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Need help easing my mind about flight layover

My boyfriend and I are going to Greece for the first time May 9th-18th (also first time outside the US). We have a vacation package that goes to Athens, Mykonos and Santorini. Both of us are super excited. But here is the part causing me a little anxiety...... We are flying from Houston, TX to Istanbul for a 2 hour and 20 minute layover then on to Athens. I was looking into the Istanbul airport to see the layout, and the reviews are scaring me a little....... Dirty bathrooms (not too big of a deal), super crowded, rude airport staff, and flights that change gates without notice which causes some people to miss their flight...... I've flown all over the US so airports don't really bother me, but what has me worried is being in a different country and being outside my comfort zone. On a good note, my boyfriend and I are flying business class on Turkish Airlines so I know we will have access to the VIP lounge. So, does anyone have any words of advise for me? Am I worrying too much? Oh, and I'm the type of person that has to be super early to my gate to ensure I don't miss my flight. That's where my anxiety comes in, I don't want to miss my flight and be stuck in a foreign country.......

Any bit of advise from those that have had experience at this airport would be wonderful!

Thank you in advance!

Posted by
6876 posts

Yes, I think you're worrying too much. I've flown through IST several times and it is a very busy airport, but you're going to go straight to your connecting flight. It probably will be an eye opening experience because the diversity of people flying through Istanbul is truly a sight to behold. You're not going to be "stuck in a foreign country" (by the way, Turkey is awesome) because you can't even leave the airport without buying an inexpensive Turkish Visa. Just look online at how many flights to Athens are after yours via Turkish Air. If you miss one, you'll be put on the next one. It's as simple as that. It sounds like you just have normal first-trip-overseas anxiety jitters that are compounded by reading reviews (I would stop reading the reviews, it's not like they are going to change your itinerary which is set already).

I can't imagine what flying Business Class on Turkish Air would be like (I'm imagining Morgan Freeman now getting ready to sleep in his nice flat airline bed), since it already was super nice even in Economy. Food and service was great. That's certainly something to look forward to right there.

Posted by
5745 posts


Just look online at how many flights to Athens are after yours via Turkish Air. If you miss one, you'll be put on the next one. It's as simple as that.

There is no issue here, except in your mind. Find something more reality-based to worry about.

Posted by
7 posts

You guys are awesome!!! Agreed, I will stop looking at reviews! That's exactly what I needed to hear.
When I booked this trip, I figured "why not" on the business class. First international trip, along with my dream vacation, so lets enjoy the flight too ;)

Thank you guys!!

Posted by
5697 posts

The only "why not?" I can imagine is that the next trip if you fly Economy you will know what you're missing!

Have a great flight and an awesome first trip!!

Posted by
15037 posts

Bathrooms - not all are equal. Some are squatters, some are western - yes, in the airport. I would imagine the VIP lounge has nice clean western ones. The airport could be crowded and signage isn't always clear. Just keep asking where your gate is, and you'll get there in time. I looked at the airline's website, they have several flights a day to Athens, so no worries about that. In the middle of the airport, they are usually selling lots of Turkish delight and have free samples - stop and taste . . . a lot. It's really really good.

If you are checking luggage . . . . I've had bags miss flights on "short connections" more than once. They are always on the next flight out. Be sure to have everything you need for the first 24-48 hours in your carry-ons. Also make sure when you board in Houston that they tag the bags "short connection," and that you get your IST-ATH boarding passes too. In Istanbul, if there's a long line for security (can't remember if there will be a security check or not), tell the agents that you have a short connection and they'll usually give you preference. Just show your boarding pass with the boarding time on it.

I really like Turkish Air - flown them twice to the US and back as well as a couple of times to Europe. Great service, excellent entertainment choices, good food - even in coach.

Lastly, note that on your way back, there are extra security procedures for flights to the U.S. Find out what the current regs are regarding electronics in carry-on. Also you may not see "Istanbul" listed in the Athens airport, it may say "Constantinople."

Greece in May - wonderful. I was there last year at the beginning of May and loved it. The water's cold but not too cold for short dips. Enjoy!!!!

Posted by
8493 posts

When I was there bathrooms were sparkling clean. Most stalls have western toilets, but there’s an occasional squatter for old-fashion folks.

Posted by
7 posts

Wow! Thank you Chani for the great advice and pointers!

Again, thank you everyone!! 70 days and counting!