Having returned recently from transiting through Istanbul’s new airport, I can say with confidence that once the minor teething issues with signage are worked out, it will be a great airport IF you like walking. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this sparkling new building is the fact that there is no inter-terminal train or even an integrated system of people walkers to move passengers quickly from A to B.
The new building is one huge terminal – the largest in the world. While there are some advantages to keeping everything together (my local airport is LAX so you get where I am coming from), I calculate that it took me just over 20 minutes to walk from gate B13 where I landed from Los Angeles to gate F12 where my on-going flight to Podgorica was departing from. It should be noted that I arrived and departed on Turkish Airlines so don’t assume if you land on one airline, your on-going flight will depart close-by. We raced across the airport determined to make our one-hour connection. We did, in fact, make it but we arrived breathless and were amongst the last to board the flight. We only had carry-on luggage so I can’t confirm if luggage would have made it. Presumably the luggage would have been on a mechanized vehicle and might well have arrived before us. I just can’t say.
What I would like to advertise is the little publicized opportunity to sail through the airport on a fleet of golf carts at a reasonable rate. Yes, they exist but wait for this catch – you have to, right now, prepay for them and no-one seems to know how they work. Take that coupled with the fact that if the address on your credit card is not an address in Turkey, you will not be able to complete your transaction, making using them right now, a challenge. I reported the problem to Turkish and am hopeful that they can fix this rather important stumbling block. The way that golf carts will work is complicated but once you get it, should work. You will need to get up to the departures level if you are in transit and then there are fixed stations where the golf cart will operate from. You get your golf cart at one of these fixed stations and then take it to the closest fixed station to your departure gate. Why there is a charge for this service, I don’t know but here is the link to how you book it. Please note that the golf cart service is called “Buggy Service”
On our return flight, we had a bit more time to explore the airport. The glistening terminal feels light and lovely with none of those odd gates that seem to involve multiple ups and downs along narrow corridors that were part of the old airport. I made a point of stopping at the beautiful new business class lounge. I had expected to be completely blown away with the lounge and was not. In honesty though, I had come to love the old lounge and had my secret, quiet places to hang out so maybe that was my problem. The new lounge is lovely though and has all the incredible food areas- really it’s hard to find a nicer lounge, anywhere in the world. There were a few weird things – no-one seemed to know where the newspapers were kept – but overall the lounge is incredible and I am sure, over time, I will find my own spots to hang out in!
Overall I give it an 8.5 out of 10 with the understanding that you should have at least 90 minutes to make a connection and, unless you pre-book the buggy, you might get your daily exercise just changing gates.