If you haven’t travelled through Istanbul’s newest behemoth airport yet, you’re certainly in for a surprise. It certainly dwarves the previous airport and it couldn’t be more different. Light, airy and architecturally stunning, it’s a true gateway hub for the region and has set a standard for global airports for the next decade to come.
The sheer scale of the never ending airport also allows Turkish Airlines to play home to a mammoth lounge area that spans 120,000 sq metres. That’s colossal, and it only accounts for the Miles and Smiles and Business Class lounges. Turkish Airlines’ Exclusive Lounge and Arrivals Lounge are still to be opened in a few months’ time.
On a recent flight to Bali to experience the carrier’s latest 787 Business Class product, we were given the opportunity to explore the carrier’s Business Class lounge. Now, to make the explanation simple, apart from a few small differences, the Business Class lounge (accessible to Turkish Business Class passengers only) is the mirror image of the lounge for frequent fliers.
On entry, which is accessible from the rear side of the duty free shops via an escalator and automatic gates where you scan your boarding pass, you are greeted by a huge TV screen which plays Turkish Airlines branded content and welcomes you to the new lounge. Unlike the previous lounge, there is no private security lane which takes you from check in straight to the lounge, instead you still have to snake through Duty Free.
At the large TV, the lounge splits in two, with the main lounge area situated to the right, but the left houses not just a computer desk and some private seat booths, but also a concierge desk. What’s not clear on first visit, is that the concierge desk also plays front desk to the private rooms and showers which are situated around the corner.
So on arrival to the concierge desk you are able to book either a shower room or a room to sleep in, the private bedrooms are available on a myriad of limitations (understandably) including long haul to long haul flight, with a connection within a certain amount of hours etc, but most long haul connecting passengers who have plenty of time to spend in the lounge will have access to one of these.
Both the shower rooms and bedrooms are huge upgrades from the previous lounge in Ataturk airport. But the biggest improvement is the addition of carpet in the hallway that connects the 11 suites, as our major criticism of the previous lounge was the creaky floorboards that kept people awake trying to use the private suites.
Framing the entire lounge is the commanding one-piece wooden ‘flow’ motif that connects all the lounges and spans the 120,000 square metres. It’s a stunning ribbon that ebbs and flows throughout the lounge, creating areas of intimacy and grand statement too. It starts from the escalator in to the lounge, and ends at the other, and forms part of the airport’s design, wherever you are in the main terminal.
After having a shower or a rest you may want to leave your bags in the storage lockers before exploring the rest of the lounge.
Being Turkish Airlines there is a vast array of options within the lounge, which are almost exhausting, however the lounge’s main focus is on food, with drinks taking a back seat. Unlike other lounges there is no bar here, partly out of respect for the varied cultures going through, although it would be nice to see a more social gathering point.
However one thing this lounge offers that virtually every other doesn’t, is an art gallery, which is a lovely mini space within the lounge that is quiet and reflective, showcasing a range of Turkish artists’ modern pieces.
Throughout the main thoroughfare however are multiple live cooking stations making a range of omelettes, Pides and other Turkish delicacies.
But exploring either side of the thoroughfare and you are bound to experience a myriad of other zones. It feels more like wandering through a bazaar or Istanbul’s side streets than a lounge itself.
On one side, facing over the terminal concourse, are a range of semi-private relaxation suites, that allow for a little more privacy or a place to nap, but without the full seclusion the 11 bedroom suites offer. These are joined by meeting rooms that can be hired out by visiting the concierge.
That is then supported by the main relaxation area which features the same leather seats found in the older lounge. It offers commanding views over the inside of the airport, and certainly feels spacious, but can be a little bright for those on long haul overnight connections.
For those blurry-eyed folk, a better option is either the main dining area which is covered from the tall vast ceiling of the airport and feels more intimate.
Or further still, head to the library area which sits under the ribbon architecture and feels dark and moody in comparison. It’s flanked by large TV screens and artwork as well as bookshelves filled with newspapers and magazines.
The more you explore, the more you will find, and this little nook behind the library is probably the quietest part of the lounge, which also features apron views. Because it’s not so well known, it was empty even when the rest of the lounge was experiencing a large wave of inbound and outbound traffic.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Turkish Airlines lounge without toys for the kids and kids-still-at-heart. There’s the infamous Turkish Airlines race track.
A golf area, which was sadly being fixed when we made our way through.
And a kids zone, which featured a crèche, a large play plane for kids to explore and nannies on hand to help with the kids. For the adults there are roving massage therapists who give 10 minute shoulder massages to weary travellers.
The airline has managed to take the existing lounge’s spirit and bring it to life on a much grander scale. While it doesn’t have the double levels, sweeping stair cases, bird song or large Turkish Airlines globe, it symbolises a carrier that has grown up, learned from its passengers and delivered exactly what they need.
Sure there are areas which we would love to see improved, like the addition of a bar (even Malaysia Airlines has one), so that there was more on offer than a few wines, and one solitary DIY cocktail stand by the communal TV wall, but that’s us with a European head on. We still respect the decision of a carrier that has one of the broadest range of cultures that travel through its hub.
Another thing we would love to see more of, is power sockets. There are a few, mainly hidden on the floor, but there really should be more across the lounge, allowing for passengers to use and power their devices wherever they are. But this is us picking on perfection, and a lounge that punches well above its weight. We had to keep reminding ourselves that there is a lounge (sans sleep suites) just a stones-throw away, offering exactly the same product. It’s so vast, it really takes some time to sink in. Well done Turkish.
The Big Picture