No one likes sitting straight up in an airplane seat for nine hours. But Turkish Airlines makes it bearable with great food and an amazing selection of movies, games and other diversions on the little screen in the seat in front of you designed to keep those people busy who just can't sleep on a plane unless they're lying down. And that would be me.
I was on a Turkish Airlines flight out of JFK to Istanbul recently, a bit more than nine hours outgoing, around 10 coming back, and I have to say, the seats in economy class were a little on the tight side. Granted, I'm a shade more than six-feet tall and fidgety even when not confined to a small space for nine hours, but these seats had me squirming to find a comfortable enough place to catch some z's. While it didn't work for me, all around me where sleeping passengers in vertical, or near-vertical positions, so it can be done. Helping could be the snooze kit they pass out, with eye shades, ear plugs and socks.
What sets Turkish Airlines apart is the food, exquisite throughout, no matter the class level. Granted, first-class food is likely more remarkable (they have chefs on board), but the economy-class fare was the best I've ever had, from choices of roasted chicken or fish, with roasted vegetables, and all other manner of Turkish food, including kebab, eggplant cooked a variety of ways, cheeses (including the most delicious Turkish white cheese), tomato, olives, you name it. And that's just dinner. When the sun popped up later in the flight as we neared Turkey, out came breakfast, with delicious omelet and side dishes, all filling and perfectly prepared. All along the way you could have any alcoholic beverage you wanted; for my money (well, no money, booze is free) I found Turkish wine surprisingly good.
It's no surprise then that last year, Turkish Airlines beat out 18 other carriers from around the world as the best provider of in-flight food in a poll done by flight-comparison site, Skyscanner. Also last year,Skytrax World Airline Awards gave the carrier second place in economy-class catering, premium economy-class catering and business-class catering. Turkish Airlines is growing as well; it has four U.S. gateways (N.Y., L.A., Chicago and Washington) and adds Houston in April.
Another huge plus: A whopping assortment of movies and TV shows to watch on the little touch screen before you, which also has games, live BBC programs, documentaries, science shows, Wi-Fi access (supposedly for a fee, but I got it free for some reason, no complaint here) and nose-camera view which is fun to watch on takeoff and landing. Back and forth I saw four full-length movies, from the mainstream ("Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," a wonderful film) to the little-known ("Another Earth," an engrossing drama and Sundance winner) to the exquisitely ethnic ("Istanbul," made in 2011 starring Dutch actress Johanna ter Steege as a jilted wife who stumbles her way to Turkey).
If you have to be in a cramped seat for nine hours, well fed and entertained is not a bad way to spend it.