Behind the Scenes with Turkish Airlines: Food, Safety, Training, and Smiles

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
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Have you ever wondered how a successful airline does it? How they coordinate everything, AND make it work? Too often, we focus on weather delays, grumpy passengers, lines at airports. But there is so much that goes RIGHT, and we don't pay attention to it. I never thought about it, until I headed backstage at Turkish Airlines in Istanbul. 

Behind the scenes with Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines hosted the most influential travel bloggers for a visit this past May (thank you!!). You may have read my articles (more to come!) or seen the hundreds of photos on Instagram (I can't help it! Turkey is amazing). Today, I'll take you behind the scenes with me, as our group explored three interesting areas that most people give no thought to (as I did). It was a rare, interesting opportunity, and I'm glad to share it.

Did you know that Turkish Airlines started in 1933 - with 5 airplanes? It's now much larger, with over 200 airplanes, a four-star airline with multiple awards around the world, serving 219 airports in 96 countries! So there's a lot that goes on backstage, to prepare for your journeys.

Did you ever think about your airplane food? How it is prepared - and how MUCH they have to prepare? Did you ever imagine the training that pilots, flight attendants, and other staff have to undertake? It's impressive. We toured the flight training center with enormous, multimillion dollar flight simulators. We learned about food - and saw HOW an airline creates the meals. And, we talked with flight attendants about safety and saw, firsthand, the training they go through. Let's dig in.

Let's start with food (not surprised, are you?). All of the food on Turkish Airlines is created by Turkish DO & CO, which is a company owned by Do & Co (an Austrian catering company) and Turkish Airlines. When I flew to Istanbul in business class, I was completely amazed at the food - it was like I was in a gourmet restaurant - complete with a flying chef! Don't even get me started on the amazing food at the Istanbul Airport's TA Business Class Lounge. How do they do it? Well, we headed to Turkish DO & CO's Istanbul headquarters to find out.

Turkish DO & CO, Istanbul

Fresh beverages at Turkish DO & CO, Istanbul

See those smiles? Our guide, Ali, and a Turkish DO&CO attendant

First, we filed our way into a seating area that resembled an airplane. We chose our seats and got comfortable. Soon, there was a presentation on how the food is created, how each airplane has its own trained chef, and more. AND then, we were served a delicious lunch, complete with desserts and Turkish Tea - AND Turkish coffee! 

Getting ready to sample a meal at Turkish DO&CO, Istanbul

Getting ready to sample a meal at Turkish DO&CO

Learning about the flying chef at Turkish Airlines DO & CO

Learning about the flying chefs - quite a lot of education in this training program

The flying chef that attended us at Turkish DO&CO

The flying chef that attended us at Turkish DO&CO (more smiles!)

Business class meal entree at Turkish DO&CO, Istanbul

Business class meal appetizers at Turkish DO&CO

Dessert sampler at Turkish DO&CO, Istanbul

You don't have to choose which dessert you want - you get them ALL 

Turkish Tea

Turkish tea...and coffee

Turkish coffee

Then we donned lab coats, foot booties, and hairnets and went into the belly of the beast. Why Beast? Well, think of the thousands of flights a day - and all the food that has to be served. We passed a slew of dishware, a line of women making beautiful salad plates, hundreds of those skinny food carts that can fit in airplane aisles, and even bundled newspapers for the planes. I can't even imagine the beastly logistics involved, after seeing this! It was impeccably clean, and very cool inside. I will never take another airplane meal for granted - there's a lot of work and care that goes into them.

Creating salads at Turkish DO&CO, for Turkish Airlines flights

Creating salads at Turkish DO&CO, for Turkish Airlines flights

That's a LOT of salad. Turkish DO&CO, Turkish Airlines, Istanbul

That's a LOT of salad

Dishes for airplane service, Turkish DO&CO, Turkish Airlines, Istanvul

Dishes for airplane service. Let's be honest. I just wanted to shop here.

A plethora of airplane food carts, at Turkish DO&CO, Turkish Airlines, Istanbul

A plethora of airplane food carts. See those huge computer screens? Can you imagine sorting out all those meals?

Newspapers in every language, ready for today's flights. Turkish Airlines.

Newspapers in every language, ready for today's flights

Filling the food carts with meals for Turkish Airlines

Filling the food carts with meals

We also toured Turkish Technic, which is the maintenance wing of Turkish Airlines. There were enormous hangars filled with planes in all stages of maintenance - engine repair, painting, and other repairs. Imagine how enormous the hangars are, to make the planes seem so small - and fit them all in! You know how I like to imagine complicated photos as puzzles? There are a few here I'd like as 1,000 piece puzzles... 

At Turkish Technic, Turkish Airlines repair hangars

Airplanes being repaired, Turkish Technic

Airplanes being repaired, Turkish Technic, Turkish Airlines

Seats past their use. Turkish Technic, Turkish Airlines

Safety first! This we saw throughout, at Turkish Technic, Turkish Airlines

Safety first! This we saw throughout, at Turkish Technic

Turkish Technic repair Hangar, Istanbul

Airplanes being repaired, Turkish Technic

Airplanes being repaired, Turkish Technic

Airplanes being repaired, Turkish Technic

You know this would make a great puzzle!

Safety sign, Turkish Technic

Safety signs are posted throughout the buildings

safety signs, Turkish Technic

Various parts of Turkish Technic, to fix all aspects of the aircraft

Various parts of Turkish Technic, to fix all aspects of the aircraft

Parts of Turkish Technic, Turkish Airlines

Turkish Technic can fix everything on an aircraft

Enormous airplane tires, Turkish Technic

I think they should use these old airplane tires for NFL practices. HA!

The last stop (and the one with the least photos, because my camera broke) was the facility where flight staff training occurs. Think fires, water landings, opening doors in emergencies, sliding down inflated chutes (alas, no one is allowed to do it here), and a series of large, warehouse-type rooms with multi-million dollar flight simulators. Here, the pilots can train for any weather, anywhere in the world. We filed in and saw different airports all over the world through the front windows, all kinds of weather, and even turbulence. It was remarkable, and taught me never to underestimate the training these pilots have. We saw flight attendants put out fires - REAL ONES! - very quickly.

Turkish Airlines pilot and flight attendant training facility

You'd have no idea what incredible work goes on behind these doors...

At the Turkish Airlines Staff Training Center, Istanbul

Training things like this, and this...

At the Turkish Airlines Staff Training Center, Istanbul

At the Turkish Airlines Staff Training Center, Istanbul

At the Turkish Airlines Staff Training Center, Istanbul

Travel writers, evacuate!

Multimillion dollar flight simulator for pilot training

This huge flight simulator is propped up in the air on enourmous hydraulic legs, which work to mimic turbulence and landing

Inside, we saw airports and weather from around the world:

At the Turkish Airlines flight training simulator, Istanbul

At the Turkish Airlines flight training simulator, Istanbul

At the Turkish Airlines flight training simulator, Istanbul

At the Turkish Airlines flight training simulator, Istanbul

I love Turkish Airlines!

I love Turkish Airlines!

Cats in Istanbul

Cats everywhere in Istanbul, even this pilot cat on break at the training facility

And the smiles? Well, Turkey is known for its hospitality. There are always smiles, and friendliness, and helpfulness. Everywhere we went backstage at Turkish Airlines, it was the same. Smiles. Which I love, and return. It's a great form of intercultural communication.

Smiles at Turkish Airlines training campus, Istanbul

Yes, she was as nice as she looks! Very helpful, smart, and great at putting out fires quickly

 

It is rare to be able to learn how an organization works from backstage - I feel very lucky to have  toured these three campuses at Turkish Airlines, and have gotten a small peek into what makes one of the most popular and awarded airlines in the world work. I'll never look at flying the same way again - the thousands of hours behind each flight I take. It's impressive! 

 

Note: If you're flying Turkish Airlines through Istanbul, you probably won't be able to partake in this amazing learning experience we had (I'm so thankful!). However, if you have a layover, you CAN experience a pretty cool program from Turkish Airlines that is FREE and offers tours, meals, and more - all about exploring Istanbul (one of my favorite cities!). Learn about it here: http://www.istanbulinhours.com/

More: #LoveFromTurkey
 

Turkish Airlines flight staff training facility, Istanbul

 

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Wandering Educators

 

 

 

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