Review: Turkish Airlines Lounge, Istanbul Atatürk Airport, Istanbul, Turkey


Turkish Airlines has been mounting themselves as a viable alternative to the Middle Eastern Three carriers of Qatar, Etihad and Emirates. Turkish Airlines offer excellent connectivity to over 120 countries from their connection hub in Istanbul Turkey and also through their network Star Alliance. In order to mount a reasonable competitive offence to these carriers, they have upped their lounge offering in order to elevate their standing. In doing so, they’ve established their flagship Turkish Business Class Lounge as one of the largest business class lounges in the world with seating capacity for over one thousand staff. We invite you to read on to see how the lounge compares to other business lounges in the world.

This post is one chapter on our second Round the World trip via Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Poland. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Turkish Airlines Lounge, Istanbul Atatürk Airport, Istanbul, Turkey

Connecting through Istanbul Atatürk International Airport:

We had initially planned for a 3 hour connection in Istanbul Atatürk Airport, between our flight from Dubai, United Arab Emirates onto our onward flight to Zurich, Switzerland. The planned time was to be able to enjoy the second expansion phase of the already good Turkish Airlines Istanbul Lounge. Unfortunately, the Turkish flight delay from our arriving Turkish Airlines Dubai – Istanbul flight, only gave us about 45 minutes in the lounge.

Every time I have connected or passed through Istanbul (with our 5th visit today), it’s been an overcrowded gong show. I wouldn’t describe it as a pleasant experience. 

After arriving off the Turkish Airlines Dubai flight, we re-cleared security with long lines, then walked upstairs to the departure level concourse. We raced through the Istanbul Atatürk airport, which was a thronged mess of travellers. We were passed by several of our fellow business class passengers on the concourse who were in an outright run to find and make their own connecting gates for their flights to the United States. Of course, there was no ground staff available to assist anyone attempting to make connecting flights.

About the Turkish Airlines International Lounge:

Turkish has advertised it’s lounge as a fabulous place. From their internal Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles newsletter, they offer the following description of the Istanbul Lounge:

  • Amongst its new services is a lovely little tea garden reminiscent of those found in Istanbul that provides an experience similar to places in the city where both residents and visitors can enjoy freshly brewed Turkish tea and simit, a traditional Turkish sesame seed bagel.
  • Or for those looking for a bit more excitement before their flight, there is a miniature model of Istanbul in which guests may experience a virtual car rally as well as play other game consoles and electronic diversions.
  • Turkish Airlines is a well-known enthusiastic supporter of golf worldwide, including its support for the “Turkish Airlines Open”, and as such the lounge also includes a realistic golf simulator for passengers interested in proving their skills while waiting for a flight.
  • Unique tastes of Turkish and global dishes
  • For those interested in Turkish cuisine, the lounge provides some of the unique tastes of Turkish and global dishes you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Amongst other treats, you’ll find freshly prepared pastries from Vienna’s famous pastry shop Demel.
  • Also, make sure not to miss the local corner where chefs prepare regional Turkish delicacies that appeal to both the eye, nose and the taste buds under a classically designed copper range hood–including “mantı” (Traditional Turkish beef ravioli) and “gözleme” (A traditional Turkish pastry dish of hand-rolled dough brushed with butter and eggs and stuffed with light savory goods). In another corner guests can sample famous specialties such as “pide” (Some say the original pizza) and “börek” (a pastry of phyllo dough stuffed with savories), both cooked in its special oven. Plus, throughout the lounge there are offerings of fresh fruit, salads, appetizers and nuts all offered as part of Turkish hospitality.
  • The lounge is operated by Turkish Airlines’ catering partner, TURKISH DO&CO, a group that has repeatedly won awards for providing Turkish Airlines’ passengers with the best meals in the sky.

The Turkish Airlines Lounge at Istanbul Atatürk International Airport was the primary lounge for both Business Class travelers, Star Alliance Gold level travelers, and premium passengers from the Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles frequent flier programs.

Locating the Turkish Airlines Istantbul Atatürk Lounge:

The lounge was centrally located in the main concourse of the Istanbul Atatürk Airport Departure Hall. It was always a busy throng in this zone, and the lounge was located off to the left hand side if you were coming from the departures security screening check point. If you were connecting like we were, you’d pop up at various points on the concourse dependent on the security screening check point that you had used. In this case, it’s typically a right turn to get towards the lounge.

The Turkish Airlines Lounge (circled) located in the Main International Departure Concourse

Accessing the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge:

There were several ways to get into the wonderful Turkish Airlines Business Lounge.

An Easily Marked Front Door

For members of the Turkish Airlines Frequent Flier Miles and Smiles program, on domestic flights, our Classic Plus members can enter Turkish Airlines Lounges and enjoy all the services on offer, even when traveling in Economy Class. Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles Elite and Elite Plus members, along with one guest, have free entry to Turkish Airlines Lounges on both domestic and international flights. Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles Elite and Elite Plus members, along with one guest, can also make use of Star Alliance Gold logo special passenger lounges at all airports outside Turkey.

For those travelling on Star Alliance Carriers, for those having Star Alliance Gold level or higher, also have access. Naturally, those departing on Turkish Airlines in business class also have access.

After locating the lounge entrance, we used the E-gates to access the lounge. They are supposed to accept your boarding pass and automatically allow access. Of the three gates, one was broken. There was a scrum at the lounge dragon desk. We tried to scan our way in and it turned out we were scanning the exit gates. We ended up just walking in the lounge unchallenged by staff since the gates were stuck in the open position. 

Inside the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge:

Getting back to our experience, the lounge is split into two levels. The primary access at lounge reception is on the upper level. With a capacity for 1,039 people, it is a massive place.

On our visit, it seemed to be full of people going everywhere and in every direction; a chaotic experience made worse by rushing. The lounge even offered peek – boo views of the long lines evident outside at security waiting to get into the departure concourse as well for immigration.

One of the first things to see at this lounge is the giant two story Turkish Airlines circular globe that fronts the staircases to the lower levels.

The Turkish Airlines Lounge Globe
Views to the Lower Level

By all accounts, this lounge is indeed among the best business lounges in the world. It was probably about 40% occupied while we were here, with a downstairs that was hardly used. The upper level had the most convenient seating, with lounge chairs stretching around the perimeter of the square lounge.

Upper Level Lounge Chairs
Upper Level Lounge Pods
Upper Level Loungers

The lounge featured an unadvertised “Massage Therapist”, who was working the rounds on the upper level.

Complimentary Massages for Business Travellers

In addition to lounge chairs, there were lots of amenities available to keep yourself entertained. The upper level also offered a library styled pool table, and a large television room for pausing for the news. The pool table is almost always in use whenever I’ve passed through and was proven itself as a popular feature.

A Library Styled Pool Table
The television room
The TV Rom, amid various lounge spaces

Checking out the lower level, the lounge featured almost every possible amenity; golf simulators, pool table, go kart racing and television rooms. They have placed most of these amenities downstairs, where they have a little extra space.

One of the only golf simulators I’ve ever seen in a lounge worldwide
A Car Racing Track

There was an additional television media area on the lower level, which was quieter than the upstairs main level.

Lower Level Media Center

There were additional table seating downstairs, which offered a much more quiet ambience.

Downstairs Table Area

The lounge was so large, it’s one of the view that I’ve visited, that’s actually needed it’s own map.

A Lounge so Large, it needs a map

Food and Beverage:

There were ample places to eat in the Turkish Airlines Lonuge. It would be one of the lounge’s best features. The lounge offered highlights of Turkish cuisine, you could locate flatbread, Turkish pasta, spices and olives with great olive oil. The food is a very popular feature of the lounge so expect short queues while you wait to collect your food.

Upstairs Dining Zone
Upstairs Dining Zone – with Bakery in the Background

Today’s food included marinated chicken kebabs being cooked fresh, a popcorn machine, and a separate Turkish Street food area. The high ceilings made for a pleasant ambience as well, while we snacked away.

Turkish Flatbreads on the Grill

The Turkish street cart was closed on our visit. The Turkish Street Cart is usually situated under the globe on the Lower Level and features baked bread.

Turkish Street Cart

One thing that the lounge was missing was a proper bar. Most of the alcohol is on a self service, self pour variety and includes wine and some spirits. There were limited quantities, which is surprisingly so considering the worldwide clientele that passes through this place.

MrsWT73 of course had her opinions: “This place is drop dead gorgeous. Amazing! It’s better than Lufthansa First Class Terminal” Really? Despite being a great business class lounge, I wasn’t that impressed. The place was packed and felt like a souq at off hours- people coming and going all directions and staggering around looking for food. Most of the food is centralized, where there are some smaller drink stations at various places. I didn’t find the food offerings consistent, so people end up wandering around all over the place looking for different types of food. I concluded it was an excellent business lounge, but lacked the exclusivity, privacy and tranquility of a genuine First Class lounge.

My Thoughts on the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge:

The Turkish Airlines Business Lounge is among one of the best Star Alliance Lounges Worldwide.

It is a massive space that seats over one thousand people, and offers among the best variety in Middle East Lounge food out there, with staff to feed a small army. With amenities ranging from massage therapists, to a golf simulator, it’s probably one of the best featured lounges I’ve been in for a while.

It can tend to be a busy spot, so I wouldn’t call it a relaxing place. Despite this, it’s is well worth a visit to spend a little time before your flight, if only to say that you’ve been in the world class Turkish Airlines Business Lounge.

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