While not a widely published benefit, Turkish Airlines offers extended transit passengers in Istanbul the choice of a free hotel room or free tour of Istanbul during their wait. In order to take advantage of this, you must be connecting from a Turkish to a Turkish flight and the layover for business class passengers must be at least seven hours and at least ten hours for economy class passengers. If you qualify, simply go through passport control at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, walk out and to the right to the Turkish Airlines hotel counter, and a representative will be happy to arrange your hotel room or a tour for you.
I arrived tonight at 22:20 from FRA and my flight to LAX is not till tomorrow at 11:15. But I did not take advantage of the free offer. Why not?
As Damian shared and I will highlight further in an upcoming post, Turkish Airlines has a spectacular lounge in Istanbul for business class and Star Alliance Gold passengers. This enormous lounge is so good (with sleeping rooms, cook-to-order food, and never a dearth of seating), that I would rather spend my time here than in a hotel room that might lack an internet connection (yes, work keeps me busy…).
Although Turkish indicates online that the lounge is closed from 0100-0500, it is actually open 24 hours–the food just disappears overnight. With fast Wi-Fi internet (which used to be a problem in the lounge but Turkish has now addressed), I’d rather spend the night working and napping in here then taking the time to go through additional security checks, stamp in and out of the country, and have to wait for a hotel shuttle. I am quite comfortable now on my soft-leather beige couch. In fact, if it were not for a couple of drunk guys playing billiards nearby (yes, the lounge has a pool table and an unmanned supply of top-shelf liquor), I’d be ready for a good night’s sleep.
In all seriousness, while TK’s hotel benefit is nice, the lounge is not a bad place to spend a night and less of a hassle, in my mind, than the alternative (and the drunk guys have quieted down now…).