Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

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 am typing 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.

Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (July 2024)

Here are the four options to get FREE airport lounge access via a UK credit card.

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with two free Priority Pass cards, one for you and one for a supplementary cardholder. Each card admits two so a family of four gets in free. You get access to all 1,500 lounges in the Priority Pass network – search it here.

You also get access to Eurostar, Lufthansa and Delta Air Lines lounges.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points AND (to 27th August) £400 to spend at Amex Travel Read our full review

If you have a small business, consider American Express Business Platinum instead.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for the first year. It comes with a Priority Pass card loaded with four free visits to any Priority Pass lounge – see the list here.

Additional lounge visits are charged at £24.  You get four more free visits for every year you keep the card.  

There is no annual fee for Amex Gold in Year 1 and you get a 20,000 points sign-up bonus.  Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free Priority Pass card, allowing you access to the Priority Pass network.  Guests are charged at £24 although it may be cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card for your partner.

The card has a fee of £195 and there are strict financial requirements to become a HSBC Premier customer.  Full details are in my HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard review.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

A huge bonus, but only available to HSBC Premier clients Read our full review

PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.

Comments (79)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • William Avery says:

    Always appreciate your brazen honesty and the photos always tell the story. I love the quote about it being bigger than some airport – so what?? Infant that is a major put off. How does being bigger make one’s experience better?

    Now I see the QR lounge in Doha winning awards and im thinking just the same. Utterly uninspiring, 3* hotel food and crammed to the rafters for a la carte.

    The lounges are the biggest disappointment for one’s entry into business travel. Usually overcrowded, worse than a c80p 3* hotel breakfast buffet and no experience of exclusivity. Save for QR @ T4 which is still a wonderful experience.


    • Raffles says:

      Was in the Qatar J lounge on Tuesday in Doha and I still like it despite the loss of Krug.

      Last night I ended up in the Priority Pass lounge in Doha (Al Maha) – now that was a chaotic mess.

    • Brian says:

      Agree about lounges – one expects more and doesn’t usually get it. Better than sitting in departures, but still…
      I’d say the only exception in my experience is Virgin.

    • Lady London says:

      Was just in the J lounge at Doha. It’s nicely done but soulless. Packed to the rafters. I don’t think it would improve much if less packed, actually. Absolutely nothing wrong with it though.

      I did snag some Krug, but it was so overchilled it actually tasted like a cheap champagne. A major error. (I know, First World problem.) Even for regular white wines the fridge the Krug came out of was at such a low temperature it would only have suited Coke or Pepsi – nothing else would have had any unique taste at all. Shower was OK though.

      • harry says:

        A lot of people make this fundamental error with Champagnes, Proseccos, sparkling white wines in general. They seem to think that chilling them to one or two degrees above freezing is a brilliant demonstration of connoisseurship, just like sticking the vodka in the freezer 🙂

        I’ll allow for personal preference but anybody who thinks like that is wasting their money. Put it this way: if you can only afford paintstripper sparkling whites, do exactly that, ie chill them to 1-2 degrees – it will hide the awful taste.

  • Chris says:

    Raffles, not sure why you mention the Concorde Room negatively. Far and away the best lounge I’ve visited. Could be because I love champagne, cocktails and views of aircraft though.

    • Raffles says:

      I was talking about design and style, which it lacks in my view.

      • CV3V says:

        BA probably refer to the design of the Concorde lounge as typically British ‘understatement’, as they do with their cabins. Sets them apart from the bling bling of Emirates and the fun fun of Virgin!

        I quite enjoyed the Concorde Lounge, however we were the first pax in it just of the arriving KUL flight, the staff didn’t seem…awake, and after eating on the flight all we had was toast and champagne! Not the most demanding of passengers but still seemed a hassle to the staff.

        • The_Real_A says:

          It does appear that the service is consistantly called out as poor

  • Dannyrado says:

    Agree 100% with the review of the lounge and the flight. I have no desire to revisit the lounge, the airport, or fly Turkish again. I don’t understand why people like the city either.

    • rossmacd says:

      Istanbul is a fabulous city to visit – agree, you have to stay away from Taksim, but other areas of the city are a fabulous mecca of a number of worlds colliding. Everyone has different viewpoints which they are very much entitled to, which I guess makes the internet an interesting place 🙂

      • Susan says:

        Agree re Istanbul. IMHO it’s a stonking place to visit. And even TK -what other European carrier gives a full meal in Economy on a sub 3 hour flight?

        • John says:


          • Gavin says:

            And pretty good I understand – flying Y from Paris to Larnaca in 3 weeks. Their food in J was really good last month (and surprisingly their wine was OK)

    • Anthony Dunn says:

      Whoa! Istanbul has to be one of the most fascinating places that I have either visited or am ever likely to visit. Any place that has had three place names (Byzantium, Constantinople and now Istanbul) is rather more than knee-deep in history and antiquity. My recommendation, if you wish to see more of what makes Istanbul so fascinating, is that you get yourself a copy of “Istanbul: the ultimate guide” by Saffet EMRE and Pat YALE, published by BOYUT, Istanbul (ISBN 978-975-23-0734-6). It is slightly bulky but as guides go, it is right up there.

      Beyond that, my last flight on TK (from Izmir via SAW to STN) involved several hours enduring the stench of inflight projectile vomiting that had not been properly cleaned up. Not impressive.

  • Jermyn says:

    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.

  • 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 !

  • 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.

    • Rob says:

      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.

  • Greg says:

    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.

    • DV says:

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

  • Jon says:

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

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.