As a frequent traveler, I have heard a lot about the supremacy of Turkish Airlines’ Lounge Istanbul at the Ataturk Intenrational Airport as one of, if not the BEST airline lounge in the world.
So after a week traveling with 10 wonderful strangers, I was able to transfer 80,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points (that I acquired having the Chase Sapphire Preferred card) to become 80,000 United Miles so I could book 2 free first class (Turkish Airlines’ first class is actually called “business class” and there’s no higher level) flights from Tunis to Istanbul and from Istanbul to NYC on Turkish Airlines. Other than being excited for the flight experiences themselves, I was actually more excited this time to finally get access to the venerable lounge in Istanbul.
Getting through Tunis-Carthage International Airport was a relative breeze so I was on my Turkish Airlines flight from Tunis to Istanbul within minutes of arriving at the airport.
While waiting for takeoff, they handed hot towels and took my order from the menu below:
And at about 10 minutes after takeoff, I was served with a selection of cheeses and bread spreads. FYI, on business class they let you watch movies on the stowaway video screens even as you’re taking off and landing!
After I was done with the cheeses, they were quickly swapped with a satisfying vegetable omelette.
We landed at IST (Ataturk International) airport about 2 hours later, where I went through another round of security to get to the international transfer area. The lounge is so big you’ll notice it immediately.
No check-in needed! Just scan your flight ticket in at their turnstiles.
Once your inside, it could take you up to half an hour to explore the entire place, which covers nearly 6000 square meters. There’s a reason why they call this lounge “bigger than some airports.”
With 2 wide floors of entertainment, this massive space houses a movie theater, public lockers, virtual mini-golf, a kids playroom with a slide, popcorn machines, pretzel stations, about 20+ standalone kitchens serving all types of international cuisine, limitless and unlimited drinks of all types, and tons and tons of Turkish pastries.
Need a place to sit? Not a problem here; this place can seat up to 1,200 travelers:
I could post up more photos, but they’ll just spoil the surprise and/or make you more jealous. There’s just so much more to see here that I could go on about endlessly. Unfortunately, I had to leave early knowing that it was going to be a shitshow going through extra rounds of security given that we were no longer allowed to have laptops, tablets, cameras or other large electronic devices in our carry-on luggage onboard the flight (read the news lately?).
This whole new process took about 30 minutes (it would’ve been much more if I weren’t in first/business class!) where they checked your flight tickets, asked you a few questions about your vacation, then opened up all your carry-on bags to look for said electronic devices. Once they found them you had to declare each one, shut them all down, and they’ll itemize each one before placing them in bubble wrap and placing each of them in hard suitcases. They then give you a tag for each device with which you can get these electronics back after the flight.
Then it was off to my flight.
The first/business class seating isn’t in a clamshell type but more of the standard 3 per grouping where those assigned to the middle seats may have an issue getting to the aisle. Still, they all can turn into flatbeds.
The footrests open up to store belongings:
Then they pass out these great Denon headphones to use during the flight.
There’s also the amenities kit, which although is in a nice leather FURLA bag, the contents are pretty standard (or am I getting more spoiled now?):
Their first/business class are also known for their in-flight dining with an extensive menu of drinks and food.
A chef comes out to take your requests ahead so he can cook it to order:
And then the ceremonious multi-course meal began:
They even give you a fake candlelight to give the impression that you’re having a candlelight dinner to yourself.
Their bathrooms are no joke either:
They’ll make your bed for you if you want to go to sleep, but I chose to stay up to readjust my circadian rhythm:
If you need a laptop to work with but had to check it in earlier, they can provide laptops for you to use during the flight. That said, their wifi was pretty fast for in-flight internet.
About 2 hours before landing, they begin to serve their light breakfast:
After about 11 hours in the sky, we promptly landed at JFK airport and I was the first one out the door. After getting through passport control with Global Entry, I waited for about 30 minutes at baggage claims before they were able to deliver me back my laptop, camera, and iPad from their cargo hold. Just don’t lose your tags that they give you before you board!
– At time of posting in Istanbul, Turkey, it was 77 °F –
Humidity: 64% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: cloudy