By: Heidi Powell-Prera, Photographer/Journalist
A true leader in business air travel, Turkish Airlines has been an award-winning airline for the last decade. Skytrax World Airlines Awards named them Best Airline in Europe, Best Airline in Southern Europe, Best Business Class On Board Catering, and Best Business Class Lounge Dining. In addition to these four awards, Turkish Airlines has won awards from CEO World and Trip Advisor. With such a well-established and well-deserved reputation, Turkish Airlines has orchestrated a layover program showcasing Istanbul’s historic grandeur, its bustling modern metropolis, and its variety of savory Turkish and international cuisine served with continental flair at a variety of fine restaurants throughout the city. The program was designed carefully to turn a tedious frustrating layover between flights into an adventure to remember and an inspiration to the traveller to be certain to return.
This photographer/journalist owes a debt of gratitude to Jamal Hamza, who represents Turkish Airlines here in Houston, for the invitation to join a group of 8 journalists, 3 of us from Houston, Jeff Gremillion from City Book, Gabby Ortega, and me, for a familiarization trip to Istanbul. Our 48 hours were literally packed with amazing experiences. For me, as I am certain is true of all their business travellers, the pleasure started with the over-the-top in flight service. Not only were the seats truly designed for comfort, they have literally thought of everything a traveller might need. The attentive hostesses endeavored throughout the 13 hours it took to reach Istanbul from Houston to insure our comfort. The dishes served were a gourmet treat and presented on real China. Warm towels soothed and relaxed the face while a soft blanket invited a long nap along the way If sleep did not come, there were recent hit movies to choose from. For anyone embarked on business, the services will guarantee that the traveller will arrive relaxed, rested, and ready to take on the business part of the trip.
Another big thank you goes to Elif Baskalayci, regional marketing and sales representative for Turkish Airlines, whose endless patience and understanding with the American journalists was admirable. With our knowledgeable Turkish guide, Mehmet Cetinkaya, we visited the ancient Istanbul that was Constantinople of legendary fame. Two world renowned places of worship, the Blue Mosque, built by Sultan Ahmed in 1609 during the Ottoman Empire and still active today, and Hagia Sophia Museum, Greek Orthodox Cathedral built in 537 and a leading example of Byzantine architectural beauty, were features of the historic tour.
The ancient city exists alongside the bustling metropolis of Istanbul. With all its diversity, it could be Paris, the European city to which it has been compared. All of us took back memories of very unique dining experiences, shopping and sightseeing. On the second day of our trip, we were treated to a visit to an artist sanctuary, Cafe Ragamedresa, where you can practice the ancient arts of Turkey. Each of us made a piece to take back with us if we wished. Our dinner at Hunkar prepared by the joyous chef Fred was truly special. The fresh fish which we had at Hunkar and on the dinner cruise was my favorite dish. On the Bosphorous Dinner Cruise you are able to see both sides while sitting with your friends in a fabulous lounge. It was a perfect setting for the journalists to get to know each other. The featured sight of the cruise was the bridge that links European Turkey to Asian Turkey. Most visitors will be surprised to learn that Turkey, and Istanbul, the capital, actually are located in both Europe and Asia. Our dinner was taken to go from the restaurant by the dock on the Asian side and served to us by the friendly Storm Yacht Crew. It was an array of different types of Hummus, salads, and shrimp to start followed by a fresh sea bass. The local white wine paired with the meal perfectly.
As we were guests of Turkish Airlines, the trip would not have been complete without a visit to their state of the art corporate offices and to the company that provides the in flight catering and the lounge fine dining. Turkish Airlines has been an active supporter of international sports. They kicked off 2019 as the official airline partner of the Major League Soccer Club, the Houston Dynamos. This partnership makes the airline the first major airline partnership for the club since 2012 and marks the airlines’ first partnership with a major American sports league. The official signing ceremony was held in the BBVA Stadium on December 19, 2018. The President of the Dynamos, John Walker and Turkish Airlines Houston General Manager, Yigit Bilge Avci participated in the signing. Mr. Yigit Bilge Avci said, “We are highly pleased to be the Houston Dynamo’s first airline partner. Turkish Airlines is fully committed to supporting sports initiatives and we are excited about the opportunities the alliance will create for both brands.”
I think I can speak for the group, we will return to Istanbul; and we have a new appreciation for everything Turkish. For me, I have a newly acquired taste for Turkish food.
For more information please visit www.turkishairlines.com