It’s too early to say how well Istanbul’s new international airport will age, but as of now it looks great. Behemoth yet strangely tranquil, I found both the arrival and departure areas quite painless…albeit a tad annoying.
I arrived in the afternoon on Lufthansa and was amused that we landed 30 minutes ahead of schedule…but it took 30 minutes to make our way around the airport and to our gate. I simply cannot fathom why it takes so long. The extra time is built into the schedule–we arrived to the gate on-time–but it just seemed so inefficient and unnecessary to taxi for so long once we landed.
After stepping off the aircraft and into the arrivals vestibule, I was pleased to see that there was not just a steep stairwell, but escalators (I’m looking at you Frankfurt and Munich).
The arrivals hall was calm. I saw a bit of Madrid Barajas without the rainbow of colors, a bit of Amman Queen Alia, and a bit of Doha Hamad in the design. Without any piped in music, the airport was eerily quiet. Even the moving walkway was silent.
After a very long walk, I made my way down an escalator into the lower arrivals hall. Here, visas on arrival could be purchased and immigration lines awaited.
After securing my visa, I entered what I thought was the shortest immigration queue for foreigners and within four minutes was out and down another escalator to baggage claim.
Outside of baggage claim is a huge arrivals hall with currency changers, eateries, travel agents, and the Turkish Airlines’ hotel desk. Proceed down another level for ground transport.
On my way out, I was dropped off on the far end of the airport nearest the road entrance (domestic departures) and had to make my way all the way to the other side. You’ll pass through your first security screening when you enter the airport departures or arrivals hall and another one after passport control.
The terminal check-in area has a similar design to Ataturk Airport, with ceilings that also reminded me of AMM. The entire check-in area is one great hall with a special area for Turkish Business Class.
Once checked in, passport control took about 10 minutes (at 5:00AM) and then security took another five minutes.
The departures terminal was busy at the early hour, but once again quiet. After a couple hours in the IGA Lounge, I walked to my gate…again, largely deserted.
Once again, we pushed back on time (five minutes early actually), but took over 20 minutes to navigate the airport to our takeoff position. We still arrived in London ahead of “shed-jewel”.
Visiting an airport for the first time is always a thrill, but visiting a brand airport is a special treat. IST certainly has room for growth and does not feel crowded. Is it my favorite new airport? Nope. But I like it a lot. Just mentally prepare yourself for excruciatingly long taxis…