Review of Turkish Airlines flight Sofia Istanbul in Economy

Airline Turkish Airlines
Flight TK1030
Class Economy
Seat 19A
Aircraft Boeing 737-800
Flight time 01:30
Take-off 24 Apr 21, 21:25
Arrival at 24 Apr 21, 22:55
TK   #15 out of 85 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 729 reviews
By 1183
Published on 4th May 2021


A very warm welcome back to my current series, dear Flight-Report community! In part 2 of this series, I'll be flying Turkish Airlines for the first time in a long while. I had previously only flown one trip on Turkish Airlines: a SOF-IST-IAH trip shortly after they launched their IST-IAH route back in 2013. While I don't remember much about the SOF-IST leg of that trip (it was a perfectly average flight in coach on an A319), I remember being blown away by the soft product I experienced in Business Class on the 777-300ER-operated flight to Houston. While I really wanted to fly with Turkish a lot after that experience, a good opportunity never arose until now. So I do hope you'll enjoy reading about the next two segments as much I enjoyed flying them, and let's dive in!

trip information

I originally booked a basic VIE-SOF-VIE roundtrip for 16,000 United Miles. Upon booking, my routing looked like this:

OS799 | Vienna - Sofia | Embraer 195
OS798 | Sofia - Vienna | Airbus A319

However, I got my vaccine dose, my dad (who I was travelling with for this journey) and I decided to celebrate the occasion by changing the return to a very exciting routing, which I'll now reveal:

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Thanks to United's elimination of their award chart, this itinerary cost 6.5k Miles, exactly the same as the nonstop SOF-VIE flight. United now offers much cheap connecting awards, so I'll be sure to take advantage of those!

In addition to the cool routing and being able to fly Turkish Airlines again, this trip was also special for two other reasons: it would include my  first flight on an Airbus A321neo, and also, sadly, my very last flight on an Austrian Dash 8, which are being retired next month.

the evening of departure

At around 7:20 PM, a taxi came to pick us up and drive us to the airport. The ride to Sofia Airport took us past some nice parts of the city…

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…and some parts like that have definitely seen better days.

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sofia airport (sof)

After a 13-minute ride, we pulled up to an absolutely deserted curbside.

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Inside, the terminal was just as empty. Our flight to Istanbul would be the only flight left to depart…

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Heading to the check-in desk to check my suitcase.

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Dropping of my bag only took a moment, and then I was off to security. It was nice to admire SOF's resident TK Flight Attendant knowing that in just a few minutes I'd be flying on her lovely airline!

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Security and passport control took a combined 3 minutes, and just like that I was airside. Like I said above, my flight was the only one for the evening…

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…which once again meant a deserted terminal 😩

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At least there was a nice sunset going on outside.

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On the other side of the terminal, a glimpse at a rare bird: one of GullivAir's two A330-200s. For those of you unfamiliar with GullivAir, they are a new Bulgarian carrier that flies to leisure destinations from Sofia and Bucharest. I believe that they are also hoping to start flights to the US and Canada, though I highly doubt that those plans will work out. You can read more about them here.

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vitosha aspire lounge sofia

After roaming the empty terminal, I headed to the lounge. While I lost my status after not flying for long, my dad still managed to re-qualify for United Premier Platinum status in 2020, which is one tier below Premier 1K. As Premier Platinum's are also Star Gold members, he was able to bring me into the lounge with him.

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Not much going on in the lounge…

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…but I still managed to grab a couple of sandwiches. I was expecting that Turkish would offer a snack onboard, but still ate in the lounge just in case I was wrong.

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boarding + initial impressions

Just before boarding was announced, I headed to Gate A1, which seems to be Turkish's default gate at Sofia.

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For some reason, a very nasty gate agent gave me a hard time for having a mobile boarding pass on my phone, but eventually let me through into the holding pen.

Looking through the window of the holding pen, I was able to catch a glimpse of a beautiful sky, and also of my aircraft. TC-JVZ, the 6000th Boeing 737NG ever built, would be flying me to Istanbul. Manufactured and delivered to Turkish Airlines in July 2016, the aircraft, named 'Beştepe', was 4.8-years old at the time of my flight. 

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Down the jetbridge.

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Inside the jetbridge, a very polite flight attendant was standing with a tray of earbuds and a hygiene kit for everyone. Once I stepped onboard, I was greeted by a kind purser and made my way through the Business Class cabin. Not bad for intra-European flights! 😃

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The Economy Class section was also pretty slick, especially with the jet black/red color combination.

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At my seat, 19A.

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Great legroom, too!

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In the seatback pocket were an airsickness bag…

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…as well as the safety instructions.

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And the best feature of the cabin: PTVs!

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Great selection of entertainment. You won't get bored on one of TK's longer 737 segments, and definitely not on the 55-minute SOF-IST flight 🙈

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The screen itself was very responsive to touch, but could also be controlled with a controller below the tray table.

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The seat also has an adjustable headrest, which I wouldn't need to use on this short flight.

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Once I finished acquainting myself with the seat, I decided to check out the contents of the hygiene kit that I was handed at the door.

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A mask and two antiseptic wipes. Props to TK for offering these kits!

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I should note that while boarding music was playing, I was a little disappointed to find out that Turkish no longer plays this incredible song onboard:

turkish airlines 1030 - sofia to istanbul

With just 43 passengers on board, the boarding process was finished fairly quickly, and the Captain made his welcome announcement, informing us of a 55-minute flight time and cruising altitude of 23,000 feet. Then we pushed back.

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Cabin lights while leaving the gate.

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As we pushed, the safety video was played. I hadn't seen a safety video seen my MIA-MXP flight on AA in January 2020!

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If anyone's interested, here's the video:

Engine start.

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Beginning our taxi to Runway 09.

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Just a faint blue light in the cabin as we made our way across the tarmac.

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Passing Terminal 1, used exclusively by LCCs.

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About to enter the runway.

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departure from sofia

Rolling takeoff.

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See you next month, Sofia!

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Always great to have a map on such a short flight 😁

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Takeoff video:


Just minutes after takeoff, the cabin lights were turned on, and the crew sprung into action.

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To my disappointment, we were only offered a cup of water for the flight. Oh well, we are still at the tail end of a pandemic after all, and it's a short flight.

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Cruising in a dark Bulgarian sky.

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With such a short flight time, I only managed to watch one episode of the Big Bang Theory.

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Some lights down below.

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A look at the modern PSU.

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Turkish logo on the headrest…

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…and on the seatbelt buckle.

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The only issue I found with the seat was the IFE box, but for small guys like me, it's not a problem.

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arrival into istanbul

Just as we crossed into Turkish airspace, the captain announced that we had begun our descent into Istanbul.

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The map during our descent.

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Once I realized that we would be approaching from the south, I hopped across the aisle to 19F in hopes to get a good view of the city on approach.

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Cabin from my new seat.

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Büyükçekmece, Turkey.

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Turning final.

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Looking towards the old Ataturk Airport, which you can see if you look closely.

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Unfortunately, we didn't quite get as close to the Bosporus as I had hoped we would, so the views weren't amazing.

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On short final.

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Over the airport.

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A very firm touchdown on Runway 35R at 10:23 PM, 32 minutes early, after a flight time of 53 minutes.

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Slowing down.

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Landing video:

Cabin after arrival.

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Pulling into our remote stand.

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One last look at my seat for the tail-end of the flight.

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I bid farewell to the crew and exited the aircraft from the rear, which was great as I could snap a couple of photos of the aircraft.

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One last look at the 6000th B737NG. Thanks for the ride!

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routing of tk1030

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Nothing much to report here, we flew a fairly direct flight at 23,000ft and had a basic arrival into Istanbul without a holding pattern.

Thanks for joining me on this report, and if you'd like to read about the transit experience at Istanbul Airport and brief review of the Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Lounge, feel free to read the bonus below! If not, I hope you enjoyed this report, and I hope to see you in the next installment!

Bonus : Click here display
See more


Turkish Airlines

Cabin crew8.0

Swissport Aspire Lounge - 2


Sofia - SOF


Istanbul - IST



I had very high expectations coming into to the experience, and Turkish just about knocked it out of the park in every aspect.

+ Very nice cabin
+ Stellar entertainment options
+ Friendly cabin crew
+ Fantastic Istanbul Airport experience
- Rude staff in Sofia
- No snack provided on board

I'd fly Turkish again in a heartbeat whenever the chance arises. I'd say that they are Europe's best airline.



If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 573689 by
    Leadership TEAM BRONZE 5388 Comments
    Hi NewYorker,
    Thank you for this nice and comprehensive report.
    Nice cabin indeed, probably the best you can get in an intra-european flight on a narrow body aircraft.
    The lack of service is disappointing, let's hope that it's only temporary and TK renowned catering will come back even on shortest sectors.
    Great bonus at IST, nice to see people travelling again.
    Shame about the catering offering in the lounge, it uses to be spectacular!
    And congratulation for your vaccine dose;)
    • Comment 573697 by
      NewYorker AUTHOR 187 Comments
      Hi Leadership, thanks for stopping by!
      Nice cabin indeed, probably the best you can get in an intra-european flight on a narrow body aircraft.

      Absolutely. In terms of comfort, I would say that most of TK's narrowbody cabins are even better than certain widebody cabins.
      let's hope that it's only temporary and TK renowned catering will come back even on shortest sectors.

      I hope so too. Without spoiling too much, I will say that the catering on my flight to VIE matched my expectations, so stay tuned for that! 😃
      nice to see people travelling again.

      My sentiment exactly! Let's hope that airports all across Europe will be as busy as IST sometime soon.
      it uses to be spectacular

      Yes, I remember that from my previous TK experience, although this time around the food itself was still remarkably tasty.
      And congratulation for your vaccine dose;)

      Thank you! All the best, and happy flying!
  • Comment 573690 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 6182 Comments
    Hi New Yorker, thanks for sharing another new pandemic-era FR!

    I was expecting to see TK's improved Covid-era catering in this report, but NOPE! Looks like this was too short of a flight to get a meal, which according to TK are now being served on flights over 2h.

    Aside from the sad nonexistent (except for a cup of water), the TK product is really good for short-haul.

    Thanks for sharing!
    • Comment 573698 by
      NewYorker AUTHOR 187 Comments
      Hi Kevin, nice to read your comment!
      Looks like this was too short of a flight to get a meal, which according to TK are now being served on flights over 2h.

      Yes I guess it was. According to TK, meals are being served on flights over 2h15m. Luckily for me, my IST-VIE flight was blocked at 2h20m, so I did get the chance to try some "real" TK catering. Stay tuned for that in the next report!
      the TK product is really good for short-haul.

      It most certainly is, and I hope to be able to fly them again back to Sofia later this month!
      Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you in the next installment. All the best!
  • Comment 573712 by
    Matthevv 163 Comments

    It was a very enjoyable report to read indeed! Thanks for sharing. I heard from so many people, TK is their favourite airline. I've got yet to try them but I've got them booked for September so let's keep fingers crossed.

    I should note that while boarding music was playing, I was a little disappointed to find out that Turkish no longer plays this incredible song onboard:

    That music is, oh my god, amazing! I've been listening to it every morning for the last week. It's such a shame they don't play it anymore :(

    It's nice to see IFE on such a short route, TK is known for that, but it's a pity you didn't get any snack... Did they serve any food in Business Class (if you know)?

    I'm looking forward to reading the report of A321neo!
    • Comment 573715 by
      NewYorker AUTHOR 187 Comments
      Hey Mateusz, nice to see you here!
      I've got yet to try them but I've got them booked for September so let's keep fingers crossed.

      Really hope you're able to experience them! Especially on a longer flight with a meal service. TK says they offer meals on flights over 2h15m in Y.
      That music is, oh my god, amazing! I've been listening to it every morning for the last week.

      Yes it truly is amazing! I've been listening to it since a few days before my flight, and it takes a lot of personal strength to stop playing it on repeat 😂
      Did they serve any food in Business Class (if you know)?

      Unfortunately I don't know. I was sitting a bit to far back to see what was going on up there. Though I may be flying TK for my return to SOF later this month, so if I can, I'll try and get a seat closer to the front and report!
      I'm looking forward to reading the report of A321neo!

      Hope to see you there. In the meantime, all the best!

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