Which Flights Will Initially Operate Out Of Istanbul’s New Airport?

Turkey is building one of the biggest airports in the world in Istanbul at the moment. The airport will have a capacity of 90 million passengers per year, and when the entire airport project is complete (in about a decade), the airport will have a capacity of 200 million passengers per year, making it the world’s largest airport.

Initially the airport was supposed to be fully operational at the end of this month. At the end of October they were supposed to make the switch, with all flights transferring from one airport to the other overnight.

However, in mid-September we learned that wouldn’t in fact be happening. We now have some more details about the transition to the new airport, including which flights will operate from the new airport.

According to Turkish Airlines, Istanbul’s new airport will become operational as of October 29, 2018. The airline will launch a limited number of domestic and international flights at the airport through the end of the year, with the main operation continuing to be carried out at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.

The full transition is expected to take place on December 31, 2018, with all operations being carried out at the new airport as of then (again, I suspect this is highly subject to change).

So, what flights should we expect from Istanbul’s new airport? Turkish Airlines will be operating flights to/from Ankara, Antalya, İzmir, Baku, and Ercan, from the new airport. However, these flights will be in addition to the regular flights operated to these destinations out of Istanbul’s main airport, so connecting passengers won’t have to book these flights. I imagine they’ll be pretty empty initially.

The new airport will be given the code “ISL” until the old airport closes, at which point it will get the “IST” airport code.

Bottom line

I’ll be curious to see with what timeline the transition really happens. The current plan is a bit odd, as Turkish Airlines is essentially adding additional frequencies to destinations out of the new airport, which should lead to some excess capacity.

In reality that’s the only way to do it, though, given how messy it would be if connecting passengers flew into one airport and out of the other, since the airports are so far apart.

(Tip of the hat to Micah)


  1. Merhaba from Istanbul, had dinner with a Turkish Airlines pal last night who works in ops. Don’t bet on scheduled flights arriving/derpating new airport end of October.

    Meanwhile gotta wonder about the emerging public transit nightmare for this mega-airport.

  2. Saudi Arabia will soon be the largest donor to this project.

    Christians and moslems have not really covered themselves in glory in the past few days.

  3. I’m surprised GYD is being moved. I rarely fly through IST on my Europe-MENA travels but I did do ATH IST GYD last year…

  4. According to TK, the flights from ISL will initially not be “regular flights” moved out of IST, just new flights in additional to the existing, already scheduled ones out of IST, so there shouldn’t be a transfer problem. The new flights are extremely cheap to book so it might be worth the adventure if you’re already in, or planning to go to, IST.

  5. 200,000,000/year will really be a sight to see…though I’m not sure I want to have to deal with double the amount of people at ATL sitting at the gates and lining up.

  6. 200 million a year will never happen in any of our lifetimes. The market is nowhere near big enough.

  7. Initially I read, ISL was to be the temporary code for Atatürk (I posted the link in another thread not long ago) – guess they switched it around as ISL as a series of letters internationally probably doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence!

  8. Well I just tried booking flights out of Istanbul New Airport (ISL, lol) for the week starting October 29 to both Baku and Izmir. And for every combination of dates I try I get this message:

    “No flights can be found for the route and date you have selected. Please change the dates and try again or contact our call center.”

  9. When was the last time such an airport switch was done sucessfully? The last big one I can remember was BKK, and I thought that transition was rather smooth (but my memories can trick me in that regard)

  10. @Steven M

    On flight TK2030 ISL-ADB (Izmir) there are still business seats on November 1st . Price is 544 TRY (A little less than $100) and then Promo Econ tickets for just 59 TRY ($10) November 2 and 3.

    To Baku, it looks like they haven’t added those flights yet to their system.

  11. @Micah: thanks and I also found promo seats to Ankara on 1 November and returning next day … I might just buy it so I can get some good photos of the airport 🙂

  12. @Micah: a few of us were out drinking last night here in Istanbul and we got promo seats on flights to/from Antalya for just 59 TRY ($10.50) each way 😀

  13. @Steven M:

    That’s awesome! Its going to be a great trip being one of the first to experience the new airport! Jealous not to be in Turkey at the moment. Would honestly fly out there if I got a ticket on the inaugural flight from ISL-ESB. Quite amazing that you can be one of the first to fly out of there for just $10.50, which I assume is definitely cheaper than getting a few drinks in Turkey!

    Definitely share pictures!

  14. Considering Heathrow T5 fiasco, doing limited “pre-migration” doesn’t look like particularly bad option

  15. wanting to fly Istanbul to Milan direct in Oct 2019 – apart from Turkish Air is there any other airline that flys out of Istanbul direct (no stops) to anywhere in Italy or Croatia or Slovenia

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