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I have a layover of around 3 hours (one international flight connecting to a second international flight) at Istanbul airport. I have a friend who is Turkish who I want to meet.

Is it allowed or possible for the friend to come meet me somewhere within the airport (as I do not have a visa for Turkey and need to stay at the airport to catch my next flight)?

If not, what other options is possible to meet with the friend without leaving the airport?

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    are u sure u cannot get a visa? thatd be the easiest solution and worth at least trying Commented May 9 at 13:35
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    @PerdiEstaquel though with only 3 hours, go through passport control twice and security will not leave a lot of time.
    – jcaron
    Commented May 9 at 15:30
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    Seems to me that the easiest way would be to reschedule your flights for a longer layover in Turkey, get a visa (if you need one), then leave the airport to visit your friend. Or, book a round trip to Turkey, then another round trip from Turkey to your final destination, leaving a day or two on either side, giving you even more time to hang out with your buddy.
    – FreeMan
    Commented May 9 at 18:45
  • @jcaron 3 hours of layover would definitely be enough for hanging out at the airport for an hour or so at the very least. One can also get fast track service for security and passport control on the exit side.
    – ave
    Commented May 9 at 21:42
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    I blame Hollywood for making people think that this is possible. Commented May 10 at 0:58

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Unless your friend is:

  • an airport employee;
  • a diplomat;
  • or possibly someone who has a friend with some "juice" at the airport;

There's no way your friend can get a pass to enter and leave the secure area. I was able to do this twice (I was in the 3rd category: a duty-free operator arranged a pass for me), and it was kind of a pain (for the duty-free guy anyway). It took a few days, documents to send, etc.

The other solution is for your friend to fly somewhere, later than you, so that you can meet at your gate. A bit extreme, though...

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    I was able to get a gate pass pretty easily (in the US), but not at a connection. I was accompanying an elderly family member at the departure point. But I doubt it would be that easy for just "a friend" and not a "octogenarian with disabilities"
    – littleadv
    Commented May 9 at 0:35
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    It's significantly easier in the US, even just for a friend, because there's no passport control involved. If Turkey were replaced with (e.g.) O'Hare, the answer would be more like "have the friend ask nicely for a gate pass; the worst they can say is no". Commented May 9 at 7:53
  • True: but sadly it's not about O'Hare...
    – dda
    Commented May 9 at 10:12
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    @littleadv having been at Istanbul airport as a passenger, if you don't have a ticket or have a job there you're lucky to even get within 100m of the terminal building.
    – jwenting
    Commented May 11 at 20:18
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One way tickets from Istanbul for dates in June (as an example) are as little as 30 euros (Izmir, Bodrum, Ankara to name but three). Sofia is 5 euros more expensive.

Your friend could buy a cheap plane ticket, meet you at your gate, then not fly.

However, you have to make sure that you'll be in the same terminal, which might be tricky.

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    Since the OP is doing an international-international connection, the friend would need to buy a ticket to a destination outside Turkey and pass through passport control to meet OP. Sofia would work, but Izmir etc would not because they're domestic. Commented May 8 at 23:49
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    But it would cause significant inconvenience to the airport personnel, wouldn't it? Perhaps elaborate in the answer on how this inconvenience could be minimised? Commented May 9 at 11:04
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    It would inconvenience airport staff but you're buying a ticket which includes airport fees, so you've as much right as anyone else to cause an inconvenience.
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 9 at 13:55
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    @PeterMortensen the inconvenience is usually more for the friend that anything, as it’s usually not straightforward to exit the departure area. They will probably have to ask someone about it, they will have to go through passport control again, and they may be questioned about the reason for not actually taking the flight. It’s not completely uncommon though and there are procedures in place for all of this (there are quite a few valid reasons to get to the departure area and then not take the flight), but YMMV.
    – jcaron
    Commented May 9 at 15:28
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    @justhalf: To a first approximation, everything is illegal in Singapore.
    – Kevin
    Commented May 11 at 6:56
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It will be cheaper, easier and less risky for both you and your friend, if you get a visa. But check if you even need one.

It is suspicious to enter an airport terminal without taking a flight, and your friend using your name if questioned can lead you to be flagged for your journey as well. They may assume spying, smuggling or a whole load of other nefarious reasons which may make your current and future travel difficult. Or it might go perfectly fine and they accept the innocent answer, but seems the potential cons outweigh the pro (of not bothering to apply for a visa (if even it is needed))

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_Turkey enter image description here

There are plenty of countries from which if you are a passport holder you do not require a visa to enter Turkey.

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  • "It is suspicious to enter an airport terminal without taking a flight" => not true. It happens all the time, they just changed their mind about leaving, eg because of an unforeseen emergency while waiting at the gate. As long as you haven't passed the boarding gate yet, and if you don't have any luggage checked in, no one will ask you any questions. Commented May 9 at 21:20
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    @user4867444 it probably varies a lot by country, and Turkey is a relatively risky country in regards to terrorism so they may have more (in)security. I personally had an experience in the UK where I just walked toward the security area as it was a different floor to see if they had any shops and turned around as my flight wasnt leaving for another 3 hours. That led to a police officer following me to outside the airport to interview and identify me, bags opened in security, and another interview right before boarding the plane. Plenty of questions asked for something totally harmless.
    – HSharp
    Commented May 10 at 10:44
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Hollywood movies made this looks very easy! A guy remembers that he loves the lady and then says "taxi" and then he manages to go all the way inside the airport up to the gate, they kiss, and she cancels her trip and stay with him. In reality, that's impassible and considered a big security breach.

  • In reality, buying tickets then refunding them after checking-in is not as easy as you think, most likely you will not get refunded.
  • Coming back after going through security is not as easy as you think, questions might be asked.
  • Reaching near the international gate means that you have to go through immigration and stamp your passport, some airports don't do that, but most do.
  • Some airlines have fines, or possible bans, if you check-in and not fly.

That leaves the options mentioned by @dda as the only viable options. Other than that, it's just Hollywood stuff.

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  • To be fair to Hollywood: non-passengers were allowed into the secure area of domestic terminals in the United States until 2001. I'm not even sure that they had to show ID — they just had to pass through the metal detectors. But at the time that many classic rom-coms were made, this would have been perfectly realistic. Commented May 13 at 1:55
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Slight variant on MastaBaba's answer, but that may more easily ensure that you're both in the same terminal: your friend could also very well buy a fully refundable 1st-class international ticket on any reputable legacy carrier, taking off a few hours after your own departing flight.

Their boarding pass will allow them to meet you airside, then they can simply cancel their ticket and get a full refund after you leave.

The same caveat as for the other answer applies: your friend will need to make sure to book a ticket for a country they can enter without a visa, or that they have a visa for.

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    No airline will have a full refund on a flight one checks into, even goes past security for, but changes their mind few hours before the flight. A "fully refundable first class international ticket" may also be unreasonably expensive for someone living in Turkey to lock up in flight fees that they may not be able to get back.
    – ave
    Commented May 9 at 21:03
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    "No airline will have a full refund on a flight one checks into" => not true. I have personally have had to cancel 1st class international tickets after check-in and while at the gate before, and I've never had a problem getting a full refund. Commented May 9 at 21:05
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    As to whether their friend is comfortable fronting a few thousand euros' worth, sure, that might not be the case. But it's their call to make. Commented May 9 at 21:06
  • Like in the other answer, the friend would also need to make sure they can either enter the destination country visa free or have a visa for that country.
    – jcaron
    Commented May 9 at 21:14
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    The ticket does not have to be first class, just fully refundable (which is still expensive). Read the fine print, the exact rules (especially whether a full refund is possible or not after check-in) can vary a lot.
    – jcaron
    Commented May 9 at 21:16

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