The Turkish Airlines CIP Business Lounge in Istanbul // © 2012 Turkish Airlines
Marc Kassouf is owner and CEO of Pride Travel, which specializes in catering to the needs of gay and lesbian clientele. Kassouf holds industry certifications, most notably by Cruise Lines International Association, the Travel Institute and destination visitors’ bureaus including Europe, Asia, and the Americas. He sat on two board committees of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, has traveled to nearly four dozen countries and sailed on more than 60 cruises.
Before owning a travel agency, I traveled extensively for corporate America, spending hours in lounges worldwide. I’ve seen lounges that are enclaves of calm in chaotic airports and enjoyed their services. At 12,000 square feet, more of a mansion than lounge, Turkish Airlines CIP Business Lounge in Istanbul was more than impressive by comparison. Featuring a private entry and passport control after checking in, the decor is understated modern with Turkish overtones.
When I entered, I was greeted by an ottoman trellis that opened onto 100-year-old potted olive trees, high ceilings, ample seating areas, two meal stations and a well-stocked, self-serve bar. I waltzed over to the concierge to check out the showers and discover another section twice as large, accessible through a hallway and past four sleeping rooms. The amount of additional food and the kaleidoscope of variety, especially at 9 a.m., is mindboggling. While every lounge offers food and beverage, some even do it very well, Turkish CIP takes these offerings to a whole new level.
The hub is an open display galley in the center, where half a dozen Do & Co Catering chefs dish out delicacies nonstop. On all sides are luscious food and drink stations — one featured nuts, dried fruit and 10 different kinds of olives. Another station offered pastries, and one featured nearly 10 varieties of cakes. All of this was in addition to the main meal stations. Beverages run the gamut from premium labels such as Bombay Sapphire, Finlandia and Chambord to natural juices and soft drinks.
Even children have their own enclosed space, giving them a fun place, while maintaining the lounge’s serenity. Teens can grab one of two PlayStations to pass the time or hop onto one of eight Apple computers available. There’s also a library, a movie theater and a television room with nine international news channels that play sound through wireless headsets.
When many airlines seem to be cutting back, Turkish Airlines is elevating the business-class experience and adding value, expertly delivering an amazing variety of food, drink and entertainment options. It is no surprise, then, that I’m looking forward to my next layover in Istanbul.