|Review: Turkish Airlines Business Lounge Istanbul|
Review: Mystique Santorini
|View all: Reviews • Travel Talk|
Istanbul’s new airport opened in March 2019, replacing the old Atatürk Airport that had become overburdened by Turkish Airlines’s vast and ever-expanding route network.
In the past, the Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge at the old airport had been well-known as one of the best business class lounges within all of Star Alliance, so it was only natural that I’d do everything I can to try out the new Turkish Airlines Business Lounge at the new airport this time around.
I had originally booked an economy class ticket from Istanbul to Athens and then Santorini, so I wasn’t actually expecting that I’d get to visit the lounge on this trip.
Fortunately, though, Aegean Airlines allows passengers to bid for business class upgrades, with the opening bid price as low as €50 per passenger. I submitted a cheeky bid at that level for myself and Jessy, and was delighted to see that our upgrade had cleared a few days in advance!
My anticipation for the new Turkish Airlines lounge was already building as our taxi pulled up outside Istanbul Airport, which is a gleaming new facility here in the outskirts of town.
As you’d expect, the new airport is dominated by Turkish Airlines, with the airline having set up all sorts of facilities for its passengers…
…including some rather peculiar ones, like this room that’s specifically for passengers that have been denied boarding:
We navigated our way through the Turkish Airlines ticket counters towards the Aegean check-in desk instead, where we picked up our boarding passes for our 4pm departure to Athens.
Through the security check, and we found ourselves in the very middle of Istanbul Airport’s departures hall, ready to head for the lounges on the upper level above the concourse.
If you’ve visited the old Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge before it closed, you’ll remember that it was a gigantic lounge – it had two floors, each with about a dozen separate spaces for guests to eat, work, relax, and play.
In designing the lounge at the new airport, Turkish Airlines decided to change tack and build two separate smaller lounges instead: the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge and the Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles Lounge. The former is open to Star Alliance business class customers, while the latter is reserved for passengers with lounge access by virtue of their Miles & Smiles or Star Alliance Gold membership.
By partitioning their lounges in this way, Turkish Airlines ensures that both sets of customers are treated to a more intimate and comfortable lounge experience than the sprawling mega-lounge they used to operate.
Since we’d be accessing the lounge by virtue of our business class tickets today, we headed to our right-hand side to make our way up the escalators to the Business Lounge.
As you arrive at the upper level, a striking backdrop with the Turkish Airlines symbol welcomes you to the lounge. There are a few associates stationed here ready to help any passengers with lounge access or ticketing issues, but you can simply swipe your business class boarding pass on the automated machine, and you’ll be granted entry.
The entryway into the lounge is extremely wide, which gives you a sense as to how much foot traffic this place gets.
Remember, Turkish Airlines flies to more countries than any other airline in the world, so it naturally must cater to a huge amount of premium passengers who are criss-crossing the globe via Istanbul – indeed, the very fact that they have two separate premium lounges perched on the upper level of Istanbul Airport bears testament to that fact.
At the end of the entryway, stop at one of these machines to scan your boarding pass and obtain the wifi code for the lounge. Sadly, similar to the old CIP Lounge, this is one of the downsides to the lounge – everyone needs their own wifi code to connect, and even then, the wifi isn’t very fast.
And also, turn slightly to your left to find a huge row of glass lockers, which you can use to store your belongings while you roam through the lounge. This was one of my favourite things about the old Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge, so I was delighted to see that they’ve retained the locker setup (and most importantly, provided a huge number of lockers for guests to use, since they do tend to fill up quickly).
After the entryway, turning right will bring you to arrive at the main part of the lounge, whereas turning left brings you to the lockers, a smaller seating area, and the shower and nap room facilities. Let’s go right first.
A grand piano, playing some ambient music on its own, greets your arrival into the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge.
Walk a little bit further and you’ll arrive at the main dining area. A handful of kitchen units, decorated to look like they were made of cobblestone, are lined up along the middle of the hallway, with the seating areas to either side.
The entire space is adorned with several streaks of light racing along the walls to the side, which I thought was a beautiful design touch.
Each kitchen unit contained a live cooking station for different types of food. There was a pasta station, an Indian naan bread station, a Turkish iskender station, and many more varieties of nibbles and nosh on offer.
After passing through the main dining area, you’d still find many more food spreads scattered throughout the rest of the lounge, starting with the impressive four-sided meze spread positioned at the end of the third and final faux-cobblestone kitchen unit.
Opposite that is another cooking station that features freshly-baked Turkish flatbread and a few soups.
The lounge then opens up to a larger seating area, which overlooks the airport concourse at its perimeter. The seating mostly consists of two-person dining tables, as well as white leather chairs that look like they were taken straight from the old CIP Lounge at Atatürk Airport.
(Note the arrangement of these white leather chairs, in which the armrests divide each seat into its own individual unit on the corner. It’s set up this way so that people don’t outright use these chairs as beds to sleep in, because otherwise the sheer volume of passengers transiting through Istanbul on awkward long layovers would surely transform the seating area into a mass dormitory. I know this because I’ve tried to sneak in a quick nap in the old CIP Lounge more than a few times!)
In addition to the poor wifi connection, another major issue that has carried on from the old lounge is the lack of universal power ports, which I would think should be a basic requirement for a recently-completed airport like Istanbul’s, which has designs on being one of the world’s major transit hubs.
Like I said, food and drink stations are dotted throughout this part of the lounge as well, including a soft pretzel cart…
…a coffee and tea counter…
…several soft drink stations, featuring a range of juices, pops, and bottled water…
…a station for baklava and other Turkish sweets, as well as Turkish Airlines’s signature lemonade and raspberry drink (the same as what’s served as welcome drinks in business class)…
…and a few self-serve liquor stations.
Here at the very end of the lounge, you can peer over the glass to watch over the common folk meandering about the concourses of Istanbul Airport. You’ll also note the Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles Lounge perched on the opposite side of the upper level.
Anyway, let’s take a look at the lounge’s many other features. As you turn around and head back into the lounge, you pass by a kids’ play area, although the popcorn machine here may well be tempting for adults too.
Opposite that, there’s the electronic model car racetrack. I never quite figured out how exactly this works, but I saw quite a few kids congregated around it throughout my time in the lounge (and back in the old lounge as well), I’m sure that it would’ve made for a fun way to pass the time if I had several hours to kill.
Building on that theme, the vast majority of the old CIP Lounge’s bells and whistles have indeed been brought over to the new lounge, such as the virtual golfing range…
…and the PlayStation terminals, where I indulged in a few quick games of FIFA.
Perhaps the most interesting new addition to the lounge, though, is the modern art gallery – complete with an automatic sliding glass door – that’s housed within the lounge itself. The gallery features a rotating selection of pieces from the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art.
I mean, who even thought of the concept of having an art gallery in an airport lounge?! And yet, it’s this kind of stuff that made the old CIP Lounge stand out among its peers, so I’m glad that Turkish Airlines has continued to invest in brand-new ways to enliven the lounge experience.
It only seemed appropriate that I pour myself some wine from the nearby liquor station and spend a few minutes looking at the artwork.
Adjacent to the modern art gallery is a TV viewing area with no less than 12 screens playing at the same time. On the plus side, this space can definitely cater to passengers with a wide variety of preferred TV channels at the same time, but I also can’t help but question how enjoyable of a viewing experience this would be.
While most of the lounge is designed pretty uniformly in shades of beige and brown with sleek lighting, one of the seating areas branching off from the main dining hallway has a very distinct character. The walls are decked out in a much darker walnut colour, and the lighting is much dimmer, making this place feel like a quaint library.
The seating options had a more antiquated look about them too, and of course, there were yet a few more snack bars set up for guests to easily access.
Are we done with our tour of the lounge? Not even close.
Follow the lounge’s outer glass wall and proceed around the back of the modern art gallery to find the quiet resting areas, where you can close your eyes for a quick nap in one of a handful of curtained-off nooks. Having said that, all of these nooks were occupied by the time I passed through, so I imagine that you might have to wait patiently for one to open up.
Keep in mind that in addition to these napping nooks, there are also sleeping rooms available in the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge, which we haven’t visited yet. However, those rooms also have some rather strict eligibility requirements, which we’ll go over as well.
To reach the sleeping rooms, we must venture back beyond the entryway to the lounge and now continue to our left. We’ll pass by the storage lockers and arrive at another small seating area with a row of computer workstations.
Opposite that are three prayer rooms, each adorned with a symbol signifying the Abrahamic religion it’s meant to be used for.
Around the corner from here is the hallway leading to the shower rooms and sleeping rooms. Technically you’re supposed to place a request to use these rooms with the attendant who’s stationed here, but I was somehow able to saunter through on my own without anyone stopping me.
The private sleeping rooms looked very nicely appointed, with a desk, luggage counter, and television to keep you occupied in addition to a twin-sized bed.
In order to book one of these rooms, though, you need to be flying Turkish Airlines business class via Istanbul, with a layover between four hours and nine hours in duration, and at least one of your two flights must be over eight hours in duration.
Those are some awfully specific eligibility requirements, so if you don’t meet them, you may have to resign yourself to snagging one of the significantly less private napping nooks in the main part of the lounge.
You’ll also find the shower rooms around here, which are beautifully decorated with marble finishes on the walls and floor. The shower rooms consist of a sink, toilet, and shower, and look to be well on par with the best business class lounges around the world.
Finally, the lounge’s restrooms are located near the entrance by the grand piano, and come with similar marble finishes to the shower rooms.
They’re a big improvement from some of the bathrooms in the old CIP Lounge, which were really showing their age towards the end of the lounge’s lifespan.
Make no mistake about it: despite being much smaller than its predecessor, the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge is still a massive space, and I spent far more time than usual exploring every corner and taking pictures of the place.
After playing some FIFA and browsing through the art gallery, that left me with only about 20 minutes to sit down with my glass of wine and eat some food with Jessy, before it was time to board our Aegean flight to Athens.
We hurriedly tried a bit of everything, including the pasta, naan, kebab, meze, and baklava, before collecting our belongings from the locker and making our way down to the boarding gate.
I’m very glad I had the last-minute chance to check out the recently-opened Turkish Airlines Business Lounge at Istanbul’s new airport. The lounge is certainly an upgrade from the famous CIP Lounge at Atatürk Airport in terms of the ever-excellent food and drink, the more contemporary decor, and the welcome addition of a modern art gallery as a further point of differentiating the lounge from other business class lounges around the world.
I did feel as though Turkish Airlines could’ve done even more to improve upon their old offering – for example, much of the furniture, gadgets, and kitchen equipment seemed like they were lifted straight out of the old lounge and plonked into the new one, especially the white leather chairs that were already beginning to show their age. Furthermore, the airline also missed the chance to address many of the obvious shortcomings of the old lounge, like the inconsistent wifi connection and the lack of universal power ports.
However, I know the new Istanbul Airport had already experienced multiple delays in its opening, so I think Turkish Airlines handled the transition of their flagship lounge pretty well, given the circumstances. I do look forward to inevitably transiting through Istanbul again and spending more time here on my future travels.