New Runway Opening At Istanbul Airport (And Why That’s Exciting)

Filed Under: Turkish

The new Istanbul Airport opened in the fall of 2018, though most operations were only moved there as of the spring of 2019. When (or maybe if, at this point?) the airport is complete in about a decade, it will have the capacity to handle about 200 million passengers per year, making it the highest capacity airport in the world.

My thoughts on Istanbul’s new airport

I’ve been through the airport a couple of times, and have described it as a hot, beautiful mess. The airport itself is gorgeous, but it’s massive, and not in a good way:

  • The runway is so far from the terminal, and as a result the airport has some of the longest taxiing times of any airport I’ve been to; the first time I landed there it took 30 minutes to taxi from the runway to the remote stand
  • Currently only a single terminal is in use, but it’s a gigantic terminal, and walking from one end to the other can take a long time, especially given the lack of moving sidewalks or trains

Taxi times at Istanbul Airport are really long

All things considered I’m conflicted about the airport. It’s beautiful, I love flying Turkish Airlines, the lounges are pretty good, and the airport is a big improvement over the old one. However, it’s not my favorite global transit hub.

The terminal at Istanbul Airport is huge

Istanbul Airport is getting a new runway

As part of the continued expansion of the airport, a new runway is expected to open at Istanbul Airport as of tomorrow, Sunday, June 14, 2020. This will be the airport’s third parallel runway, and will allow for landings and takeoffs to happen simultaneously, which is fairly rare at airports with parallel runways.

As reported by Daily Sabah, most significantly:

  • Takeoff and landing capacity at the airport will increase by 50%, though this is unlikely to have much significance in the immediate future, since demand is expected to be down for a while
  • Much more significantly, the new runway is much closer to the terminal, and it’s expected that the new runway opening could reduce taxi times by up to half

This could easily reduce the average taxi time at the airport by about 10 minutes, which I’d consider to be great news.

A third runway is opening at Istanbul Airport

Bottom line

A third runway is opening at Istanbul’s massive new airport tomorrow. While the 50% capacity increase probably isn’t needed for the time being, I do consider it exciting that taxi times are expected to be reduced significantly for passengers arriving and departing.

If you’ve flown through Istanbul’s new airport, did you notice the long taxi times?

  1. “This will be the airport’s third parallel runway, and will allow for landings and takeoffs to happen simultaneously, which is extremely rare at airports with parallel runways.”

    Um….I don’t know where you got this idea, but it is complete nonsense. Aircraft takeoff and land simultaneously on parallel runways countless times every day at virtually every airport that has them, all around the world. That’s how parallel runways work, how they’re used, and why they’re useful. You should remove that, it’s just totally wrong.

  2. @ben (lucky) – i believe dick is correct. At my home airport, SFO, sometimes the parallel runways will be used to land simultaneously as well.

  3. @ Dick Bupkiss @ Rober MacNamara — That’s not my understanding, though I’d welcome any experts who can clarify. At many airports with parallel runways you’ll notice that there’s always a small gap between when planes land and when planes take off. In other words, a plane won’t be cleared to take off until a plane on a parallel runway has touched down (just in case there’s a go around). It’s my understanding that this is because there’s not enough separation between the runways so that they could have planes landing and taking off at exactly the same time.

    If any ATCers or pilots would like to clarify, I’d appreciate it…

  4. @Ben – Restrictions on parallel runway use depend on the space between them, with 3 or four different sets of rules for different spacing intervals. (And I seem to recall weather/visibility having an influence on separation.)

  5. I flew through IST a few times last October and November. I don’t remember taxi times being especially bad when going straight to/from tbe gate. The “painful” arrivals and departure experiences for me was when I had to get on a bus to/from the terminal. It was a long bus ride, and on my return flight to SFO, the boarding process took over an hour due to all the shuttles back and forth between the terminal and airport. So while the taxiing wasn’t so bad, the bus ride certainly made things less pleasant.

  6. All the prior comments are targeting SFO as if it’s the only parallel runway airport. LHR, FRA, SIN, JNB, HND are some examples of parallel runway airports that do not land or takeoff at the same time making it a somewhat rare occurrence aka Ben is right.

  7. I have a question, concern I will be having a long stay over of 22 hours, I think Turkish airline no longer provide a hotel, I am also traveling with my medium size dog, are there any suggestions what to do, I have never being at this airport, my son did an love it but now with the virus I will appreciate any ideas.

  8. IF two parallel runways are too close together (inadequate distance between them), and IF the weather is below minimums, then you can’t use them for simultaneous operations. In good weather and with reasonable physical separation between them, no problem. This – simultaneous operations on parallel runways – is the norm, almost everywhere. It’s actually pretty unusual for two parallel runways at a busy airport to NOT be used simultaneously (typically simultaneous ops are used everyday, but suspended only in very bad weather).

  9. BTW, I am a pilot. At my home airport, both parallel runways are used simultaneously every day.

  10. Ist airport slogan says it all “easy to love, hard to leave”. Took multiple flights in and out of there last summer every flight both domestic and international was problematic. Love the lounges though.

  11. Just close down this badly executed wannabe-world-airport.
    There is enough overcapacity anyway, and with the recent Turkish Airlines catering downgrade no one will miss flying via Erdogan’s dictatorship monument airport.

  12. Hi Ben, my home airport is ATL with 5 parallel runways. Over the years, I have regularly seen one other flight land almost simultaneously with mine. I have also seen flights land on either side of my plane (3 flights landing on parallel runways around the same time) on a couple of occasions. A very cool feeling.

  13. @Max

    Yours is the first strident call to action against an authoritarian regime based on……..airline food.

  14. No, I’m sorry but you’ve got it wrong. I see the edit. It’s not “will allow for landings and takeoffs to happen simultaneously, which is fairly rare at airports with parallel runways.” either.

    This is not fairly rare, slightly rare, nor even somewhat rare. It’s not rare at all, there’s nothing rare about it. It’s the norm. It’s the standard. It’s what happens every day, constantly, all the time, at any busy airport. This is really basic. Any pilot or ATC staff knows this.

    The only time where you do NOT see simultaneous operations on parallel runways is when the runways are too close together (typically at older, smaller airports), when the weather is below minimums, or when things are just not very busy and one runway is plenty (or when there aren’t parallel runways or one of them is closed for maintenance).

    Not a huge issue but your description is just completely wrong from a technical standpoint, so it kind of stands out. Like saying “zeppelins will start landing at the airport now because they have parallel runways” it’s not credible. But I’ll give it up now. 🙂

  15. IST currently has four runways:
    * 16L/34R / 3,750 m
    * 16R/34L / 3,750 m
    * 17L/35R / 4,100 m
    * 17R/35L / 4,100 m

    The new one is going to be the fifth, not the third.

  16. Same goes for MUC – two parallel runways, used independently. Very often when you‘re on final approach you will see the plane bound to touch down on the other runway at the same time as yours.

  17. Agree the new airport is beautiful and big. I think it a lot easier to navigate than the old one. I miss the old lounge as it was truly beautiful. The new one is nice but not much character but again no complaints here. The ride into the city is about an hour but again not a huge negative with us. Finally my biggest negative is the the taxi time……..hopefully the 3rd runway will help.

  18. The major issue used to be wing-tip vortexes when a heavy and a light were taking off on parallel runways without much separation.

    With canards etc the vortex problems are definitely minimized.

    Have taken off and landed side-by-side in SEATAC, LAX and LHR for three that I can remember vividly.

  19. Against the grain, but I miss the old IST. Yes, it was crowded, had a terrible elongated design but at least it was closer to the city and had reasonable PT for those inclined. Could care less for the mall-less appearance. When I travel, it is to see a designation not to luxuriate — pun intended — in a lounge. Can do that at home.

    Went through new IST last year to Cappadocia — nightmare — thankfully didn’t have a tight connection (also, no lounge on domestic side then). Same on the way back through IST to Izmir- – nightmare — thankfully didn’t have a tight connection. The taxing on all four legs was the worst I have seen in any airport. Then add in the nightmare from CHQ – ATH – IST – home. Guess which point created all the stresses?

    Ur-do-GAIN not wan

  20. Rather than having a bottom line, have you thought about an executive summary or leading with the conclusion?

  21. Did not notice taxi times to be out of the ordinary – flew TK BJV-IST-MEX, in Business, Oct 2019

  22. As a side note, taxi times will mostly improve for domestic flights, as the third runway was built on the eastern side of the terminal to mainly serve the domestic area (G) of the terminal. International flights will continue using the already existing 2 (+2) runways on the western side of the airport.

  23. @Ben… Controller here. Granted I with in a center, but I’m occasionally not an idiot. Simultaneous ops is literally the entire purpose of parallel runways. Take IAD for example, with three parallels and a crosswind. IAD can take three simultaneous approaches, and theoretically three simultaneous departures (although it isn’t used for simultaneous departures for operational reasons, it’s not technically unable to handle it). ATL, PHX, IAH, DFW, ORD, and countless other examples can handle simultaneous ops as well. Having gaps in the traffic actually reduces efficiency, which is typically why the most efficient operations run parallel approaches and departures. The centerlines of each runway only need to be 4,500ft apart to operate independently of one another. It doesn’t matter if an aircraft goes missed while another is taking off — that’s why missed approach procedures exist, so that nobody has a boo boo. Even if the runways are closer, they can still run parallel ops visually. “Report the traffic in sight” is the most beautiful phraseology in the air traffic world. It doesn’t matter if there are two parallel runways or 20, they can still run simultaneous ops under the right circumstances.

  24. As a Chicago homer I have to channel Michael Jordan and say “wake me up when you need 2 hands to count your parallel runways” 🙂 after their decade long reconstruction of their airfield, ORD now has 8 runways, 6 of which are parallel, with enough separation to run simultaneous operations on all 6. My understanding is that typically one is used for takeoffs and the other 5 are used for landings.

  25. @Ben… Not rare at all. I’ve landed at SFO while watching another aircraft do the same through my window. Seen the same at many other airports.

  26. @Rita not sure what the current policy is regarding a room but a couple years ago they refused to give me one despite meeting the criteria. It happened twice. Haven’t flown Turkish since. Hope you have a better go of it.

  27. Did they (Turkey) use outside consultants? Or did they go to the best airports in the world to learn, to make this one better than the others. I have doubts they did.
    Oh well…

  28. Perhaps it is the result of the distance between them but at OR Tambo airport in JNB parallel runways have been in use for years and take offs and landings happen simultaneously all the time.

  29. Everyone is talking/commenting about parallel landings at airports all around the world. This is of course right and is being used daily.

    This also was the case at Istanbul Airport before the 3rd runway because the other 2 independent runways can handle parallel take offs and landings.

    But with the new 3rd independent runway, IST will be able to handle triple take offs and landings simultaneously. That’s what Ben probably wanted to express. And that’s the difference. Right now the only european airport capable to do so is Amsterdam and therefore it’s fairly exciting.

  30. @Rita @Ralph

    Perhaps Turkish provided a room on layovers but I chose not to bother. The hotels offered were unknown to me. There was an HGI within about 15 minutes that provided free taxi service to-fro and charged about $60 per night. For us it was a no brainer.

    I do not expect that there are any Hilton’s close to the new airport. This is a real bummer. Also the requirement to pay for a 30 day visit on an overnight transfer was a real negative – it cost many times more than the hotel.

    So hopefully there is a hotel inside the airport or a Hilton close by so that overnight transfers can be relatively seamless otherwise I will plan my flying on alternate airlines.

  31. I guess no one actually understood what Lucky was trying to say… simultaneous take offs and landings are indeed rare. Parallel take offs and landings happen all the time.
    On parallel runways a takeoff roll and runway threshold crossing (for landing) at the same time are rare. All it needs is a few seconds to a minute to create a gap in these operations and so it is barely noticeable. Controllers create these gaps so that an AC taking off and another one doing a last second go around are not on similar vectors

  32. The Turkish Lounge at IST is the best Star Alliance Airlines Company im the world… IST is very nice airport too.

  33. KV, new IST is a terrible airport on the domestic side. Given travels, one of the worst new ones built over the past two decades. LOOOOONG taxi rides — both plane/terminal (careful of connection times) and onward into town, limited overpriced amenities (but at least the bathrooms were clean — they haven’t started charging for that yet)

  34. I used this airport with my mom who is almost 80 years old and has trouble walking. It took her 45 minutes to walk from the security to the gate which would have taken me about a 10 minute walk. Have they thought about the people who are old or disabled when they designed this airport?!?

  35. That’s great – whatever it takes to get us on the ground faster in the land where genocide was invented.

  36. Taxi times – long. Twice over 20 mins runway to and from gate. Another two times 15 mins or so and one arrival we were not at the gate sadly. Well at the gate but we had to take the bus to the arrivals. Cannot fathom why they couldn’t use the jet ridge. Lots of walking. From the end of the middle pier to regular passport control about 20 mins walking. We saw one buggy cart transporting people. Beautiful airport and especially the Turkish lounges. Just recommend to give extra time for your flight.

  37. @Hyemarsh

    Britain invented concentration camps, U.S. invented the atom bomb, Canada invented Justin Bieber, China invented bombs, Egyptians invented the sword. Does that mean we stop going to these destinations.

    Some friendly advice: keep on topic and don’t cite history unless your logic is strong.

  38. @Ben , do you still consider flying an airline controlled by Erdogan?

    GERÇEK GÜNDEM – Cabinet meeting was held under the chairmanship of AKP President and President Erdoğan.

    Erdogan, by targeting LGBT individuals, “I invite our nation to take a stand against those who show all the deviance and supporters that our Lord has banned.” used expressions.

    Source (Turkish)

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