Have you ever heard people say that if poor (or middle class, whatever) people knew how the rich lived, they would try harder to get rich?
This is the thought that passed through my mind when I entered the Business Class Lounge for Turkish Airlines in Istanbul, at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, Turkey's biggest airport.
First of all the airport in itself is massive. There are literally thousands upon thousands of people walking, babies screaming (screaming bloody murder, as if they're being kidnapped or the poop is especially warm today) , lost passengers, baggage control and airport staff zipping around on scooters or trolleys to get from one side of this gargantuan outfit to the next.
It's pretty overwhelming. Thank God for arrows. And don't even get me started on the designer stores catering to everything from electronics to perfumes to food – so much food!- littered around every hundred metres.
So when you get into the business lounge, first they eye you funny as if you're looking for directions (which happens often, because it is so easy to get lost in this place). The people at the entry counter tend to look a little harassed (not so in the smaller airports, like in Greece's El. Venizelos International Airport) and are trying to get people either inside the lounge or outside to go where they are going. When you get in, there are a couple of friendly attendants who welcome you in, and now your watch (or rather, your layover) begins.
The place is massive. It spans two floors of a domes, four armed structure with winding staircases connecting the floors, which total about 6000 square metres in total, according to the website, and hold up to 1000 guests. And it does feel like about 1000 people in it at the same time. It's pretty crowded. It took me maybe up to 10 minutes to find a seat, because I wanted one next to a socket. Most of the seats along the walls (as opposed to running through the middle areas of the lounge) are located next to sockets and you can plug your electronics into them as you wait for your flight, and I'm the type of person whose electronics are always on low charge.
This trip was no different. Getting the free Wifi involves going up to the concierge desk or the electronic issuers of coupons which give you a username and password according to your boarding pass. It feels like a bit of a dramatic procedure to get internet, but it is what it is. The concierge desk can also help you arrange for massages and, if you're not from those countries that use two plug extensions, get you a three plug adapter.
Ok, seriously. Massages?
This place was packed to the brim, so there are clearly people out here making way more money than everybody else! In fact on the way back to Nairobi, I was really trying to not fawn over Flavour (of 'Ashawo' fame) who was sitting right next to my precious vodka. I need these people who are making this type of money to just give me jobs as well. I can also sing.
Still on that vodka, there is a different and widespread array of food, drink and alcohol in every corner of the lounge – Mediterranean foods like salads, cheeses, olives and traditional Turkish pizzas, pastas, meats and starches, desserts, vodkas, wines, juices, sodas, water, soda water, fruit...it's a pretty prolific range of goodies for your tummy. If you're struck by boredom, the food can be a fattening distraction because it truly is a lot of food. This is the part where I confess I was methodically eating every hour and a half through my 7 hour layover.
I tasted everything on every food station – because what's the point of being in the Business Class Lounge if you don't try everything in it? This is also the part where I confess that because of that free-flowing vodka, I also nearly missed my flight. Ha!
The toilets look like something out of a sleek futuristic movie, and there is always an attendant in there to clean up behind you as you exit from the automatic doors. The lounge also has, among other luxuries, a golf simulator, a library, showers, pool tables, virtual tours of Istanbul, suites to sleep in, a cinema, variations of newspapers, meeting rooms, desktop facilities if you want to work away from your laptop...the list continues and is equally overwhelming.
The lounge is quite an experience in luxury – there's a reason it has been voted one of the best ones in the world. And it is worth it, I think (the ticket price can bring tears to your eyes or buy a plot of land), for the convenience of a quicker check in, faster service, more food, more relaxation, not having to queue – all these little things that can make travel rather annoying.
I got to see how the other side live, and it looks like I'm going to have to write a lot more articles to get there!