We took a flight via Turkish Airlines from Kuala Lumpur to Ataturk, and stayed a night in Istanbul for transit. On the next day, we flew from the second Airport in Istanbul, Sabiha Gökçen International Airport to Milan. We chose this flight for two reasons, it was significantly cheaper, after considering the additional hotel and transport cost, and we could have a short stopover in Istanbul to have a look at the city at night.
After checked in at Sabiha Airport, we walked to the passport control counters, and we were shocked at the view of long queue. The photo below would speak the words :
The queue was almost as long as the airport, it went from almost one end of the airport to the other end. We were talking about hundreds of people queueing to enter passport control counters. We needed to catch out flight in 1.5 hours, the view of this extra ordinary long queue raised an alarm.
Yes, it started with an alarm, and as we tried to find ways to catch our flight, it turned into nightmare ! At one point, we felt so hopeless that we could miss the flights.
We tried to seek help from a few airport officers who were standing near the queue and looking at the crowd. They all turned deaf ears against us. All they said were, "Just line up." Finally, one officer said, "Which is your airlines, go to the check in counter to ask for help." And so we did, we went back to Turkish Airline check in counter, showing our tickets and the limited time we had. Disappointedly, all she said was, "Just queue up the line." (Hint: I knew later that you could ask for Fast Track Pass from the counter. However, it may not always be helpful.)
Then, we saw there was a Fast Track Lane. However, there was no information on any board explaining how we could get into this Fast Track Lane. Then, I heard someone saying that you could buy something from the adjacent shop to get a Fast Track card / pass in order to use the Fast Track Lane. So, we tried. Unfortunately, the shopkeeper said they have given out all the Fast Track Card.
So, we went back to the very long, normal queue again, and we did the worst thing we could do, jump queue, excusing ourselves and squeezing throught the crowd, showing our boarding passes. Some travellers allow us through, some blocked us. So, we could only go a certain distance.
When we were near enough to see the Passport control counters, we saw that only ONE counter was opened, to serve these hundreds of people ! So, that was the culprit.
Then, thanked God, after seemed like ages, a few more counters opened. Not all. Only 3 out of 5 counters. And the queue started to move faster. In half an hour, we managed to get through the Passport control counters.
(When we were near the counters, we saw the officers were not trying to make things faster for us. They were seen chit chatting to each others, and checking the passport at ease.)
(The Fast Track Counter was not moving at all, or moving so slowly that it didn't look like it was moving. Only one Fast Track counter was serving. Our normal queue line was much faster.)
Then, we had to go through the security checks. After the security checks, we only had 15 minutes before our flight departure. So, we ran as fast as we could. And we reached the boarding gate 10 minutes before departure time. The officer was kind enough to accept us. Right behind us was a family of three. They were initially rejected, the officer said, "Gate closed." After some pleading, they managed to go through. We boarded the bus which were bringing us to the plane. When the officer joint us at the bus, we could still see people running to the counter which were closed, and unmanned.
Thank God for our narrow escape.
Next time, if we had to take Turkish Airlines with transit in Istanbul, we will do the following :
1. Get off the plane and go as quickly as we can to the transit gate.
2. If we are going to airport from hotel, be at the airport at least 3 hours before flight departure time
3. Get the Fast Track Card from Check in Counter.
4. Ataturk Airport has 2 passport control entrances, check on both to choose the shorter queue.