Review: Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul Airport

Filed Under: Turkish

We had a very long layover in Istanbul — we landed from the Seychelles before 4AM, and departed for Los Angeles at 1PM, as flights to both cities are only offered at most once per day. Personally I didn’t mind having such a long layover since it would allow me to get work done between two longhaul flights.

Our bus from the remote stand dropped us off at the terminal, though it was still quite a walk to both the transfer and immigration center, which I found a bit odd. Usually the benefit of a remote stand is that the bus at least drops you off close to the arrivals area.

Istanbul Ataturk Airport terminal

Fortunately the terminal was quiet, and I was happy to get in some movement between two flights. We easily found the transit area, and there was almost no wait at security, so within five minutes we found ourselves in the departures area. Istanbul is getting a new airport later this year, which is great, though I have to say that the departures area of this terminal still looks quite nice.

Istanbul Ataturk Airport terminal

Istanbul Ataturk Airport terminal

We followed the signage towards the Turkish Airlines Lounge (formally known as the July 15 Heroes of Democracy Lounge). The airline has one main lounge at the airport, and it had a glass exterior with big curtains.

Turkish Airlines Lounge exterior

The Turkish Lounge has automated entry, so you scan your boarding pass and then the gate opens. There’s a customer service desk as well, in case you have issues with entering the lounge, or need help with your travels.

Turkish Airlines Lounge entrance

The Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul is massive — it’s over 30,000 square feet, spans two floors, and has all kinds of different “zones.”

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul

Near the entrance to the lounge is a luggage storage area.

Turkish Airlines Lounge luggage storage

Across from that is a pool table and library area.

Turkish Airlines Lounge pool table

Also in that area is an entertainment room that’s dark and has reclining seats, which seems to be where many people go to nap.

Turkish Airlines Lounge entertainment room

That entertainment room had a popcorn machine, which was a cute touch.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul food selection

Past those zones is a seemingly endless number of chairs, split pretty evenly between dining tables and more traditional lounge seating. I’ll let the pictures mostly speak for themselves.

Turkish Airlines Lounge seating

Turkish Airlines Lounge seating

Turkish Airlines Lounge seating

Turkish Airlines Lounge seating

Past that first main section of the lounge is a narrower hall with lower ceilings leading into the rest of the lounge, including the ground floor.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul

Past that hallway was the largest area of the lounge. While the “bones” of the building itself don’t look that great, Turkish does a great job distracting from that with the use of those circular-looking things above the various seating areas.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul seating

As you can see, the seating in the areas that don’t have that look significantly less nice.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul

Both floors of the lounge had pianos, which would automatically play music.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul piano

There was also a very small business center with some iMacs. I’m not sure if there was another business center and I just missed it, or if this is it, because it seemed awfully small to me.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul business center

The coolest-looking part of the lounge was the staircase leading to the lower level, which had a globe with the Turkish logo on it.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul lower level

The lower level had tons more seating, most of which was similar to what you’ll find on the upper level.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul lower level

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul lower level

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul lower level

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul dining area

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul lower level

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul seating

The lounge also had some other cool amenities, like a play area for kids, a golf simulator, and some sort of a racetrack set, or something (I’m still not sure what exactly that is).

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul play area for kids

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul golf simulator

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul

Unfortunately the lounge doesn’t have much in the way of views, and just looks out over a parking lot.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul view

The lounge also had some nice shower suites. Ford requested a shower shortly after we arrived, and there was a wait of about an hour. They give you a little pager that goes off when the shower is ready. Later on during our layover when I requested a shower, I was informed the wait would be three to four hours. Ouch.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul shower suite

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul shower suite

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul shower suite

To get Wi-Fi in the lounge you have to find one of the Wi-Fi kiosks and scan your ticket. I wish they had more of these throughout the lounge as it was tough to find them at times, and then several of them were also broken.

Wifi was a weak point of the lounge. When I first arrived it worked fine, but as the lounge filled up later in the morning, the Wi-Fi became almost unusable. Fast Wi-Fi should be one of the most basic amenities for a lounge.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul Wi-Fi code generator

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul shower suite

The Turkish Lounge is huge, and has many food and drink stations throughout. On the most basic level, there are at least a handful of stations that look like the below, with fridges that have soft drinks, as well as coffee and tea.

Turkish Airlines Lounge drink station

Turkish Airlines Lounge drink station

Each of these also has an espresso machine where one of the lounge attendants can make you an espresso or cappuccino (and the cappuccinos were great).

Turkish Airlines Lounge drink station

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul cappuccino 

Then there were some separate drink stations with liquor, and others had wine.

Turkish Airlines Lounge liquor selection

Then there were also at least a handful of stations throughout the lounge that had the same food selection all day, including fresh fruit.

Turkish Airlines Lounge snack station

The more substantial food was available at many stations, with a similar selection at each of them. For breakfast there was cheese, veggies, yogurt, muesli, oatmeal, and cereal.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul food selection

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul food selection

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul food selection

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul food selection

One of the awesome things about the Turkish Lounge is that it has many live cooking status throughout, so lounge food doesn’t get much fresher than this.

Turkish Airlines Lounge meal prep station

There was a selection of paninis, including grilled chicken and mozzarella paninis.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul food selection

Then there were eggs prepared a variety of ways.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul food selection

There were all kinds of fresh bread.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul food selection

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul food selection

For lunch the selection changed a bit, as they added salads and different types of veggies. For lounge food I was impressed by the quality of the food — the tomatoes, olives, etc., all looked really good.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul food selection

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul food selection

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul food selection

The dessert selection in the lounge looked outstanding. Seriously, check out those cakes!

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul dessert

One thing I’d note is that during peak hours the lounge got extremely crowded. Like, uncomfortably so. Turkish is a huge airline and all Star Alliance business class passengers and Star Alliance Gold passengers get access to the lounge, so during the morning rush there was barely an empty seat in the lounge. As you’d expect, there was also a line for almost everything.

One other major frustration I had with the lounge was the lack of outlets. The lounge barely had any outlets, which I find to be ridiculous. It’s not just that each seat didn’t have multiple plugs (which some new lounges have), but I actually had to spend several minutes trying to find a seat that did have an outlet.

While I like the overall decor of the lounge, it’s starting to show its age. They did a good job with the overall design, but the seats mostly felt quite worn.

Anyway, I spent several hours working, and eventually we decided to head to our gate at around 11:30AM. Boarding was scheduled for 12PM, and we were departing from gate 208, about a five minute walk from the lounge.

Istanbul Airport terminal

Gate 208 was one level below the main concourse.

Escalator to Turkish Airlines gate

Since this flight was bound for the US, there was a special security screening at the gate. All passengers had to go through an extra security check, where all bags were searched and some security questions were asked. Fortunately the process was painless, and there was even a separate business class queue. At that point we found ourselves in the gate area, which was pretty small for a mostly full 777.

Turkish Airlines departure gate

The crew arrived at 11:55AM, and then boarding ended up starting at 12:25PM. The boarding process was quite organized as they have four boarding zones, so everyone can line up in an orderly way.

Turkish Airlines departure gate

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul bottom line

There are many things to love about the Turkish Lounge Istanbul. The design is beautiful, the lounge is large, and the food selection is excellent. Many people view this as the nicest business class lounge in the world. While I do think the lounge is solid, it has some weaknesses as well.

The lounge gets really crowded during peak hours, there aren’t many outlets, a lot of the furniture is worn, and the Wi-Fi was unusably slow at times. So while I do have some mild criticisms of the lounge, I imagine Turkish Airlines will address many of them as they move to Istanbul’s new airport later this year. I can’t wait to see what kind of a lounge they open there.

All things considered I’d say the current Turkish Lounge Istanbul is one of the better business class lounges out there, though not the best airport lounge.

  1. @Kirk – I did a bit of a lounge hop of all the PP lounges at IST a couple of months ago, and all I can say is that all of these lounges are as crowded as the TK lounge, and all of them has very bad food offerings. If you have access to the TK lounge, then you should use the TK one by all means (unless you are like me who gets too bored during long layovers…).

  2. Since you had such a long layover I believe you may have qualified for the private room at the lounge.

  3. One thing to consider: the lounge is LOUD. The floors are very creaky and you hear a lot of echoing noise from within the lounge and the airport due to the high ceilings and hard surfaces. Rolling suitcases make a ton of noise as well. If you intend to be awake and working, it’s not so bad. But if you’re trying to nap, forget it.

    A couple of points about your review: outlets actually are often below the seats on a stalk next to the chair legs. And the racetrack thing is slot-car racing. Lots of fun!

    I like this lounge a lot, but am excited to see what they come up with for the new airport.

  4. What time does this lounge open? Star alliance lounger finder says 5am. Is this really true? Will arrive at 1am and next flight will depart at 6am.

  5. @ Mirco — It was definitely open when we arrived, so that’s not accurate. As far as I know the lounge is open 24/7, but I could be mistaken.

  6. @ airjus — I’m sure there are some other great ones I’m forgetting, but I’d say the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Heathrow and Air Canada’s Signature Suite Toronto are two of the best.

  7. @Lucky Thanks for the prompt reply. Glad to hear. Would be awful to spend 5 hours during the night only at the gate area.

  8. Having spent the ‘night’ there July 15th, 2016 this gives me some scary flashbacks… Would fly TK J again for the right price but can’t imagine going back to the (previously fantastic) lounge

  9. The parking lot view can be quite interesting as it’s adjacent to the airport’s VIP entrance. I’ve seen the Pres and various celebs enter/exit through there.

  10. If you had a 9 hour layover and were traveling in Business Class, you would have been entitled to a complimentary hotel room (or city tour if you preferred) instead of being stuck airside in the lounge for the whole morning. Business Class usually gets assigned to the Radisson Blu or Marriott.

  11. “While I do think the lounge is solid”….how can you use “solid” when you are used to poor lounges in the US and if things work out well, you end up in bad Korean lounge at TBIT…Anyway I agree the wifi gets poor and I miss some sleepers there too although it is not probably much worth it due to instantly overcrowded times over there.

  12. It must be the last year this lounges is open. Will there be a new big TK-lounge at the new airport?

  13. Same issue here with the TK lounge at IST — the internet is basically useless once it starts to get busy. I now avoid IST if I have to do a layover, since I know I won’t be able to get any work done.

  14. Lucky,

    Since your flight was US bound and had a second security screening at the gate, were they confiscating/ limiting liquids, like water bottles? Cheers

  15. Very bad food offering at midnight, they where closing all, nothing fresh anymore.

    Not a good experience for me.

  16. Looks like The Atomium meets The James Bond Villain’s lair meets the Teletubbies. Not unattractive, however.

  17. You were lucky to get quickly through security in Istanbul. I transit through there a few times a year and it is normally very overcrowded, chaotic and resulted in almost missing onward flights a few times. The remote stands are exactly that, with it often taking 45 from touchdown to getting off the the bus, then a long walk to the transfer area. If it wasn’t for Turkish Airlines very competitive fares from the Middle East transiting through Istanbul to Europe, I would definitely avoid this airport. I haven’t been to the Turkish Air lounge, but have been to a few of the others, which are at best mediocre with disinterested and sometimes downright unhelpful staff, which is a similar experience with much of the other staff in Istanbul airport. I hope they do some basic customer service training along with the move to the new airport.

  18. @Fin – The transit security lines are long but there is a special line for Business Class / Elite Plus which moves relatively quickly and bypasses the majority of the crowds. And at departures, you don’t need to go through the regular security line as there is a direct lounge entrance with its dedicated security/immigration checkpoint.

  19. Does anyone happen to know when this lounge opened? I flew TK in 2010 and don’t remember the lounge being this big, but looking at Lucky’s description I’m wondering if I just didn’t go far enough into the lounge to explore.

  20. Quite a few people miss the lower level, believe it or not, so that may be why it feels smaller than it is to some people. Not sure if that applies to your case, but I know it has happened to others.

    FWIW, I actually prefer the lower level, as it is sometimes less crowded.

    My advice to anyone wanting to take a shower in the lounge, make an appointment first thing as soon as you get to the lounge. More often than not, you can eat while you wait your turn.

  21. @Aaron
    Agree, definitely less crowded downstairs. Maybe people don’t notice that it is on 2 levels and consequently stay upstairs.
    It does get too crowded and that’s something that will need to be addressed in the new location.

  22. I think the circular items are their take on pendentives, which are how you put a dome over a square area. They are not recessive in the lounge, but you can see a really good picture of one in the Hagia Sophia on Wikipedia.

  23. I have a trip coming up from the U.S. to Cape Town, South Africa. Will have 8 hours layover in IST. so I really want to know what’s my options. I have business class for this trip.

    U.S. to IST Turkish Airlines.
    IST to Cape Town Ethiopian Airlines.

    Since my departure boarding pass in Istanbul will be Ethiopian Airline, I am not sure if I will get to use this lounge. Both airlines are Star Alliance partners, will I be able to get access to the lounge? Over night hotel? I am NOT a Star Alliance GOLD member.
    Thank you

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