Pampering and wellness at the airport is on the rise. Airports across the globe are adding yoga rooms and airline lounges are increasingly paying attention to sleep, healthy eating and wellness.

But at the Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, these are only just the beginning of enticements.

Plan a layover at Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul | LiveDoGgrow
Plan a layover at Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul | LiveDoGgrow

Billiards, golf, video games and a race-car track. These are not activities that you would normally associate with an airport lounge. Or that I would normally be interested in. But great food, massages and showers? Now I am interested.

Over the years, I have gone to great lengths to shorten layover times and speed efficiently through a terminal enroute to board a plane. Until now. Thanks to the generous gift of Miles and Smiles Elite status (and a recent roundtrip in business class) from Turkish Airlines, I had the chance to experience the Turkish Airlines Flagship CIP Lounge in Istanbul. And now that I am left to my own devices and am planning future travel? I am actively on the lookout for ways to fly through Istanbul with as much layover time as possible (ok, yes – within reason) to fully enjoy the relaxation, pampering and wellness that come from a visit to the Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul.

Five Reasons to Plan a Layover at the Turkish Airlines Flagship CIP Lounge

Whether you are traveling business or have Elite status on Miles and Smiles or Gold status any other Star Alliance partner, you are going to want to add Istanbul to your list of cities to fly through. Trust me.

Space and light

With two floors, the lounge is massive. But even more than the space itself which can accommodate over 1,000 travelers (over approximately 60,000 sq. feet) at any given moment, it is bright and airy. (Unless of course you choose to sit in the theater room which is dark for obvious reasons. And yes, there is a theater room. With a popcorn machine.)

A garden atrium provides the perfect spot to enjoy a Turkish tea, a library and architectural details make you forget you are in an airport. Oh and for a musical interlude, grab a seat near one of the two self-playing pianos (one on each level).

Traveling with kids? No problem. There is a space for kids to blow off steam (behind a closed glass door…so that you can see them, but not hear them!).

Oh and remember all the times you had to cart your carryon luggage with you and had to ask a stranger to watch your things so that you didn’t have to lug it into the restroom? No more. There are beautiful lockers to store your bags. And, should you need to charge your electrical devices? There are lockable charging cubbies.

Plan a layover at Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge Istanbul | LiveDoGrow
Plan a layover at Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge Istanbul | LiveDoGrow

Massage beds and a roaming massage therapist

Most of my own flying is done in the economy cabin, which means that I sit scrunched in tight spaces for too many hours. Add in the fact that I prefer a window seat and then hate to disturb my aisle mates by getting up unnecessarily – I am usually a ball of stiff knots after traveling. So when given the chance to recover from a flight with a massage? Or preempt the tension before a flight? I am all in. Even sitting in business class is still sitting and if I have learned anything over the years about wellness, it is that massages are more than a luxury. They are key to body maintenance. Visitors to the lounge can take a short nap in massage beds (there can be a wait for these highly popular services) or look for the roaming massage therapist to work wonders on your neck and shoulders.


Airport Wellness at Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul

Showers and private rooms

I confess that I did not use the showers or private rooms during my first trip to the lounge (since I was there prior to my return flight home and had just slept and showered). But… the availability of both are swoon worthy and worth taking advantage of if you have a long layover.

There are eight private rooms in the lounge, for guests transiting on long haul flights (8 hours or more) with layovers of 4 to 7 hours. What I didn’t realize at the time was that there is also an Arrival lounge (open from 4:30 am to 12:30 pm) with showers and space to relax if you are arriving early in the day and need to refresh before a busy day in Istanbul.

For longer layovers (more than 10 hours for economy cabin passengers and 7 or more hours for business passengers), Turkish Airlines provides a complimentary a free hotel accommodation (or for layovers of 6 hours or more, you can opt for a free city tour). My husband and I are looking forward to taking advantage of the hotel perk during our upcoming trip to Malta (and Istanbul) thanks to an overnight layover on our outbound flight. Originally, I’d thought we would use the night in Istanbul to show him around, but with the timing of our flights and traffic in Istanbul, we hope to stay close to the airport and get there early in the morning for some lounge time. On our way back on the other hand, we are planning for three nights (on our own) to explore Istanbul. Because seriously, extending layovers might just be my new favorite thing as it adds a whole other dimension into a trip.

Note: The free hotel accommodation is only valid if there is no earlier flight option available. The stay can be arranged at the hotel desk (near the Starbucks) after clearing arrivals and customs.

Gaming for non-gamers (or gamers)

I am not a gamer. I do not fancy sitting down in front of a video game for long periods (or even short ones). While the video games were not a draw for me, I found my competitive side racing a Scalextric slot car around a track that winds through a model of Istanbul track. And being able to swing a golf club in a virtual simulator before or after a long flight? Even as a non-golfer, I love the idea of getting in a few swings just because.

Golf at Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul

Relaxation at Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul

Entertainment at Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul

Food, food and more food

Food is a BIG deal on Turkish Airlines. The attention to detail in food service and quality is comparable to that of an excellent restaurant, which is saying alot since airplane travel usually means foregoing gourmet or healthy eating. But not with Turkish Airlines, and definitely not at the Lounge Istanbul. Chefs from Do & Co – the Turkish Airlines food service provider – are on-hand in the lounge making fresh Turkish flatbreads, kebabs, pasta and every type of Turkish delicacy that you can think of. Salads and rows of fresh vegetables and fruits fill other stations. And yes, there are pastries. Deliciously gooey and sweet Turkish pastries. 


Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge Istanbul food

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge Istanbul food

How to access the Turkish Airlines Flagship CIP Lounge

The lounge can be accessed just past security and immigration on the departure level or from inside the terminal. Access is open to Turkish Airlines business passengers as well as Elite and Elite Plus members of the Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles frequent flyer program. Star Alliance Gold members departing on Star Alliance flights are also eligible.

So yes. Whether I am transiting through Istanbul or flying out, my strategy is always to allow plenty of time for a layover at the Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge Istanbul.

Read more about flying business class with Turkish Airlines.

(In case you were wondering what CIP meant? After years of seeing it but never knowing specifically what the acronym stood for, I looked it up! CIP = Commercially Important Person (aka VIP).


*I was a guest of Turkish Airlines during my trip to Istanbul in May 2015 and provided with Miles and Smiles Elite status for two years. All opinions are my own and my future trips on Turkish Airlines and plans to spend as much time in the lounge as possible are all thanks to my own wellness travel wanderlust.

Written by Elena Sonnino

Elena Sonnino

Chaser of Dreams. Life coach, wellness and travel writer, yogini, former teacher, adventure seeker, hiker, foodie …and oh right, cancer survivor. Elena writes about finding everyday wellness in far-flung lands and in her own backyard in the Washington D.C. suburbs.


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