By Pallavi Pasricha
An unusual tulip-shaped control tower, Europe’s biggest airport hotel with 451 rooms, six runways, four terminals, more than 500 check points, 143 boarding bridges and a capacity to ultimately cater to 200 million passengers – all these check the boxes for making Istanbul Airport the biggest in the world. The swanky Istanbul Airport is located 20 miles outside the city on the Black Sea coast, and occupies an area larger than Manhattan. It is getting noticed: recently, it won a special achievement award in the ‘outstanding innovation’ category from USA-based travel magazine Global Traveler. It has also bagged awards for its unique design inspired by the historic city.
Spread over a whooping 76.5 million square meters, the Istanbul Airport, estimated to cost $12 billion, is opening in four phases. Turkish Airlines has already shifted its operations here from Ataturk airport after the second phase was completed in April. Currently two runways are open, which means that two flights can land and take off at the same time. The mega project is scheduled to be up and running by 2023 coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Turkey becoming a republic.
The hope is that the airport will become a major travel hub, boosting the Turkish economy and creating jobs. As Istanbul becomes a popular tourist hub, Turkey is expecting 45 million visitors this year, a number expected to increase to 60 million by 2023. Given the gigantic size, it is not easy to navigate through the airport so be prepared for long walks till your gate. Here are some of features that stand out.
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Shop till you drop in one of the largest duty free areas in the world (55,000 square meters). They have put a lot of thought behind this to make it more interesting for shoppers. To plug you into the spirit of the city, the design is inspired by the Bosphorus and it is divided into different sections: Fashion Garden, Family Palace, Style Beach, Icon Gulf, High&Lux Hills. The Old Bazaar shopping section resembles the iconic Grand Bazaar and offers Turkish delicacies.
Whether you’re craving for Turkish coffee, kebabs, baklava, a healthy salad or a good old Whopper from Burger King, or even want a helping of gluten-free food, the massive range of restaurants, cafes and food courts will take care of all your hunger pangs. The plan is to have 150 outlets when the airport fully opens.
Europe’s biggest airport hotel
If you have a few hours in between flights or an overnight halt, then definitely book a room at YOTEL which is both on the landside and airside. The 451-room hotel is the biggest airport hotel in Europe. Some of the rooms, which they call cabins, have smart beds where double beds can be converted to a sofa/ lounger at the touch of a button. The smart TV can be connected to your mobile and you can stream the programme of your choice. There are rain shower cubicles and when hunger pangs strike, make your way to KOMYUNITI lounge which has a good menu and has Wi-Fi.
Relax in the three huge lounges opened by Turkish Airlines. Two more are expected soon. Spread over 60,000 square feet, the Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles Lounge has shower suites, umpteen food stations (don’t miss the Turkish pide if you’re a foodie), drinks, golf simulator, a play area for children, storage lockers, gaming console, work stations and more. The Business Lounge is equally big and even boasts of a museum. The third lounge is the Turkish Airlines Domestic Lounge which you can access through a gate outside the terminal.
Track your flight and get all the information about the airport to navigate it easily from the Istanbul Airport mobile app that has been launched. It even gives access to free Wi-Fi and is available on both IOS and Android. You can even know about events happening in the city from here.
With rainwater harvesting and advanced recycling capabilities, the airport also gets a “green” tag for being environmentally friendly. But the bigger tag is that it is now a new jewel in the city’s crown.
(The author is a well-know travel writer and Instagrammer. Views expressed are personal.)