As you may be aware, the Turkish city of Istanbul is opening a brand new airport this year. It will be the world’s biggest single terminal airport, and once fully operational will have the capacity to handle 200 million passengers per year, which would be far more than any other airport.
It has been given the working name of ‘Istanbul New Airport’ and will replace Istanbul’s current main airport, Ataturk. If you have experienced the current Ataturk airport you will probably agree that the new airport cannot come soon enough.
The current airport is bursting at the seams. Every time I have flown through there, I have arrived and departed from a remote bus gate.
There are only 27 international gates at Ataturk airport, which is certainly not enough for Turkish Airlines, which alone flies to more than 110 countries. I do like Turkish Airlines’ famous business class lounge in Istanbul, but it is becoming so overcrowded as passenger numbers increase that it is losing much of its appeal.
Ben has written about the plans and developments for Istanbul New Airport throughout this year, including:
- The transition plan to move operations from Ataturk to the new airport over a 48 hour period in late October this year, with foreign airlines not being able to fly to Istanbul at all during that period
- Then delays meant this transition process would not commence as planned, instead only a few dozen flights each day would operate from the new airport once it opened, with the bulk of the flights to move in December of this year
- Then more information about which flights would initially operate from the airport, and that a full transition would occur on December 31 this year.
The new airport is now open and operating flights
On October 29, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan officially opened the airport. This is a special date in Turkey as it is the 95th anniversary of the proclamation of the Turkish republic.
He finally announced its official operating name, which is… Istanbul Airport.
The airport will use the temporary airport code ISL until the transition of flights from Ataturk is complete, when the new airport will take on the more commonly known airport code of IST (which is Ataturk’s airport code).
The very first flight departed the new airport on Wednesday, November 1, 2018, to the Turkish capital of Ankara.
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) October 31, 2018
The flight will normally be operated by a Boeing 737, but for the first flight from the new airport, Turkish Airlines operated a special Boeing 777-300ER service.
This aircraft also operated the return service and was ferried back to Ataturk to resume normal operations. A Boeing 777 on a six minute flight from IST to ISL would have been fun!
The destinations now operating from ISL airport are:
- Ankara, Antalya and İzmir (Turkey)
- Baku (Azerbaijan) and
- Ercan (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus)
The transition period is for now, unchanged. All other operations will move from Ataturk to ISL on December 31, so unless you are flying on one of the routes listed above you will continue to land and depart from Ataturk until December 31, noting that the transition date may be pushed back further.
You should be notified by your airline if your flight is moving from Ataturk to ISL/IST.
The previous transition period was scheduled to occur over 48 hours (October 30-31), while now the transition period appears to only be scheduled for one day: December 31. All Turkish Airlines flights (at least) should be operating from ISL (which will then adopt the code IST) from January 1, 2019. Turkish Airlines is still selling flights from Ataturk Airport on December 31 and January 1.
The airport will open in stages over the next decade but the first stage of the airport still has capacity for 90 million passengers — last year Ataturk handled around 64 million.
When all stages of the airport are fully open there will be 165 aircraft jet bridges, so a massive increase over the current restrictions at Ataturk.
I’m really excited about the new airport as the current operation at Ataturk has become pretty unpleasant with the sheer sea of humanity passing through a relatively small space. I hope the new version of the world famous Turkish Airlines business class lounge is both large enough and has the features of the current version at Ataturk — I seem to recall reading somewhere they were building two lounges in the new airport to cope with the increased demand?
I’ll be following along with how the transition goes with interest, as logistically it’s such a mammoth exercise. There is talk of a film crew documenting the event which would make for very interesting viewing, especially if the entire transition will occur in just 24 hours.
Are you flying to or from Istanbul next year?