A Quick Tour Through Istanbul’s Beautiful (And Huge!) New Airport

a walkway in a building

Every once in a while there are opportunities for me to feature content on Pizza in Motion that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.  Today’s post is an example of that.  I don’t have any plans to be in Turkey anytime soon,  But, my best friend David had a stopover at Istanbul’s new airport recently and offered to write a few paragraphs up for my readers.  Hope you enjoy!

Hi everyone! I have a confession to make. I’m not Ed, and I’m not eating a doughnut.  But for this post I’m playing the part of Ed. So sit back, grab a doughnut, and let me start by saying . . .


I’m not making some sophomoric joke, but rather, the first words I typed in a text to Ed when I landed at the new Istanbul Airport (IST) which opened just a few weeks ago.  If you’re not familiar with the story, IST is the home of large Star Alliance carrier Turkish Airways.  The country of Turkey decided a few years ago to invest $15B in a new airport that would be the largest in the world when it opened.   It opened last week after years of construction, and they definitely achieved their overall goals.

My flight from Sarajevo passed by the main terminal at just before 1am local time, and I noticed we were curiously high up.  We passed the terminal and kept going, landing somewhere around a mile from the terminal.  I timed it, and we taxied for 18 minutes without the pilot hitting the brakes once.

The new airport is absolutely beautiful, and absolutely monstrously large.  It took me 8 minutes to go from D17 to D1 walking at a normal pace while going from people mover to people mover.  It took another 5 minutes of walking to find the center of the main terminal.

a walkway in a building

a large building with many people walking around
I’ll confess that I’m not much of a lounge person.  I much prefer walking around a concourse or sitting at a gate and either just people watching, or chilling out.   I’m jaded by all the U.S. domestic lounges which are too often crowded, or at my home airport of Washington-Dulles, dark and depressing.

But Istanbul Ataturk Airport had always been famous for the Turkish Airlines Lounge. The first time I went, I was amazed by how big and neat it was.  And that awe continued today when I visited the Business Lounge in the new airport.   There are other blog posts out there in the travel blogosphere with tons of pictures and reviews (Lucky has a very good post on it).  But I snapped a few pics of the things I liked best, including the kid’s area, the RC car track, and the amazing 200+ inch video screen that greets visitors when they enter the lounge.

a large screen in a building

a piano in a room

a white airplane in a room

a model of a road and bridge

My favorite part of the airport, however, is the gate setup in the D concourse.  As you can see, they nailed a very modern and sleek design.  But what I love most is how roomy each gate is.  The seats are far apart from each other — you aren’t facing another row.  And, there’s no row right in back of you to bump heads with.   The boarding area at each gate is gigantic – enough for lots of orderly queues, or just a big mishmash of people jostling to get on.

a building with a green sign

David’s Bottom Line:  This is a cool airport.  It’s new, it’s pretty, it has a ton of things in it, and if you have lounge access.  It’s a must-see for enthusiasts (and those who just like good food and good entertainment on a long layover).   I’ll strongly recommend that you don’t book a tight connection when transiting IST. Seriously.  Don’t.  You won’t make it.  Between taxi time and the size of the airport, plus the inefficiencies that crop up in such a large operation, you need at least an hour between scheduled landing and the start of boarding of your next flight, in my opinion.

Thanks for reading!

The Final Two Pennies

It’s Ed back again to finish off with a couple of thoughts.  Istanbul’s new airport keeps the previous code (IST) but loses Ataturk from its official name.  There are also reports that hundreds of folks died in the construction of the airport due to unsafe working conditions.  Those sorts of reports are eye opening when I think of the construction safety standards in the United States.

Istanbul Airport looks truly beautiful, no surprise when I think about how much I enjoyed exploring Ataturk on a layover.  I’m still uncomfortable with the political climate in Istanbul right now, so it won’t be a destination for me anytime soon.  But, Turkish Airlines is a lovely airline and I’ll definitely consider connecting at the new airport on my way to somewhere else.  As always, let me know if you guys enjoy content like this or if there are other areas you’d like me to cover.

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