CIP Lounge at Istanbul Airport – Turkish hospitality at its best

Despite years of fairly intensive travel, I never managed to join the ranks of those who regularly frequent the oases of the aiports – the business lounges. But now I was going with Hubs who conveniently had earned the coveted Star Alliance Gold card a few months back. Thanks to him I was about to be introduced to the joys of ‘travelling in style’ and the Turkish Airline lounge at Istanbul Airport was going to be, so to speak, my christening into the world of airport lounges!

Brief research had informed me that the it had been recently rennovated and reopened in July 2011 and it was quite… roomy with nearly 3,000m2 of floor space.Entrance is reserved for those travelling in business class with TA, as well as Miles&Smiles Elite and Elite Plus holders (TA), plus Star Alliance Gold card holders.They won’t let any Silver Elites inside and no paid entrance is offered either (overheard people asking about it while I was waiting to get in).

Check-in was fast, despite the fairly crowded front-desk area. It’s a sizeable lounge capable of handling about 2000 people daily but fortunately they have budgeted the right number of staff to service its entrance. While we are on the subject of check-in, I’d say that some of the staff working there need to polish their English skills, as those might be sufficient for greeting the guests, but end up obviously lacking when presented with more complex requests.

The lounge itself is beautiful, bright, sunny, with lots of windows. Tons of seating areas, but hard to find real solitude in the main lounge. We were there mid-day to early afternoon and early morning, not really noting a difference in how populated it was.The lounge is quite modern, but at the same time has retained a flavor of the local taste in interior design. The bathroom area is notable; you can enjoy a view of your own self by looking in the mirrors left, right or in the ceiling, while answering your nature calls.

The list of amenities also includes showers with special toiletry kits. These are reservation only;  took Hubs about an 1/2-1hr of wait time to get in. I also understand there are private relaxation rooms, but never got around to see them, so can’t share much info there.

We did get a good use of the children’s area, where beside a fully equipped playroom (videogames included), there are two small (tiny) rooms, one with a crib, and another with a nursing chair. Free diapers included. I must say, the children’s sleep room is probably not ideally situated right near where other children are supposed to play (yell or just be generally loud); moreover, the door of one of the rooms could not fully close. Regardless I thought the mere availability of such facilities was a great thing.

The lounge also has a library, billiard table area, piano area, computer area (if you don’t have yours with you), bar area and dining area.Speaking of dining, the food service in the lounge is probably its most notable highlight. In all parts of day a full blown buffet with salads, breads, spreads cheese, olives, freshly cooked pasta, as well as local specialties are available for guests to enjoy. There is a separate buffet for deserts and fruit, and a bar for the drinks that your heart might desire. The fare changes for breakfast to include omelettes and eggs any style. From what it seems to me, Turkish Airlines have really taken to heart the idea of feeding their lounge guests full all day long.

All in all, it was a great first experience in ‘airport lounging’, and honestly, based on what I know, it will be hard to top anytime soon.

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