Flying gluten free with Turkish Airlines: Business vs Economy

For some reason, when he booked our tickets to Istanbul my dear husband managed to book us there in Business and back in Economy. Now, we never fly business on pleasure. We’re just too cheap for that. Turns out it was a mistake, rather than a kind and generous treat for me. His mistake was owning up to that fact! He could have had some serious husband points there!

Anyway, rambling aside, here is how I flew with Turkish Airlines from London Gatwick to Istanbul Ataturk, what their gluten free food was like, and what the cabin was like both in business and economy. I’ll let you know what the perks are and whether it’s worth the upgrade.

The lounges

Business ¦¦ On our way out, we departed from Gatwick (LGW) where the Turkish Airlines lounge is the No1 Traveller Lounge. This lounge is one where anyone can pay £20 to get in, and it was very crowded.

We had to wait for somewhere to sit down, the food selection was limited to say the least, and all the food was pre-prepared so nothing could be altered to suit a gluten free person. I had some fruit and we left.

Upon arrival in Istanbul Ataturk (IST), there is a small arrivals lounge hidden at the far end of the terminal (turn right as you come out of baggage claim). However, it wasn’t open when we arrived – which was during normal working hours, so I wonder if it’s still operational.

However, if you are departing ex-IST you are able to use Turkish Airlines flagship lounge which I hear is quite incredible. Some people schedule their transits just so they can use this lounge. So, there’s that.

Economy ¦¦ Er, none. Unless you want to pay to get into the No1 Traveller Lounge (pro-tip: don’t bother).

Summary ¦¦ Lounges can really make the trip for some people, for others, not so much. If it’s important to you, go for it anywhere ex-IST but skip it ex-LGW.

Business ¦¦ Our Business class seats were hard shell, non-flatbed leather types with the headrest you can pull up the sides of into wings. We were seated in the front row so our screens and tables were inside our arm rests.

They were extremely comfy with a good sized tray table and plenty of leg room. Being in a bulkhead seat there wasn’t much room to store my stuff but that’s normal.

The seats had multiple recline buttons which of course I pressed all of, although only the normal recline one seemed to do anything. That was most likely user error, to be honest.

I think it says a lot for the comfort of the seats that I, who never normally is able to sleep on planes, managed a solid hour of dozing. Amazing.

Also, we had a great view of the galley where we could keep an eye on the chef, chef’n away.

Note the light holiday reading….

Economy ¦¦ The seats are also leather and also have the winged headrests (what’s the proper name for those things anyway?!).

The leg room is passable, but not super generous. As a person with a 36” inside leg I managed just fine.

A word of warning – on our return flight, the Business class seats at the front of the plane were just normal Economy seats, having been converted into Business class by placing a tray over the middle seat. I wouldn’t have wanted to pay a lot more for one of those seats. So do check the model of aircraft you’ll be flying on as some are more basic than others. See also: entertainment section below…

Summary ¦¦ Yes, the seats in Business class were a lot nicer. However, I managed just fine in the Economy seats, especially as the flight wasn’t full so S and I had a row to ourselves.

The food

Business ¦¦ We were given a welcome drink when we arrived on to the plane, which was a choice of three interesting looking soft drinks. I chose raspberry lemonade and it was absolutely delicious. The chef came round and introduced himself to us, noting my gluten free needs. We were off to a good start.

I had already scarfed the raspberry garnish by this point. Standard.

Soon after takeoff began the three course extravaganza. First came the starter:

I thought this was my main. Look how big it is! Okay so it does include pudding too but just look at all that food.

Then Simon was given exactly the same plate of food. How strange I thought, as plane food is so seldom naturally gluten free. I had a closer look and started to get a bit concerned. So I asked the chef as he walked past and he looked mortified, realising he’d made a mistake. Seconds later, the actual gluten free starter was in front of me.

I thought it looked delicious. And it was. There was a fish tartar, chicken on roasted veg, cream cheese wrapped in grilled courgette, and a beautiful tomatoey thing. It was all delightful. I was also presented with a warmed gluten free roll, which was pretty decent. It held its shape although did have the texture of a bath sponge. Still, better that than something that falls to pieces as soon as you look at it.

Then the main course arrived. I had a grilled chicken kebab with green peppers and rice, and the meat was perfectly cooked, not at all dry, and beautifully flavoured. It came with a decent helping of rice (hallelujah carbohydrate), tastefully flavoured with tomato, and some grilled veggies which were so packed with flavour I couldn’t believe I was on a plane. Also they weren’t cooked to a mushy miserable death, which does help.

Finally we had pudding, which was fruit salad and cheese for me. You can see them in the pictures of my starter. I do moan about fruit salads but this one was a really good one, although I passed on the cheese. Considering the other courses were so good I thought I’d let this one go.

Economy ¦¦ I had no starter, but a lamb kofte accompanied by a small salad and a fruit salad. I suppose the small salad was probably my starter.

Sidenote: I was pleasantly surprised to be given real cutlery in economy as well.

Anyway, back to the food: it was deliciously flavoured, filling, and again had a decent amount of carbohydrate to go with it.

The gluten free roll was the same as the one I was given in business, warmed and everything.

I had another fruit salad for my pudding, but it was pretty good too so I can’t complain.

Summary ¦¦ For me, this was the highlight. The food in Business was a triumph, but it was actually delicious in Economy as well. I didn’t feel like I was missing out by being in Economy.

The entertainment

Business ¦¦ We had screens which pulled out of our arm rests, and had a very good selection of current films, a couple of TV shows and the usual radio/music section that nobody looks at.

The screens were a very generous size, and there was also a mini screen which clipped into the side of your seat like a remote control. Both were touchscreen. You could view different things on both screens which was quite neat, and I found the controls on the main screen responsive and helpful, which they aren’t always. We were given noise cancelling type headphones to listen to our film with, which worked very well.

The only annoyance was the 5 or so minutes of solid adverts at the beginning of the flight which interrupted everyone’s viewing, all about how Turkish Airlines had sponsored Batman vs Superman etc etc. The first advert was a bit annoying, just as you’re settling in to your fllm, but the second was overkill.

Economy ¦¦ Horror of horrors on our return flight there were no seat back screens, just the overhead ones every three rows with a film on loop.

Of course it was a child friendly cartoon so I was out. Luckily I had my trusty book so it was no bother to me at all, and I think we were on an older plane in general (see above). I think the plane we went out on had seatback screens in Economy, although I didn’t get the chance to check with all the hardcore napping I was doing.

Summary ¦¦ The entertainment was way better on the plane we flew out on, but I think between classes the content didn’t differ that much on that particular plane. However, if this is something that matters to you then I’d advise checking your aircraft type before you fly.


> You got a free paper in business class.
> The loos are shared for all passengers so they’re all bog standard (har har).

> You get a little square of Turkish delight as an appetiser in both cabins. Beware! It’s got nuts in.
> You get a blanket and pillow as standard in business, but they’re available on request in Economy as well.
> Service was very polite and friendly in both cabins. Of course, in Business there was a much higher staff:passenger ratio but I felt well looked after in both cabins.

Overall summary of summaries

I was utterly impressed with my experience on Turkish Airlines, in particular I think their food is the best I’ve ever eaten on a plane, and certainly the best gluten free I’ve ever eaten on a plane.

Food aside, the rest of the experience was also fantastic. I would recommend flying with Turkish Airlines to anyone, but especially those who need to eat gluten free.

As to whether I’d recommend Business over Economy… For me, the difference was pleasant but not revolutionary. If the price difference was marginal, I think I’d swing for the Business class seat just so I could have another one of those welcome drinks. Otherwise, I’m quite happy in Economy.

What about you? Would you opt for Business or happily stick with Economy?


Travel Tuesday

Welcome to Travel Tuesday! Thanks for your warm welcomes last week, I loved reading all your posts.

Did you see these tips for visiting Lisbon? I’m even more desperate to go after reading Sara‘s post.

And I think I’ve found my next great career idea thanks to Marcelle and George.

Finally, this post just made me hungry from start to finish. Don’t read it if it’s nearly a meal time… Thanks for sharing, Ruth!

Please join me, BonnieSwags and Diana in linking up your post below…


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2. The last Tuesday of every month is a themed prompt, if you want to join in. This month’s theme is “Hidden Treasures” and is a chance for you to let us know some hidden treasures you’ve discovered on your travels. For example, are there any sights or activities from your local area that you’d encourage newcomers to visit? Any places off the beaten path that you fell in love with?
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  1. 19th April 2016 / 10:50

    What an interesting comparison! I always think that food and comfort makes all the difference. Your meals in business looked yummy!

    • 19th April 2016 / 10:56

      They were SO yummy. And even though slightly less attractive in economy, it was just as tasty! Glad you enjoyed the comparison, it was fun to do. I want to fly each leg in a different class more often!

  2. Kerri Taylor
    19th April 2016 / 14:05

    what a great review! not many compare the food choices but rather just the experience as a whole. and now i’m hungry haha. the food looks good all around!

    xoxo cheshire kat

    • 20th April 2016 / 09:42

      I am a food oriented person so it makes perfect sense to me 🙂 also the absolute horrors I’ve been served as the gluten free option make me very wary of plane food!

  3. 19th April 2016 / 15:13

    This was so interesting to me because I hardly ever fly (if I dont have to) & have always wondered about the difference.
    I’m still in awe of a chef preparing all this beautiful food!!!!

    • 20th April 2016 / 09:42

      I thought it was pretty interesting too! But I like that sort of thing…! Having a chef was so cool, it really made it feel like an experience rather than just a plane flight.

  4. 19th April 2016 / 17:12

    Oh my gosh, the food looks amazing!! I’m not really a fan of plane food and the stuff I got on the way from Greenland to Copenhagen was just disgusting but I’m pretty sure I would be happy about the Turkish Airlines Food judging from the way it looks!!
    Also about lounges: I once had access to the SAS lounge in Oslo and was disappointed as well. It was so crowded and the food selection was just ridiculous…

    • 20th April 2016 / 09:45

      It really was! I was so impressed. I’ve had a lot of inedible meals before as the gluten free option is usually also the dairy free, egg free, soy free, and bland option (that’s actually a thing) therefore is like reheated rubber. Greenland to Copenhagen must be a long flight, too. I hope you didn’t get too hungry :/
      I’m surprised the SAS lounge was so bad. I’d have thought they’d have had a decent lounge. It’s a shame when you get an experience that’s supposed to be luxury and it ends up just being stressful!

      • 20th April 2016 / 18:24

        Haha no, don’t worry – I was fine 😉 Maybe we have too high expectations to lounges?! I mean, since they’re exclusive, we expect them to be totally awesome but in the end, there’s still lots of people getting access so it can’t be that luxurious?

        • 22nd April 2016 / 17:38

          Yes, especially ones where you can just pay for entry. With that and loyalty schemes and so on, there are so many people eligible to enter the lounge that it turns out to be pretty much the same as the outside!

  5. 19th April 2016 / 18:58

    I don’t think that I’ve ever seen plane food that looks that good! And that’s awesome that you actually received a meal in economy! I feel like the American airlines never give you the food, unless you Business of First Class. It sounds like you were well taken care of in both classes, and it would be a great way to fly to Istanbul!

    • 20th April 2016 / 09:47

      I don’t think I have either! And it tasted even better than it looks, if that’s possible. The flight was 4 hours, and I think in Europe you normally get a meal for flights longer than about 3 hours. I could be wrong though. It’s often a sandwich type snack, and if you fly low cost then forget it.

      I have to say it was an excellent experience and I’m now working out where else I can fly to if I change at Istanbul!

  6. 20th April 2016 / 01:07

    What an interesting comparison! The food looks really good, which is surprising 🙂

    • 20th April 2016 / 09:47

      Glad you liked it! I was surprised too, although I had heard rumours the food was good. I was still surprised at just how good it was! Definitely made the whole experience for me.

  7. Jen
    20th April 2016 / 03:37

    I love this comparison! And wow that food does look really good! I am impressed.

    • 20th April 2016 / 09:52

      The food was absolutely delicious, I was so impressed. I will definitely choose to fly with them again if I can.

  8. 20th April 2016 / 13:47

    i totally thought the real name was winged headrests lol. the food looks absolutely amazing, especially the tomatoey stuff. good call on noticing the first meal was not gluten free. did i ever tell you about the time they gave my meal to someone else and then they had to give me first class food? i was pretty impressed, but also really cranky that the non gluten free idiot accepted my food even though it was 15 minutes before anyone elses and why didn’t she notice the name or i don’t know, the fact that she wasn’t gluten free? it still makes me mad. but anyway. i have never flown turkish airlines but the food looks delicious even in economy and i’m glad you didn’t feel like you were missing out food wise. i feel like i should fly turkish airways now.

    • 21st April 2016 / 18:33

      Maybe the real name is winged headrests?! I had a moment of self doubt! The food was divine. It really would make me choose them again over other airlines, purely because of the food.

      That story is a real shocker – I’d have been so cross! And who would even want to eat the gluten free meal?! They’re generally gross! Non gluten free idiot indeed. Honestly.

  9. 21st April 2016 / 05:22

    I’d just call them winged headrests, I didn’t stop to think that there would be a proper name, haha!

    It’s great you got to experience both, even if it was accidental. A happy accident 🙂 It was nice to be able to have the side by side comparison too. The differences in levels of entertainment screens on planes is really interesting! Quite a few times I’ve been flown somewhere for work and I’ll have a headrest screen one way and nothing or just that one big shared screen the other way.

    Good job you didn’t eat that first meal – that wouldn’t have been a great start to your holiday, wonderful that they could fix it up quickly for you.

    Away From The Blue Blog

    • 21st April 2016 / 18:35

      I think I was just overthinking things really!

      It was definitely a happy accident, and I did enjoy spotting all the differences. I had such a good experience both times which helped, if I’d have been miserable in economy that wouldn’t have been fun. Knowing what I was missing out on!

      I think because planes can be so old before they are replaced, and technology moves on so fast, there’s a real hodgepodge of experiences out there. I know some people who choose airlines based on entertainment alone, but for me it’s food 🙂

  10. 22nd April 2016 / 17:47

    It’s so true that some places feel like luxury liners and other planes don’t even have a nice first class arrangement! That food looks insanely good, I’m definitely on track with that! Thanks for sharing all these photos, too, I really felt like you gave an honest assessment with photo proof! 🙂

    • 25th April 2016 / 15:29

      I am nothing if not thorough 🙂 the experience is totally variable, and I feel like even though there is so much info available now with the likes of Seat Guru etc, you never really know what you’re on for until you show up…

    • 25th April 2016 / 15:30

      I know! It does pay to be prepared for all eventualities… Luckily this time I didn’t need to bring my own food like I usually do because it was so good.

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