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IST Check-in and Lounge Hopping

What originally started as a simple BA 2-4-1 miles First Class SFO-LHR-SFO with paid TK Business LHR-IST-LHR was quickly changed after our horrendous BA First experience on last week's outbound SFO-LHR. It was so bad that I cancelled the return BA flight and BA agreed to refund 1/2 of my miles to my BA account... to be used in future on CX. 

Once in IST, I called AC Aeroplan (thank you Skype!!) and booked the best of slim pickings... a double connection but including ZRH-ORD on LX's new 333. Luckily at T-2, LH opened two award seats on the MUC-SFO flight... cutting nine hours from our travel time. In the process I found an amazing deal for NA residents starting award travel x-Europe. I used 140K miles and booked a double stop-over ticket which yielded both TATL and TPAC First Class round-trips... our IST-MUC-SFO leg plus SFO-NRT-SFO next April and then one way SFO-ZRH-CDG next May.

Our local IST tour provider introduced me to PrimeClass, a great VIP airport service. On arrival last Wednesday, our VIP hostess and porter met us at the gate with golf cart and whisked us to visa purchase and passport control, jumping the queue in both cases, then coordinating hand-off to our limo driver. On our return on Monday, our limo driver coordinated our IST departure with PrimeClass and the same lovely VIP hostess met us curbside at the International terminal. She escorted to the VIP door of the terminal and our private security area where we were the only pax. After security, a porter joined us, although a bit unnecessary since we only had two small carry-ons and backpack/purse, for the short walk to the First Class LH check-in counter, where again we were the only pax.

Pleasant LH First check-in agent efficiently processed our Boarding Passes, not quite sure why I had selected 2D and 2K, two of the three open seats (the other 1K) on our MUC-SFO 346. I'll take my chances swapping seats once on board. What moron solo pax would select 2G when 2K was open anyway?

After check-in, we walked the short distance to passport control, where we jumped the queue of about 100 people by entering our own private lane and were processed by a private VIP customs agent. On the other side of passport control, our hostess and porter met us with a golf cart. We covered the seemingly 1/2 mile distance to the lounge area in a couple of minutes.

With a LH First BP and my CO *A Gold card, we had our choice of three lounges. The VIP service gives one access to The Millenium Lounge, which LH uses for Business Class and non *A Gold First pax. After the LH check-in agent had confirmed that my *A Gold and F BP gave us access, our first stop was the TK First Class Lounge. Wow, pretty disappointing and in even worse than the BA First Class lounge at SFO. It was essentially a poorly ventilated large closet. Very limited selection of cookies, biscuits and drink, and a clueless agent. Only three seating clusters (each of which had at least one person) and three small two-top dining tables. Now a lounge aficionado, Mrs. SFO gave the "get me out of here" eye and we headed across the hall to the Millenium Lounge... much more spacious with a large selection of food and beverages although all in the snack variety.

With an hour to go before our hostess would return to escort us to the gate, I decided to leave Mrs. SFO to read her book and head out on my own, to buy a book and then do what any obsessed FTer would do... check-out some more lounges.

I returned to the TK and *A Gold First Class Lounge and snapped a few pics of the now empty lounge...

Also on the upper level across the hall from both the TK First and Millenium Lounges was the HSBC Lounge. I walked in and confidently showed her my AA Executive Platinum Card... only to told no, no, not AAdvantage Platinum, HSBC Advantage Platinum. OK silly me, I misread the same font Advantage Platinum for AAdvantage Platinum on the sign by the door.

The lounge dragons and I shared a laugh, then let me in anyway to take some photos.... most likely thinking what kind of a fool wants to take pictures of an airport lounge.