Istanbul’s New Airport Changeover Delayed Until March 2019

Istanbul has a brand new airport to replace the current, over capacity Ataturk Airport (IST).

Last month I wrote about how ‘Istanbul New Airport’ had received its first flights from Turkish Airlines using the temporary airport code ISL, and would continue to receive very limited domestic and international flights before all ground equipment was to be moved from IST. The plan was that the airport would begin full operations (with all other airlines using ISL) at the start of January 2019.

The airport operators had previously proposed a 48 hour changeover period that was originally supposed to occur on October 30-31 this year, when the new airport was to fully open on November 1.

This was then shortened to just a 24 hour changeover period, to occur on December 31, to be able to meet the new January 1 date for ISL to fully operate.

As you might imagine, it is an enormous logistical job to move all of the ground equipment from the airport by road from the old IST airport to the new ISL airport in such a short space of time.

It’s an interesting logistical balance — obviously the city does not want to close to flights for any longer than is absolutely necessary (noting Istanbul’s second, much smaller airport SAW would continue to operate during the changeover), but it is also difficult to pack, move, unpack and set up everything in just two days, let alone the one day that was proposed for December 31.

Given the changeover has already been delayed from October 30/31 to December 31, it might not surprise you to hear that the changeover has been delayed again.

Reuters is reporting that Istanbul New Airport will now be fully operational on March 3, 2019. The airport operators have not said when and how long the changeover will be, but I would assume it will occur on either March 1 and 2, or just March 2.

Bottom line

There was some discussion that a film crew may record the changeover to form a documentary about the massive logistical task of moving all the ground equipment. I really hope they do as it would be a fascinating exercise to watch.

Given this is the second time the airport changeover has been delayed it may be delayed again — if you are flying in or out of IST/ISL in March regardless of the airline or destination/origin, you should be notified which airport you will be using.

Has anyone used the new ISL airport on the limited Turkish Airlines flights yet? What is it like?


  1. I have a trip planned in February. So what happens if one flight arrives into the new airport and my connecting flight is from the old airport? Will they provide transport? Will I have to have a visa? When I booked, there was only one airport.

  2. I booked long connecting flight with Turkish airlines on late April, mainly because I wanted to see the new airport. Hope it will be open until than!

  3. I just looked on the Wikipedia page that Turkish Airlines is switching its flight from Islamabad (Pakistan) to the new airport starting on the 1st. However, I cannot find anything online to verify this. I am flying them on this route while connecting to JFK in Febuary. I haven’t been contacted yet about the change and I have a fairly small layover. Will they allow me to change the flight if true? How do I verify this?

  4. Couldn’t come fast enough. I just flew IST-ORD yesterday and Atatürk is badly congested. On the plus side the TK lounge is still top notch even with all the added crowding I’m curious how the new lounge will look!

  5. It would be a complete logistical nightmare, even for only 48 hours. When was the last time a city with such a busy airport had to transfer operations from one airport to another? Hong Kong’s Kai Tak to Chek Lap Kok? How did they pull it off?

  6. I have been to the New Istanbul Airport a few weeks ago and its really huge! Unfortunately the new lounge wasn’t open yet (neither domestic nor international lounge). I made a trip report on my youtube channel to get an impression on what the new airport is like.

  7. I follow a guy, i think a Turkish frequent flyer, named ucakyolcusutr on instagram. He gave a tour of the new airport on instagram yesterday. It looks amazing. He said there will be multiple lounges for TK. Domestic will have two lounges, international will have a massive 120K sq ft lounge with multiple different areas: for business, TK elite, TK elite plus members, etc. i am not sure if you can still see his instagram stories but i think the new airport looks gorgeous.

  8. No joke – just caught a Turkish Airlines advert (during the 4 Hills Ski-jumping on Eurosport UK if you’re interested) “From 29th October we’ll be operating from our new home” with loads of nice graphics of computer generated people walking around the terminal 🙂

    Maybe the advert is late… maybe the advert is getting ready for a longer delay!!

  9. Turkish are an excellent airline. Consistent with an excellent soft product and a pretty good hard product.. Moderately priced in business. Way better than any of the 3 current mainline US offerings.
    It’s a shame the move to the new hub has has been delayed – the old airport is kind of dated.

    If you’re flying east – you should check out Turkish. Better than BA, AA, DL, UA, VS, LX .. in business …

  10. Looked at the animation for the new airport. Do you see any people of colour? I saw none! And there was possibly a total of three women wearing hijabs (or maybe two or may have even been the same figure). All others seem white Westerners fashionably dressed. Huh?

  11. @Indopithecus I know right? its so stupid and fake when we see ads by like Etihad or Turkish and the actors or models are all white people haha. Like come on! show some diversity! be true to ur country and culture!

  12. You can see on flightaware they are already flying several flights out of the new airport. Only Turkish Airlines with a variety of destination. Flying out of IST tomorrow on Joon a bit disappointed it is not going to be out of new airport.

  13. Does anyone know what the situation is/will be with the free hotel (an more specifically when traveling business)? i loved going to the Polat Renaissance or sometimes request a hotel close the Aya Sofya, but the new airport is quite a bit further away…

  14. @schar what color do you think the Turkish people are? Better read or visit but learn what you are talking about.

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