After a wonderful tour of Cotonou, my driver dropped me off at the airport, officially known as Cardinal Bernadin Gantin de Cotonou International Airport. My journey to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines would be on a 737-900 in business class with a stop in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
Turkish Airlines 737-900 Business Class Review
I used Turkish Airlines miles to book this ticket, which included flights from Cotonou to Istanbul to London. The cost was 42,500 miles in business class, though there were about $350 in taxes/fees. Revenue ticket prices were sky high out of COO and using mileage in other programs would have cost significantly more and still carried a $110 departure tax (officially called the Benin Fiscal Tax [BJ]).
Because this was a one-way ticket from Africa, I could not book it online (while the Turkish website appeared to allow it, it always ended up erring out). When I called reservations, an agent explained that due to “fraud” the ticket could only be booked on the phone. That was relatively painless, though, and my e-ticket was issued promptly. I was advised that I would need to present my credit card used to pay taxes upon check-in, but this was never requested.
Inside the airport, I found a deserted check-in counter, with one desk for business class and one for economy class. An agent had trouble checking me in (maybe the credit card issue?), but once I mentioned I was on an award ticket he was able to check me in and presented boarding passes all the way to London.
I was also presented with a lounge invitation and noticed that upgrades were for sale.
For the first time, I also noticed a COVID-19 warning, here stating that national of several early coronavirus hotspots were not allowed to enter or even transit Istanbul.
I was early and spent a couple hours in the AHS Business Lounge, which I reviewed here.
> Read More: AHS Business Lounge Cotonou (COO) Review
Boarding commenced about 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure time. The aircraft had landed a bit late from Istanbul. I counted only about 30 passengers boarding in Cotonou. We all shared a bus from the terminal, but ended up having to walk a fair amount to the plane and then up the stairs to board. On the way, we passed an Air France A330 bound for Paris.
Cotonou (COO) – Abidjan (ABJ)
Saturday, March 14
Depart: 1o:o0 PM
Arrive: 10:20 PM
Duration: 1hr, 20min
Distance: 441 miles
Aircraft: Boeing 737-900ER
Seat: 3A (Business Class)
Turkish Airlines 557 travels on a triangle route from Istanbul to Cotonou to Abidjan to Istanbul. As a result, when I boarded in Cotonou there were many passengers already on the aircraft.
Fifth Freedom Flight
Pre-departure beverages or hot towels were not offered and we soon took off.
Just moments after taking off, a flight attendant appeared and asked if I wanted a snack and something to drink. I nodded and soon had a cheese sandwich, cake, and glass of mint lemon juice in front of me.
The business class experience on Turkish Airlines is remarkably consistent. This snack has not changed in years but is always tasty (I wish it was served warm, though). I skipped the cake.
And that was all for the Fifth Freedom segment. No sooner had a I finished my snack then the captain announced we would soon be landing at Félix Houphouët Boigny International Airport in Côte d’Ivoire.
Ground Stop In Ivory Coast
The ~30 passengers who had boarded in Cotonou remained onboard during the ground stop. After the Abidjan passengers departed, cleaning crews appeared, vacuumed the aircraft, and replaced blankets and pillows. It appeared (and later tasted) like the aircraft had been fully catered in Istanbul.
There was also a crew change.
Finally, about 10 minutes behind schedule, passengers began boarding and the aircraft filled up to about 60% capacity. Since this was a longer segment, pre-departure beverages were offered, including the usual choices of orange juice, raspberry juice, or mint lemon juice (served with hazelnuts). Hot towels and noise cancelling headphones were also offered prior to departure.
Abidjan (ABJ) – Istanbul (IST)
Saturday, March 14
Depart: 11:20 PM
Arrive: 9:30 AM+1
Duration: 7hr, 10min
Distance: 3,196 miles
Aircraft: Boeing 737-900ER
Seat: 3A (Business Class)
I used the ground stop in Ivory Coast to take some pictures of the cabin.
Business Class Seat
Turkish offers 16 seats in a 2-2 configuration in its 737-900ER business class cabin, with 43 inches of legroom, 20 inches of width, and recline of about 120º. Row two features extra legroom. Each seat had a large yellow pillow, but a disproportionately small, economy class-style blanket. Unlike the 777-300ER, there are no middle seats in business class.
Seat adjustments are manually controlled by push-button and power and USB ports are available at each seat:
Food + Drink
By this point, I was not only hungry, but famished, having really not eaten since breakfast. Menus were distributed and I was pleased to see several suitable choices including Turkish meatballs, sea bass, and rigatoni with Parmesan tomato sauce. I have tired all three dishes and can vouch for all of them.
Service began with a hot towel, choice of beverage, and bowl of hazelnuts.
I figured everything would come on one tray due to the late hour, but dinner began with a Turkish mezze plater, salad, and choice of bread. Cheese and a mango panna cotta were also on the tray.
The mezze plate included stuffed grape leaves, hummus, eggplant, and yogurt.
For my main course, I chose sea bass and was not disappointed. It was flavorful and cooked perfectly, tender and moist.
I skipped the panna cotta, but enjoyed the cheese. Meal service was historically a treat on Turkish Airlines and I trust that post-pandemic the full service returns.
And then I slept…despite the inferior blanket and lack of lie flat seat.
I briefly checked out the in-flight-entertainment, which included TV shows, movies (both western and traditional Turkish films), games, and music. Nothing looked all that interesting so I just played a game of memory.
The noise cancelling headphones are from Philips.
Ok, the lavatory was just disgusting. I used it prior to landing and the floors were wet…and I doubt that was water unless people were performing ablutions in-flight…
The flight crew was lovely and attentive. No complaints about the service. Quite the contrary, the crew was attentive and engaging.
We landed in Istanbul on-time. It was a cloudy morning.
Turkish Airlines business class flights never seem to disappoint and my travel experience was again quite satisfactory. While I’d consider 7+ hours practically a long haul flight, I did just fine even without a lie-flat bed. Considering the high cost of flying out of West Africa, using miles and points for this flight proved the smart choice.
This story is part of my An African Adventure As The World Shut Down trip report.
From the pictures, it appears that Row 2 in Business Class has a lot more legroom than the rows behind?
Row two definitely has extra legroom (one window worth of extra legroom)
I wonder why a sub-par hard product is offered if the market is able to command a premium price. Maybe just because they can? AF is offering a standard long haul product to CDG, so there is a competitive reason for TK to match…
Agreed, but TK’s vast Africa network (beyond JNB/CPT) is built on the 737-900ER. I did not compare AF and TK pricing, but TK is generally cheaper (though still not cheap).
Was the raspberry juice fresh pressed or from concentrate?
I love you Joe. It was from concentrate, I believe.
Wait, I thought Turkish was supposed to use fresh-squeezed juice. I recall that the last couple times I flew them, they didn’t seem to have the juices. This was a few years ago, though.
The orange was certainly fresh. I think the mint/lemon and raspberry were pure juice, but from concentrate. Still very good juice, though.
Ugh, we just crossed paths again! I was overnighting in Abidjan the night you transited through – I was actually eating at Burger King in arrivals when they called your flight for boarding. Small world.
That’s hilarious. Stefan K suggested I spend a few nights in ABJ, which I would have loved to do, but TK would not let me have a stopover on the ticket.
You left cake and panna cotta, two offenses that are simply unforgivable! Scoundrel!
Lol. Well, I eat so much food I have to cut back somewhere.
Business class for a 7 hr flight should not have a reclining seat. It needs to be a flat bed.
That looked more like a high end premium economy flight (like on Air New Zealand or Emirates)
Agreed that it is not industry-leading by any means, but comfortable enough (I was able to sleep).
Had they kept their premium economy cabin, they could have sold this cabin as premium economy. Would not have been misleading at all.
Seems similar to how their old comfort class has been described
I do miss Comfort Class on TK.
I had the exact same sea bass dish for a IST-ATL flight in Jan 2020! Agreed that it was very tasty despite the slightly weird presentation.
I presume it is in the wax paper for cooking?
When was the flight? I wanted to confirm that this was a recent flight since so many reviews commented on a downgrade to the food service due to COVID. The food you received appear much better than every other recent review. Thanks.
That sandwich looks terrible! They couldn’t even be bothered to spread the butter!
That’s feta cheese. Was very tasty, though the bread could have been fresher.
Lol, no I was talking about the blob of butter in the middle of the left hand side portion of bread.
Oh! I see.
Damn.. that’s some legroom! Especially in a 737. You’ve got a good feet or so of room past the leg rest/footrest! I wonder if the 737s are weight restricted for the long hops to Africa so they thought “might as well increase legroom”
Thank you for the review! I know this is super individual, but how good so you think chances are having a good night sleep with maximum recline? I usually can’t sleep in “regular” flight seats.