FAA Bans Flights Between The US & Istanbul Indefinitely

Filed Under: Security/TSA, Turkish

Update: wondering about how (or if) to change your flights? Learn what your options are, and how to work with the airlines in this post.

Yesterday Tiffany wrote about the military coup in Turkey, and the impact it’s having on flights to and from Istanbul. As you’d expect, the airport has largely been shut down, given that there was no security at the airport, and people were roaming around freely.

So if you are connecting in Istanbul over the coming days you’ll certainly want to reroute yourself, as chances are that most flights will be canceled.

However, it looks like the impact this will have on air travel will go way beyond just the next few days. Per the US Embassy in Turkey, the US FAA has blacklisted all flights between the US and Istanbul until further notice:

U.S. Embassy Ankara informs U.S. citizens that routes to Istanbul’s Ataturk airport are open; however, we are still hearing reports of sporadic gunfire. Security at Ataturk airport is significantly diminished and U.S. government employees have been instructed not to attempt to travel to and from Ataturk airport.

Per the Federal Aviation Administration’s notice to airmen (NOTAM) dated July 15, 2016, U.S. airline carriers are prohibited from flying to or from Istanbul and Ankara airports.  All airline carriers, regardless of country of registry, are prohibited from flying into the United States from Turkey either directly or via third country.


This isn’t a huge deal for US airlines, given that no US airlines presently operate commercial flights to Turkey. However, it’s a completely different story for Turkish Airlines, which operates almost a dozen flights a day between Istanbul and various cities in the US.

The FAA will reconsider this policy no later than August 15, though it’s anyone’s guess whether it actually takes that long, or if this block will be lifted within days. In theory it’s also possible that the ban will stay in effect after that date, though I doubt it.

If you’re traveling between the US and Istanbul in the next couple of weeks I’d certainly look at alternative options, though after that I assume things will be fine. Personally I’d feel totally comfortable if I had a booking through Istanbul several weeks from now, though I know everyone has different comfort levels with that kind of stuff.

This is very much still developing…

Does anyone have travel planned between the US and Istanbul in the coming weeks? If so, please see our previous post for links to airline waivers and tips on rebooking your flights.

(Tip of the hat to Wandering Aramean)

  1. “Sporadic gunfire?”

    Hmmm, OK. Well, you better not leave the Chicago airports — because the gunfire there is hardly “sporadic.”

    Anyway, this seems like an overreaction.

    Turkish is a fantastic airline with a great safety record, and they wouldn’t be operating from the airport — a very secure one with security and x-rays at the door — if it was unsafe.

  2. TK tweeted several hours ago everything is back to normal, and flights resuming safely!! Yikes, I don’t think I would want to be flying to/from/via IST right now

  3. I was supposed to fly TK 1910 from ZRH to IST tonight (July 16) and then connect to TK 3 (July 17) with a seven hours layover. I have decided last night to book another flight and am now writing you from the LOT elite club lounge.

    Just called justfly since my TK ticket was bought from them. The kind agent could not even get a hold of the TK travel desk and their computer system has not been updated with any information. I am not going to waste any roaming call to the US. So I will just try to call them once I am back in the US tomorrow evening.

    TK really mishandles this situation, but then given the scoop of the problems, I can’t blame them. TK should be more honest with passengers, and the only complaint is that their websites are not updating fast enough.

    This week had been strange.


  4. Turkey is a shithole right now. All because erdogan wants to make it into an Islamist state.

    There is a commonality that runs through all the places that are shitholes in this world. Praise the allah.

  5. I can see this ban staying active for a while. There is no security at the airport right now and anyone is free to walk in and leave / hide anything in the secure areas. Even after security checks are re-established, flights to the U.S. won’t resume till the airport has been fully searched and secured.

  6. I booked an award ticket from IST-JFK next weekend, using United miles. I don’t see any other award availability for that day. What options do I have??

  7. We have seven people going to Nairobi through Istanbul via Turkish Air Tuesday using miles. Frantically trying to find a new routing. This sucks.

  8. I’m in the same situation as Bart. I have United award flights on TK from LYS-IST-IAH on Thursday 7/20. I need to call United to see what my options are. I welcome any suggestion!

  9. I have an award flight booked using United miles for tk biz Bos-ist-kul for Aug 5. Connecting on from there to Bali on a separate ticket later that day. Not sure what other options I’ll have, but would love any suggestions or to hear what others are doing.

  10. The TK planes in the US can still return one time to IST as the NOTAM is for US flagged carriers into/from Turkey.

    Foreign flagged carriers are only banned INTO the US.

    I feel the FAA wrote this to allow TK the OPTION to fly any of the US aircraft back to Turkey. Obviously, once in Turkey, as the NOTAM is written, and until it changes, no TK plane can return to the US. But, the FAA did a favor to TK and worded the NOTAM in a way allowing TK the option to return all its planes to Turkey.

  11. At NBO right now with a revenue ticket on TK, NBO-IST-ORD on Tuesday. Called US help line to see if they’ll reroute on another star alliance carrier, but they said it’s not possible. Full refund isn’t possible also. Going to head to the airport to see what they can do.

  12. “If you’re traveling between the US and Istanbul in the next couple of weeks I’d certainly look at alternative options, though after that I assume things will be fine.”

    Ben, I’ve been reading your blog for years and I’m a big fan, and I know you have a sizable reader base. But unless you are an expert in Turkish politics you may want to be more circumspect about your assumptions about how the country will be in a couple weeks. Even the experts don’t know. This isn’t some isolated terrorist attack – this is a country’s entire government being overthrown. Who knows if things will stabilize soon or even escalate.

  13. TK81 is scheduled to arrive 8 hours late in Boston tonight — meaning it will leave IST today (Saturday, July 16). And the return flight TK82 is schedule to leave Boston for IST four hours late, tonight. This from Turkish Airlines website.

  14. Thanks for the post, Ben. I’m scheduled to fly Turkish via Istanbul in November and again in June.

    Similar thing happened a couple of years ago with Egypt, had a visit plan when chaos broke out, and a couple of weeks later everything was back to normal. This really sucks as a political event and for those who are traveling over the next couple of weeks, but I’m quite confident that things will be back to normal soon.

  15. I addressed some of this in my post yesterday, but for those with award tickets booked through United — United has currently only issued a waiver for travel through July 22nd, and it may take them a couple of days to update that.

    Regardless of whether your travel was paid for with money or miles, they should rebook you on alternative flights that don’t transit Turkey, or fully refund your tickets. If United flies to the destination they should be able to open up space in your original class of service — the same fare bucket does not need to be available. If United does not fly to the destination they should be able to work with the Star Alliance liaison to open up space on partner carriers — again, the same fare bucket does not need to be available.

    This may take several calls, as not all agents know the protocol in these situations, but that’s what should happen.

  16. Can somebody point me to an FAA webpage that gives these Notices about IST? I can’t find anything in this regard at the FAA website…

  17. Frog, can you provide reliable sources for your claim that there is no security at IST airport? I find that rather hard to believe.

  18. @ Jason Atkinson — Unfortunately Turkish Airlines can not be relied upon for timely updates at the moment. TK81 has already been canceled, and even if it were to depart from Turkey, it would not be allowed to land in the US.

    You can see the video in my post yesterday of people walking around the flight apron in Istanbul — the airport was not secure during the coup attempt, and given the timeline there’s no chance the airport was fully swept and secured in the interim. Hence the FAA ban.

    The NOTAM # is A0015/16, you can find it by searching this page on the FAA site: https://notams.aim.faa.gov/notamSearch/nsapp.html?DISCLAIMER=AYYINDI&CLASS=LTA#/details

  19. According to this article, we American citizens in Turkey will not be able to return to the U.S. until further notice. İ’m fortunate that İ have no plans to return to the U.S. in the near future.İ’m married to a Turkish citizen.

  20. @ Theresa Kaplan — You can, just not on direct flights. You’d need to connect in an airport that is sweeping planes before departure to the US.

  21. Tiffany – we have Maldives plans booked in mid August. Flying TK through IST on an United award. Would you wait and see how things progress or look at other options now?

  22. @ Evan — I would wait, personally. That time period isn’t covered under the current notice or waiver, so you’d be liable for change fees (unless you’re an United Elite), and would be limited to available award space.

  23. I called United to request to be put on a different flight the same day. However, only TK flights are available with award space for that day. The agent gave me the option to switch to a direct non-saver award on Business (for 150K miles!!) or downgrade to economy non-saver and receive $5k miles back (also no-way). The other option was to refund my miles.

    It seems if there is no availability they just refund your miles, instead of putting you on any other flight in a different fare class. The agent indicated this would be the case if the flight were cancelled (it hasn’t been yet). Is that how it is supposed to be or did I just speak to an agent that didn’t know anything?

  24. Tiffany or Ben help!

    I’m booked on a United award flight transiting through IST to the US on July 29th. I called and she said she could only waive the change fee. Should I call back and ask to speak to a supervisor as there were no other saver seats available? However, there are non saver seats available on United itself on a different routing. Thanks.

  25. @ Bart — Is your travel date before or after July 22nd? If after, United hasn’t updated their waivers yet. Once they do, you’ll have more options.

  26. @ S V — Same answer as I gave to Bart; United has only issued waivers through 7/22, so if you’re traveling after that I’d hold tight for now (which I know is difficult).

  27. Istanbul is on my bucket list. However, I am afraid of getting an “SSSS” designation on tickets for going there and being searched for several months every time I fly. So for now, I am going elsewhere.

    I still want to see it. I hope the situation clears up soon.

  28. My husband is currently in Istanbul and has a Turkish Airlines flight scheduled home to Chicago on Tuesday. He just called Turkish Airlines and they said they were still operating flights to the US from Istanbul. I’m so confused.

  29. I have a flight scheduled through the Turkish Air from Dulles to Istanbul and then to Nairobi, departing on 7/29. Same flight pattern back on 8/12 ( Nairobi-Istanbul-Dulles). What are my options? Will I get a refund from Turkish air? Should I purchase travel insurance in hopes that they cover the change?

  30. By the way 170 are dead. Good to know people are more interested whether or not their upgrades are clearing and miles being refunded.

  31. I agree with you Justin. Even though this an Aviation/Travel blog, not one person has mentioned about those tragically killed. My thoughts & Prayers are with those whom have been affected.

  32. Update: found other flights betwee LYS And IAH in Austria and united airlines on the united site. Called the united number in france and had no wait. The agent changed the flights and waived the $100 change fees. Also refunded some of the miles since the united flights cost fewer miles.

  33. I booked an itinerary from CDG-IST-PEK-IST-BEG from July 30-Aug 10 payed with Citi TYP…do I have any chance of getting a refund or rerouted?

  34. Typical histerical American reaction. B.t.w. to/from IST you can fly via any European airline with a stopover in their home country.

  35. @ Alicia — Ouch, so here’s the challenge: Turkish Airlines’ communication is highly censored by the government right now, so that’s going to clog things up. Low-level phone agents may not be advised of the NOTAM, etc. The flight almost certainly won’t be operating, but they might not have figured out how they are going to rebook over a thousand daily passengers to the US.

    I would call again, possibly trying a call center in a different country. They may not be able to proactively rebook him, so I would make backup arrangements where you can.

  36. If you have any interest in visiting istanbul, I would advise you check the facts of the situation and display caution. It may already be too late and not worth chancing. Erdogan is about to go full dictator. Hopefully the turkish people can save themselves. Not holding my breath tho.

  37. I very much feel for the Turkish people and the people who are so affected by all the events in the world. However, this is a points and travel blog, and if I was flying to or through Turkey, I would be very concerned, too.

    In April 2011 my wife and I were booked to Damascus, Beirut and Istanbul from Chicago on Turkish. Arab spring had begun in Egypt, and we became concerned. My wife said, what if it spreads to Syria? I said my Assad would never allow it. Well, a short time later, she said to look at the TV. It was reported that Assad had killed 120 people that day. My heart was heavy, and I had to deal with our trip. I called United, since we used United miles, and changed our trip to Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Cyprus. And believe it or not, United charged a change fee, even though I argued with them, how the hell do you expect us to go to Syria in the midst of a civil war??? I STILL can’t believe they charged us.

  38. I was at the airport when then happend waiting to transfer to BKK and you could easily run through immigration/customs/security back an forth from outside the airport area to the terminal. Then when they started rebooking and operating flights there were no additional security checks before boarding a flight.
    As much as this is really troublesome for the ones still left in IST now this is a REALLY good call by the FAA – it would have been very easy for anyone with bad intentions to get on a flight without much security…

  39. I have a flight from Paris to Boston with a connection in Istanbul July 21. So far Turkish Airlines has done nothing and have offered me nothing, I understand and feel for them and the Turkish people, but other airlines have responded swiftly. I need to go home. I called again today and they said they might have an answer in a few more hours. I don’t believe it. I used thank you points for my flight and I’ve call Citi benefits to discuss the issue with them and they told me that they will cover the ticket and a return ticket, but I am skeptical that they won’t deny my claim. Hopefully something will be done because I can’t and won’t go through Istanbul. 1 way return tickets are around $900 and up right now.

  40. Thanks for the very useful information. Special thanks for those who remember the victims. As a Turkish person here in the US, this feels like a nightmare for the last two days for what is going on in Turkey. My question is about the statement “the ban will be reconsidered on August 15″… I searched the FAA and NOTAM web site, and also the link provided but was not able to find this…. (We are scheduled for Dulles-Ist on July 27 and Ist-Dulles on Aug 26). Thanks so much!

  41. Has there been any response from the airlines to the US State Dept advice for US citizens to reconsider travel to Turkey? This doesn’t have a time limit.

  42. @ Elif Ayhan — The full text is here:

    A0015/16 NOTAMN
    Q) KICZ/QRDLD////000/999/
    A) KICZ B) 1607160150 C) 1608312359 EST
    AUGUST 2016.

  43. @ Tiffany Thanks for the link however my case is a bit more complicated because that author was able to rebook because of 24 hour rule with the Citi Prestige. I’ve called Turkish airlines several times. Nothing helpful at all from them. I’ve called Citi benefits and they told me if I canceled and rebooked a new flight it would be covered, but it still seems risky to me because a 1 way ticket is $1000.00 and I have to use my money to pay for it and wait for the reimbursement. I don’t know how long that could take and I don’t know if I can trust what the Citi benefits specialists was telling me because you never know with these companies. So I called Citi Thank you and they referred me to connexions travel and the supervisor said that unfortunately the department of Turkish Airlines that they need to speak with is not open on weekends and so advised me to call in tomorrow as early as possible so that Citi could speak with them and find out if they’ll give an exchange, refund, or nothing at all. What would you do if your flight was on a weekend? I was really a fan of Turkish Airlines , but now I really think they aren’t handling this situation well.

  44. It appears that flights have resumed today to cities all over Europe (including Vienna, Oslo, Zurich, Barcelona, London, Manchester, Cologne, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Madrid, Brussels, Paris, etc.) and also to Tel Aviv. If these western countries are accepting Turkish planes, then surely the FAA will rescind its ban soon, like in the next day or so?

  45. Question .My fiancé has a flight August 10th from Istanbul to Kiev Ukraine then a small wait then he will board a new flight from Kiev to New York. Does the ban work in this situation? I’m confused about third party with something like this .

  46. Tiffany, what rules or agreements cover your statements above on what an airline should do when rebooking flights in a waiver situation, i.e. same class, no fees, it doesn’t have to be from the same bucket, etc. I have a flight to Turkey next month, and I want to be prepared in case I need to fight for my rights. Is in the carriage contract or a governmental rule? Thanks

  47. I’m flying Turkish Airlines through Istanbul on Aug 3 from Houston and Aug 10 coming back. Staying in airport assuming flights are not canceled. I see late this evening TA’s website has canceled July 17 & 18 but don’t know when I should contact them about rerouting August

  48. KLM, Lufthansa, and Alitalia airplanes have now left Ataturk airport today (Monday morning) for western-european cities … So that’s looking good… It’s not just Turkish Airlines planes that are flying to western European cities

  49. I cannot read the cancellation policy noted above for Turkish Airlines; when I put that URL in two different web browsers, it re-directs to the main (unhelpful) Turkish Airlines webpage. I have a flight from the USA to Istanbul (connecting) on Wednesday night/Thursday. I have to get to my destination in the Middle East by Thursday night. I’m worried that if I book a flight on another airline today, and then the FAA starts allowing planes fly from USA to Istanbul on Tuesday or Wednesday, that Turkish Airlines may not refund my tickets because my flight may end up going — so I’d end up with four tickets for two people. What a pain…

  50. We were scheduled to fly BCN-IST-ATL on August 2 as an award booking through Aeroplan. I contacted Air Canada on Saturday and after sitting on the phone for 90 minutes while they looked for rerouting options they came up with BCN-VIE-FRA-ORD-PDX on partner airlines (Austrian & Lufthansa) and they waived all taxes and fees. It turned out to be a better routing as PDX was our final destination. I feel I got lucky with the right customer service agent on the first call! (I want to give a shout out to PointsPros who helped us with the original booking and who suggested contacting Air Canada immediately – thanks Jimmy.)

  51. I was extremely lucky with the United phone agent last Saturday (7/16). She re-booked my two Biz class award tickets (on July 28) changing MLE-IST-IAH-DFW to MLE-SIN-SFO-DFW maintaining the same class of service. I have no status with United and paid nothing extra (cash or miles). This was one of the single best customer service experiences I have ever had with any airline.

  52. Update: I called Turkish Airlines numerous times over several days. It was hard to get a hold of them with most offices in North America either disconnected or not picking up. I called the North American call center a few times and always got CS reps telling me that my flight would go ahead as planned (really???) and they would not exchange, reroute, or anything else for my ticket. Some agents acted as if I was bothering them. My whole experience with Turkish Airlines I would say is pathetic. I understand that things are chaos for them, I think they could’ve have handled the situation a lot better especially on communication. They are either incredibly slow with getting the right communication through the pipeline or as I suspect after my encounter with them they really want do not want to start refunding tickets even though their is an ban on flights. Reps where telling me that the flight was still on. I asked how that was possible when the ban is going to be only reevaluated maybe around Aug 15 as per the official statement. They responded that the flight is still on. Today, I called Connexions travel agency at Citi Thank You Rewards since Connexions said they would speak with Turkish Airlines department that is only open during the weekdays and could ask for an exchange or partial/full refund etc… Well Turkish Airlines said nothing would be given and that I’d just have to wait until a few hours before my flight to find out. Really!? So I triple checked with Citi benefits specialist to make sure if I canceled the flight and rebooked it would be covered under the Trip Cancellation and Interruption Claim and they assured me it would because of the circumstances of the ban and the attempted coup. So I will be flying tomorrow instead. It has been a real nightmare trying to figure this whole thing out the last few days and I am happy to be flying home tomorrow. I hope the claim with Citi with be quick and easy because I put out $1100 for a one way return from Marseille. Craziest experience. Left a bad taste in my mouth with Turkish Airlines. I lost a lot of trust and confidence in them and at this point I don’t feel I could recommend them. Good luck to all others I hope any of this information is helpful.

  53. this came up on my iPhone just now when I tried contacting the Canadian website of Turkish Airlines:

    All our flight operations (with the exception of the U.S.A. flights) have turned back to normal. Our flights to and from the U.S.A. on the 17th and 18th of July 2016 have been canceled and passengers booked on these flights are kindly asked to apply to our sales offices in city centers and respective travel agencies.

  54. Please help to open flights from Turkey to Washington US (Transit in Canada is fine). We need fly to Washing urgently. Please !!!

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