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I don’t get it. Why do people like the Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul?

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Some people felt I was a bit unfair to Turkish Airlines when I reviewed their Boeing 777 business class service last week.

If you thought I was too critical, you are unlikely to be keen on my review of the Turkish Airlines CIP business class lounge in Istanbul.  I’d move on now.

The Turkish Airlines lounge has a buzz, a reputation, to it – it became part of the reason I wanted to go down to Istanbul.  It won the Skytrax ‘Best Business Class Lounge’ in 2015, for example.

The tagline is ‘bigger than some airports’.  This is actually true – the lounge is bigger than the departure area of Salzburg Airport, where I was 24 hours later, and bigger than Ras Al Khaimah’s entire departure terminal (where I type this) – but bigger does not mean better ….

I take some comfort in my views from my US equivalent Gary Leff who in this article on the top 10 airport lounges in February said:

“But any best list ….. [which] includes lounges like the Turkish CIP lounge in Istanbul, anything in the U.S., South America, or Africa, or any British Airways lounge among the top 10 is clearly missing the boat.”

The Turkish Airways lounge in Istanbul starts very nicely, with this English-style library complete with billiard table:

Review Turkish Airlines business class CIP lounge Istanbul

There is also a bank of lockers so you can leave your hand baggage, which is helpful.  Then it just ‘goes wrong’!

Review Turkish Airlines business class CIP lounge Istanbul

This photo below sums it up.  We have lots of people crowded together, sitting on dull furniture, in a dull looking area.

Review Turkish Airlines business class CIP lounge Istanbul

No flair, no style.  Once you get past the billiard table it runs out of ideas.  I am actually one of the biggest supporters of the BA lounges at Heathrow (Concorde Room aside) because they do have style, they have ideas.  Even if those ideas do involve 6-foot high horses with lampshades on their heads.

Review Turkish Airlines business class CIP lounge Istanbul

There are some things to do in the lounge which you rarely see, which I think is why some people like it.  There is a golf simulator, but I don’t play:

Review Turkish Airlines business class CIP lounge Istanbul

There are a couple of football video games, but that’s not really my thing:

Review Turkish Airlines business class CIP lounge Istanbul

There is a car racing track, but I am a bit old for that:

Review Turkish Airlines business class CIP lounge Istanbul

There is a good kids room, but my kids were back in London:

Review Turkish Airlines business class CIP lounge Istanbul

What you DON’T get is somewhere where you can sit, quietly, in a nicely designed area and have some decent quality food.

What Turkish has done is effectively recreate the same lounge multiple times!  As you walk around the two levels, you realise that the same food and drink items are available from identical outlets in different corners.  There is no attempt to break the space down into a series of different areas.

I keep coming back to the picture I ran at the top:

Review Turkish Airlines business class CIP lounge Istanbul

The lounge, to me, was about as exciting as that picture implies.  The rest of the airport, however, is not exactly an improvement.  If you’re in Ataturk, do go into the lounge.  You don’t need to spend two hours there as I did.

Whatever you do, don’t book yourself onto Turkish Airlines via Istanbul purely because you wanted to visit.  There are a few lounges where you can justify that but this is not one of them.

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  1. From what you’ve shown, this lounge looks far preferable to any BA Lounge. Chronic overcrowding is a hallmark of BA lounges, after all.

    There is no hot food in the afternoon before 6pm in BA lounges. How did TK’s food offering compare?

    My favourite J class lounge in the world is VS at LHR. I think that QR’s lounge at DOH is great too (shame the Krug is gone though). I also love JL J at NRT, it has a beautiful design aesthetic, abundant runway views and highly polished bar staff, well versed in how to mix a drink.

    What J lounges top your list?

    • Lady London says:

      The Krug ain’t gone I just had some. Far far too cold though. Would have put me off Krug if I’d never had it before.

  2. Chris says:

    As someone who has used Ataturk (and various lounges) extensively over the past year – my thoughts;


    *Dedicated Security & Immigration link directly into the lounge! This on its own makes the lounge a god send!
    *Food choice is good with a reasonable quality.
    *Excellent Drinks selection – especially for someone who is trying to have a year off the booze!
    *Much better than other Lounge offering in the airport (the only exception being the Emirates lounge which I really like). Prime Class, Comfort, TTNet, HSBC, Millenium, Sky Team Lounges are all woeful – believe me I have tried them all!
    *Great for people watching, but the whole airport is good for that. You do get all sorts!


    *Wifi is AWFUL – slow, slow, slow…
    *Newspaper selection & display is poor – especially as a Brit looking to read a UK newspaper.
    *Magazine selection & display is non existent.
    *Can get very overcrowded at times, but it is an airport over capacity issue generally. The Emirates lounge doesn’t suffer this, but they only have 11 flights per week to cater for.
    *Lounge staff are not particularly friendly. My faviroute station is the Turkish Coffee & cake station, it can take a little while for the coffee to be made and it is virtually impossible to get a conversation out of the staff making the coffee. Maybe its just me…
    *There doesn’t seem to be adequate toilet facilities in the lounge. Always seems to be a queue in the Gents…

    Just my thoughts…

    • chris says:

      “it is virtually impossible to get a conversation out of the staff making the coffee. Maybe its just me…”

      LOL, i chuckled at this! I’m guessing you’re not a spring chicken any longer and were trying to make small talk with the young (female) staff! Always a fun sight, and who can blame them !

  3. rossmacd says:

    I think you went into this lounge with the idea that you wouldn’t like it, hence the review.

    Chronic overcrowding and terrible states of repair are hallmarks of BA home lounges (GC T5 North anyone?). Therefore comparing the 2 Business lounges at home bases (GC T5 North and TK CIP lounges), I know which one I would much rather be in!

    Sorry, but I my view this review lacks credibility.

    • No, I went there thinking it would be world class based on feedback I seen from other people.

      If the general opinion was that it was rubbish I would have written a different article. Actually, I wouldn’t have gone in the first place.

      I try to make this an aspirational site. I promise you, there is no way that I would leave my wife and my little kids for 2 nights if I hadn’t been expecting something good. There is a good reason why you don’t see coverage of 2nd or 3rd division airlines or hotels on here and that is because I’ve got to an age where I’m not prepared to do stuff that isn’t, on the face of it, life affirming. I’d rather stay at home and read bedtime stories to my 4 year old.

  4. OOOOH a bit unfair Rob.

    Golf simulator, billiards, car racing track, good kids room, video games – what about the banks of TVs with wireless headphones to watch whichever one you want. the “freshly” cooked food, by real people as opposed to plastic wrapped sandwiches. Just because your kids weren’t with you and you are too old to play Skeletrix (or maybe you were by yourself so you didn’t play Skeletrix 🙂 ) doesn’t mean they are bad facilities. While I don’t travel as much as you, apart from the Emerates first class lounge at Dubai, it really does have more to offer than any other lounge I have been to.

    As for choosing THY over BA from Heathrow, when you combine the lounge with the seats, with the fast track at both ends, with the ease of spending your hard earned miles – its Turkish for me every time.

    • But you’ll be a bit annoyed when Vladimir Putin shoots your aircraft down.

  5. Some of us like those lampshade horses at T5!!!

  6. Simon says:

    Did you go downstairs at all? Did you get a massage? Did you get the waiter to mix you up a cocktail? Did you try one of the day room suites to lie down in, or shower? Did you get a made to order omelette or try the quite amazing for a lounge variety of hot and cold food? (Yes the food stations repeat three times, but there are a lot of different ones in each repeated section, and it repeats because of the size of the lounge). Frankly this lounge is significantly better than any BA lounge I have been in…

  7. Alan Wan says:

    I visited the TK lounge at IST last September. I agree with the article that it is overrated. I found two good points: really liked the food and the showers were nice and didn’t have to wait long – despite the lounge was busy. The minus points for me were: lack of premium drinks (there were self service bars located throughout the lounge but nothing to write home about), it was very crowded and I would have preferred more smaller lounges dotted throughout the airport, and my biggest issue was the reception desk -unlike many other airles such as AA, QR, UA- could not deal with a cancelled flight, so I had to go to some awful transit desk full of angry passengers, and quite honestly rude and hostile staff. However, I was glad to be in the lounge as IST was an awful airport, really crowded and nowhere to sit. I will avoid in the future.

  8. xcalx says:

    I totally agree with Raffles.
    I posted a review on FT back in 2010 for a HKG-IST-MAN J flight in which I was negative about the lounge. I was slaughtered by quite a few readers one even suggesting I didn’t visit the lounge at all.

  9. Stephanie says:

    I could not agree more with all your articles on Turkish airways business class service, or their lounge. We booked a business class flight to Osaka in December via Istanbul, and travelled back to London from KL via Istanbul in January.

    We found the air hostesses to be quite brash/rude, the ‘chef’ was actually an irritant as we were constantly bothered on an evening flight for what is, as you say, a pre-made meal (you do not need to constantly disturb me for this service – the food was very average btw), the TV controls in one of our sets did not work on the flight from KL to Istanbul so we had to use touch screen, my entertainment service actually froze twice on the same flight which required rebooting and having to scan through my films to find my place (I never did finish The Martian!).

    To top it off we were delayed leaving KL due to snow in Istanbul – there was no communication from staff explaining this, or how long the delay would be. We were concerned (rightfully so as it turned out) about missing our connection, and were told ‘all flights are delayed in Istanbul’ by air hostesses on the flight. There was no one to meet us at the gate in Istanbul to rush anyone to their connections (we missed ours), people had to fend for themselves in what is an extremely busy and arguably disorganized airport.

    We were sent to the lounge to sort out getting on the next flight to London. Staff on the desk were extremely irritating – we queued politely for 20 mins only to have the person assisting us constantly getting involved with their colleagues work/other customers – we actually requested after 15 mins that she concentrate on her task in hand as we’d waited such a long time and were getting nowhere with her scatty approach. Initially we were also told we’d have to go economy, but we ‘may use the lounge’. Errr excuse me damn right I can use the lounge, I paid for business class! Turns out they could find us seats in business on the next flight after all, which was very poor, basically just an empty seat between two normal seats, no TV system for a 4 hour flight to London. We were also in the back row of business and we were sat a couple of feet in front of economy passengers with nothing but a curtain drawn behind our seats.

    Anyone thinking of flying to Asia with these clowns, do yourselves a favour – go direct or go with an Arab airline connecting in the Middle East, Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong, or another that connects closer to home (KLM etc). A) the chances of snow in the middle east/HK are extremely low, so no delays/missed connections B) better planes/staff/service C) HK is extremely efficient if you are delayed/there are staff to meet you at the gate and good communication and D) you are not sat in a rubbish seat for 4 hours to Istanbul. Although our first flight to Istanbul had better seats than the return we were put onto/hada TV, I am positive you can get much better with an Arab airline.

    • plastikman says:

      We flew Turkish on a trip to Asia last year. We were both so underwhelmed with the outward leg that we booked a direct ticket back on BA with avios.

    • I lol’d at “chances of snow in the middle east”

  10. Seems like my perceptions of lounges is quite different from Rob’s. I’ve passed through IST many times and in general quite like the lounge (i’m also not looking for something unique in a lounge but rather a place where i can get some work done while getting some drinks/food/coffee). The one aspect i don’t quite fancy at the TK lounge at IST is that the food is exactly the same every time; some variation would be nice here.

  11. Kevin says:

    From my perspective you haven’t made any reference to the two best bits of the lounge, the food and the day rooms. The lamb koftas, baklava and the olive bar were real highlights the last time I was there. I agree it can be very crowded.

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