The entrance of Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul, with two olive trees framed by an ottoman trellis // © 2012 GTH & Nathan DePetris

When I worked in corporate America, before owning a travel agency, I traveled extensively and spent countless hours in airports and on airplanes around the world. Airline lounges, especially when executed well, were often one of the key deciding factors in which airline got my business and loyalty. I’ve seen lounges that are oases of calm in chaotic airports, and came to appreciate many of their services. To choose the first annual GTH Best Airline Lounge award recipient, editors considered lounge facilities & offerings, food & beverage, and innovation/originality. Without reservation, we awarded Turkish Airlines’ CIP lounge in Istanbul as GTH Best Airline Lounge for 2012.At twelve thousand square feet, much more of a mansion than a lounge, Turkish Airlines CIP Business lounge in Istanbul is quite amazing. The executive service starts at a special check-in counter for business class passengers, continues through a private entry and passport control after checking in, to an exclusive enclave bedecked in a clean modern décor with decidedly Turkish overtones.

A central hallway connects the expansive Turkish Airlines CIP lounge in Istanbul airport // © GTH & Nathan DePetris

When I first enter the lounge, I’m greeted by an ottoman trellis that hugs two potted olive trees over a hundred years old. High ceilings frame the entire scene. There are ample seating areas, two meal stations, and a well-stocked self-serve bar. When I waltz over to the concierge to check out the showers and other amenities offered, I discover another section twice as big. Showers, typical of what you would find in any world class airline lounge, offer a chance to freshen up in between flights or for a business meeting. One of the lounges many additional nice touches are the four sleeping rooms off of the main hallway that provide lounge guests in transit an opportunity to rest and relax in quiet comfort until their connecting flight is ready to board. What is really shocking however, and more so at 8 am, is the amount of additional food and the kaleidoscope of variety across the entire lounge. While every airline lounge offers food and beverage, some even well, Turkish Airlines CIP takes it to a whole new level.

The hub of the food and beverage extravaganza is an open display galley in the center where half a dozen Do & Co chefs dish out delicacies nonstop. Stations featuring luscious food and drink surround this hub on all sides. One station featured nuts, dried fruit, and ten different kinds of olives. A second displayed western pastries and eastern sweets. Yet another station offered a huge selection of cakes –I counted over seven varieties. These are all in addition to the three main meal stations spread throughout the massive space. Beverages run the gamut from premium alcohol labels such as Bombay Sapphire, Finlandia, and Chambord, to natural juices and soft drinks. Due to a blend of Mediterranean and western cuisine, it’s easy to find food and drink options even for the strictest dietary needs, including vegetarian and vegan, and of course Halal and Kosher compliant.

Map of Turkish Airlines’ CIP lounge in Istanbul. Each of the square rooms (like the Library) are about 30 feet on each side // © GTH & Nathan DePetris// © GTH & Nathan DePetris

Even kids have their own enclosed play room behind glass walls giving them a fun place while maintaining the lounge’s serenity. Teens can grab one of the two PlayStations to while away the time, or hop onto one of the eight Macs available. I chose to use my own laptop to get online using the complimentary WiFi available. There’s also a library, movie theatre, and TV room with nine international news channels that play sound through wireless headsets so everyone can hear their own channel without disturbing others. I have to admit, with only three hours before my flight, I focused on the lavish food offerings for breakfast and desert, and didn’t have a chance to grab a movie or watch any TV.

During a time when most airlines are cutting back, Turkish Airlines CIP lounge in Ataturk Airport is elevating the Business Class experience while adding value, and easily earning our choice for GTH’s Best Airline Lounge worldwide.  This lounge expertly delivers an amazing variety of food, drink and entertainment options. It’s no surprise, then, how much I’m looking forward to the layover in Istanbul on my next trip.

If You Go:

Turkish Airlines Business Class 

Turkish Airlines Awards

Skytrax Review of Turkish Airlines

A portion of this article’s underlying trip was hosted by Turkish Airlines. My opinions, however, are my own, and I was not paid to express any bias for or against a place or product.