Airlines—especially flagship carriers—have the awesome opportunity to create compelling brands that connect, in ways both obvious and creative, with their home cultures. Turkish Airlines, which I just had the pleasure of flying for the very first time, does a very good job of connecting its service as an airline to the brand of Turkey.
Last week I flew from New York’s JFK to Istanbul and connected from there to Sofia. Aside from the duration of the layover in Istanbul (six hours!) the journey was very pleasant. The layover in Istanbul was also a blast, despite my personal jetlag-induced fog. Turkish Airlines has very wisely turned Istanbul into an intercontinental hub. Loads of passengers on my flight were continuing on to places like Tel Aviv and Tashkent, and massive numbers of Dutch and German tourists were heading home. The airport is a thoroughgoing cultural crossing point.
Onboard Turkish Airlines
But back to the Turkish Airlines experience.
Let’s start with the best bit of branding, the showcased food items. Our pre-dinner drinks on the JFK-Istanbul flight came with little bags of hazelnuts, replete with the propagandistic slogan “The Miracle Nut Hazelnut Comes from Turkey.” The question of origin aside, this particular miracle nut is a pretty delicious introduction to a meal service. The dinner that followed was unexpectedly tasty. It included a small tube of very flavorful olive oil and lemon juice packaged to call attention to its Turkish provenance.
Also of note: the yogurt cucumber salad served with dinner and the sandwiches passed out late at night, between dinner and breakfast. We’re talking about airplane food, granted, but everything was pretty acceptably tasty. I can only imagine what sorts of things passengers at the front of the plane were eating.
My second flight, from Istanbul to Sofia, was in the air for fifty minutes or so. According to the flight distances list posted in the back pages of the airline’s in-flight magazine, the Istanbul-Sofia flight is Turkish Airlines’ shortest international journey. Nonetheless, a decent meal and drinks were served in that short window. The meal contained another gorgeous tube of olive oil and lemon juice.
A little reading
The April edition of Skylife, the Turkish Airlines in-flight magazine, continues the work of interweaving airline and national brands. The issue’s best articles: lengthy spreads on Denizli and Ekaterinburg, both with multiple images, and a short piece on a trio of Turkish springtime destinations.
Most exciting of all is the route map in the back of the magazine, with its documentation of Turkish Airlines’ impressive list of routes. The links across Central Asia, the eastern end of the Mediterranean, and the Gulf States will no doubt appear especially suggestive to seasoned European travelers looking to push beyond Europe. The airline’s domestic routes across Turkey are also impressive.
Next week I’ll fly back to New York on Turkish Airlines from Chisinau via Istanbul. Here’s hoping for a similarly enjoyable return journey.