Turkish To Offer Economy Transit Passengers Free Lounge Access

Filed Under: Turkish

Turkish Airlines flies to more countries than any other airline in the world. And while their business class hard product and service leaves something to be desired, their growth has been incredible.


As you’d expect, premium cabin passengers are well taken care of, and Turkish even has a fantastic business class lounge in Istanbul — it’s among my favorite business class lounges in the world.



Turkish actually treats economy passengers pretty well too. For example, if you have a transit in Istanbul lasting more than 10 hours due to the structure of Turkish’s schedule, you receive a complimentary transit hotel room.

But that’s only the beginning, as Turkish is about to revolutionize the ground experience for economy passengers. Turkish Airlines plans to open an economy lounge in Istanbul in 2017, which all international transit passengers will have access to.

Turkish has a brilliant CEO (well, perhaps aside from his comments on marriage), so it’s always interesting to hear his logic on things. Via Runway Girl Network:

“The cost of the lounge service [per passenger] is about US$20 average worldwide,” Turkish Airlines CEO Temel Kotil told Runway Girl Network at the recent Star Alliance meeting in Warsaw. “It’s small money compared to the $1,000 plus” of airfare. Kotil can talk about complimentary services from a position of strength: Turkish Airlines calculates it was more profitable in 2014 than carriers including American Airlines and Lufthansa.

Still, average airline returns are low. Kotil says the lounge cost brings strategic benefits and can be offset by other savings. “That $20 [lounge cost] I can give away,” Kotil says. “In the airline business, we’re wasting several $20s…If I became king operating aircraft more efficiently I save money right away.”

Turkish has a cost base comparable to Emirates and has been reducing ex-fuel costs. Despite a reputation and various awards for service, by its own admission Turkish has the highest ratio amongst peers of passengers to employees, further reducing costs.

And that’s really customer focused thinking. Have a low cost structure where customers don’t really notice it, and then invest it with an extremely valuable amenity which will noticeably increase customer satisfaction.

It does seem like they plan on operating a “real” lounge, which will offer complimentary food and drinks:

Inside the lounge, food and drinks will be complimentary. In a contrarian view to ancillary revenue growth, Kotil says: “We don’t want passengers to pull out money.”

The lounge will benefit from being constructed in an all-new airport, as well as Turkish having existing service arrangements that afford scale. Further, Turkish owns 50% of Istanbul airport caterer THY Turkish Do&Co. “The content of the service you are providing is not costly. The system is costly,” Kotil says. “If you buy a sandwich in any airport, it’s about 10 euros. It’s one euro to me.”

The obvious question is how the lounge will be able to handle so many passengers. As Delta so candidly said when they raised elite qualification tiers last year, “When Everyone’s An Elite Flyer, No One Is.”


Perhaps to some degree the same could be said for lounge access. If everyone has lounge access, then no one does (heck, I sometimes even feel that way at Centurion Lounges!).

As of now, Turkish would have about 40,000 daily passengers who would qualify for lounge use:

The airline expects to carry 65 million passengers in 2015, and in the first quarter 96% were in economy. International transfer passengers were 28% of the total, or 3.6 million.

That means 40,000 passengers a day qualifying for lounge use – and more as Turkish reaches its aim of 90m passengers in 2020, with faster growth in international connections.

Though in practice of course many people have short connections, so chances are they wouldn’t even have time to use the lounge. Still, 40,000 people is a lot to potentially be using a lounge on a daily basis.

Bottom line

Kudos to Turkish for this very innovative move. Here’s something which has the potential to add real value to the passenger experience. All that remains to be seen is how good of a job they do executing the vision.

What do you think about Turkish adding a lounge for all economy transit passengers? Do you think other airlines will follow?

  1. Me thinks, it will be for fullfare/flexfare Y-tickets only as to differentiate the Economy fares to the general public. Most people book economy but not the differences in Y B M W G K L S T….

  2. Really interesting stuff. Makes sense given the moves the airline is making. It might be a great way to nab passengers who are on the fence about using Turkish to get to Europe. I’ve had a couple people reach out to me recently who have never been to Europe, have money saved up for the “trip of a lifetime” and are asking if Turkish is worth it because it’s consistently cheaper than other carriers from the US.

  3. Sounds like Bangkok Airways, which allows all passengers into their lounges (although I believe there is a separate area for First Class passengers). The problem is that the lounges are overcrowded and often dirty because with the volume of passengers going through, they simply cannot offer the seem experience as a premium lounge.

  4. Good. Somebody actually try to grow their business by pleasing their customers. While US counterparts brutally irritate customers left and right, and yet they complain about competition from those foreign airlines. It is time to change.
    I, as a customer, welcome competition.

  5. Well, you do know that Turkish Airlines also offer free Istanbul city tour, right? No one really stay in the same lounge for more than 8 hours, even in Emirates First Class lounge…
    So passengers will not always be in lounge as new Istanbul airport will feature a great selection of duty free shopping.
    Turkish Airlines is leading industry in many ways. It is one of the first several airlines removed first class, which is proven to be great decision. After all, most of companies nowadays do not allow their employees fly first class,even for C-levels executives (rumors said that someone actually saw Tim Cook, the Apple CEO on United Business class from Hong Kong to San Francisco.)
    Business class however, is quite affordable to many companies.
    I believe that in future, first class will be paid by individual instead of companies. So if you are in a country where there aren’t many ultra rich people who have lots of money to burn, then highly likely airlines of your company will remove first class.

  6. Interesting news , thanks!

    Do you ever see award availability for two LAX-IST in business class? How many Unitediles is it?

  7. Very cool! I’ve flown longhaul TK in economy, comfort and business class before. Even the catering in economy is much better than what is offered by other airlines, so this move should be another plus for them. I’ll second Nat’s comments. Their fares seem to be cheaper for going to Europe. I don’t think it can make up for the multiple-hour backtrack to get from IST to Western European destinations though.

  8. …continuing with my gay agenda…fuck Turkey. Use water cannons and rubber bullets against attendees of Istanbul gay pride. Really, fuck you so much. I will take a sub-par premium experience (Delta) on a carrier that supports its employees. I’m proud of Delta every time I see their logo at these events.

  9. Amazing idea, innovative and taking care of their 96% of passengers!
    I know who I will be travelling with to India from 2017! I really like Turkish but I avoid it because I don’t like Istanbul airport. As a passenger who travels in economy most of the times, there are many other better transiting airports. I would love to go to a dedicated lounge though!

    I wonder what is the reaction of other restaurants, bars and eateries at the airport. They wouldn’t be very pleased I bet

  10. No need to give out food and drink vouchers when delayed either – overall they’ll probably save money!

    Very clever…

  11. Do you have experience redeeming Turkish miles for partner flights? I’ve read that this can be a real pain.

  12. @ Beachfan — That’s one of the toughest routes for Turkish availability, unfortunately. You’ll have better luck out of just about any other gateway.

  13. How could I accumulate enough miles for first class seat on Turkish Airline flights since I live in Istanbul?

  14. @ Larry Oyeniyi — Turkish no longer has a first class cabin. Business class is the top cabin they offer.

  15. Thanks for the prompt response. This thing is real! How about accumulating miles for the business class? Thanks.

  16. @ Larry Oyeniyi — Avianca LifeMiles sometimes sells miles at a discount, so they can be a great option for flying Turkish business class for cheap.

  17. I am a female and traveling alone, I will be in Ataturk Airport on Wednesday night for 12 hours, from 6pm to 6am. I am flying Turkish Airlines. Which lounge is the safest and most comfortable and cost?

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