Tested: Turkish Airlines offers hotel accommodation for long connections.

In a previous episode of TravelGuys TV we told you about a Turkish Airlines service that allows a passenger with a long connection to be offered a hotel night in Istanbul. Well, I had the opportunity to try it out during a 14h connection between my flight from Phuket and my connection to Gothenburg.

What are the conditions of the Turkish Airlines layover service?

The mechanism is very well detailed on the Turkish Airlines website.

  • Passengers in the economy class with a connection time of 12 hours or more and passengers in the business class with a connecting time of 9 hours or more can benefit from a free hotel service if a transit flight with a shorter connection time is not scheduled for the journey concerned. (Note: for transit flights with a shorter connection time than the above, you will not be able to use this service even if the transit flight with a shorter connection time is full). For example, if passengers are offered 2 different options for travel from London to Dubai, i.e. a flight with a 6-hour connection time and a flight with a 12-hour connection time, the passenger who has chosen the flight with a 12-hour connection time will not be able to benefit from this service even if the 6-hour option is full.
  • The waiting period is calculated on the basis of the landing time of the first flight and the departure time of the second flight.
  • Turkish Airlines will select the hotel for the passengers.
  • The accommodation service is available for international passengers travelling outside Turkey who have a connecting flight to their final destination outside Turkey from Istanbul Airport.

This service therefore concerns so-called “layovers” (waiting in between two flights). The airline also offers a stopover service (when you want to make a real stopover between two flights for sightseeing).

How to benefit from the Turkish Airlines layover service?

Unlike stopovers, no prior action is required on the part of the passenger, which I had checked by sending an email to customer service.

When my flight arrived in Istanbul I went through immigration, customs and collected my luggage. Once on the arrival level of the terminal I went to the “Hotel Desk” which is located at the very end of the building (take a right after the baggage area).

Once at the counter I am quickly taken care of by an agent who checks my eligibility. While another passenger who arrived at the same time as me sees his case processed in 10 minutes it took me almost half an hour because the agent was training a young person and took all the time he needed to explain it to him, only hurrying at the end when he saw that I was getting impatient.

Once the operation is over I don’t know where I’m going and I’m not given any documents. I just know that the next day I will be picked up 4 hours before my flight (i.e. around 5:20 am!).

I go to a waiting area where all the passengers waiting for a hotel are waiting.

After 10 minutes we are picked up and taken to a parking area where buses and minibuses are waiting for us and we are distributed by name.

A long journey to the hotel

Istanbul’s new airport is 55 km from the city centre and the journey takes a good hour, depending on traffic.

Surprisingly, there are no hotels within a 15km radius of the airport and none in the airport area apart from two Yotels in the terminal: a Yotel on the landside and a YotelAir on the airside.

Turkish Airlines only accommodates its customers in 5* hotels, so they have to take them downtown.

The beginning of the journey is smooth: we are on a new 8-lane road built with the airport in mind and which to this day is only used for it. However, things get worse once you get into the legendary Istanbul traffic. It’s rush hour and on top of that we’ll make a few detours to serve hotels not necessarily on the way to “mine”. In short, after an hour and a half, I arrived at the hotel.

It is the Renaissance Polat, just in fronta of the Bosphorus! For those of you who know Istanbul, it took us all this time to get to the old Ataturk airport!

What services are provided by Turkish Airlines at the hotel?

Already a few words about the hotel. The promise of Turkish Airlines is kept: the Renaissance Polat is a good quality 5*. It’s an airport hotel so it’s designed to handle large volumes and groups. It’s not charming, but it’s effective. However, as my day was long and I had to get up at the crack of dawn the next day, I am not going to do an in-depth visit.

The reception is friendly and efficient. As a member of the loyalty program they take my membership number. Of course being on an airline fare I will not be able to take advantage of the benefits, the night and its amount will not be credited but I will have the points corresponding to my personal expenses if I make any.

Turkish Airlines pays for the transfer, overnight stay and dinner. In fact, I would have a voucher for a buffet in a basement room obviously reserved for groups. I don’t think the daily menu at the “real” restaurant would have cost them more, especially since the customers keep going for refills. The food is ok but not much more and the drinks are at my expense (and their service is slow while the room is almost empty).

Then I will go to the bar, which is very pleasant.

The room is normally comfortable.

The next day, as planned, a minibus will pick me up with other passengers around 5:30 am, 4 hours before my flight to Gothenburg. At this time the journey to the airport will be quick.

My opinion on the Turkish Airlines layover service?

First of all I would like to say that this is a very valuable service when you have a long connection. In fact, for this trip it was this option that made me come back via Gothenburg with a morning flight (and a free night in Istanbul) rather than via Stockholm the same evening, arriving at midnight at the airport and then having to go into town to find a hotel and then leave for Paris in the morning.

No bad surprises on the hotel service even if I would have preferred a menu even if limited in the restaurant than this buffet in a station hall. But I think it’s more the hotel’s policy than the airline’s here. A voucher of a certain value at the restaurant, even if you have to pay out of pocket if you want to treat yourself, would also be a good idea.

However, what I find problematic is the fact that you have to leave the hotel 4 hours before the flight. This is understandable as the traffic is complicated, the airport is far away, and this service also concerns economy passengers who do not have access to the priority lanes at the airport.

I had a 14 hours connection. On the outward journey it took me an hour and a half from the time I got off to the time I was on the bus. Plus 1h30 drive. 4 hours the next day. That’s 7 hours in the hotel so it’s decent. But if I had been on the low end of the service (9 hour connection) I would only have had 2 hours at the hotel. Useless. Unless in these cases they accommodate the passengers at the Yotel or YotelAir in the airport?

As far as I’m concerned, if I had a 9 or 10 o’clock connection I would seriously consider spending the night at the Turkish Airlines lounge at the airport where there are sleeping areas or even paying for the Yotel out of my own pocket. If we count a little less than 6 hours for the transfers I think that this service is only “comfortable” from 12 hours of connection.

Until one day there are hotels in the airport area?

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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