I really do love Turkish Airlines. Their catering is tops, longhaul aircraft new, and their world-class lounge in Istanbul is quite likely the best Star Alliance Gold Lounge on the Earth. Yet getting to that lounge at Istanbul’s Attaturk International Airport can be a mind-numbingly excruciating experience, especially for the impatient like me. But it should not have to be.
Star Alliance Gold status grants benefits at airports throughout the world. Generally, a Star Alliance Gold card entitles the bearer to access preferred check-in, typically business class but with some airlines, like Lufthansa, Swiss, and Asiana, the first class check-in line. Though not a published benefit, the card also grants holders access to expedited security lines in many places around the world, often saving a great deal of time.
Not so at Istanbul. IST has two priority security/passport control lines—one adjacent to the standard queue and the other a direct entrance to the Turkish Airlines lounge. Both have Star Alliance Gold signs posted at their entrance, but when trying to use either one on Sunday I was rebuffed.
The first line (well there was no line, actually…) was adjacent to normal security. Despite a Star Gold logo at the entrance, in small print the sign said for passengers departing on Turkish Airlines flights only. A nasty gate matron guarded the line like a hawk.
Further down the departure hall is a private entrance to the Turkish Airlines lounge, with its own security line and passport control. It too was empty and had a prominent Star Alliance gold sign on it. But a matron guarding the line said it was only for Turkish Airlines Star Gold or Turkish Airlines business class passengers.
The only other line was the main queue, which snaked back and forth five times like the line for an amusement park roller coaster on a busy day. I wasn't pleased. Another Lufthansa Senator member (Star Gold) was also not amused when rudely turned away just after I was.
I did not fight it, nor even stop to take the picture of the signs, because I was in rush to get the lounge before my flight back to Frankfurt (and because I had company...). Eventually, though, it turned out there was only about 15 minutes for the lounge, because it took 30 minutes to get through passport control and a second security check.
The bottom line is that priority security and passport control are not published benefits of Star Alliance Gold status, but when so many so many airports around the world have special lines for "elite" passengers and Turkish Airlines posts large "Star Alliance Gold" signs outside each expedited line, the expectation is that Star Gold members should be able to use them. It is not like there was a crowd of Turkish Airlines passengers waiting to use these lines--save for a small smattering of passegners, the specially designated security lines stood empty for most of my 30 minutes in exile.
Segregating benefits among Star Alliance carriers at airport security lines does not strike me as in the spirit of the Alliance (where differences regarding upgrades and mileage accrual are standard for an airlines' own elite members, but not for things like lounges, check-in, and security). For an airline that does so much well, I hope they will soon revisit this policy and make at least one of the two "premium" security lines available to all Star Alliance Gold members.