Travel News

First Impressions: I Just Arrived at the New Istanbul Airport!

Written by Charlie

I was on one of the first long-haul flights landing at the new Istanbul Airport. Check out my first impressions of this brand new airport!

Greetings from the new Istanbul Airport, or, actually, the Istanbul New Airport. The airport officially opened today as the replacement for Ataturk airport at 2pm local time and my flight arrived from Chicago at 4:20pm.

First Impressions: I Just Arrived at the New Istanbul Airport

So, I will have some content over the next day or so about the airport itself as well as the new “exclusive” Turkish Airlines Business Lounge. But, while things were fresh, I just wanted to share some first impressions of the new Istanbul Airport.

The Landing

The captain of our flight informed us what a special flight this was as we were one of the first flights to land at the Istanbul New Airport. Looking at it from the ground and the air, it certainly looks like a recently constructed area with a lot of dirt and concrete! I also did not see a single plane that was not a Turkish Airlines plane (because only Istanbul-based airlines are allowed to fly here until tomorrow).

One thing I was looking forward to was the actual gate access! On most of my flights from the US to Istanbul, you have to sit at a remote stand and take a bus to the terminal. No joke, I had one bus ride that lasted 20 minutes before!

Fortunately, our flight pulled right up to the gate and it made for a quick exit and off to the terminal.

The Terminals

Yes, it is big! Right now, the terminal areas are pretty empty as there are still restricted number of flights arriving and departing from this airport. It seems a bit strange to be in such a massive place and have it be so quiet!

New Istanbul airport

While the airport does have information people scattered throughout the airport to help you find what you need, if you are looking for lounges, you will not find signs for that until your reach the concourse area.

With the airport so large, there are some quick international transit areas from each terminal. If your connecting flight is under 75 minutes from the time you arrived, you can use these quick transit options to hop between the terminals. Otherwise, it is to the concourse!

The Concourse

Inside the main concourse, it definitely still feels like an airport but also has the appearance of a large mall, maybe something like the Dubai Mall. There are plenty of stores and a large food court with many options. If you are looking for lounges, they have alliance lounges as well as airline lounges.

You will find signs in this area as well for the airport hotel. Similar to the one at Ataturk airport, you can use that hotel if you have a long layover. At present, there does not appear to be any nearby airport hotels but I would definitely anticipate that to change in the coming months.

The Lounges

When it comes to Turkish lounges, they are actually keeping the “best” one for their own passengers. Though, maybe that is not really how it is going to be? I can’t say for sure because there is definitely some employee confusion on day 1!

New Istanbul airport

There is one lounge that is for Star Alliance business class passengers and Star Gold passengers and then the lounge for Turkish Airlines business class passengers. This is the one I am sitting in now and it is pretty spacious! There are no longer two levels because they managed to put it all on one level – a very long level!


I have probably transited the Ataturk Istanbul airport about 60 or more times (maybe 75???). Over the years, it has gotten increasingly crowded and I hated being in the main area of the airport because of the crowding.

While the airport is mostly empty right now, the Istanbul New Airport definitely seems to have taken care of the crowding problem! It is a huge, bright new airport that will certainly be a great place to transit in the future. As an airport poised to become home to more travelers than any other airport, it would appear that it was constructed the right way.

Check back later as I have some landing video, some walkthrough video, and a photo tour of the new “exclusive” Turkish lounge!

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Any word as to whether they will use the airport hotel as their long layover free business class hotel, or has that yet to be hammered out.

    • None of the agents at the airport seemed to know the answer to this yet. I would guess that they will have that as an option and possibly also have shuttles to city hotels for when there are many passengers on the same flight that would be able to take advantage of that. I will update when I find out for sure!

  • Just to confirm, is the airport code SAW for this airport? I was just reading that there are three international airports that serve Istanbul. Is this one Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen International Airport?

    • No, that is a totally different airport. Until yesterday, the new airport was ISL but has now taken the code from Ataturk so it is IST.

    • There are NOW only two airports serving Istanbul. The new “grand” Istanbul Airport with the new airport code of IST. It is located just south of the Black Sea on the European side and replaces the old Attaturk Airport (IST now ISL). There’s a 2nd airport called Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen which is located on the Asian side.

      FYI – The old Attaturk airport is still open for corporate jets, cargo, etc but NO passenger flights.

  • We have a flight arriving in IST at around midnight. Do you have any recommendations for a good airport hotel besides Yotel as that is geared more towards people booking for couple hours.

    • I am not aware of any hotels open nearby quite yet. If I had to guess, there should be some opening in the coming months. With so many delays and the various situations in Turkey, my thinking is that hotels did not want to commit and build out there if things kept getting pushed out for even years.

  • I will be flying from DPS to IST in Sept on the new Turkish Airlines 787-9 flight in business class. I have a 2 hour connection to ZRH on Turkish also. Will I have enough time to visit the lounge? I’m a USA citizen on a ticket traveling back home to USA via Turkey and Switzerland. Thanks!

  • @Laura, from the reviews I’ve been reading it might take you 2 hours to walk to your next gate.

    • Thanks, that’s what I’ve been reading also. I will be disappointed if I don’t get to go to the new lounge. Hopefully by September things will run a little more smoothly and I will have a few minutes to go inside the lounge.

      • Sorry, Laura, just saw your comment and the reply to your earlier one. It will depend on where your flights arrive/depart. I only had about a 25 minute walk and then like 10-25 minutes from the lounge. If you have to go from one terminal to another, you would go near the lounges so you could have time to pop in, potentially. There are monitors around the airport showing how far to various gates (and I found they are somewhat conservative in their timing).

  • Great! Then I should be ok since we are flying to Zurich on Turkish. Thanks again!