Review: Turkish Airlines Business Lounge, Istanbul Airport (IST)

Last month, I had the chance to check out Turkish Airlines’ business class lounge at the relatively new Istanbul Airport, which opened in 2018. Turkish Airlines had long been known for a fairly impressive lounge offering (even at the old airport), so I was quite excited to visit their flagship lounge offering. I had access as part of a roundtrip business class ticket that I purchased between London and Hong Kong (where I sampled their A321neo, 777, and A350), and visited twice for just under two hours before each flight departing Istanbul.

This review will detail my experience as a business class passenger transiting and departing Istanbul Airport (since I transited airside on my outbound itinerary though left the airport on my inbound itinerary), with the main focus on the seating, food and beverage, amenities and service at Turkish Airlines’ lounge at Istanbul Airport.

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Access and Opening Hours

Turkish Airlines’ business class lounge at Istanbul Airport is open to:

  • Turkish Airlines business class passengers
  • Star Alliance business class passengers

A separate Miles&Smiles lounge is located adjacent to this lounge, which is identical in size and mirrors the lounge. That lounge is available to Turkish Airlines business class passengers, Corporate Club members and Star Alliance Gold members flying a Star Alliance airline. Both lounges are open round the clock.

Turkish Airlines Business Class Ground Experience at Istanbul

On my outbound flight to Hong Kong, I was let straight into the departures hall from my flight, with no security procedures whatsoever between flights (apart from a boarding pass check). I’m not sure why that was, though there’s a separate lane for business class passengers if you’re transiting through the arrivals hall.

This wasn’t the case for my inbound flight, though I was planning to leave the airport to visit Istanbul anyway, as I had a nine-hour connection. Upon arriving back at Istanbul Airport (on the airport shuttle – the M11 metro linking the airport to the city hasn’t opened yet), my bags were security screened before I entered the departures hall.


Istanbul Airport Entrance

Turkish Airlines has a separate check-in area for business class passengers at aisle L, though unfortunately the signage for that was terrible – I would have no idea if I didn’t look online specifically for the premium check-in area at the airport, and the only indication was a large (but hidden) sign for business class passengers by the premium check-in area. I was already carrying a boarding pass for my onward flight as I was connecting, though for some reason had bought 6+ kg of Turkish delight in the city, so wanted to check that in on my London-bound flight. General check-in was a mess, and economy queues were consistently at least 5-6 layers “deep”.

Once I did get to the business class check-in area, the process was painless, and there was even comfortable lounge-style seating on offer (presumably for those who had no bags to check).


Turkish Airlines Business Class Check-In Area, Istanbul Airport

The Turkish Airlines Premium Lane was located at the end of the aisle, which allowed Star Alliance and Star Gold business class passengers to speed through the customs and immigration process. This was a huge time-saver, and the entire process took less than 10 minutes.

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Location

Turkish Airlines’ business class lounge entrance is located adjacent to gate E1, with a couple of options to enter the lounge by lift at nearby gates. This can be over a 20 minute walk from your gate, depending on where it is.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Entrance

Unfortunately Istanbul Airport’s signage isn’t great, and at many times you won’t have a clue where the correct Turkish Airlines lounge is. Upon my arrival, I followed the Turkish Airlines business class lounge signage up to the main departures hall, but then subsequent signage disappeared, with signage only pointing me to the Miles&Smiles lounge (I didn’t have this issue when departing from Istanbul Airport, as the lounge was significantly closer to the immigration outlet).


Istanbul Airport Terminal and Signage (or Lack Thereof) to Business Class Lounge

My boarding pass granted me prompt admission into the lounge through some electronic gates.

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Seating and Atmosphere

As you’d expect for a new hub lounge of an airline dominating Europe’s second busiest airport (as of October 2022), this new lounge was stylish and impressive, but also crowded round the clock.

The entrance featured a self-playing grand piano, as well as peripheral seating.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Entrance and Self-Playing Piano

The first main seating area featured table seating and armchairs, and I thought the seating felt quite sensible – I was able to sit, eat and/or work comfortably at all of the seats that I found. There were a few food stands nearby serving food, though this wasn’t the main food area in the lounge.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Seating Options

Further into the “open air” area of the lounge, there was some cushioned, more coffee-shop style seating.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Seating Options

There was also a large area of the lounge (apparently called the “Tea Garden”) featuring lower ceilings, where there were an array of armchairs, sofas, and seating that was more comfortable for lying around. This area was generally very nicely designed, and had an earthy cigar-bar style feel.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Seating Options

One of these areas was called The Library, and was fenced off (though anybody could sit here – this area was never empty, so I could never figure out whether the books were real).


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Library

On the other side of the lounge there were some work pods (they didn’t feature charging ports, though there were some nearby), as well as some iMacs available for use.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Seating Options

The lounge was quite expansive, and even at its busiest I felt like I could find somewhere comfortable to sit. This impressed me, considering that the lounge seemed to be incredibly busy round the clock, reflecting the large number of flights that Turkish Airlines flies, and the large number of premium passengers that the airline serves.

My one criticism is that all of the power ports only were either Type C or USB power ports. I can understand when a small contract lounge only features a port available in the lounge’s home country (and even then I’d make a comment), though for the brand new hub lounge of the airline in the world that touts flying to the most destinations, I’d expect easy access to universal power ports – I couldn’t find a single one, despite trying to find one for quite a few minutes. Thankfully the lounge concierge had some power adapters that they were willing to lend in exchange for your boarding pass (which they’d return to you upon return of the power adapter). In addition, about half of the USB ports were broken – not impressive for a brand new hub lounge that’s under four years old.

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Dining Options

One thing I really appreciated about Turkish Airlines across the board was how much it highlighted fresh, local cuisine, and this was consistent at the airline’s hub lounge.

Dotted across the lounge were cooking stations where fresh food was being prepared, and I particularly enjoyed the stations that prepared local food such as gözleme, a savoury stuffed turnover. There was a large selection of cold eats as well.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Food Spread

Some of the other food on offer was Turkish bagels and soft countryside butter from Trabzon (I’m not going to be the snob that comments that the butter fat flavour is more pronounced or anything, but butter temperature makes such a difference!), as well as ayran served through a tap in a barrel churn.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Food Spread

There was a large selection (or in Turkish Airlines’ words, potpourri) of Turkish desserts, including baklava, ravani (sweet semolina cake), tulumba (fried dough pastries) and more.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Dessert Spread

By the “inside” area of the lounge was a snack spread, featuring a large selection of cookies.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Snack Spread

In addition, there were large jugs of lemonade, similar to the pre-departure beverages you’ll find onboard.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Lemonade Spread

There was a selection of hot and cold teas in separate spreads in the Tea Garden, all of which had their region and main flavour profiles described.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Hot and Cold Tea Spread

There was a coffee bar with a barista, who served up not only espresso based beverages, but Turkish coffee as well, complete with a Turkish delight.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Barista Coffee and Tea Stand

If you were just looking for a quick drink to go, there were multiple fridges with bottled water, soft drinks, and ayran.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Drinks

There was also an ice bucket’s worth of self-serve wines, most of which were Turkish, though there wasn’t a bar.

While this wasn’t all I ate in the lounge, I particularly enjoyed the ability to have a freshly baked gözleme and Turkish wine before my flight. The gözleme in particular was delicious, and the pastry was so flaky and flavourful!


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Gözleme and Turkish Wine

On my way back I also decided to have a latte, in hopes that that would help jetlag. The latte wasn’t amazing, but hit the spot nonetheless (on another occasion I had a Turkish coffee, which was served similarly to how it’d be served onboard).


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Latte

The food and beverage selection at this lounge is great, and as aforementioned, I particularly enjoyed that they were evidently proud of their local cuisine. It’s worth noting that there’s always a bit of a queue for the freshly baked hot option (in this case the gözleme), though the queue moved quite quickly, and it only took a couple of minutes to get myself a slice.

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Showers and Nap Room

Turkish Airlines’ business class lounge features showers and nap rooms, available at the concierge (at one end of the lounge):

  • Anybody can use a shower, subject to availability
  • Nap rooms are only available for those with connections between four and nine hours, and one of their flights is over eight hours

Sadly I couldn’t snag myself a nap room, as my two layovers were three hours and over nine hours respectively (the latter schedule afforded me time to check out Istanbul properly, at the expense of a nap room).

My shower wait times for both visits were estimated at an hour, though the actual wait time ranged from 20 minutes to 45 minutes – these are subpar waiting times for a shower at a brand new business class hub lounge, and I think the “comments” book from angry passengers at the concierge summed it up:


Angry messages at concierge for Turkish Airlines shower rooms

While waiting for a shower room, passengers were given buzzers, which vibrated and went off quite quietly when a shower room was made available.

On both occasions I did manage to finally snag a shower room. I wished the shower rooms were a tad more well ventilated, but otherwise enjoyed the space and marble finishes, and the toiletries (unbranded, in reusable metal containers) were high-quality – the body wash even featured microbeads. The shower room featured a rainforest showerhead, and the water pressure was really good.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Showers

Apparently there are daybeds for use in this lounge for anybody who couldn’t snag a nap room, though I didn’t spot this.

I’d comment that the shower and nap room facilities at Turkish Airlines’ lounge are typical of large hub-and-spoke airlines (with Qatar Airways’ Al Mourjan lounge being a clear parallel) – they were super nice, though there was a shortage and a problematically long wait. It’s also nice to have the option to nap if your connection is eligible, though I wished that there wasn’t a maximum “cap” for nap room availability, and a cap on how long I could spend in the room instead (e.g. I’d prefer having an option to use a nap room for six hours on a 15-hour connection, instead of not having that option at all because my layover was “too long”).

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Bathroom

Unlike the showers, the lounge featured a massive bathroom, which was clean, nicely decorated, and very empty upon every time I visited.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Bathroom

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul WiFi

The lounge features fast and free WiFi, in contrast to the terminal (where WiFi is free, but not fast at all). This seems to be a massive improvement from the past, as I’d heard reports that the lounge’s WiFi was unusable – I didn’t find this to be the case.

My one criticism is that you had to receive an individualised password by scanning your boarding pass at a kiosk – I would much prefer the ability to sign on using a common password, which would be much more convenient.

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Kids’ Play Area

If you’re bringing children to the lounge, you’ll be able to take advantage of:

  • a “back-room” play area with a mini-playground and theater area
  • a massive interactive airport model with toy planes on moving tracks in the main area of the lounge


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Kids’ Play Area

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Theater

Speaking of theaters, adults have TV to watch too. Turkish Airlines’ old lounge used to feature a dedicated theater, which had been scrapped in this newer lounge, in favour of armchairs with headphones next to a selection of TVs. There were also self-serve snacks by this area, which I appreciated.


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Movie Theater Area

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Luggage Storage

In addition to the above facilities, you’ll also find a luggage storage area near the entrance, which could come in handy if you had a long connection (I don’t think you can go landside from this lounge, though, so this is mainly handy if you want to walk around the airport).


Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Luggage Storage

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge Istanbul Service

Service at this lounge was consistent with my observations at Turkish Airlines. The staff were all genuinely nice and quite attentive, though didn’t have the English vocabulary needed to appear welcoming and helpful to all guests (I myself know zero Turkish, though the international language in aviation is English, hence the double standards). This meant that the lounge agents had difficulty communicating rules and constraints and dealing with complaints such as long waits for shower rooms, and generally seemed to recite a list of rules as opposed to addressing individual situations. This isn’t the fault of any lounge attendant at all, but is potentially something to be addressed with training in the HR department, especially considering that the airline’s passenger numbers are only growing.

However, otherwise I only have positive things to say about everyone I interacted with:

  • The attendant manning the concierge during my first visit, despite just settling a dispute with a passenger whose flight had recently been rescheduled, remembered my name and face, and didn’t need to check against any records when updating me on my shower room’s ETA
  • When I asked a lounge attendant if I could leave my latte at a table after my shower room buzzer went off, I was pleasantly surprised to see on my way back that the latte was still there, despite it having been over twenty minutes
  • Apart from the above situation, lounge attendants very attentively cleared empty cups and plates
  • The barista who made my latte during the second visit was very friendly, and asked passengers about their journeys

Conclusion: Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge, Istanbul Airport

Turkish Airlines’ business class hub lounge is tastefully decorated with good seating and WiFi, features a quieter ambience than the rest of the terminal, and features an impressive and delicious food selection. The lounge features a wide range of amenities, including a quiet theater, daybeds, and nap rooms for select passengers on long layovers (though I wish this selection of passengers could be expanded with those having layovers of over nine hours). The lounge serves a large volume of premium passengers round the clock – you’ll struggle to find a quiet area of the lounge, and wait times for a shower room aren’t reasonable.

This lounge is impressive, and despite the shower room situation, serves its purpose well and fulfils all the basic requirements. I think this lounge is a lot better than competitor Qatar Airways’ business class lounge at their hub airport, though this lounge is newer. I wonder if Turkish Airlines will consider building a second lounge at this airport (with a lounge structure similar to Emirates), considering that Istanbul Airport is Europe’s biggest passenger terminal, as this would resolve crowding issues and greatly improve the passenger experience.

Have you visited Turkish Airlines’ hub lounge at Istanbul’s new airport before?

Any thoughts?

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