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IGA Lounge in Istanbul Airport’s International Terminal [Review]

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Ryan Smith
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Ryan Smith

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Ryan completed his goal of visiting every country in the world in December of 2023 and now plans to let his wife choose their destinations. Over the years, he’s written about award travel for publicat...
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Michael Y. Park

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Michael Y. Park is a journalist living in New York City. He’s traveled through Afghanistan disguised as a Hazara Shi’ite, slept with polar bears on the Canadian tundra, picnicked with the king and que...
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With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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The IGA Lounge in the international terminal at Istanbul Airport (IST) has been busy every time I’ve visited, likely because it’s one of the few lounges accessible by those not flying in premium cabins with Turkish Airlines or its Star Alliance partners. The lounge’s central location makes it easy to find, and the fact travelers can pay to get in or enter with a lounge membership makes it popular. But is it worth wading through the crowds for a visit?

Yes. Despite the crowds, it’s a good lounge with solid amenities, good food options, and a new reception area that handles the masses much better than the previous setup — and I’ll tell you more. Here’s what a visit is like to the sole permanent Priority Pass lounge in this massive airport’s international terminal and why the crowds shouldn’t turn you off.

Location

The IGA Lounge was on the second floor of the international terminal, above the central duty-free area. It was across from the food court.

IGA Lounge IST looking down at duty free
Looking over the duty-free area. You’ll find the lounge on the upper floor.

Signs near the LC Waikiki store indicated the lounge and additional shops to the left.

IGA Lounge IST signs near duty free
These signs pointed to the lounge’s entrance.

I took these escalators to the upper floor to find the lounge entrance. There were also elevators nearby.

IGA Lounge IST above duty free looking up
The lounge sat above these signs.

Gaining Access

IGA Lounge IST entrance
Reception at the lounge entrance.

The IGA Lounge in Istanbul participates in Priority Pass, meaning you could get access with cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, or Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. You have to enroll for your complimentary Priority Pass membership.

It’s also possible to pay to visit the IGA Lounge. It’s not cheap, though. Adults will pay €75 (~$80), which applies to anyone aged 12 or above. Children 7 to 12 pay €37.50 (~$40), and children 6 or under are free. These prices apply to a 4-hour visit.

IGA also sells annual passes, starting at €329 (~$352).

Hours of Operation

The lounge was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, when I visited in mid-August 2023. It had also been open around the clock during my previous visits.

First Impressions

I was a big fan of the new entrance. The reception desk was larger than before, meaning employees could help more visitors simultaneously, increasing efficiency and reducing wait times, which I’d previously found problematic.

I checked in at the desk and then scanned my boarding pass at the entry gates.

IGA Lounge IST gates
Scan your boarding pass to enter after checking in at the desk.

Rather than a line of people in the hallway, I found art and a small store where the reception desk had been previously. Overall, the improved access made for a great first impression compared to a year or more ago.

IGA Lounge IST entry hallway
The art and shop replaced the previous check-in desk and line of people typically found in this hallway.

Seating

The IGA Lounge had several seating types spread around its massive footprint.

The first seating area provided benches against the wall, surrounding a piano at the end of the entry hall. The benches had outlets at foot level and small bar-style tables.

IGA Lounge IST piano
The lounge has a piano, surrounded by booths lining a semi-circular wall.

Further into the lounge were mixed seating areas. High-back chairs sat next to low seats, but the most interesting was essentially a cushion with a wire cage as a backrest.

Past the restaurant/café area was more seating echoing the previous types.

IGA Lounge IST seating past restaurant
Seating in the back of the lounge, after passing through the restaurant.

Beyond this, steps descended to the Bosphorus Terrace.

IGA Lounge IST Bosphorous Terrace
Sign to the Bosphorus Terrace.

On the terrace, chairs and tables were arranged like a dining room. This was also the quietest area of the lounge. I guessed it received the fewest visitors because it was a bit hidden.

IGA Lounge IST Bosphorous Terrace lower seating area
Overlooking the Bosphorus Terrace in the back of the lounge.

I found this to be my favorite part of the lounge, though it wouldn’t be a place for a reclining chair to get sleep. To get to the terrace, follow the main hallway to the restaurant area on your right and pass through the seating area beyond. The steps down to the terrace will be in front of you.

Food and Beverage

Buffet

There were 2 buffets in the lounge. A small buffet with cold cuts, cookies, and baklava was on the Bosphorus Terrace.

IGA Lounge IST buffet cold cuts
Cold cuts and olives on the Bosphorus Terrace buffet.

The main buffet was in the central part of the lounge. This area can get extremely busy during the day, and I’ve been shoved out of the way by other guests at this buffet a handful of times.

IGA Lounge IST restaurant buffet
One of the buffet stands in the main restaurant.

The buffet had cold cuts, cheeses, and olives in abundance on 2 different stations in the center. Every time I’ve visited, both stands have had the same food as the other.

At the far end of the restaurant area were hot premade items like pancakes and quiche, served by employees.

IGA Lounge IST hot foods
The lounge’s hot food bar during breakfast hours.

Nearer was a pide station that was new to me, though it wasn’t open during this breakfast-hours visit. The pide, a style of flatbread that’s sometimes referred to as a kind of Turkish pizza, is available during lunch and dinner hours, according to employees.

IGA Lounge IST pide station
The pide station available during lunch and dinner.

On the opposite end of the room, an employee was making made-to-order omelets. Fair warning: The line was long.

For anyone avoiding gluten, you’ll be in luck here: Signs advertised a gluten-free bakery near the hot food area.

IGA Lounge IST gluten free bakery sign
Signs for the gluten-free bakery.

Beverages

Within the restaurant area were 2 large coolers with Coca-Cola products, cans of orange juice, and bottled water.

IGA Lounge IST drink cooler
The main drink cooler near the buffet.

There were also 2 coffee stations, with supplies for making tea, coffee, lattes, and more. And there were minifridges underneath with canned sodas.

IGA Lounge IST restaurant
The buffet and drink station in the main restaurant.

There were individually wrapped coffee stirrers, packs of sugar, and tea bags. Trash had accumulated here, as it had on all of my visits to this lounge.

IGA Lounge IST trash at coffee station
Trash accumulated near the coffee machine.

Additional coffee machines were in the lounge near the bar and in the seating area behind the restaurant (above the stairs to the Bosphorus Terrace).

Amenities

Bathrooms

Bathrooms were in the center rear of the lounge, past the restaurant. A hallway led to both sides of the lounge, and signs made the restrooms easy to find.

IGA Lounge IST bathroom
The bathrooms in this lounge remained surprisingly clean for how many visitors passed through.

Bathrooms were cleaned frequently, necessitated by the volume of visitors to the lounge. The staff did a good job keeping these clean.

Showers

Showers were near the entrance and near the bathrooms at the rear of the lounge. Showers were included with a visit; there wasn’t an extra fee.

IGA Lounge IST shower entrance
Showers were available in 2 locations within the lounge.

Meeting Rooms

At the rear of the lounge, individual meeting rooms could be booked in advance, but they were also available on a first-come, first-served basis.

IGA Lounge IST private meeting room
Inside one of the lounge’s meeting rooms.

Workstations

Nearby, a desk with 4 rolling chairs and a pair of computers let you check email and get work done if you hadn’t brought your laptop.

IGA Lounge IST work stations
Workstations in the rear.

Outdoor Terrace

The lounge had an outdoor terrace. While it might have seemed like a good location for plane spotting, it was also a very popular place for smoking. The smokers could change your mind (or make the choice even more appealing).

IGA Lounge IST smoking terrace
The outdoor terrace was popular with smokers.

Children’s Playroom

In the back of the lounge was a children’s playroom with a TV, table, chairs, and bins full of toys. The best feature of the playroom, however, might’ve been the screen outside that allowed parents to close the door and let their kids make all the noise they wanted, while they could still observe them via the live feed.

IGA Lounge IST TV for kids room
The live feed to watch the play area.

Internet

The lounge did not have its own Wi-Fi network. Instead, it used the airport’s main network, accessed with a unique code for each traveler. You could receive the code via SMS or scan your passport at kiosks around the airport. There were 2 kiosks for codes inside the lounge.

IGA Lounge IST wifi kiosk
Wi-Fi kiosks for obtaining an access code.

You could receive 45 minutes of free access with a code and another 45 minutes by scanning your passport at the kiosk. But the downside was that time spent on the internet in the lounge was the same as your allotment for the airport’s public areas. You could only get 2 codes for free access in a 24-hour period, meaning you could easily run out of internet time during a long layover.

Hot Tip:

If you have 2 passports from dual nationality, the system will give you more free internet access by scanning the second passport.

Speeds were good during this visit, with upload speeds near 60 Mbps and download speeds at 47 Mbps. The connection was reliable, letting me access websites reliably without dropping the connection during the 2 hours we spent in the lounge.

IGA Lounge IST speed test
Internet speed test results. Image Credit: Speedtest by Ookla

Duty-Free Shop

Near the entrance was a small duty-free shop selling sunglasses, chocolates, stuffed animals, and perfumes.

Prayer Room

There was a small, nondenominational prayer room near the restrooms at the rear of the lounge.

Departure Boards

Flight departure boards were available near the entrance and on both sides of the restaurant. Along with gate information, signs gave estimated walking times to reach gates — a great feature.

IGA Lounge IST departure screens
Including estimated transit time to reach a gate is fantastic.

Service

“Efficiency” was the name of the game here. I’ve never found the employees in this lounge to be overly friendly. Given the volume of visitors coming in and out of this lounge at all hours, I can’t blame them.

The staff was always on the move, cleaning the bathrooms and showers, trying to keep the buffet full, and sweeping at all times. However, the massive size of the lounge also meant it could be a while between one pass of the cleaning crew and the next. Trash accumulated near the coffee stations and on some tables. Finding an open seat that also didn’t have trash on the table was difficult. When you visit, you’ll likely need to just push trash aside from whatever seat you choose.

IGA Lounge IST trash on table
You may have difficulty finding an available seat with a clean table during busy periods.

I think the cleanliness was quite good for the number of visitors this lounge receives. And staff at the front desk did an unimpeachable job handling the line while trying to add a touch of friendliness to the push for efficiency. Being any more friendly would likely have slowed things down.

You won’t be treated like family or have an interesting conversation with staff in the restaurant, but you can’t say staff members didn’t handle their responsibilities.

Final Thoughts

The IGA Lounge at IST is worth a visit if you’re departing from or passing through Istanbul. It’s a huge and hugely popular lounge that’s made improvements to streamline the wait to get in, and it shows. The cleaning crews are consistently busy, doing the best they can to keep up with the crowds.

Despite the flaws, I’ve enjoyed my visits. Food didn’t run out and tasted good, and the abundant seating meant I always found someplace comfortable to sit.

The lounge could improve the experience by providing a private Wi-Fi network which would help travelers to not run out of free internet access during longer layovers.

The information regarding the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the IGA Lounge in the Istanbul airport?

There are 2 lounges, 1 in the international terminal and 1 in the domestic departures terminal. The IGA Lounge in the international terminal is on the mezzanine, 1 level above the main duty-free shop.

Who can enter the IGA Lounge in Istanbul?

Priority Pass members can enter the lounge with their membership. If you don’t have Priority Pass, you can access the IGA Lounge by paying €75 (about $80) for a 4-hour visit.

Is there a Priority Pass lounge in the Istanbul Airport?

Yes, there are 2 IGA Lounge locations — 1 each in the domestic and international terminals.

Can you sleep in the IGA Lounge at IST as a Priority Pass member?

The Sleepods in the international terminal are no longer available to Priority Pass visitors.

Ryan Smith's image

About Ryan Smith

Ryan completed his goal of visiting every country in the world in December of 2023 and now plans to let his wife choose their destinations. Over the years, he’s written about award travel for publications including AwardWallet, The Points Guy, USA Today Blueprint, CNBC Select, Tripadvisor, and Forbes Advisor.

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