En route to the coastal city of Bodrum, I spent quite a long time at the IGA Lounge in the domestic terminal of Istanbul Airport prior to my domestic flight.
Lacking Star Alliance Gold status, lounge options are slim when flying a short-haul economy ticket. Combine that with an early arrival on a separately-booked Etihad flight, and it left me with a lot of time to fill.
Turkey is a country with a number of compelling domestic destinations, with Istanbul acting as a hub not just externally but also internally. I could see many travellers needing to spend some time in the domestic terminal to make a connection, as I did.
At the risk of spoiling the fun, I can honestly say that the IGA Lounge is the worst airport lounge I’ve experienced so far.
IGA Lounge Istanbul (Domestic) – Access
The IGA Lounge is located at the end of the G gates in the domestic terminal, about a 12-minute walk from security.
Rather than a separate room with full walls, the lounge is a separated section of the airy main concourse. It features glass walls lined with some faux-liage all around, but to the experienced lounge-hopper, it has no illusion of being a premium facility.
The lounge is part of the Priority Pass and LoungeKey networks. I used a Priority Pass voucher from one of my Canadian-issued Visa Infinite Privilege cards to gain entry.
In addition to the Priority Pass benefit on the Visa Infinite Privilege cards (which won’t be in effect for much longer), you can also get access with the unlimited Priority Pass membership that comes with the American Express Platinum Card or Business Platinum Card, or the unlimited LoungeKey membership on the Crypto.com Visa Card.
The lounge has no door, just a gap in the glass wall with a check-in desk. A harbinger of things to come…
IGA Lounge Istanbul (Domestic) – Seating
Lounge seating is a touch more desirable and varied than concourse seating.
First, there’s a group of tables with office-style lounge chairs. These were where I spent the bulk of my time.
Wrapping around, there are more of these seats along the window. There’s not much to see out the window, which faces another terminal and what I assume is the vehicle ramp for a passenger drop-off zone.
There are also a few poolside-style recliners facing the window. Unfortunately, there’s no way to adjust the recline. (There’s also no pool.)
The seat cushion is comfortable enough as you sit down and scooch back – until you come to the backrest and realize that the angle is entirely wrong.
By the buffet, there are some sturdier dining chairs at tables, and a few lounge chairs along the window for groups of four.
There are power outlets scattered across the floor throughout the lounge. However, seating and tables are quite inconsistently distributed, with some receiving power and others receiving none.
Beyond the seating, the IGA Lounge is, in no uncertain terms, not a comfortable environment. The space is west-facing with glass ceilings, exposed to the brutal sun all afternoon.
Furthermore, there’s very little circulation in the high-ceilinged concourse, and whatever little air conditioning may be present is ineffective.
To add insult to injury, the only persistently shaded part of the lounge is the staff area at check-in.
IGA Lounge Istanbul (Domestic) – Dining
I won’t go as far as to say the food made the Maple Leaf Lounge menu look good, but…
Entering the dining area, you’ll first pass by the snack bar. There are some cookies with nuts, a selection of coffee and tea, and an espresso machine.
There’s also a funky nut warming contraption.
Along the back wall of the main dining room, there’s a cold and hot buffet.
I couldn’t help but try a Turkish dolma: seasoned rice wrapped in grape leaves. It wasn’t great, so I switched that product out to sample some cold meatballs, which looked marginally more appetizing than the cabbage and corn slaw.
The hot food station was cordoned off, and it was the only area that wasn’t self-serve. The food was often unmanned, and service staff were hard to track down.
Service was far from professional, with staff abandoning the bussing cart with dirty dishes in the middle of the dining room when they stepped aside to serve guests hot food.
The lounge felt understaffed as a whole, but it’s actually quite a small space, so I don’t think many are necessary to run it. Instead, I’d say it was a dispassionate energy that goes beyond Turkey’s gruff but friendly hospitality, and seems to be an extension of the character of the lounge itself.
Nothing was labelled, and the few labels floating around were either in the wrong place, or entirely out of view. This was particularly frustrating as someone with an allergy to some but not all nuts.
The only redeeming factors were that it’s hard to screw up minced beef, and I’m a sucker for raspberry cheesecake.
IGA Lounge Istanbul (Domestic) – Bar
Bottled beers are available at the self-serve beverage fridges at the snack bar and the buffet. These coolers also contain water, Coca Cola, domestic beer, and… little else that stood out.
By the coffee station, there’s a self-serve liquor and wine station. You can choose vodka, gin, whiskey, or Turkish red and white wine.
IGA Lounge Istanbul (Domestic) – Other Services
There are no washrooms in the lounge. The nearest facilities are less than a minute away on the concourse. Lounge staff will let you return if you must leave to relieve yourself.
Istanbul Airport Wi-Fi is a bit tricky, and I wasn’t able to get the public Wi-Fi to work.
The lounge Wi-Fi gave two options to connect: through the airport app (which didn’t explain how) or with a password. After struggling longer than I should’ve, I asked the lounge staff for the password, and they were happy to oblige.
There’s a small office station, which seems to be a computer to serve minor printing needs. There’s also a shoe shine machine, parked against the wall smack in the middle of the lounge as you enter.
You can get a massage in the lounge. There’s one masseur with an upright chair. It’s not very private, more akin to a concourse massage.
I didn’t ask if they charge for the service. Save yourself for a hammam.
The lounge offers buggy rides to your gate in case it is far. Mine was right beside the lounge. The value of this benefit also assumes you wish to be in the lounge in the first place.
The four hours I spent in the IGA Lounge were four hours too many.
I will be going out of my way to avoid the IGA Lounge in the future. In fact, I disliked my experience so much, I nearly decided to lounge-hop and pay the fee to enter the Turkish Airlines Domestic Lounge (195 lira, or free with Star Alliance Gold or a business class ticket).
I only stayed because I got the Wi-Fi working. I arguably would’ve preferred the concourse.
It’s a shame that such a cutting-edge, well-regarded airport is unable to offer a better lounge option in its domestic terminal. I suppose this segment of the Turkish aviation market isn’t too lucrative a set of travellers in a country with no shortage of competitive low-cost carriers.
The domestic IGA Lounge in Istanbul appears as little more than a chunk of the concourse with the impression of exclusivity, and sadly that’s all it delivers.