What Makes Istanbul Airport A 5 Star Airport?

We hear a lot of publicity around airports and airlines being given five stars for this and an award for that, but what does it really mean? Istanbul Airport, one of the world’s newest facilities, has this year been given a five star rating by Skytrax. It also achieved a COVID-19 five star rating, making it only one of two airports to receive both accolades. Let’s take a look at what it did to get there.

Istanbul Airport
Istanbul Airport has netted a swathe of awards just months after opening. Photo: IGA

IST gets Skytrax ‘Five Star Airport’ award

The new Istanbul Airport is one of the most easily recognized in the world. With its unique architecture, state of the art technology and seamlessly connected infrastructure, it has successfully upped the game on traveler experience.

In recognition of its achievements, London-based firm Skytrax has this year awarded it the highest honor – a Five Star Airport award. Only eight airports around the world have achieved this level with Skytrax. This follows its receipt of the award for ‘Digital Transformation,’ which it received last month.

On top of this, Istanbul Airport’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID 19 has also scooped it the ‘Five Star COVID 19 Airport’ award. It joins just three other airports in receiving this honor, alongside Hamad International in Doha, El Dorado Airport in Bogota, and Fiumicino in Rome.

Only two airports, Istanbul and Hamad International have achieved the five star rating in both categories. Speaking about the awards, Kadri Samsunlu, the CEO and General Manager of İGA Airport Operation commented,

“All of these valuable and prestigious awards are proof of how much confidence the aviation authorities in the world and especially our passengers have in İGA and Istanbul Airport. I would like to emphasize this in particular; those who walk firmly and with bold steps for the sake of the values they believe in, sooner or later reach the goals they dream of.

“At Istanbul Airport, we as İGA, we turned dreams into reality first, and now reality into leadership! We are proud and happy on behalf of our country for having achieved such a success.”

Istanbul Airport
Kadri Samsunlu – CEO and General Manager of İGA Airport Operation. Photo: IGA

Let’s take a look at what was required for the airport to achieve these accolades.

Auditing the airport

For both ratings, Skytrax undertook a detailed audit of the airport, covering almost 800 separate criteria. The audit looked at everything, from passenger experience at all stages of the journey through to shopping facilities, food and beverage outlets, and accessibility for disabled travelers.

Istanbul Airport
Efficient movement of passengers at a vast terminal like IST is not an easy task. Photo: IGA

Skytrax noted in its report that, despite the vast size of the airport terminal, there is efficient movement of passengers for both departure and arrival. It said plenty of processing points for security and immigration were present and that the queue management systems helped maintain efficient operations.

Istanbul Airport
Plenty of processing points and queue management gets the job done. Photo: IGA

For disabled travelers, it highlighted the broad range of adapted facilities such as washrooms with adjustable beds, barrier-free routes to get around, and assistance buggies on demand. Family travel was also well catered for, with family parking spaces close to the terminal, child-friendly queueing, free strollers, and nursing rooms around the airport.

Istanbul Airport
A wide variety of food, beverage and retail opportunities exist. Photo: IGA

For travelers with time on their hands, the airport provides all the facilities one could wish for. Spas, hairdressers, and extensive retail and dining options are available, including plenty of international and Turkish brands. For those with more time to kill, the 1,000 square meter IGA Museum has extensive displays, and there are other cultural and artistic exhibitions around the terminal.

Skytrax noted the future plans of the airport too, which include adding a gym and e-sports facilities, as well as upgrading WiFi access to allow connectivity for up to 24 hours.

COVID assessment

On top of all the standard assessments, this year’s inspection included a unique element. The airport was assessed for its COVID 19 measures, with Skytrax checking out processes like check-in, customs, baggage claim and leisure facilities to understand the steps that have been taken.

Istanbul Airport
The airport is one of only two in the world to receive both five star awards. Photo: IGA

Skytrax said that the airport’s strict terminal entrance policy was doing a good job of preventing unnecessary access by COVID infected people. It noted that cleaning and sanitization was top-notch, with all customer touchpoints sanitized at least every four hours. For high contact areas, this was found to be much more frequent.

The outcome was a Five Star COVID-19 Safety Rating for the airport, alongside its Five Star Airport award. CEO of Skytrax Edward Plaisted commented,

We are pleased that Istanbul Airport has joined amongst the prestigious 5-Star Airports. This participation is a well-deserved recognition that the high standards provided at İGA Airports are also presented here.”

Have you been through Istanbul Airport yet? What did you think of the experience?