Trip Report: Istanbul New Airport is one of the biggest airports in the world already

A couple of weeks ago I had the occasion of flying on the Bucharest – Istanbul route. Besides having the luck of flying on a new Airbus A320neo delivered to Turkish Airlines, I long-awaited my first flight that will land in the new airport of Istanbul. I’ve been before a couple of times on the old Ataturk airport and I was far from being impressed. And after all the fuss around the new airport I had quite some expectations for the new airport that gain the IST registration in March 2019.

Very long taxi times after you land and prior to departure

The first thing to notice after you land at the new airport in Istanbul is usually how long the taxi takes. For us, it was a flight of only something like 40-45 minutes, but the taxi from the runway to the gates took somewhere between 15 to 20 minutes. That’s a huge taxi time for such a short flight. Of course, it depends on which direction and what runway you are landing, but it is already well known the tremendous taxi times for the airplanes in the Istanbul Airport.

You will most probably disembark the plane through one of the air-bridges since the new airport has numerous gates. However, I noticed that some flights were still taken to remote stands and passengers ferried to the terminal via buses.

Our view after the arrival at the new IST airport
Our view after the arrival at the new IST airport

The terminal is very spacious

When you will enter the terminal you will see just how grandiose it is. It’s one of the most amazing airports in the world. I might compare it to Singapore’s Changi airport. Everything is new and the thing is that everything is clean. It’s a serious upgrade from the old IST airport with a very freshly looking terminal.

As with most modern airports in the world, the arrivals hall is on top of the departure zone
As with most modern airports in the world, the arrivals hall is on top of the departure zone

During the daytime, the terminal is very bright and comforting. Everywhere you look you will find some big screens showing information about the flights.

The terminal has lots of spaces divided with glass, so you can see very far. Also, the terminal being big, it can give you the impression of an enormous hall.

If you are not transferring to another flight, it might take some time until you get to the immigration counters. There are counters both for economy and business class passengers. This might not be something new for modern airports, however at first I saw no indication about the differences.
I had a flight on economy class, but I don’t saw a sign stating that at the immigration counter where I wanted to get in officially in Turkey were allowed only business class passengers. Nevertheless, the economy class immigration counters were just a couple of tens of meters further. Indeed, there was some queue since only just a couple of counters were open, as opposed to the business class immigration.

After passing through immigration, there will be lots of luggage belts. The space is again very spacious and are numerous belts for the baggage delivery. Altough we arrived at an early hour and arrived at the luggage belt conveyors quite fast, they were already delivering the luggages. I was very impressed with the speed of it.

Main entrance of the departure section of the new Istanbul Airport
Main entrance of the departure section of the new Istanbul Airport

At our return flight, we had to leave our luggage at one of the desks in the airport. The desks were common for all the Turkish Airlines flights, it didn’t matter the destination you were taking. For this fact, even if it was quite a long queue, we left our luggages quite early and the agent at the counter was very welcoming.

There was some line also at the security check. A point to mention is that there is some security check even when you enter the airport so before you get to the main departure terminal of the airport you get through two security checks and the departure counter.

A note is that the security check was quite fast due to the high number of checkpoints, which is quite cool. Another cool thing is that they have the big size of the box that they gave you which is really helpful in not having 3 separate boxes! Well done, IST!

After passing through the bureaucratic part of air traveling (security checks and passport controls) you will find in the main terminal, which is one huge hall. Right as you enter the main departure area, you will see luxorius shops like Hermes, Bvlgari and Louis Vuitton.

At the entrance to the main departure hallway, you are welcomed by two gigantic screens showing the status of the flights departing from the airport
At the entrance to the main departure hallway, you are welcomed by two gigantic screens showing the status of the flights departing from the airport

There is also in the terminal a quite big Duty-Free section called Unifree. The offers are quite those that you would find in most European airports, but you will find some local shops also.

What disappointed me was the number of restaurants available. I am not a big fan of fast foods but ended up eating at the Burger King restaurant above. We would want to buy a pass through the Revolut app for the IGA Lounge, but we had some issues with the internet. I would highly recommend if you are using Revolut to buy a pass for the IGA Lounge, I am assuming that there are some good possibilities of having a snack there, compared to the incomplete food court section of the departure area.

As I already mentioned for the aircraft’s landing and departing, the long taxi durations, the same applies for the times from the main departure hall to the gates. Depending on how far your gate is, it could take up to 20 minutes to the departing gate of your flight, so plan accordingly. There are no calls for passengers at this airport.

Getting around – Transfer to the city is possible only by buses or taxis

The new airport it’s at some distance to the city center and the main transport methods to the various points of interest are done with the Havaist buses or the taxi.

It can be a 60 minutes or long drive to Taksim Square. If you are going to the Asian part you can easily add 20 minutes more to the trip. Anyway, the duration of the trip can very strongly on the traffic, so it can be anywhere between 45 minutes to 1 and a half hour before arriving from or to the airport with public transportation.
I think it’s the same also for taxis.

Buses to Taksim depart every 15 minutes and the cost for the transfer to the city is very reasonable. Most buses have Wi-Fi and some buses can have even entertainment systems in the chair. However, if you arrive in a couple before the bus depart, it is quite displeasing that most passengers are taking a pair of two seats with no reason for doing so. At our return, when we departed from Taksim to the airport we could not find a pair of seats for us and the bus already departed. It was somewhat shocking the low level of empathy of the fellow passengers on the route. In the end, we occupied both a seat with several rows between us.

I hope that in next years the transfer options from the airport to various places in the near region will be possible with more methods. A train or a metro line from the Airport to the city is a must judging by the Turkish authorities’ ambitions with the new airport.

Conclusion – Istanbul New Airport has to potential to be one of the greatest airports in the world

The works at the new airport in Istanbul are far from being over. With increased connectivity both with the city and the region, the opening of more shops and options for eating and having a more diverse route map, Istanbul’s new airport has the potential of being one of the Top 5 Airports in the World. At the moment, Istanbul New Airport is very good and a tremendous update from the previous Ataturk Airport, but still has some convenience stuff to improve like a train or metro line with the city and opening of new food options in the terminals.

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