I am fresh off an impromptu week-long trip to Istanbul and Berlin, booked on a whim for only about 110,000 points round-trip in business class (more on this in another post). There were plenty of highlights from my trip, but one I was most excited about was flying through the brand new Istanbul airport — which opened just over a month ago — and experiencing Turkish Airlines’ premium ground handling, from both an originating and connecting standpoint.
While Ben over at OMAAT already beat me to reviewing the Turkish Airlines business class lounge at the new airport, I wanted to quickly offer my impressions of the lounge and the airport (full trip report to come) as well as to highlight the carrier’s strong ground handling for originating passengers.
Breaking It Down:
New Istanbul Airport Design
The new Istanbul airport, for starters, is beautifully designed. The very high ceiling features convex dome-like structures and countless small skylights that allow in natural light. The sheer size of the building and the high ceiling lend an almost endless feeling to the terminal. As others have noted, the terminal is very large and spread out, and while I was fortunate enough to not have been rushed, the layout and sheer scope of the space could present problems to people on tight connections. However, all this beauty did come at a cost to workers’ lives who were building this airport.
Istanbul Airport Premium Security Entrance
Unsurprisingly, given that IST is Turkish Airlines’ home base, there is a dedicated priority entrance to the terminal for premium cabin passengers and elites.
There is a dedicated premium check-in area just past the priority entrance. This area is split into one section for Turkish elites and one section for business class passengers. Of note, while there is a separate area for Star Alliance Gold passengers, it seems that non-Turkish Star Alliance Gold elites are not entitled to use this check-in area.
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul Airport
Square footage-wise, the new Turkish Airlines business class lounge is comparable if not a bit smaller than the previous lounge. At times the lounge did fill up, but finding seating never seemed to be an issue for anyone. The lounge consists of a main area with “cabana-style” structures with various food stations and seating options, as well as a more quiet, darkly-lit “library” area.
In addition, the lounge also offers plenty of open seating and a workstation space with a number of computers.
One of the most striking things to me about the lounge was the incredibly thoughtful design that went into everything. For instance, rather than having a single area with food options, the offerings are instead spread throughout the lounge, thereby reducing congestion (and allowing for self-guided walk-through food tours of the lounge…).
In addition, there is a luggage storage area with rows of self-service lockers that are both well-sized and have transparent doors for easy identification of items. What a concept! If only more lounges offered something similar…
The true highlight of the lounge, however, is of course the catering. Turkish Airlines has long been renowned for its food, both in the air and on the ground, and the new business class lounge does not disappoint. I’ll have more details in my full review, but suffice it to say that I could not stop eating. From Turkish specialty dishes to international options, the lounge offers an exceptional dining experience for all.
Moreover, the lounge has what is the truest “open kitchen” concept of any business class lounge in the world, with chefs preparing food at each station. The Turkish specialty dishes, additionally, had informational displays, which I found to be a very nice touch.
The lounge also has a number random features, including a mini-model of the city of Istanbul with a controllable toy racetrack with cars, a golf simulator, and a mini-art museum.
Finally, for those who may be visiting the lounge before my full review comes out, I would be remiss to not mention the Wi-Fi. Several who visited the lounge when it first opened mentioned the unusably slow wifi. I am happy to report that over my two visits and roughly ten cumulative hours in the lounge, I had no issues with the Wi-Fi at all and found it to be just fine.
While Turkish Airlines’ previous business class lounge at the old Ataturk airport was already quite good, the carrier’s lounge at the new airport is decidedly better. With a good amount of space, very thoughtful design, and the fantastic Do & Co catering that Turkish Airlines is renowned for, this is easily one of the best business class lounges in the world. Throw in the dedicated premium/elite entrance, check-in, and security, and the whole ground experience at the new IST becomes a truly industry-leading business class experience.
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