Transition To Istanbul’s New Airport Happening In October 2018

Later this year a new airport will be opening in Istanbul. When the first phase of the project is complete (later this year), it will feature the world’s largest single terminal, at 11 million square feet, with a capacity of 90 million passengers per year. When the entire airport project is complete in 2028, it will be the world’s largest airport, with a capacity of about 200 million passengers (obviously a lot can change between now and then). This is an especially big development for Turkish Airlines, which flies to more countries than any other airline in the world, and will use this as their primary hub.

Some more details have now been shared of how this airport transition is expected to happen. The transfer from Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport to Istanbul’s new airport is expected to be done in 48 hours on October 30-31, 2018. This will be immediately after the opening ceremony on October 29 (Turkey’s Republic Day), for which the president will be in attendance.

The State Airports Authority has now finalized arrangements for how the transition will take place. According to the plan, foreign airlines won’t fly to Istanbul at all on October 30-31, to make the transition as smooth as possible by reducing air traffic. Turkish Airlines, on the other hand, plans to not fly to the new airport for the first 18 hours of the transition. Prior to this period they’re scheduling takeoffs from Ataturk Airport, and after this period they’re scheduling landings at Istanbul’s new airport.

Meanwhile ground vehicles will be transported to the new airport by road (which should be quite a sight to see, as presumably we’ll see catering trucks, baggage carts, etc., traveling on highways between the two airports). Once the transition is complete, Istanbul’s new airport will allow 35 takeoffs and landings per hour, while Ataturk Airport will allow just five takeoffs and landings per hour, as it will be used primarily for cargo planes and private jets (all airlines are moving to the new airport).

We have a lot of new airport terminals to look forward to over the next couple of years. In addition to Istanbul getting a new airport altogether, Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, and Muscat (among others) are getting new terminals, which should represent a nice improvement for the passenger experience.

I can’t wait to see what Turkish’s lounge at the new airport will look like. If they make it even better than the excellent lounge they have at the old airport, it should be pretty spectacular.

Istanbul’s new airport will be about 35km northwest of the city, while the current airport is to the southwest of the city.

(Tip of the hat to YHBU)


  1. So what happens to all the people transiting through Istanbul on those dates? Will they suddenly find that their connecting flight is departing from another airport?

  2. I remember when the same thing happened in Denver. They also had a convoy of airport vehicles, trucks hauling luggage carts, rental cars, and stair-cars (with no hop-ons) that drove from Stapleton to DIA.

    It doesn’t happen very often, so nerds get excited to see such things.

  3. While great news, I hope that their government has built in all the safeguards against having a gigantic $$$ capital project only to face someday shrinking demand or a hometown airline that cuts back on their route expansion / growth plans.

  4. Can’t be worst than what the TK business lounge is now. Used to be great, now it’s just a cantina with poor service, poor customers, poor service, not clean, boring food (same for years), etc etc etc. I will not miss it at all!

  5. Looking forward to visiting through the new Airport. Why are all the nice/functional/big/friendly airports are outside the USA??

  6. “Turkish Airlines, on the other hand, plans to not fly to the new airport for the first 18 hours of the transition. During this period they plan to schedule takeoffs from Ataturk Airport and landings at Istanbul’s new airport”

    So are they or aren’t they flying to the new airport in the first 18 hours?

  7. How far from the city is the current Atatürk airport? More or less than the 35 kms for the new one?

  8. @DrStan the current airport is about 22 km from the center Taksim . I took a taxi last Tuesday evening at 8:30 pm and it took 1 hour 45 minutes . There are highways that head North which may be an improvement but Istanbul city of 15 mill is a traffic nightmare .

  9. Of course the irony is not lost to Turks (many of whom have family members in Berlin) that Berlin not only still can’t figure out how or when to open Brandenburg but that it also continues to operate one of Europe’s worst airports at Schönefeld.

  10. I’ll be transiting Istanbul end of November, so it looks like I’ll get to see the new airport and TK lounge. Hope everything opens on time and runs smoothly 🙂

  11. If the new airport fails to meet its objective, it will be perceived as a failure of Erdogan, the authoritarian president of Turkey. It’s not much of a secret that he plans to have the airport named after him, after a while.

    Some passengers might consider not to participate to a plebiscite of the direction of the country and use other airlines that do not that new airport as a hub.

  12. I remember when the new terminal opened in the late 1990’s. It seemed so shiny and new then. Interesting that it only lasted 20 years.

  13. Mexico City’s new airport is a huge mistake. It’s needed and the design is interesting, but the chosen space is a disgrace. The soil is not suitable for an airport. It will sink every year and ma maintaining it will be outreagously expensive. Corruption at ist best

  14. That’s going to be a troublesome inter-*A transit during the time period… one can only hope everything truly runs as smoothly as planned.

    On the other hand, I saw the new location and it’s WAAAAAAAY farther out of the city! I can see you’d be more hard-pressed to take a short transit trip to historic Istanbul if you intend to transfer there.

  15. Best place to build the new airport is next to the existing one- allthe transport links still work, etc. I just drove by Singapore’s T5, which to me counts as a new airport, as it will have a higher capacity than all the other current terminals combined- amazing!

  16. I am super excited to have the experience through the new airport. It is way farther than the current airport but with improved highway system (I hope), it will be much more convenient. Everyone agrees that the current airport is always overcrowded these days. Thumbs up…

  17. ditto; lovetospendit. While they tried to make the lounge fancy, it’s a pitt.
    And their International Business class looks good in the ads, with an on-board chef,
    the taste of the food scary.

  18. Go to Google Maps and check the location of the new airport…it’s an hour’s drive from Istanbul itself…fine as a connection point but I have a good feeling this will be similar to Montreal Mirabel, which was built because a lot of flights to North America had to stop in Montreal for fuel at the time. Now that planes are getting longer ranges and there’s a shift to point to point flights with less passenger yield, I wouldn’t be surprised if this flops as well…

  19. Will be flying thru Istanbul from Dubai on October 30 with a long lay over during the day. Wondering if I should change my plans.. Anyone know will flying during the transition be problematic??

  20. I just got my Feb 2019 ticket and the phone agent (not based in Turkey, but Europe) knew nothing about it. Trying to figure out how many days to allow for the IST visit and where to stay based on the new airport location. Had not counted on no public transportation! Hopefully a shuttle or bus route at least?

  21. @S I don’t see how this project will be a flop. Comparing this to Montreal Mirabel is like comparing apples and oranges. The new airport for Istanbul will be nothing like Mirabel. Turkish Airlines has a huge hub in Istanbul and the airport handled over 63 million passengers in 2017, making it one of the largest in the world (it is actually 11th in the world based on total passenger traffic). I’m sorry, but if you think that the new Istanbul Airport will be a flop, you are talking nonsense.

  22. @S Also I think you’re confused on how Istanbul works as an airline hub and why Montreal Mirabel failed. The airport isn’t a stopover point for aircraft, it is actually a connecting hub for Turkish Airlines. Mirabel was built because in the 1960s, Montreal experienced an economic boom and Dorval’s traffic increased by around 15-20%, the city leaders decided Montreal needed another airport. Mirabel failed because it was targeted at stopover flights, as ranges got longer, the need for stopover flights diminished, so did the need for Mirabel. Istanbul is an entirely different story, Istanbul isn’t focused on stopover traffic, it’s a connecting hub for Turkish Airlines. Therefore there is no evidence of it going the way Mirabel went.

  23. Would like to find out where I’m actually landing as I fly out of TXL to ATL through Istanbul on the 30th

  24. The site for Mirabel Airport was selected in the fall of 1968. It opened in the spring of 1976 in time for the Olympics that year. The demise of Mirabel originated in a federal government policy that designated Montreal and Vancouver as Canada’s only major overseas international gateways. That policy disappeared in 1971 when KLM was allowed to serve Toronto. That opened the flood gates for foreign airlines to fly into Toronto. Mirabel had nothing to do with planes refueling. Since the mid 60’s planes could fly non stop to the west coast from Europe. Also Mirabel had 1 domestic connection a day to Toronto. Not much to encourage traffic from anywhere else in Canada. You had to hike 35 miles to Dorval airport to get to anywhere else. Talk about stupid!!! The Quebec separatists had a role in the decline. Mirabel was closed about 25 years ago and and everything returned to Dorval. They finally tore the terminal down at Mirabel several years ago. You still have 2 12000 foot runways and several aerospace companies have set up shop there. Dorval Airport works really well but it has less than half the passengers Toronto has.

  25. Great achievement. Not just an additional airport but one additional day in October. Good luck with the rest of the planning.

  26. So public ground transport (rail) to the city will not be operational at the opening of the new airport? Which means we’ll be at the mercy of those notoriously honest Turkish taxi drivers, or buses which will sit in traffic. Sounds like a horror show in the making. I saw a tab for rail connection, when will it start?

  27. No flop here, mate.

    Besides Singapore and several Chinese airports, the most exciting international hubs are in this part of the world; Istanbul, Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi… And guess what, the most dynamic/aggressive international airlines include Turkish, Emirates, QatarAir, Etihad, not BA, AA, Af

  28. Great read. I will be one of the first people in the new airport. I tried to book a hotel stay but no website I looked at shows anything for the new airport. I tried to book a connecting flight out of istanbul and the airlines website only lists the other 2 airports. I imagine there will be a Havas bus into the city but I don’t know that it will be up and running one day after the airport opens. Anyone have any info?

  29. Can you update your readers on the status of the New Airport in Istanbul, Turkey which will be so central to so many connections in Southeast Asia and Africa. Did the transition occur. How are things flowing for international flights. My understanding is that Turkish Airlines has begun operating flights into and out of the New Airport but will officially begin operating many more in January. Is that still true?

    As TA opens up more routes through its new airport, what do you think will happen to the price of business class tickets from the Mainland to Africa. Would it be better to get tickets now before they go fully operational or do you think they’ll run a big sale? I ask because I would like to imminently buy four biz class tickets from SFO to Kigali, Rwanda and trying to guard the prices as they grow.

    Currently the flight I’m interested in goes through Istanbul and only allows for a 1 hour 20 min layover to make the Kigali connection, very crazy and often not viable at the current airport. At the New Airport, will they make the connection time more reasonable and reachable?
    As it stands currently, on the TA website for an SFO to Kigali connection TA has a warning that the flight is often late by 30 min or more. Not encouraging when you only have an hour and twenty and any number of customs stops. Hoping they will rectify that with opening of the New Airport. Your thoughts?

    Lastly, do you know how TA rectifies things for business class passengers when they miss their connections? TA only has only one Istanbul to Kigali flight a day. If one misses connection do they schedule you on a different airlines flights (for instance Emirates or Rwanda Air)?

    So many questions but all connected. Hoping you can work an article around it.

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