What is a legacy carrier anyway, I hear you ask? The term ‘legacy’ is used to differentiate the old style (usually national) airline carriers from those that espouse the low cost model. Legacy carriers traditionally charge more but also offer more for those consumers who are willing to pay for a better service or for things considered as ‘extras’ with carriers such as Ryanair. Some airlines (Aer Lingus for example) sit somewhere between the two opposing economic models in that they are no longer legacy carriers as such but also don’t necessarily offer the cheapest fares. Their service and product tends to be a little bit better but nothing like it used to be in the good old days. All in all, travelers tend to get what they pay for with some notable exceptions and s prime example is Turkish Airlines! Turkey’s national carrier is what they call a ‘full-service’ carrier in the trade but you cab experience their product and service at bargain-basement prices. Their round-trip air fare to Istanbul is an astounding €194 including tax and that price also includes in flight catering and a free baggage allowance. A fare to one of the Canary islands with a certain national carrier which also happen to be a similar distance from Ireland cost over twice that amount so you begin to see where the real value is.
Not only is the service good, the food great and the value for money quotient unbeatable, Turkish Airlines also has another ace up its’ proverbial sleeve — Istanbul Ataturk Airport! The airport serves as the airlines’ global hub from where flights from Dublin (now operating double daily most days) connect with onward Turkish Airlines connections to more than 242 other destinations in 105 countries around the globe, making it the world’s number one airline, in terms of countries served. The airline has also been voted best airline in Europe for the past three years in a row — surely no fluke! The airline carries 50 million passengers a year on a fleet of 232 aircraft which it expects to almost double over the course of the next few years. To say that Turkish Airlines is on course for world domination almost seems like an understatement, given these statistics. What is perhaps most surprising about the Turkish Airlines story is that these volumes have not been achieved at the expense of quality. In fact, quite the opposite. Turkish Airlines is a 50% shareholder in the catering company that prepares all the airlines in-flight meals and which also provides similar culinary services for other major carriers such as Emirates and KLM. The partnership with Vienna-based gourmet entertainment company DO&Co (they also cater for prestigious global events such as Formula 1) is surely a good indicator of the airlines future intentions which have already begun to pay dividends with them being awarded ‘Best business Class catering’ in 2013. And if that wasn’t enough, business class passengers transiting via Istanbul can also enjoy the considerable delights of the CIP lounge — a 5,900 square metre complex (that’s about 60,000 square feet or as much floor area of a small Dublin housing estate!) right in the middle of the departure terminal where transit passengers can enjoy full meals, hot showers, a library, day rooms, video conferencing, extensive buffets of hot and cold sweet and savoury delecatations for the palate amongst a host of other facilities — all completely free, whilst economy passengers with more than six hours to spare in the Turkish capital also get to enjoy a city tour of Istanbul — compliments of course of Turkish Airlines!
Postscript: As with many other destinations around the globe, many Irish people continue to harbour inaccurate perceptions about this great European capital that are totally out of kilter with the modern reality. The fact is that Istanbul is a huge and culturally amazing city that can more than hold its own with the likes of Rome, Athens, Florence or Venice. And when I say huge, I mean huge! Metropolitan Istanbul boasts a population in excess of 17 million persons and it is really difficult to grasp its scale until you see it from a height of 30,000 feet as your carrier begins it’s final approach to this great world capital.