Istanbul Airport: The Complete Guide

Istanbul airport

Courtesy of Istanbul Airport

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Istanbul Airport

Tayakadın Terminal Cad. No:1, 34283 Arnavutköy/İstanbul, Turkey
Phone +90 4441442

A sparkling new hub for Turkish Airlines — which flies to upwards of 300 destinations globally, including nine cities across the US — Istanbul Airport has officially replaced Atatürk International Airport as the region’s primary international gateway and has the capacity to receive 90 million transit passengers annually. While the airport’s bright, airy and ultra-modern main terminal nears completion — all that remains are a few finishing touches — this is just the first of several phases slated for development over the next decade. By 2028, Istanbul Airport will have the capacity to accommodate some 200 million passengers annually via four terminals and six runways, making it the busiest airport in the world.

Istanbul Airport Code, Location and Contact Information

  • Istanbul Airport’s official IATA code is IST, a legacy from Atatürk International Airport. (Not to be confused with IST, the airport is managed by a Turkish company called iGA, which you’ll spot on the airport’s logo and signage in the terminal.)
  • Istanbul Airport is located in a rural district of Istanbul Province about 20 miles north of the city center. While there are plans to connect the airport to the city with a metro line (slated to open in 2020), presently only select bus services, taxis and other private transfers, such as those that may be arranged by your hotel, are available.
  • The airport’s official website includes a flight-tracking feature on its homepage. Additional resources include an interactive Istanbul Airport map, a 360-degree explore feature and detailed transportation information, including airport parking and driving directions. The Turkish Airlines website also has a helpful Istanbul Airport guide.
  • Istanbul Airport’s main customer care phone number is 444 1 442, which can be called directly using cellular services or via wifi-enabled platforms such as FaceTime andWhatsApp. The airport is also reachable viaTwitter and email.
Istanbul airport control tower
 Courtesy of Istanbul Airport

Istanbul Airport: Know Before You Go

Although presently Istanbul Airport features just one main terminal for all arrivals, departures and transfers (which includes separate entrances and security for international and domestic flights) at more than 15 million square feet, it’s also one of the world’s largest terminal buildings. It is sprawling and lacks moving walkways or other transit infrastructure (e.g., shuttle busses or inter-concourse trams) to expedite transit across the length of the main building, which means it’s essential to allow ample time to transfer between gates in different concourses or to get to your gate from the main retail and dining hubs, also the location of all airline lounges.

Under the umbrella of iGA Pass Premium Experiences — which can be purchased online or through theairport’s app — the airport’s management company sells passes for single-use services including access to the iGA Lounge and iGA Buggy Service, which at a cost of 5 euros per adult (children and infants ride for free), is one of the only motorized ways to get around the terminal presently. Of course, special services are always available to passengers in need of extra assistance; contact your airline in advance of your travel dates to make arrangements, if necessary.

Savvy travelers will look forward to a layover or a little extra time on the ground at the new Istanbul Airport, which has plentiful opportunities for shopping and dining, including the world’s largest duty free retail zone, local specialty retailers and ample options to nosh on delicious local cuisine, whether in casual eateries, sit-down restaurants or the spacious new flagship lounges for Turkish Airlines. The airport also has a 24-hour airport hotel, Yotel Istanbul, which features both pre- and post-security entrances and can be booked hourly (with a minimum four hours) or overnight.

A Note About Wi-Fi

While the airport has a free public wifi network, it’s configured in a way that requires a code sent via SMS to activate. This essentially makes the network inaccessible for anyone traveling without cellular data, such as if your phone is in “airplane mode.” On the other hand, wi-fi is readily available in the lounges and within the airport hotel.

What to Eat & Drink

From U.S. chains such as Starbucks and Popeyes, to grab-and-go cafes, bakeries and eateries with a Turkish twist, to a sit-down grill restaurant and a cluster of casual dining concepts with notable chef names attached, Istanbul Airport has options to satiate every traveler and there are more openings to come.

  • Taste of Anatolia is a collection of open-kitchen Turkish eateries where you can find anything from traditional mezze and hot entrees, to spit-roasted doner kebab sandwiches, to all varieties of cookies, baked goods and sweets, including gooey, cheesy künefe. The sit-down restaurant here offers a more leisurely dining experience and also features a full bar.
  • Outposts of Simit Sarayı serve Turkey’s namesake sesame-crusted bagels, called simits, with a variety of accompaniments in three locations throughout the airport.
  • At the far end of the terminal, upstairs from A and B concourses, Gourmet Trilogy features three chef-driven, fast-casual dining concepts including Vivanda Burger by Akrame Benallal, whose eponymous Paris restaurant boasts two Michelin stars, and outposts of Enzo Pizzeria and healthy eats cafe Gram from Istanbul chef and cookbook author, Didem Senol.
Istanbul Airport
 Courtesy of Istanbul Airport

Where to Shop

Istanbul Airport is truly a shopping paradise. Highlights include:

  • The world’s largest duty free retail zone, Unifree Duty Free, which is divided into nine concept areas covering nearly 600,000 square feet. You’ll find everything everything from fashion and accessories brands to beauty, home and electronics offerings. Samsonite, Tumi, Longchamp, and Herschel Supply are among the brands stocking travel gear and accessories.
  • Luxury abounds. Anchored by a Louis Vuitton storefront with an eye-popping digital art facade, Istanbul Airport’s shopping promenade features high-fashion offerings to rival some of the world’s most exclusive shopping streets, with stores from Prada, Dior, Celine, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Fendi, and Hermes, to name a few.
  • Another prominent retail flagship is an outpost of Turkish designer concept shop Vakko, which has sections dedicated to home goods, business attire, cruise wear, accessories, gifts, scarves and even a confectionary selling its signature chocolate treats. Established Turkish makers are represented, as well. Keep an eye out for apparel and leather goods by Desa, handbags by Mehry Mu, timepieces and accessories by Saat & Saat, and Gilan baubles, among others.
  • For food goods, handicraft and other Turkish delights — yes, including those sweets of the same name — head for the Old Bazaar, which focuses on consumables and other locally-made items. (If the name sounds familiar, there was a similar offering at the previous airport.) From Turkish coffee and loose-leaf tea to ceramics and jewelry, the Old Bazaar is a reliable bet for picking up a few last-minute souvenirs or tastes of Turkey to bring home.
Istanbul Airport
 Courtesy of Istanbul Airport

Istanbul Airport Lounges

As the global hub for Turkish Airlines, Istanbul Airport features some pretty fantastic lounge options that make smart use of the space above the sprawling retail and dining offerings at the heart of the new terminal.

  • The Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Lounge and the Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge are open air, meandering spaces of some 60,000 square feet each that collectively can accommodate up to 1,530 passengers, the major difference between the two being the clientele they serve. The Miles&Smiles Lounge is accessible to all Turkish Airlines and Star Alliance Business Class passengers, as well as Economy passengers with certain frequent flier status, while the Business Class Lounge is exclusively for Turkish Airlines and Star Alliance Business Class passengers traveling internationally.
  • Both lounges feature live cooking stations, snack stations, cold salad bars, self-serve bar, and beverage areas, as well as traditional Turkish coffee and tea self-service and plenty of sweet treats, including cakes, cookies, and assorted baklava.
  • Additional amenities include luggage storage, shower suites, designated television and relaxation areas, meeting rooms, and ample and varied seating for dining, working and simply lounging, depending on what you’re looking to accomplish with your time.
  • For the young (and young at heart) both lounges feature a designated children’s play area, a motorized race track, a gaming area, golf simulators, even an old-fashioned popcorn machine. The Business Class lounge also features a gallery space that’s curated by the Istanbul Modern Museum of Art.
  • Turkish Airlines Domestic Lounge is accessible to all Turkish Airlines Business Class passengers as well as Economy passengers with certain Miles&Smiles or Star Alliance frequent flier status and features many of the same amenities as the international lounges, just on a smaller scale. Note that the lounge is accessible from a special curbside entrance; check-in is handled once you’ve arrived inside.
  • The iGA Lounge serves all non-Star Alliance Business Class passengers. Day access can also be purchased online or at the entrance so long as space is available, which is hard to fathom it wouldn’t be as the lounge spans nearly 50,000 square feet. In addition to spacious seating areas there’s one main dining area, a bar area and several conference rooms. Currently, Priority Pass is not accepted.
  • Additional lounge offerings, including a Turkish Airlines Exclusive Lounge, a Turkish Airlines Arrival Lounge, and a dedicated SkyTeam Lounge, are still to come.

Istanbul Airport Tips & Tidbits

  • Have further questions? Istanbul Airport’s main information desk is conveniently located immediately after security screening for international passengers. Also look for staff with purple shirts that say “Ask Me / Bana Sorun.”
  • While Uber is available in Istanbul, the BiTaksi app is an equally popular option and is worth a download, to assist with transport around the city and to the airport from the city center.
  • Curious about spending a few days in Istanbul on your way to a further destination? Turkish Airlines offers a complimentary stopover program that includes free accommodation.
  • If you’ll be spending any time on the ground in Istanbul or Turkey, don’t forget to apply for a Turkish e-Visa in advance of your departure.
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Here's What You Should Know About Istanbul's Sprawling New Airport