Reputed to be the best Business Class lounge in the world, you’ll want to arrive early to experience everything it has to offer
The usual pre-flight routine at most international airports these days is to arrive at the terminal at least three hours in advance; proceed through check-in, passport control and security; then sit in the departure lounge for a couple of hours, trying to avoid the sketchy, over-priced food while you futilely attempt to log on to the airport’s WiFi before they board your flight.
Some of that can be improved if you’re travelling Business Class or First Class and have access to your carrier’s private lounge. Still, lounges vary depending on the airline and the airport, and for the most part, they’re often not much of an improvement over what you get in Economy.
At least that was my experience until I visited the Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey.
I had travelled to Turkey as a guest of Turkish Airlines to cover the Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya, which is on the Mediterranean coast, and was headed back to Toronto after a three-day stopover in Istanbul. (More about the TA Open, playing golf in Turkey and my amazing tour of Istanbul next week).
As required, I dutifully arrived at the airport three hours in advance and quickly proceeded through check-in at the Turkish Airlines counter. Then it was off to the Business Class (CIP) lounge to await my flight.
Well, if there was ever an excuse to arrive at the airport four, five or ten hours early for your flight, TA’s CIP lounge would be the reason.
The first of many highlights that comes with access to the lounge is that you bypass the normal security screening that usually involves long line-ups and sometimes humiliating body-scans or frisking by people whose sole mode of communication is to bark at strangers. Security for the Business Class lounge is handled quickly and efficiently by somebody that actually smiles and speaks to you.
Once inside the lounge, you quickly realize that it is huge – some 60,000 square feet on two floors actually – with multiple areas to relax, eat, work and play. The lounge can accommodate 1,000 passengers at a time and up to 4,000 daily. One of the advertising slogans that Turkish Airlines uses to describe the lounge is that “it’s larger than some airports”.
The facility is separated into lots of casual seating areas, more formal work stations and numerous dining sections. There are twelve food stations spread throughout, serving everything from authentic Turkish fare to western style food, desserts, fine wines and even one station that serves nothing but olives. A couple of food stations feature chefs carving a roast of the day.
It’s not all about eating and drinking either. Obviously, there are work related amenities to keep you occupied – everything from WiFi that really works to work stations, small meeting rooms and even a media wall where you can catch up on all the news of the day from locations all over the world.
If you’re a passenger in transit, there are showers available and small private “quiet” rooms where you can grab a little sleep or a much needed massage. There’s a movie theatre, a kid’s play area and even a library. You can also entertain yourself on the lounge’s pool table, golf simulator or a model Grand Prix race car set.
The usual airport ambience is rushed, harried and confused. The CIP lounge is exactly the opposite. Soft music plays in the background and seating areas are subtly separated for privacy. The food stations are nicely spread out over two floors to avoid any congestion and the play areas ring the outer part of the lower floor. The curved staircase in the centre is like something from a grand ballroom and overall, the lounge is comfortable, inviting and very relaxing. In fact, you have to be careful to watch the clock so you don’t overstay your time and miss your flight.
There are other benefits too. One of the unique features for travellers with lengthy stopovers is a chance to see some of Istanbul. Turkish Airlines, in conjunction with TourIstanbul, offers a 6-hour guided walking tour of the Old City, including breakfast and lunch. That takes you to some incredible historic buildings such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia (built in 386) and the famous indoor Grand Bazaar (established in 1456) that covers 61 streets and over 4,000 shops. In 2014, the Grand Bazaar was recognized as the world’s most visited tourist attraction with over 91 million visitors.
Turkish Airlines flies to more countries (120) than any other airline in the world, which means that at any one time, there could be dozens of nationalities enjoying the hospitality of the Business Class lounge. While almost all of the attendants in the lounge spoke English and Turkish, most of them were conversant in several other languages too. I heard one woman near me answer questions in French, German, Spanish and something that I think was Russian.
I suppose that’s a necessity when you’re located in Istanbul, which is the third most visited city in Europe behind Paris and London. It’s also part of the strategy that has made Turkish Airlines “the Best Airline in Europe” for six straight years and delivered numerous other accolades from various travel publications and ranking panels. The Business Class Lounge itself has been repeatedly recognized as the “Best Business Class Lounge in the World”.
People who travel a lot for either business or pleasure will know from experience the best tips for making their travel time less stressful. To that wealth of knowledge, you can add a visit to Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge at Ataturk Airport. You may see some wonderful sights in your travels around the world but for sure you’ll be talking about the Lounge when you get home.
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