15 layover hours in Istanbul at the New Istanbul Airport. Technically, I qualified for Turkish Airlines layover hospitality~ either. a free day tour of Istanbul or a Turkish Air free Istanbul hotel.

I am used to long-haul travel days with potentially long layovers. From trains, multiple transport or flights, I factor them all into my content as its own journey. I was positive I’d make this itinerary work!

 Read Things you MUST KNOW about Layovers & Connecting Flights


Turkish Airlines itinerary honolulu to bologna
Turkish Airlines economy class review:  itinerary honolulu to bologna

Turkish Airlines Economy Class Review

Every airlines has their pros and cons. Long-haul flights are never ideal conditions to do airline reviews. Most travelers do not appreciate long flights and find them uncomfortable but you’ll easily discover the highs and lows of the airlines’ service. Some flights are smooth and while others are… hmmm…

See my list of Capsule hotels in Airports

7 Things I liked about flying Turkish Airlines Economy Class

In reviewing Turkish Airlines Economy Class, there are lovely bells and whistles that make you think it’s going to be a great long haul flying experience.

1. Turkish Airlines Food is Tasty

During meals, you’re given a Turkish Airlines in-flight menu of your food options. I think it must be a Star Alliance condition because i’ve noticed other Star Alliance airlines give you meal menus too.

I pre-ordered a vegetarian/Hindu meal across the board and the meals were interesting. My first meals from San Francisco to Istanbul felt a little more like Hindu vegetarian meal, Indian rice with a whisper of Turkish (and I mean whisper– Turkish salad seasoning). It felt substantial, surprisingly hearty and filling. On my second flight from Istanbul to Bologna, my Turkish Airlines vegetarian meal was more along the lines of Turkish foods.

Check out must try Turkish flavors
turkish airlines vegetarian meal
Turkish Airlines economy class review

turkish airlines vegetarian meals

2. Alcohol is complementary

Alcohol was also complimentary. I was a little stunned although remember flights like Korean Airlines doing the same. If I loved alcohol and were cheap, this would be a huge reward of flying Turkish Air.

3. In-Flight hospitality toiletries purse

Turkish Air economy class gives you an in-flight essentials purse. While much of the contents felt standard to what you might get on a premier flight (i.e. eye mask, ear plugs, slippers), you also get additional essential items such as socks, toothbrush/toothpaste, vegan lip balm and a pretty nice quality cosmetic bag pouch.  This is the best and most useful in-flight hospitality bag I have ever gotten.

Everything was looking up from the start~ Bravo Turkish Airlines economy class!

Turkish Air inflight hospitality bag
Turkish Air inflight hospitality bag


4. Turkish Airlines In-flight Entertainment in Economy

Turkish Air in-flight entertainment system is endowed with a USB port for charging things like your smartphone. The entertainment console has international to Hollywood movies and semi-latest releases, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out if you’ve not made it to the theater in the past six months.

turkish airlines transit seat entertainment
turkish airlines transit seat entertainment

5. Turkish Airlines Economy Complimentary luggage for international flights

Luggage Requirements for Economy Class on International flights, you are allowed two pieces of luggage weighing 23 kg/ 50 lbs. That is a lot. Business-class has similar allowances, but a larger weight restriction.

Carry-on luggage requirements, you are allowed one piece, 8kg at 55x40x23 cm, plus a personal item such as a handbag, camera, or umbrella (without a pointed edge).

6. Turkish Airlines Economy Free WiFi

Hmmm… okay, yes and no. Turkish Airlines Economy class claims to offer 10 MB of free WiFi. Before you get excited, you must either be an existing Miles & Smiles Classic member (Turkish Airlines mileage program) or sign up to be a member while on board.  10 MB  is not much– you might be able to download or shoot off an email or log in to your Facebook account. Otherwise, the cost of WiFi is $9.99 per hour or $14.99 for a 24-hour package.  I tried to sign up for the free 10MB on-board but the drop-down settings did not offer this WiFi option to U.S. residents, so I could not access the WiFi but they still took my email and issued me a Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles membership. Sneaky buggers.

7. Turkish Airlines Free Hotel Stay for Long Layovers

The cool thing is you can get a Turkish Airlines free transit hotel (up to a 2 day stay) or a free city layover tour in Istanbul for qualifying layovers. It’s an either / or sort of thing. You cannot have both.

As I had a 15 hour layover in Istanbul, I was able to qualify for a free hotel in Istanbul.

Check out my list of airlines with free hotels


Read My guide to surviving layovers & how to maximize them

3 Things I disliked about flying Turkish Airlines Economy Class

How does Turkish Airlines economy really perform for long haul flights? In reviewing Turkish Airlines, I got to realizing the bells and whistles mask the larger holes in the Turkish air long haul flight experience.

1. Avoid Boeing 777-300er on long haul flights

Turkish Airlines’ Boeing 777-300 ER … I didn’t know about that type of aircraft until now. Burn that name in your memory as the aircraft to avoid.  Boeing 777-300s are double-engine, wider-bodied planes, which can fit 314 to 396 passengers. For Economy Class passengers, the ER version means there are 365 seats, with a majority of it squeezed into Economy.  These planes are flying sardine cans. These seats will not offer economy class comfort unless you upgrade.

Upon my return, I got upgraded to an exit row aisle, due to the fact there was mistake about “my husband and baby” . (I am a solo traveler but the check-in desk held me in interrogation for a while, as they quite sternly tried to figure out the whereabouts of my missing family) . Needless to say, the exit row aisle seat was a huge difference in comfort.

Otherwise, these seats are horrendous. Why?…

Three Seater Rows (and having a middle or window seat)

My flight was sold out, so all seats were full. I had a window seat and was unable to switch.  What I didn’t count on with flying Turkish Airlines Economy Class in a Boeing 777-300er plane is that the seats are split into three-seater rows  (3-3-3).   For wing-side passengers, three-seaters rows are like being stuck in the middle of a four-seater row.  If you are not in an aisle you are landlocked. If you are in a window seat, you are blocked in. On a full flight, your best bet is to reserve a seat in the middle row, where only one seat is sandwiched by two aisle seats. If you are claustrophobic or have bad knees or back, do not take this flight.

turkish airlines economy seat space
turkish airlines economy seat space. I am 5’8″

Cramped seat space

Brutal. Hellish. Never again. China Eastern Airlines just shifted up on the ladder.

If you know a majority of passengers do not like long-haul flights, should airlines go the extra mile to reduce the discomfort? I think so. For premier airlines, these seats are like a cattle factory, with no personal space or freedom. Seats are cramped 18″ wide, which minifies if you have a neighboring passenger who wants to use the armrest. A pitch of 31-32 is meaningly when the passenger in front of you reclines during meals and your table tray practically shoves into your stomach (and I do not have an overhanging belly to shove into). To create space for me to eat, I had to recline my seat. When you watch my video, this is why the food review portion of that flight was skipped.

I have bad back and knee issues

Although the seat ergonomics are not bad, my knees and sciatica grew intensely irritated sitting in a cramped seat with little leg room. At one point, I abruptly stood up because my body was freaking out inside itself. I spent close to two hours standing by the bathroom stretching out my legs and standing, just to avoid going back to my seat.

Overall passenger discomfort

There was a periodic stream of Economy Class passengers taking unusually long leg stretching breaks by the bathroom. It looked like a smoking lounge.

Passengers become less considerate

As the seat spacing treats its passengers like animals,  passengers were reduced to acting like them, instinctually fighting for comfort and forgoing neighborly considerations. I had a window seat and am 5’8″. I do not know who had it worst- me or the girl sandwiched between me and the older English lady, who did not like getting out of her chair to let us out to go to the bathroom. I was forced to climb over two people to get out. Luckily I have long legs… like who are these types of people?!

But there’s more, so keep reading…

Turkish Air seat space
Turkish Air seat space


2. Turkish Airlines Hospitality

I really wanted to love Turkish Air hospitality. After all, I’ve known Turkish culture to be abundantly hospitable (even Turkish buses make you feel VIP). But hospitality service seemed lacking on my flight.

Flight attendants are kind but extremely slow-moving at removing meal trays. They don’t remove trays until after the post-meal coffee and tea. Meanwhile, your tray pins you to your deplorably cramped seat.  There’s more:

• Some passengers did not wait for flight attendants to alleviate them of the tray. At the flight attendant’s galley, I saw a passenger-created pile of metal meal trays slopped up in a mess. There was no effort on passengers’ parts to even be neat or polite about it.

• Other than the designated meal and coffee time, I do not recall seeing a single flight attendant go around with water.  If you need hydration, you have to go the galley and self-serve. At one point, the flight attendant galley was so unattended that a couple of passengers started pillaging entire water bottles.

Traveling to Turkey? Check out Things you NEED to Know before visiting Cappadocia

3. Turkish Air’s Mileage Reward Program

I can’t say if the rewards program for Turkish Airlines are better than any other carrier.  I  signed up for Miles & Smiles strictly for the bonus 10MB of internet time on my flight (which I did not gain access to) . But then in using my new membership, I naively placed some of my miles on it and then forgot my password. Big mistake.

If you forget your password, you are locked out until you can phone customer service in… Turkey.

Conclusion of my Turkish Airlines Review

All in all, flying Turkish Airlines economy class left a lot to be desired as a good and well-balanced long haul flight experience. Was flying 13 flight hours for a Turkish Airlines free hotel worth it? No. I might look for a wide-body craft if I ever flew with them again.

That Boeing 777-300 is an aircraft I will be avoiding in the future.

Flying Economy Class Turkish Airlines on any flight over six hours is only worthwhile if you have an exit row or upgraded seat.  It has been a month since I’ve taken this flight and every joint in my body still remembers it.


Watch my Turkish Airlines Economy Class Review, Free Hotel Stay, Tour of New Istanbul Airport Video

Turkish Airlines long haul + free transit hotel Turkish Airlines + New Istanbul Airport


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turkish airlines Economy Class review
turkish airlines Economy Class review


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