Review: Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul (“July 15 Heroes of Democracy Lounge”) – Absolutely INSANE!

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:

Checking In

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.

Turkish Airlines Business Class Check-in

Turkish Airlines Business Class Check-in

Turkish Airlines Business Class Check-in

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.

Turkish Airlines Lounge - Entrance

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge

Turkish Airlines Lounge

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.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge Check-In

Immediately upon entering the lounge, I was greeted by a library complete with a pool table. No. Big. Deal.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge Library

Turkish Airlines Lounge Library

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.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Batman vs. Superman

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Batman vs. Superman

Turkish Airlines Lounge – Batman vs. Superman

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.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Lockers

Following along the entry way, there was a movie theater to the right. A popcorn machine at the entrance completes the experience.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Movie Theater

I walked pass a small seating area, and came across a few computer stations.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Work 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.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Day Suites and Showers

At this point, I was already impressed with the lounge. Passing through the seating area, however, opened up into a huge atrium.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Atrium

The Turkish “globe” contained multiple stairs leading to the lower level. It’s a grand centerpiece for the lounge that was also practical.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Atrium

By the stairs was a directory for the lounge. With a lounge this big, I can see how people could get lost.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Directory

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.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Piano

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Piano

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.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Seating

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.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Seating

There were also a few walls with multiple TVs tuned to different news channels.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - TV

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.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Newspaper

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.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - WiFi

Upper Level Food & Beverages

There were many beverage stations all over the lounge. Some had open refrigerators with a wide variety of cold beverages.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Beverages

The liquor stands featured a pretty standard Business Class-type offering.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Alcohol

Some tables had coffee and tea, and the classic Turkish Tea was also available (on the left).

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Coffee & Tea

There were also some wine carts in pretty random locations, with both red and white wines.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Wine Cart

Food stations were also found all over the lounge. Some had cold options, like salads, antipasto, and fresh fruits.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Cold Food Options

Some featured hot soups.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - 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.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Grilled Selections

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Grilled Selections

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge – Grilled Selections

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.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Olives

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Lower Level

Looking down from the upper level, you can see a cafe style set up at the bottom of the atrium.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Cafe

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.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Cafe

Because one piano is never enough in a lounge, the Turkish Airlines lounge has another piano on the lower level.

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Piano

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).

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Ayran

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge – Ayran

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge - Manti

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge – Manti

Overall Impression

I have long held the belief that Business Class is more about the hard product than delivering a personalluxurious 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.

Comments

  1. I think the crowds depend a lot on the time. I was there from 4:00 pm to midnight (yup, very long layover) and it was a little busy only for an hour or so around 7-8. Otherwise it was very quiet.

  2. You didn’t mentioned that the airport itself was hectic but on the contrary you end your review the airpor was hectic.
    After a reasonable waiting time and crowded I assume I did understand why did call the airport was actually hectic?!?

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