This airlines has been mentioned in other threads but I thought for these questions it deserved a topic of its own. The reviews on Skytrax say wonderful things about the comfort of the airplanes, etc. However, there are lots of complaints about the inefficiency of the check in process and the staff in the airports. They also said that seats were only assigned when you arrived at the airport and that they cannot be changed. This is very important to me because I need an aisle seat because of problems with claustrophobia when flying. I wondered if any of you had experience with this.
That would explain why I couldn't find a way to select seats online. I'm looking forward to other responses. Thanks for asking the question. We have Turkish tickets Rome--Istanbul--Athens and return in the fall.
I did consider Turkish Airlines to be quite comfortable when I flew with them several years ago. Disorganized check in is everywhere (Paris, Rome, etc.) Regarding seat assignment, their web site indicates that it may be done during the booking process or when checking in online and printing boarding passes up to 24 hours ahead.
I can't speak to their current seat selection policies. But do be aware that on many airlines, the policy depends on the route (domestic vs international vs intercontinental), which kind of ticket you are buying (pricier tickets get seat selection while cheaper ones don't), and whether you are willing to pay extra for early selection (I paid a bit extra on Air Berlin to do this).
As for check-in, I found Turkish Air (both at JFK and in Turkey) to be no different than any other airline, and had no problems. Turkish airports do use a somewhat different procedure from US ones, but it's not difficult once you know it. You go through an X-Ray immediately upon entering the terminal building (you and ALL your luggage). Then you have a strict carryon weight limit for domestic flights, so you may need to check some bags you could carryon internationally. Then you go through security to get to your gate. Again, none of this was in any way more difficult than I've encountered anywhere else.
I am flying Turkish for the first time in the fall. My research indicated exactly what you found - a lot of chaos at the Istanbul airport, poor reps on the phone and a lot of lost luggage for connecting flights. (The food, however, should be pretty good!!)
With all of that information, we decided to spend the $40 to have a travel agent book the flights for us, which I seldom do. Turkish does allow prebooking of seats, but the time guidelines are VERY strict. For example, for our return flight from Istanbul on October 21st, the very first day that seats were available for booking was July 14th. I bought my tickets a long time ago, but on the 14th my travel agent called her LA-based Turkish contact and booked our seats.
We flew Turkish Airlines (four flights) three years ago and found staff very efficient and professional. We were able to change seats at the airport. We were also always at the airport very early for check in. We had no trouble with checked bags. If I had never flown on this airline, I would certainly try to see what people say, but I have also found that every airline has pages and pages of complaints on the web.
Turkish Airlines is rated as one of the best by some frequent traveler organization or magazine or something, up there with Singapore Airlines and Emirates. It is the flagship airline that serves the upper classes in Turkey. It's the way flying used to be in the States. It's not a discount airline, even if the prices come out a little lower for us due to the exchange rate.
I also could not select my seats in advance. There was a day about 1 week prior to the flight when I was supposed to be able to call and select seats. However, I called several times and was never able to get through. I wasn't allowed to do it online. I did notice that they gave my group similar seats to the ones we had chosen for a connecting flight on a different airline.
The plane was comfortable and the food service on the flight was great. Everyone who checked bags in our group did not get their bags on arrival in Istanbul. They arrived 24 hours later at our hotel (one more reason to travel light and carry on).
After researching traveling to Turkey in RS guidebooks and other guidebooks I was expecting Turkey to be Europe-like. In my opinion it is not, expect something more rustic.
We flew TA from IAD to IST on June 5 and return at the end of June. I booked our seats through the 800 number-60 days before flight and got exactly what we wanted, plus gave my UA# and got full mileage credit. IST is a little chaotic( didn't expect the baggage security before entry to the terminal), however, the counter was open with plenty of time to check in; also, no hassle to change seats at the counter.
Food, comfort, and staff were above average compared to my usual U.S. flying experience, even with the huge baggage issues that the counter staff were dealing with. Also, going and returning, there was no trouble with delayed bags for the four on us flying together.
Thank you so much for all of your insightful replies. I think we've decided to book with Turkish Airlines but probably won't be doing it for a while. So please continue to post if you have any other experiences that would help us.
I've flow with Turkish Airlines on long haul from Los Angeles to Istanbul, and it's been fabulous each time. The check in staff and cabin crew were all very professional and the food was delicious. Can't fault them.
I just returned from a trip to Turkey and flew Turkish Airlines four times - three one-hour flights within Turkey and our 10-hour flight home to Toronto. I love Turkish Airlines! The planes are extremely comfortable, the flight attendants were very nice, we got a decent lunch on the one-hour flights (you don't get that in North America!) and we had no problem with our checked bags.
I was able to select our seats online 24 hours before all four of our flights, although it's not considered an online check-in - you still have to get in line at the airport, but our seats remained the same.