Turkish Airlines has just one giant, central departure lounge at their their hub airport in Istanbul. It is commonly known as the CIP lounge, for “commercially important passengers,” like those traveling in premium cabins. After the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, however, Turkish Airlines changed the name of the lounge to the “July 15 Heroes of Democracy” Lounge.
This trip report/review is part of a series. See also:
- 1. Trip to Southeast Asia – Introduction
- 2. Hyatt at the Bellevue, Philadelphia (King Room)
- 3. Hyatt at the Bellevue, Philadelphia (Junior Suite)
- 4. EVA Air Royal Laurel (Business Class) “Hello Kitty” Jet Houston-Taipei
- 5. Grand Hyatt Taipei (Haunted?) Grand Suite
- 6. InterContinental Hong Kong Patio Room
- 7. Coral Executive Lounge Bangkok-Don Mueang
- 8. AirAsia “Premium Flex” Chiang Mai to Bangkok-Don Mueang
- 9. Conrad Bangkok (King Room)
- 10. Conrad Bangkok Executive Lounge
- 11. Conrad Bangkok Presidential Suite Bedroom
- 12. Grand Hyatt Bangkok Grand King Room
- 13. Thai Airways 777-300ER Royal Silk Business Class Bangkok to Stockholm
- 14. Park Hyatt Istanbul Park Deluxe Twin Room
- 15. Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul (“July 15 Heroes of Democracy Lounge”)
- 16. Turkish Airlines A330 Business Class Istanbul-Washington DC
I arrived at the airport about 4 hours before my flight, because I wasn’t sure how bad the traffic would be, and I wanted to spend some time in this famous lounge. Turkish Airlines has a dedicated check-in area for premium passengers, and I received my boarding pass in a couple of minutes.
Unlike my experience when I arrived in Istanbul, I didn’t notice a special security or immigration lane at Departures. However, the wait wasn’t too bad, and in just 20 minutes I was through to the secure area.
Where Do I Even Begin?
This Turkish Airlines lounge spans two floors, and Turkish claims that its has a capacity of 2000 passengers. I think you really have to visit to get a sense of how massive this place is.
To access the lounge, you simply scan your boarding pass at the automated gates. If needed, however, a few agents at the desk are also available to help.
Immediately upon entering the lounge, I was greeted by a library complete with a pool table. No. Big. Deal.
To the left of the library was a giant TV screen with Batman vs. Superman promotions. Turkish Airlines is the official partner of the movie, and they even had Batman vs. Superman branded amenity kits in-flight.
Upon turning right, there was a large luggage storage area. Instead of just open shelves for bags, there were individually lockers where you could set your own PIN. Setting up was a breeze, but my PIN didn’t work when I tried to re-open my locker. I asked an attendant for help, and she quickly unlocked my locker after taking down my information. Within a few minutes, I saw a few more passengers being helped for the same issue, so it might be a pretty common occurrence. If you are using one of these, I’d recommend leaving a few minutes earlier in case your locker malfunctions.
Following along the entry way, there was a movie theater to the right. A popcorn machine at the entrance completes the experience.
I walked pass a small seating area, and came across a few computer stations.
Right next to the work stations was a concierge desk. They were there to make bookings for showers and day suites; sadly, I didn’t have time to check them out.
At this point, I was already impressed with the lounge. Passing through the seating area, however, opened up into a huge atrium.
The Turkish “globe” contained multiple stairs leading to the lower level. It’s a grand centerpiece for the lounge that was also practical.
By the stairs was a directory for the lounge. With a lounge this big, I can see how people could get lost.
Upper Level Layout
I settled down in a small arm chair, and decided to explore a little bit. In one corner there was a grand piano that was self-playing.
There were tons of seating options, from couches that face each other to arm chairs accompanied by coffee tables, many of them surround the center atrium.
In another corner of the lounge, there were more seating options in a more garden-like setting. I have to point out, however, that the lounge was actually pretty crowded.
There were also a few walls with multiple TVs tuned to different news channels.
On a few stations scattered around the lounge, there were newspapers in multiple languages. Turkish Airlines flies to the most countries out of all airlines, so it’s nice that they have TV channels and newspapers that cater to a worldwide audience.
WiFi was free, though the connection was a bit unsteady and on the slow side. I won’t reveal the password in its entirety, but you can see that even the password showed hints regarding the July 15 failed coup attempt.
Upper Level Food & Beverages
There were many beverage stations all over the lounge. Some had open refrigerators with a wide variety of cold beverages.
The liquor stands featured a pretty standard Business Class-type offering.
Some tables had coffee and tea, and the classic Turkish Tea was also available (on the left).
There were also some wine carts in pretty random locations, with both red and white wines.
Food stations were also found all over the lounge. Some had cold options, like salads, antipasto, and fresh fruits.
Some featured hot soups.
A semi made-to-order station had some grilled options. I say “semi” because it’s technically set up like a buffet, but the demand was so high that most of the time there was a line, so they just grilled whatever the person in the front of the line wanted.
For those who are craving a snack, there were also a variety of Turkish desserts and pastries, and the larger-than-I-have-ever-seen-in-a-lounge olive selections.
Looking down from the upper level, you can see a cafe style set up at the bottom of the atrium.
The lower level of the lounge in many ways resembled the upper level, so I won’t repeat them. It featured many of the similar food and beverage stations, and had tons of similar seating options as well. If anything, it was a bit more low key, and definitely not as crowded.
There was a restaurant-style seating area, for those hoping to dine on an actual table.
Because one piano is never enough in a lounge, the Turkish Airlines lounge has another piano on the lower level.
There were a few unique F&B options here, like ayran (a traditional Turkish yoghurt drink) and manti, which are mini raviolis filled with lamb (and super delicious).
I have long held the belief that Business Class is more about the hard product than delivering a personal, luxurious experience—that’s what First Class is about. This lounge shows that Turkish Airlines seem to think the same way when it comes to their Business Class ground services.
This Turkish Airlines Lounge was massive, filled with entertainment options and food & beverage offerings, as well as amenities like showers and work stations. But with a capacity of ~2,000 passengers, the lounge wasn’t personal. It felt like I was just in another airport terminal, or maybe an adult playground, except the food and drinks were free.
Don’t get me wrong, this lounge is easily one of the most over the top lounges, and is absolutely solid for Business Class. I am glad I spent some time in it, and probably would again for future flights. It’s a great spot to wait for a flight, but I would hardly call this lounge a spot to “relax,” unless you get a day suites or shower.
Should you budget extra time to check out this lounge if you’re going through Istanbul? Absolutely! It was an impressive lounge worth experiencing; I just wouldn’t expect an oasis within a hectic airport terminal.