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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 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.

  • IMH says:

    Things Raffles will one day regret having written, no. 9: “…my US equivalent Gary Leff …”. 😉

    Leff has a wealth of knowledge, and blazed a few trails in his time, but I hope and trust that HFP will maintain the very high “useful stuff to affiliate noise” ratio that keeps us reading and recommending the site.

    • John says:

      Comparing Raffles to Gary/Lucky/Howie etc is like comparing the QR lounge to the TK lounge!

  • David says:

    Unfortunately business class riff raff like myself (Leff’s words) can’t all access the first class lounges which are all in his top 10 lounges.
    Food is pretty good at TK lounge, the rest is a but meh.

  • Robin says:

    reminder, not that we need reminding, but there are thousands of refugees who would absolutely love ANY lounge access …

    • harry says:

      We certainly don’t need reminding! 🙂

      There are forums for that, as Raffles occasionally reminds us – and he’s right.

    • Jovanna says:

      Depends where they are flying to…

  • Will says:

    I wouldn’t quite discount all US lounges. The qantas first lounge at LAX is brilliant.

    I personally find the Virgin clubhouse at Heathrow a bit too much faff and not enough substance.

    All I want from a lounge is high quality food, and comfort.

    Let’s face it, you’re in there waiting for a flight. I don’t want a haircut, to play golf, to play computer games.

    Maybe a shower some food, drink, a view of planes and if your really pushing the boat out a massage.

    Cathay’s “The Wing” (best showers) and “The pier” are my personal favourites

    • harry says:

      Confession to make: I came within a scant few minutes of missing our BA Xmas flight out, due to over-Sol-ing it in No.1 T3. Not that I was blotto or anything, I was just relaxing with my 3 kids. On the Dragonpass deal 6 lounge visits for £13.50 (total for 6 passes).

      We’d driven up from Cornwall, had a pleasant journey – but that is about 4.5 hrs of stress incl the carpark etc. So I was into the Sols (no more than about 4 🙂 ) & negligent in noting the gate times & left it far too tight, the gals at gate told me they certainly would have excluded us from flying if we’d been just a few minutes later.

      Very ashamed as I am quite the opposite normally, early bird. The only time I ever missed a flight was down to my wife.

      Anybody else been so lounge-happy they’ve missed a flight?

      • LM says:

        Enjoyed the story! I’ll be sure to remember that when I’m in the lounge in July inevitably enjoying a Sol or two.

        Is the dragonpass deal you mention adding the travel pack to a Barclays account and then cancelling it after a month, or something else? Thanks!

        • harry says:

          That’s exactly it. Apparently you can download an app to mobile and the 6 passes are available immediately.

          I got DP to email me the 6 passes. They can take a few weeks to send out the physical card.

          Usability dies when you cancel the monthly sub, so time your activation/ cancellation.

          I used my emailed passes way after I’d cancelled the sub, not sure if I just got lucky.

      • Alan says:

        Not missed a flight but did run in a mad dash to the gate in Singapore Changi – I had been doing emails and last time I checked it just said ‘gate open’ yet next time I looked it said ‘final call’. I was sure I hadn’t been that long but pelted down – of course only to find that they’d barely started boarding and just use ‘final call’ as their boarding announcement for most flights to get people to actually come to the gate!!

  • James67 says:

    To be honest Rob I’m starting to think you are losing your objectivity when it comes to the ME and ME3 carriers. Granted you have flew them much more frequently than I have, and you have flew all their best products while I have not done so on all three carriers. Therefore, you will have a better more representative viewpoint of average standards and also the best they have to offer and can do. Despite this I often find myself having some difficulty reconciling my own experiences with your reviews and comments on ME3. True they are well above average, even pretty solid, across the board but in my experience they still fall short of the best in any one area. Ofcourse it may also just be a question of opinion. For example, in the comments today you seem to rate cakes in AUH lounge and food/style/ambiance if DOH lounge. Serioudly?? IMO those cakes were awful, and the food in both lounges, even when freshly prepared, was quite dire. SQ has a huge lounge at Changi but IME food is much better. In the air ME3 food does not come close to LH or curries on UL. Personally I hated the DOH lounge, I felt that the ambiance was all wrong, it just felt like an extension of the terminal building. They have nothing in their lounges to match Thai First Spa. The standard of servjce onboard cannot compare with ANZ, or Thai if you get them on a good day. True the seats are good but they are no better than the other leading seats. So, in my view, there are always some airlines that do some things much better than others but when you take the whole package together there is then not that much difference between them. Chances are you are going to feel quite lousy after spending 12 hours or so on board any aircraft. That’s why I personally care little about any of these things except whether the seat makes a comfortable bed because what makes a great flight for me is whether or not I can sleep 90% of it.

    • harry says:

      Only to add: q amusing to see people on ME3 on flights leaving their home countries —> Europe almost 100%of them knocking back the booze after green light goes off & changing into boob tubes or jeans & t-shirts. These people naturally prefer our Western lifestyle.

  • dps says:

    High quality food, comfortable seating, (promptly available)clean showers with decent amenities, natural daylight and professional but friendly service are all I ask. In 25+ years of longhaul flights, VS and CX have never let me down, the food is surprisingly good in the JFK and LAX AA Flagship Lounges; and QF rarely disappoints. As for BA, the poor management of the CCR and shabby furniture and plumbing in GF at LHR T5 and (to a lesser extent) T3 are a disgrace; and infinitely less attractive than smaller but better-designed lounges at UK “outstations” such as GLA, JER and NCL.

    • will says:

      The Concorde Room is a real disgrace. The quality of the food is terrible, and the level of service from the staff appalling, I’ve walked out several times without actually being served either desert or drinks despite placing the order and having plenty of time.

      It’s good for a booze up, other than that GF is better imho.

    • will says:

      Also completely agree with you with respect to the LAX and JFK AA flagship lounges, they are wonderful. I’m not entirely sure why but the Evian in LAX always tastes better than any other water anywhere, maybe I’m just always really thirsty when passing through!!

      • dps says:

        If only AA had a Flagship Lounge – as against dire AAdmirals Clubs – at other US hubs such as DFW, ORD and MIA (where at least there’s the OW lounge in “E” after 1300).

        • Alan says:

          DFW and MIA have Amex Centurion Lounges now which are excellent – although sadly getting a bit overcrowded given their rather generous guesting policy (and the extremely good sign-up bonuses in the US on their cards which makes taking out some of the top cards a no-brainer!)

  • Bigglesgirl says:

    Anybody know ow easy it is to redeem your TK miles on another Star Alliance airline? I have 90k which, if I flew with TK would get me and the other half from the UK to SE Asia one way in J if I booked their Capacity Controlled seat (45k pp one way) – however Im not keen on flying them and want to use my miles elsewhere.

  • Matt says:

    They have real chefs in there baking and cooking all the time. You can watch them. The food is delicious which you didn’t taste. This is absolutely the very last place one should criticize in Istanbul.

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