I have decided to spend five days in Istanbul in September, 2014. Many thanks to those folks who answered my earlier question about navigating the streets of that city. Your responses were a major factor in making this decision. Now that Istanbul is in my plan here is another question: I will be flying from London to Istanbul. My plan is to return to the USA on a Saturday (I have already booked my flight) which means that I would like to be in Istanbul on Monday through Friday. The airline reservation page indicates that the flight is about four hours long. One option would be for me to fly out of London on Sunday afternoon, arrive in Istanbul, check into my hotel, and spend the evening touring the city. Makes sense, right? The other option is to take a 10;30 pm flight (Turkish Airlines), land at Ataturk Airport (IST) in the wee morning, clear immigration control, and hang out at the airport until early morning at which time I will make my way into the city. As I see it I get almost as much time in Istanbul as the first plan plus I get almost a half day longer stay in London. I also save the cost of one night's lodging. Are there any downsides to the second plan? Please note that I will probably be staying in an economy hotel which does not have a van to transport guests from/to the the airport; I will be relying on public transportation. Thanks for your help.
Wee morning won't be much of a problem. You'll get in around what, 4:30? There's no bus. The metro fires up at six. By the time you immigrate and visagrate it's going to be a bit after five. By the time you hit the lira machine and get coffee you'll barely have time to hive out how the metro works. If you can stand having bleeding eyes, go for door number two.
I would choose number 1. If the only factor you are using to make a decision is whether or not to pay one more night at your hotel, I would pay the extra night. Then you'll get up fresh for a full day's touring.
The second plan only works if you can do back to back days of sightseeing with little of no sleep. For me it wouldn't be worth it. It you decide to do it think about how you will deal with your luggage between the time you check out of your London hotel and into your Istanbul hotel.
In 50 years of flying, I have only taken a red-eye flight once (maybe 20 years ago) and I swore I would never take one again and I have not done so. Even if the red-eye is cheaper, I will continue to fly in the daytime.