Review: Turkish Airlines Business Class B737-900ER, Istanbul – Dar Es Salaam


Turkish Airlines offers strong service through many parts of Africa through its international hub in Istanbul, Turkey. While the majority of these connecting flights are on their wide body aircraft, a select view operate on their narrow body aircraft. Our flight today from Istanbul to Dar Es Salaam would be my first experience on their long extended range narrow body aircraft in a Boeing 737-900 ER. Would the quality of the business class be comfortable for a seven hour connecting flight into Middle Africa?

This post is one chapter on our trip to the Republic of Tanzania and the Islands of the Seychelles. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and enhanced through World of Hyatt and Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Turkish Airlines Business Class B737-900 ER, Istanbul Atatürk International Airport – Dar Es Salaam Julius Nyerere International Airport

We arrived into Istanbul Atatürk International Airport off our Turkish Airlines Business Class Toronto – Istanbul flight at Gate 230. This was the furthest east most gate in the Atatürk airport facility. There was double jet bridge off loading and we were into the airport quickly. We had a long walk to the connections security checkpoint through a nice spacious pathway that appeared to be fairly new.

Connecting Through Istanbul Atatürk

We connected upstairs and ended up in the eastern end of the concourse. We made our way back to the familiar Turkish Airlines Business Lounge for our transit lounge experience. The Istanbul Atatürk airport has always been a busy, crowded and unpleasant airport to transit and today was no exception. It’s the usual people standing in the walkways, walking and texting, or suddenly changing direction into your walking path.

It was always a crowded experience at Istanbul Atatürk

Visiting the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge:

We eventually found our way to the Turkish Airlines lounge. We have previously visited and reviewed the Turkish Airlines Istanbul Atatürk Business Lounge on several prior occasions, including our most recent update. As a result, I won’t get into too much detail with the lounge, other than to highlight what you can expect prior to a Turkish Airlines Business Class flight.

The lounge advertises automatic entry with a scan of your boarding pass. Our boarding cards that were issued on Air Canada stock in Vancouver, Canada did not work at the gates. An attendant promptly swapped our cards for new Turkish Airlines boarding passes, which allowed us a clean swipe in.

Past the Front Doors of the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge

The lounge has reached a certain maturity level as it’s days are numbered with a new Istanbul Airport scheduled to open in October 2018.

Inside the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge:

As we wandered in, the place was pretty packed. The white leather slung chairs that feature as the main loungers had all the charm of a Nigerian Drug Dealers mansion. We located a spot on the upper level. I went to get MrsWT73 a rose wine, then set out to take photographs.

The Grand Piano in the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge
The Library and Pool Hall Area
The Media Room at the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge

Turkish Airlines Business Lounge Food and Beverage:

Along with the sheer size of a lounge that seats 2,000 people, the food is the highlight of the lounge. As usual, there were a lot of options on offer today. The funny part is that most of it seems to taste exactly the same with a similar flavour profile.

Mediterranean Salad Bar
Free Pour Spirits

I found my way downstairs to the lower floor where most of the food is. I located the pasta station and had some the Turkish pasta. It was made fresh and mixed together prior to being presented on a plate. Along with a crisp glass of white wine, it was very tasty and a have again. We would later find it as a pasta option on a future Turkish Airlines flight.

Turkish Airlines Chef
Turkish Pasta with Local Spices

As for the ambience of the lounge, it’s fallen a bit. It’s become a bit too full and has all types of people… slow walkers, fast cutters, people walking and talking aimlessly on cell phones. Cleaning and bussing staff that can’t keep up with the pace of the operations at peak capacity. Furthermore, the furnishings are showing a bit of wear and tear, although not nearly as much as our earlier experience this trip in the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Vancouver International.

Lounge Shower Facilities:

I put my name on the list for a shower. It was a 40 minute wait announced at the reception which turned out to be a 32 minute wait by the time it was all said and done. The reception took my boarding card in exchange for a buzzer that you get at a popular family restaurant. The shower room was clean and in reasonable state of repair. The shower handle came off in my hand when I tried to turn it on, but I replaced it and it worked properly.

Turkish Airlines Business Lounge Shower
Turkish Airlines
TK 603 – Business Class (I)
IST-DAR (Istanbul Atatürk International Airport – Dar Es Salaam Julius Nyerere International Airport)
May 27, 2018
7:05 PM – 2:30 AM +1
Booked: Boeing 737-900ER
Flown: Boeing 737-900ER

This flight was the only one of the trip that I was least looking forward to. Who relishes narrow body flight in a chair lounger after you’ve crossed an ocean in a nice comfy bed, when you’re in a different time zone, flying a flight that is seven hours long; all while in the middle of the night?

I’m happy to say that I was very much surprised at how comfortable Turkish Airlines made this last segment. It was my first time flying on a Boeing 737-900ER . This last flight segment was scheduled at about 7 hours and 15 minutes duration.

We left the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge Istanbul and picked up some duty free at the Atu Duty Free shop in the main plaza of the Istanbul Departures Hall at Atatürk. The gate for our departing plane turned up on the monitors about 2 hours before our flight. It was listed as Gate 703, which I assumed to be a bus gate given the seven hundred area of the airport.

We wandered for about a 10 minute walk to Gate 703, which was down a set of stairs. It was indeed a bus gate. Surprisingly, there was a full food fair and duty free shop down here as well. MrsWT73 picked up some Tic Tac’s, among other souvenirs.

Locating Gate 703 at Istanbul Atatürk

Boarding Turkish Airlines Business Class:

Boarding was called at 10 minutes past the time printed on our boarding cards. Business class was asked to board the bus first, although we surrounded with economy class passengers until the bus was full. This meant that we didn’t get a separate bus and were along with everyone else when we got off.

There were some nice views of Turkish Airlines wide bodies from the ground level as we walked out to the bus.

Transiting on the Apron Bus to our Aircraft

The Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-900ER was parked a short distance away from the main terminal. There was double door boarding with rows 18 and under boarding through the front doors and rows 19 and upward through the back doors. We scrambled up the front stairs under cloudy skies at Atatürk.

Views of Turkish Airlines Fins on the Apron at Atatürk
Boarding our Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-900ER
Views down the fuselage of the Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-900ER
Cockpit Views

On Board Turkish Airlines Business Class:

Once we finally got on board, we got into the Boeing 737-900ER which is set up in a 2 – 2 business configuration. I had to say that these have to be the longest narrow body seats that I’ve ever flown. I’m 6ft 2 inches tall and, when seated in the seat, my feet could not even touch the seat in front of me. It was easily two and a half windows between seats. It was most certainly no compact Alaska Airlines First Class here.

Turkish Airlines Business Class Boeing 737-900 ER Seats
Spacious Legroom Between Turkish Airlines’ Boeing 737-900 ER seats
A window passenger gets many windows in the manner that they have configured this aircraft
Ample Legroom; even for tall travellers like myself

There was USB power available between the seats but surprisingly, no power plug ins on today’s flight.

USB Power Plugs but surprisingly no actual Empower In Seat Power

The seat also had the old fashion retro seat reclines.

Old School Seat Recline Features

The video screen also had a somewhat dated corded remote. The screen was a pull out of the armrest variety, showing the beautiful welcome images.

A Wired Remote Hidden in the Arm Rest
Turkish Featured Travel Photography

Pre-Departure Services:

While we waited to depart, a “welcome drink” was offered of orange, lemonade, water or tomato juice. I had another great lemon and mint drink. Turkish Airlines does not typically offer sparking wine as a pre-departure beverage but the lemon and mint combination is really refreshing.

A Lemon and Mint Pre-Departure Beverage

The Amenity Kits: Cerruti Branded

Even with the narrow body aircraft, amenity kits were passed out while we were still on the ground. This time around, they were Cerreuti branded amenity kits. Instead of Bentley creams, they were Cerreuti creams. They also had the same useless stuff inside them. I wasn’t overly impressed with these kits and chalked this one up as destined for under the bathroom sink at home, never to see daylight again.

Cerreuti Branded Ammenity Kits
Cerreuti Amenity Kits Contents

As we got underway, the Turkish Airlines safety video played through overhead monitors.

Turkish Airlines Safety Video

The dinner menus were distributed. Tonight’s menu was a thinner version of the large menu cards we received on the long haul flight.

Turkish Airlines Business Class Menu Istanbul – Dar Es Salaam
Turkish Airlines Business Class Menu Istanbul – Dar Es Salaam

Departing Istanbul:

As we got underway, I took some photos of the climb out. It got cloudy really quickly so there wasn’t much to see.

Departing Istanbul Atatürk International Airport
A Grey Skyline Departing Istanbul Today

The flight track was to take us straight across the Mediterranean, through Egypt and straight down towards Tanzania. The flight time was seven hours and fifteen minutes.

Our Flight Track for Today’s Flight into Middle Africa
Only Seven Hours of Flight Time Remaining

The Meal: A Two Course Dinner

The Dinner service was served fairly promptly as we headed out over the Mediterranean sea. The starter was Smoked Salmon and Celeriac Salad, Garden Fresh Salad with olive oil dressing, selection of cheese and DO & CO Chocolate Mouse presented on a tray all at once. This was paired with an unspecified champagne.

Smoked Salmon and Celeriac Salad

Once that appetizer was finished, I had the grilled chicken brochette with sweetcorn mousseline and grilled zucchini for the main. It was quite tasty.

The Main Course
Grilled Chicken Brochette with Sweetcorn Mousseline and Grilled Zucchini

After dinner, spirits and tea and coffee were offered from the cart. I had a Irish Cream and Coffee to try to keep me awake so I could get onto the African Time Zone.

As the flight time went by, I then followed it up with a Gin and Tonic while I worked on the trip report. The sun set beautifully over the Mediterranean Sea.

Sunset Views over the Mediterranean.

On our flight track down, I also managed to get some photographs of Cairo. It’s a shame the flight was not an hour or two earlier as the right hand side of the aircraft would have had a great view of the pyramids and Nile River. Instead, I got to see the bars, hotels and Corniches by night that I’ve visited over the years.

Views of Cairo, Egypt and the Nile River dissecting the town
Slipping into Middle Africa

I slept for a few hours in the recliner. It went back pretty far and allowed for some sleeps with back resting sleep. It wasn’t too comfortable on the side sleeping position but the plane did feature the wings on the head rest.


The Second Service: A Light Snack

I woke up with about one hour and ninety minutes left in the flight. MrsWT73 had also gotten some sleep and had told me that there were sandwiches that we available as a snack. I ordered one and got a sponge cake to go with it. It was pretty tasty as a second service.

A Sandwich and Sponge Cake

We headed in on the approach for Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. In a typical landing for an African country, it was totally dark outside and an absence of any real electrical grid in the rural areas. Any lights were on appeared to be industrial security lights as opposed to house lights.

Arriving into Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

We arrived to the gate and there were only a few lonely planes parked overnight, an Embraer 195 from Kenya Airways and an Airbus 320 form South African Airways. We entered into the small arrivals hall where there were immediate counters for visa on arrival.

At the immigration counter, we provided a full set of electronic fingerprints and a photograph. After immigration, we went into the baggage hall. The hall only had a single belt and no washroom; unfortunately, the washroom was before immigration.

The baggage gods were smiling on us today as our bag was one of the first 10 out on the belt. We had a customs X-ray and we were out to meet our driver on the public side. At 2:30 AM, all the foreign exchange shops were closed but there were about 30 taxi mafia standing around all wearing blue shirts at a central taxi kiosk post. It was about 20 minutes into the city. I suspect the taxis would have taken US dollars as a negotiated rate.

Arriving in the darkness at Julius Nyerere International Airport

We ended up transferring over to the Hyatt Regency Dar Es Salaam – The Kilimanjaro in a hotel car which we had pre-arranged in advance.

My Thoughts on Turkish Airlines Business Class:

Our narrow body flight down to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania on Turkish Airlines was more comfortable than I anticipated. We were well fed, the space was comfortable and the whole flight was without major issues. I was initially reluctant about a long narrow body flight but we didn’t have any issues at all. I wouldn’t hesitate about flying a Turkish flight such as this throughout Africa.

If you regularly travel to and from Africa, do you attempt to stick with the larger wide body aircraft to these regional destinations ?

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