Istanbul’s New Airport Is Now Open

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:

Istanbul New Airport (Source: Jekader, Wikimedia)

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.

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.

Bottom line

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.

With their new uniforms, new planes, new business class seat and now a new airport, this is an exciting year for both Turkish Airlines and Istanbul.

Are you flying to or from Istanbul next year?


  1. @Mak

    That was my first thought on seeing the name also- wiping Ataturk from Turkish history. Because of course, Ataturk wanted Turkey to be a secular country, which is clearly no longer the case.

  2. Any info on what the new Turkish Airline business lounge(s) will look like? I messaged Turkish via IG and they said the lounge won’t be ready by Dec 31st, and the check the airline website for updates.

  3. Two of us out of the new airport Tuesday afternoon and we are very excited! Will post a report on the FlyerTalk page.

    p.s. The new public transit (bus only for now) is up and running.

  4. I suspect that they gave the new airport no name, so that eventually it can be named Recep Erdogan International Airport.

  5. I dont understand why any western citizen will travel with the same airline which transferred 40K ISIS recruits from around the world to Syria to kill western citizens

  6. Sounds like Saudi money is flowing. We will never catch khashoggi killers now.

    Btw never heard from Aziz about the lovely people of his country.

  7. How does this new airport compare to the old one in terms of location? is it more convenient to reach central locations in Istanbul?

  8. Not interested in flying TK. They keep their cabins too hot and refuse to adjust when customers request a lower temperature.

  9. You really should be ashamed of referring to a so-called “Turkish Tepublucof Northern Cyprus”. This is the product of a violent and unlawful invasion by Turkey and is not recognized by ANYONE except the aggressors. Please correct this.

  10. Since the “failed coup” I have been boycotting anything Turkish. I no longer travel to or through Turkey, no longer fly their airlines and no longer buy their products. I’ve had enough with their Sultan who is a threat to the safety of the region. Until the Turkish people elect a president that is truly democratic, and does not stage coups in order to imprison his political adversaries, the only flights I’ll be taking is over Turkey.

  11. Looking forward to flying there next year, albeit it’s a fair bit farther out from the city. Turkish Airlines has some pretty competitive fares, especially for my open jaw itinerary.

  12. I don’t understand why this post has become political. People talking about history and boycoting Turkey and it’s products. This is about aviation, I would fly them. I don’t care about the history or who they transport. Give me a good deal I’ll fly any airline. It’s all about money.

  13. We had a great flight out of ISL yesterday to Antalya on a relatively-new 737-800 with on-time departure and arrival 30+ minutes ahead of scheduled arrival time given that our plane was the only one in motion on the tarmac for +/- 2 hours. Spent four hours at the new airport pre-departure and it was fun to see this place coming to life. Posted photos and trip report on FlyerTalk.

    James I hope you can delete the off-topic troll comments above. Thanks!

  14. It is a disgrace of your reference to the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”. Invading and taking a territory by force and deadly oppression does not making Cyprus a Turkish territory. Some fact checking please. The removal of Ataturk name will only shortly be replaced by one of the worlds most dangerous men soon- Erdogan.

  15. Hey buddy, I would also avoid using the name “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” as it is basically area occupied by the Turkish army since 1974, therefore using the name “Ercan, Northern Cyprus” or “Ercan airport, Nicosia” would be more appropriate. Many Greek-Cypriots lived in the area which is today called “TRNC” by Turkey, thus no wonder so many find the use of this term offensive.

    By the way, when landing in Larnaca nowdays the immigration officers check if you are about to stay in the occupied area or not.

  16. I’m transiting Istanbul on the 26th Dec. TK to BKK. Does anyone know which of the two airports I will be using?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *