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Travel Detective Blog: Turkish Airlines, Sleeper Airline of the Year

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Some of the the ways we fly are still the same. We endure increasingly uncomfortable seats, delays, missed connections, excessive ancillary charges, and poor airport infrastructure. But there is some good news, especially in terms of connectivity—and what I like to call “sleeper airlines.” If we’re creative, we can get just about anywhere—if we don’t mind looking at a more global picture of airline routes and hubs.

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Thanks in part to more efficient long haul aircraft, and a few airlines that realize that they can now fly long haul/non-stop routes to the far corners of the globe from their hubs, our choices just dramatically increased. Consider this scenario: I needed to fly from Sao Paolo to Buenos Aires. Which airline could I take? I’d have to use one of the South American carriers, obviously. But then, I saw what I thought was a typo in the airline schedules and the initials TK. But it wasn’t a mistake. I could fly Turkish Airlines between these two South American cities. Is Turkish Airlines flying non-stop between two cities on another continent? How did that happen? Then I needed to get to New Delhi from New York. What’s my best option? Turkish, with a stop in Istanbul.

Ten years ago, I never would have made that choice. In fact, ten years ago, Turkish Airlines was not my airline of choice.

Turkish Airlines had an aging aircraft fleet, horrendous on-time performance, and forgettable in-flight service. Then, when no one was looking, a remarkable turnaround began.

There was a new fleet of more than 300 state-of-the-art aircraft, new training for both cabin and cockpit crews, a serious upgrade in catering, and an innovative look at the map of the world. Combine that with great geography—Istanbul, the airline’s hub, is perfectly positioned to fly just about any long haul flight in the world, non-stop.

Inside the planes, there are new cabin configurations that are both thoughtful and efficient, a very good in-flight entertainment system, complete with effective noise-canceling headphones, and very good food. But let’s not forget perhaps the best business class airport lounge in the world.

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Last but not least: Think about schedule, frequency, and where you can go. Turkish now holds the number one spot as the airline that flies to more international destinations than any other airline in the world. In case you’re counting, that means 298 airports in 119 countries.

Between an airport bombing, an attempted coup, and the most recent tragedy at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey surely has its hands full with regard to security and safety issues. But in terms of transportation infrastructure and efficiency, TK gets a big OK from me.

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By Peter Greenberg for PeterGreenberg.com 

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