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Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo from Istanbul to London

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This is our review of business class on a Turkish Airlines Airbus A321neo from Istanbul to London Heathrow.

After enjoying the comforts of Turkish Airline’s long haul product on a Boeing 787-9 (click for our review) on the way there, it was time to come back on a short-haul A321neo.

This is the aircraft that Turkish operates on the majority of its flights between Heathrow and Istanbul, so it is more representative of the experience most passengers get. The 787 operates once a day at most, whilst a handful of 777s also ply the route.

Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo

Unfortunately there are no lie-flat beds here, but the Turkish Airlines A321 fleet still features an impressive business class cabin. As you will see, it is far better than what you can expect flying short haul on other European carriers, and closer to the domestic First you’d find in the United States.

Turkish Airlines provided my flight as part of an invitation to visit its catering facilities and meet the Chairman of the airline in Istanbul.

Check-in at Istanbul Airport

Like many other airlines, Turkish has a dedicated wing for its business class passengers at its home airport in Istanbul:

Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo

Before you can enter the terminal building you need to go through a brief security check. It is less stringent than the ones you do later, so don’t worry about removing laptops or liquids from bags.

The business class wing is fairly discreet on the outside:

Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo

On the inside, you’ll find a plethora of (unused) seating, with a row of staffed counters on the right. There were only a couple of other families around and probably about 5-10 staff.

Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo

Annoyingly, due to UK law, I first had to do a ‘security check’ at a separate counter where my passport was checked to make sure I wasn’t on MI6’s hitlist.

After that I was quickly checked in and issued a boarding pass. Fast-track security was a breeze, with latest generation CT scanners so that I could leave my laptops and liquids inside the bag.

Turkish Airlines’ A321neo business class cabin

The A321neo features 20 business class seats in a 2-2 layout.

However, unlike ‘Euro business’ cabins such as the ones you’d find on British Airways or Lufthansa, this is ‘real’ 2-2, without a blocked middle seat:

Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo

The seats are proper business class seats, closer to what you’d find in long haul premium economy cabins or domestic First Class on Delta, United or American. That means they are wider than your average economy seat, and they also feature reams of legroom:

Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo

The seat is upholstered in a dark grey leather (not sure if it’s real or not) with some gold sand coloured accents around the headrest and seatbelt. In general, there is less character to it than the seats on the 787, although there’s less you can customise anyway.

They also come with these small privacy wings, which are like a mini version of the ones found on the 787:

Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo

Fed up of your neighbour? Fear not, because you can extend the wing… 3cm:

Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo

I’m not really sure what the point of that is, as it has literally no effect on your level of privacy. The seatmakers could’ve saved themselves the effort (and weight) and foregone it entirely.

The centre armrest feature a small cocktail table, cleverly divided with a diagonal line that makes it clear you have to share with your neighbour.

Flipping up the armrest reveals a decent storage area with charging ports which fully charged my almost-empty iPhone 13 Pro Max very quickly. There’s also an in-flight entertainment remote in here with a second screen.

Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo

Seat controls are on the side and operate the recline and legrest. I was hoping the legrest extends up fully to create a larger seat area, but unfortunately it only moves about 30 degrees.

Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo

The tray table is located in the other armrest and extends as a bifold. This was more than big enough for my 13″ MacBook:

Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo

All of Turkish’s A321neos are fitted with nose-to-tail in-flight entertainment systems. In business class, you get a 13″ screen whilst economy also gets a large 12″ screen. It was very fast and responsive and featured a very large catalogue of films.

Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo

Headphones are the AudioTechnica ones as supplied on the 787, which are actually decent for short haul flights.

Short haul business class food and service on Turkish Airlines

Service is identical on this route, regardless of what aircraft you’re flying on. This means you get a welcome drink of orange juice, lemon-mint or raspberry on boarding:

Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo

This time I went for the orange juice which was fresh – a real treat to have on board when most airlines serve from concentrate. A hot towel and menu is also provided.

After takeoff, crew came round asking what we wanted to drink, which they brought out with the starters and side. I went for a glass of (unnamed) champagne which came with the prawn cocktail starter:

Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo

This was actually one of the starters I saw at the catering launch earlier that day, and it was impressive to see it presented just as well as it was on the ground at the event. Sides included a selection of cheese and a stir-fry local greens with ‘red fruit’.

For mains, there was a choice of:

  • “Kulbasti” fillet of veal with aubergine and tomato ragout, buttered rice and green pepper
  • Grilled chicken breast with corn mousseline, ratatouille, thyme jus
  • Beluga lentil ragout and baked romaine gnocchi

For my main course I had the veal. Although it was tasty, this was by far the worst of all the meals I had with Turkish Airlines and it was difficult to cut the meat with the blunt in-flight cutlery. The presentation wasn’t going to win any awards:

Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo

Dessert was a tres de leche cake with caramel glaze – absolutely delicious. After dinner, the crew brought round a bag of hazelnuts:

Review: Turkish Airlines business class on an A321neo

There was no other formal drinks rounds, although the crew were always exceptionally responsive when I pinged the call bell and asked for a drink. I did think that on a 3+ hour flight like this they could have been a bit more proactive offering drinks – there’s no real reason just to stick to one.


Whilst it’s not a flat bed, Turkish Airlines’ shorthaul A321neo is still an excellent experience with a business class cabin that is far, far better than what you would find on most other European airlines. Exceptionally spacious leg-room was a real highlight for me with my long legs!

This is matched by the same generous meal service, although on this flight the presentation and suitability of the meal to the cutlery fell slightly short! Overall, however, it was still an enjoyable meal. As per my last flight, the crew were very efficient and polite – a real selling point.

The fact that you get in-flight entertainment screens will obviously also be a big selling point for many, although at just over 3 hours long you can just squeeze in a film.

Thanks to the Turkish Airlines team for inviting us to Istanbul. You can see my Boeing 787 Turkish Airlines business class review here.

Comments (51)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Skywalker says:

    Very nice seating – looks like a lovely experience. Just a small observation – I expected a little more dash of colour than the usual greige – the vibrant red in their branding is nowhere to be seen.

    • Alexandra says:

      The cabin looks very elegant with the gold rim….. And please no vibrant reds… it’s detrimental to a calm, relaxing ambience.
      A deep burgundy red is represented in the beautiful outfits of the FAs.

  • Olly says:

    Do they fly to any regional airports from LON or just IST?

  • Ian says:

    Rhys, regarding the drinks service I think this is a cultural thing. Travelling with another Islamic airline (RJ) recently, I was pleasantly surprised at the improvement in the food – the meal was honestly as good as any I’ve had on an aircraft in recent years. However they are (I’m being kind here) not hot in the wine department. Quite simply, they don’t drink alcohol themselves and perhaps find it difficult to see its importance to us.

    • Blenz101 says:

      Not cultural at all. The ME3 excel at plying their customers with drink.

      And over 3 hours even a practicing Muslim may be thirsty.

      It’s not as though the crew are doing much else.

    • Yan says:

      agreed it is cultural just with ME3 being the exceptions. The alcohol options in TK’s flagship IST lounge are just as mediocre, if not worse, compared to their onboard offerings.

  • jjoohhnn says:

    The seat is very similar to the premium economy seat on American Airlines 787, although if Turkish have legs rests then that extend out in all rows, that would make it better (AA only have those in the first row). The under armrest storage + power is the same design.

  • His Holyness says:

    Couldn’t you ask for the name of the champagne? It will be Piper.

  • The Savage Squirrel says:

    The tiny plastic privacy screens are so ridiculous they are hilarious.

  • Jacky Lester says:

    A tip for red wine drinkers on Turkish Airlines flights – make sure you ask for the French wine, not the Turkish which is dreadful. They don’t shout about the fact that you do have a choice of wines!

    • Alexandra says:

      I beg to differ…. Turkish reds are generally very good (as opposed to the whites) and the Turkish Red they offer is superior to the French.

  • ADS says:

    you really shouldn’t scoff at an extra 3cm … you never know when you might find it useful !

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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