Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk Istanbul 😈 Beware Scammers!

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Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk Istanbul 😈 Beware Scammers!

Planning to travel through Istanbul with Turkish Airlines? Beware of potential scams at the Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk at Istanbul airport. While it’s a convenient service for transit passengers, there have been plenty of reports of scams targeting unsuspecting travelers.

In this article, we delve into the realities of navigating the Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk and offer tips to avoid falling victim to scammers, ensuring a smooth and safe journey through Istanbul’s bustling airport.



Complimentary Layovers in Istanbul

For many years we had heard a lot about the complimentary hotel services offered by Turkish Airlines for unplanned Istanbul layovers exceeding 10 hours. Many people try to game the system in order to qualify, but the rules are quite specific. If you are not a truly genuine candidate, the Turkish Airlines hotel desk will refuse your request.

In our case, due to the opening of the new Istanbul airport, our return itinerary was changed after we had already flown out. Since our 2-hour layover was now a 12-hour layover, we became entitled to the complimentary hotel stay.

Scam Alert

Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk – Beware Scammers!

We already had an excellent deal with Turkish Airlines – travelling return from Europe to Kuala Lumpur for just €499 per person.

Our outward journey to Kuala Lumpur was uneventful enough. However just 4 weeks before our return flight was due, we received an email from Turkish Airlines telling us that our schedule had been changed. We’d received these type of emails before – usually it just meant they had changed the departure/arrival time by a few minutes, so no big deal.

In this case though, they had changed the airport. They were very proud to announce that ‘The Great Move is Beginning!‘. The old Ataturk airport was scheduled to close down and all traffic would be diverted to their spanking brand new Istanbul Airport, located 30 kms north of the city.

Not only this, our onward flight from Istanbul had also changed. Instead of the 2-hour transit we had originally booked, we would now have a 12-hour wait in the airport before continuing our journey.

Doesn’t that mean we’re entitled to a hotel?

In the original email from Turkish Airlines, they simply stated that the flight was changed and we needed to contact them either for a refund or to accept a flight leaving 12 hours later.

There was no mention of inconvenience or compensation.

Following a flurry of email exchanges with Turkish Airlines Customer Services, we were informed that since the layover would be longer than 10 hours, we would be entitled to hotel accommodation. This seemed reasonable to us – at least we could have a shower and relax in peace – so we accepted the ticket change.

We were told that on arrival in Istanbul we would have to contact the Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk situated inside the arrivals area at Ataturk airport on the right hand side near Starbucks.

We would also need visas to exit the airport.  You can get these online at iVisa.com. The visas cost around $25 each and are delivered electronically (although many nationalities don’t need a visa to enter Turkey).

So it seemed to us we would arrive at the old Ataturk airport, and depart later from the new Istanbul airport.

All well and good. We might even have time to visit the city center.

All Hotel Options in Istanbul

Arrival at Istanbul Airport

Fast-forward four weeks…

We took our departure flight from Kuala Lumpur to Istanbul. It was only when we disembarked from the plane that we realized we’d actually arrived at the new Istanbul airport – not Ataturk airport.

As soon as we passed into the Arrivals terminal, we were on the lookout for the Turkish Airlines Hotel desk. However, since this was not Ataturk airport the directions given by the Customer Service agent were incorrect.

Instead we found an Information desk clerk who pointed out which direction we had to take. As we started to walk we passed several booths who seemed to be offering transfer services. Then we spotted a large red sign labelled ‘Transfer Desk’.

Rookie mistake number one:
Although the large 'Transfer Desk' notice had a familiar Turkish Airlines red background, it didn't actually say 'Turkish Airlines'.

I approached the agent and asked if this was the Turkish Airlines Transfer Desk. He confirmed that it was, so I showed him our flight details, being sure to indicate that our onward flight was more than 10 hours later – entitling us to free hotel accommodation.

He agreed that we were entitled to a free hotel, and started to take down our details and arrange the transfer. We would just have a small charge for the shuttle transfer, since the hotel was located in Istanbul – a good 90-minute drive in traffic.

I paid the charge by credit card. It was 1,800 Turkish Lire for the return trip for two of us.

Rookie mistake number two:
I hadn't bothered to check the exchange rate for Turkish Lire. As far as I understood, this was Turkish Airlines Customer Service: A small charge should be a small charge.

Our Phoney Turkish Airlines Adventure

After a few minutes and some rapid phone calls, transport had been arranged and we were led out through the car park to a minibus. Inside it was decidedly shabby, but we were at least happy to be on our way. The sooner we got to our hotel the sooner we could relax.

Inside the scammers minibus

Inside the scammers minibus

We took the main highway from the airport to the center of Istanbul. There was heavy traffic, so the journey took well over an hour. Once into the city, we carried on through to the Bosphorus and followed the coast road for several kilometers.

We were passing through an area I remembered from a previous trip to Istanbul, and by now I’d had time to start worrying.

Get to Istanbul from the Airport

The penny (…finally) drops

In the hurry and stress to get from Arrivals through to the Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk and to ensure we’d get our free accommodation, we’d overlooked some glaring give-aways:

  • Despite their misleading signs and absolute lies about being the TA Hotel Desk, none of their staff were wearing Turkish Airlines uniforms or insignia.
  • They asked us to pay for the shuttles service. Is that normal? …and how much had I actually payed them?
  • The minibus also had no Turkish Airlines insignia, and was pretty run-down.
  • This was turning out to be a long shuttle journey, which seemed strange for a short layover.

How stupid can you be? I was by now more angry with myself than with anyone else. Yes, it looked like they’d deliberately deceived us… but I’d gone along with it.

It now all depended on the hotel.

If, as I suspected, they were taking us to some cheap hotel on the outskirts of the city then this was clearly a scam.

When we finally arrived at the hotel – a very run-down Ibis – The first thing I did was to ask the guy at reception what the going rate was for a taxi to the airport. He told me it was 200 Turkish lire, which equates to approximately €30.

For the return shuttle I then calculated I’d paid a whopping €276! (1,800 Turkish Lire).

I turned to the driver and told him to drive us back to the airport immediately.

He got on the phone to his boss, who wanted to know what the problem was!

After an exasperating conversation, we were again in the minibus on our way back to the airport (another 90 minutes in heavy traffic).

Back to the Airport – Confrontation & Reimbursement

Back at the airport car park the guys from the ‘Hotel Desk’ were keen to usher us once more to their booth, no doubt to try to keep us quiet.

But I’d had enough – We’d been lied to, conned out of our money, and wasted more than 3 hours. I demanded our money back. After some more discussion and threats of the police, they reluctantly cancelled the charge on my card.

After this I was still unsatisfied – and didn’t trust that the refund was actually genuine. So, I walked another 100 meters or so further past their booth. To do this I had to run the gauntlet of 10 or so more booths, with more scammers keen to pass themselves off as ‘Hotel Desks’.

You must run the gauntlet of these before finding the Turkish Airlines Desk

You must run the gauntlet of these before finding the Turkish Airlines Desk

At the very end of the line – and out of sight for all new arrivals – I found the real Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk.

Will the real Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk please stand up?

I got hold of one of the managers and explained our situation to him. He was dismayed to hear the story, but not surprised: Apparently it happens all the time. People arrive looking for the Hotel Desk, and are duped into believing one of the scammers who are located closest to the arrivals door.

Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk Istanbul

The Real Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk

Together with a 2nd manager, the Turkish Airlines representative walked back with us to the booth that was operating the scam. (by now, we noticed that the large red ‘Transfer Desk’ sign had been quietly removed).

After having ‘words’ with the cashier, the Turkish Airlines guys assured us that the payment had been cancelled. However, they also advised us to report the situation to the police.

At this point, we just wanted to get to a hotel to relax. We’d already wasted half of our layover time and didn’t want to spend the rest of it filling out forms.

Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk Istanbul

The Turkish scammers you need to avoid

The Turkish Airlines representative offered to put us on the next bus to their hotel. At least we could get a shower and have something to eat.

But what we don't understand is this:

  • This is Istanbul airport - Home of Turkish Airlines - It's their turf.
  • Why on earth do they allow these scammers to blatantly operate in the area right next to their office?
  • ... And why don't they relocate their Hotel Desk so that they are the first to be seen by new arrivals?

The *Real* Turkish Airlines Layover Experience

If ever you are lucky enough to merit a real Turkish Airlines complimentary layover, then you are in for a treat.

They operate complimentary Hotel Transfer Shuttle buses every half hour or so, and the hotel they took us to did not disappoint.

Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk Istanbul

A genuine Turkish Airlines transfer shuttle

The Clarion Hotel Istanbul Mahmutbey is a top class hotel in the west of the city.

By the time we arrived we were short on time. We had just 90 minutes until we had to return to the airport for our onward flight. Still, this was enough for a shower and an excellent complimentary buffet lunch.

If unlike us you have time for an overnight stay, you are entitled to breakfast, lunch and dinner in the hotel restaurant.

Even though our stay was short, we were quite impressed and appreciative of the Turkish Airlines complimentary hotel layover. Everything was professionally organised and high quality. It would have been even better if we had managed to avoid the scammers lurking in the Arrivals Hall.

Hopefully, this article will prevent others from repeating our mistakes, and taking full advantage of this exceptional service.

All Hotel Options in Istanbul

If you enjoyed Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk Istanbul, check out Airlines, Airports & Transfers. You may also like:


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April 4, 2024at 6:19 am

I am leading a group of seven people through Turkish Airline to Athens in 2 weeks. I have tried contacting the Hotel desk several times and I am confused about their hotel situation.

They want to send our group to separate hotels! And there is no way we are splitting up in a strange city. And adding insult to injury, we are expected to find our own transportation to these separate hotels which are over an hour from the airport.

Is there a way to contact the Hotel desk in advance? I have used their email several times, but I am not certain that they understand what we need. Also, our return hotel cannot be booked prior to travel because the site always says there is a problem and to contact an agent!!!

It is a vicious circle and I hate we even tried this TourIstanbul. The US is the only site WITHOUT a telephone number!!

Also when you arrived at the airport did you find that they were accommodating to you even though you did not make an advanced reservation which they have said we could do.

I am desperate and feel just a little shaky using this airline.


    April 5, 2024at 12:08 am

    As I understand it, free hotel accommodation (and transport) is offered only if your Turkish Airline flight connections necessitate an extended break in Istanbul (6 to 8 hours or more). If you simply chose to take the TourIstanbul offer on a shorter Stopover (or you deliberately chose to break your flight in Istanbul for this reason) then the tour itself is still complimentary, but you need to pay for any additional costs.

    Getting in touch with a real person who can help you at Turkish Airlines (as with most other large companies nowadays) may take some time. In our situation, we confirmed our Istanbul layover with the local Turkish Airlines office in our home country before we left. He simply told us to go to the TA Hotel Desk once we arrived in Istanbul (which we tried to do – see above 🥴).

    I have to say that the staff at the *real* Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk were friendly, helpful and accommodating.
    The only number I can find for you to contact Turkish Airlines direct is their headquarters number: +90 212 463 63 63.

    If you can get through, they may be able to connect you to the relevant department to confirm your booking.

    You could also contact their customer support on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TK_HelpDesk

    Good luck! and please tell us all how it goes…

TK HelpDesk

April 30, 2023at 9:29 pm

Hello, your comment is of value for us. I’ve forwarded your feedback to our customer relations team. Thank you.


December 20, 2020at 4:38 pm

This is SO helpful, thank you! I am a lone traveller heading to Africa, via IST (not sure which airport) in January and have a 19 hour layover. I have so been told to go to the Hotel Desk when I arrive for accommodation… I was so worried but this makes me feel like I’ll genuinely know what to do now!! Just one quick question… Do I need a visa, if I’m arriving from the UK? The airline have said no but so many forums say yes! Thanks again for taking the time to write this fabulously helpful review, I have screen shot the pictures for my reference too!!


    December 22, 2020at 1:15 pm

    Hi Michaela, and thanks very much for your feedback. We’re so glad if we can help other travelers avoid the stress of scams like these.

    Regarding visas, it depends on your nationality. If you’re British you’ll need one (at least that’s what they told me). You can get one online at iVisa.com as described in the article.
    Some nationalities – like Russians – don’t need a visa.

    Best check the latest news shortly before you travel, because with the ongoing pandemic the rules seem to be changing on a daily basis!


December 16, 2020at 6:16 pm

Thanks to author for his/her time to share info details with pics. Very useful!


October 9, 2020at 12:59 am

Thank you so so so so so much!


May 31, 2020at 2:37 pm

I read this a little bit too late as I had an almost identical experience and unlike you I didn’t return to ask for a refund I just realised I had been conned and felt stupid once I arrived at the hotel. The following morning I went and traced the real Turkish Airlines hotel desk but they didn’t do much other than an apology.


    June 1, 2020at 10:39 am

    Really sorry to hear about it, Nasir. We understand exactly how you felt.

    Even though we got our refund, it was a very unpleasant experience ruining most of our day. These con artists just continue their profitable scam, using the advertised services of Turkey’s flagship airline to lie to and defraud countless unsuspecting visitors.

    … and Turkish Airlines *still* do nothing to stop it?
    I wonder why that is…


February 9, 2020at 5:15 am

Thank you for this article! Very useful. Cause not every information can give the right way things are happening. But your experience is very useful!


    February 12, 2020at 2:03 pm

    We hope it can help.

Cyprus diving

December 31, 2019at 6:15 pm

Well done to the author. A useful article. Can I contact you? Can I write to you directly?


December 11, 2019at 7:15 am

I have never paid or have been asked to pay for the transfer to the hotel TK provided for free. Used their Hotel Desk service several times. Looks like you have been scammed.


    December 11, 2019at 11:15 am

    You’re missing the point. If you’d actually read the article you’d understand that we we took the scammers to task and recovered our costs within 3 hours. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Maria Jamal

November 13, 2019at 8:47 am

Ah. Thank you SO MUCH for posting this and providing pictures. I’m traveling with a kid so these scammers would’ve really ruined our trip!! I’m going to remember to take pictures so I can document and share my experience end of this month!!


    November 14, 2019at 7:18 am

    We’re really happy to have helped 🙂
    … and yes, please do take pics and share your experiences with us. I’m sure your trip will go well, but forewarned is forearmed.


October 15, 2019at 10:45 pm

This is very helpful… appreciated.


September 30, 2019at 3:28 am

Same thing happened to me last year. Heading there again now, knowing what to look for I feel confident nobody will scam me this time. Thanks for posting this, more people should be aware!


September 21, 2019at 1:41 am

Thank you for the heads up! This is exactly the kind of story we all need to be sharing online.
Quick question: was this the new Istanbul airport?


    September 24, 2019at 11:19 am

    Yes, it was the new Istanbul airport. We were originally scheduled to arrive at Ataturk airport. A last-minute schedule change by Turkish Airlines entitled us to the free use of a hotel.


September 8, 2019at 1:32 pm

Nous aussi avons été victimes des escrocs à l aéroports et notre agence ne peux nous rembourser comment faire ? Merci


    September 24, 2019at 11:14 am

    If you’ve actually lost money through a scam you need to make a Police report right away (though if you’ve already returned home it’s too late to do that). On the basis of the Police report, you should be able to make a claim through your holiday insurance (…if you have it).


July 21, 2019at 12:51 pm

Thank you very much for this article

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