Right off the bat I’ll say that Turkish Airlines has one of the best lounges I’ve been to. The main reason? The food. Ask anyone who has been to the lounge in Istanbul airport and they probably remember the vast selection of food available. That being said, an airport lounge review cannot just be about the food, so I’ll give you a full rundown of the entire thing.
In late 2018 a new airport opened up in Istanbul, replacing the older Istanbul Ataturk International Airport. The new one, simply called Istanbul Airport is the largest airport terminal under a single roof. It is absolutely massive, and because of that there is not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR lounges dedicated just for Turkish airlines and other Star Alliance passengers. How should you know which one to visit?
Luckily, Turkish airlines has decided that for you. You see, to reduce overcrowding in a lounge, each lounge is meant for different types of passengers. There is one for Star Alliance Gold card holders, one for business travelers, one for first class travelers, and one…I’m not so sure, as I’ve never been to it. The good news is, for all intents and purposes, they are mirror images of each other.
I’ve usually go to the Star Alliance Gold card lounge, but on a recent trip to Paros, Greece I used my free upgrade voucher from Aegean Airlines to upgrade to business class. I never pay for business class in Europe, as it’s never worth it, but I’ll take free upgrades any day of the week. This just confirmed that the lounges are exactly the same, with the only difference being the business class lounge was slightly less crowded.
All of the lounges are on the second floor and reachable by escalator (or elevator for disabled passengers). At the base of the escalator there is an attendant checking your ticket to make sure you are heading up to the right Turkish Airlines airport lounge.
At the top of the escalator there is a check in desk, and then you can proceed to a scanner gate to be admitted into the lounge. Right past the gate there is a wi-fi kiosk to get your username and password for the internet. I have always found the internet here to be decently fast (enough to upload pictures to my website at least) which is a nice change from the old Ataturk airport where the wi-fi almost seemed nonexistent.
I have to say, the design is a little bit strange. Part of the lounge looks modern and chic, and part looks like an Italian trattoria, with faux brick walls and hanging vines. I was not off-put by this, it just seemed like an odd design choice to me.
There is PLENTY of seating all over the place, and I’ve never not been able to find a place to sit. You can sit right in front near the aforementioned Italian trattoria section with a player piano and the hot food stands, or you can proceed down a ways to a more open section overlooking the walking promenade.
They even have a kids section with a model airplane and some soft mats to give the children something to do.
Another room is a dark room with a large projection screen playing tv shows or films on silent. I never go in here but I can see it being relaxing for people who just want to lay back and have a rest. There is an open space for those who want to watch the news.
The bathrooms are huge and always clean, although depending on where you are sitting you may have a bit of a walk as the lounge is just so long.
There are tons of staff in the lounge, however there are two issues I’ve noticed. I still don’t think they have enough staff, and the ones that are bussing tables are always running around. Twice I’ve seen accidents where they have collided with a guest and dropped plates! Again, this isn’t the worst thing, I just don’t like seeing them so stressed out. The lounge should hire some more staff so they can walk, not run. All the staff are lovely people though, so maybe that’s why I don’t like seeing them running all over the place.
Now to the best part of the Istanbul airport lounge in my opinion—the food!
There are three four sided kiosks in the Italian trattoria section, two of the sides serving up hot dishes. These are usually Turkish classics like Manti, Pide, soups, and more, and it is nice to be able to get great hot food in a lounge. Unfortunately there is usually a line to get some food, but the workers are constantly cooking, so I’ve never had to wait more than 5 minutes to try something. My favorite thing is how whenever the cooks have downtime they are always cleaning their stations. It makes me feel good to know they take cleanliness seriously.
There is a self service salad bar section with a huge number of cold cuts, vegetables, cheeses, olives, and dressings, which is great if you are trying to stay healthy before your flight to a tropical beach vacation. Or you can go straight to the noodle/pasta made to order section and carbo-load to your hearts content.
One of my personal favorite sections is the simit cart. Just like the street carts you’ll find all over Istanbul, this simit cart is constantly replenished with fresh warm simit, along with some delicious countryside butter from the Trabzon region of Turkey.
There are multiple refrigerators with all the drinks you can imaging, a few dessert tables with pastries, cakes, and more, and TWO barista sections. You can stay basic with a classic espresso, or get a delicious Turkish coffee made to order.
In my opinion the food makes this lounge great, since many airport lounges do not always provide that great of a spread.
My one major criticism of the lounge is that the chairs are not that comfortable. They are a bit blocky and if I’m not mistaken they are the same ones from the previous lounge at Ataturk. However as far as criticisms go, that’s pretty minor in my opinion.
If you are coming with suitcases/bags, there is a place right by the front where you can leave them in a locker, so you won’t have to worry about safety as you make the many trips back and forth to get your food.
There are no announcements for flights over a PA system like you’ll find in some lounges, so you do have to be vigilant in keeping track of your time. However there are plenty of screens showing all gate information for outbound flights all over the place so you shouldn’t worry about missing your flight.