Introducing Istanbul Airport: the world's largest passenger hub
After a long wait, the day has finally arrived. Istanbul Airport officially took over from Ataturk Airport on April 5th, 2019 as the city's primary arrival and departure point, after a 41-hour sprint during the weekend before the opening that moved 44 tons of equipment over to the new facility. This handover is no small undertaking - the new airport is a giant, with a capacity of over 150 million passengers per year, making it the largest aviation hub in the world. Plenty of our customers will travel to or through the airport in Istanbul, so we've put together an introduction to help fliers get to know the state-of-the-art facility.
The story behind Istanbul's new airport
If you've ever travelled to Istanbul, or made a transit flight through the city, you'll have encountered Ataturk Airport, and there's a good chance that the facility felt a little crowded. The airport has been struggling for some years, with passenger flow exceeding its maximum capacity of 90 million. A quick look at customer feedback on any travel site will show that it's not the most enjoyable place to catch a flight or make a stopover.
Why have passenger numbers been rising? It's partly due to the rising appeal of Istanbul as a city break destination. More European, American, Chinese, and Russian tourists are choosing to explore the Topkapi and the Grand Bazaar, straining transport hubs to their limits. At the same time, Turkey has become a bridge between the East and West, and a convenient layover point for long distance flights.
A new airport takes shape to handle Istanbul's growing traffic
With all this in mind, the government announced the construction of a totally new airport in 2013. A huge piece of forest was set aside on the European side of the Bosphorus, and Ankara invited architects to submit plans for a global aviation centre. The contest was won by a consortium of British and Norwegian architects, including Grimshaw, Haptic, and the Nordic Office of Architecture, who crafted a blueprint for something truly special.
On a more practical level, the designers were tasked with including six runways (compared with Ataturk's two) at a site around 35 miles from the old town. The idea was to create a seamless link between ground transportation, on-site facilities, and flights, offering a level of convenience that Ataturk could no longer provide.
This was an ambitious goal, and the project initially struggled to meet its deadlines. Scheduled to open in October 2018 to coincide with the 95th anniversary of modern Turkey's foundation, the opening was first pushed back to January 1st, 2019, then early April. However, Istanbul Airport is now open, and the terminals will be ready to welcome passengers. So, what can travellers expect?
Architectural features of the new airport
The new Istanbul Airport is breathtaking. The terminal itself has been designed to echo the elegant curves and spacious interiors of Byzantine buildings and include an array of intricate patterns. Grimshaw and the other designers have worked hard to maximize natural light and space, while accommodating foot traffic throughout the site. The terminal is also complemented by a tulip-shaped control tower. Created by pininfarina and AECOM, the tower will be colourfully lit from the base at night, creating an instantly recognizable symbol of modern Istanbul.
Which airlines will be making the airport their hub?
So far, we know that Turkish Airlines will be settling into their new HQ at Istanbul Airport. The Turkish national flag carrier is ready to switch its operations from Ataturk and will be the most prominent airline in the terminal. If you travel with them, look out for the Lounge Istanbul. Offering restaurants, play areas, showers and work facilities, it's the biggest lounge on the new airport site. Most major international carriers will also serve the new airport, including British Airways, Air France, Emirates, and Lufthansa.
Which international connections will Istanbul Airport have?
Istanbul Airport will offer a diverse range of global connections. Turkish Airlines already offers flights to Moscow, London, Paris, Munich and Frankfurt, and the choices have multiplied since the move to the new airport, now including destinations as far as Buenos Aires, Jakarta, Zanzibar and Los Angeles. Upon its full completion, Istanbul Airport will serve as many passengers as counterparts in London, New York and Dubai.
Lounges, shops, and dining spots at the new airport
A state-of-the-art airport needs to measure up where customer services are concerned, so how does the new Istanbul Airport fare? Travellers did not have a great deal of choice before the official opening, but that's set to change now that the airport has fully opened its doors. As far as shopping goes, Turkish Airlines confirms that there will be places to buy mobile phones, fashion apparel and travel essentials, as well as extras like dry cleaning, barbers, shoe-shining and tailoring services. Had your fill of shopping? The impressive Turkish Airlines lounge, now much larger than its older iteration at Ataturk, offers plenty of space to unwind.
Getting to and from Istanbul city centre
Will Istanbul Airport be easy to reach from the city centre? At present, the most comfortable public transport option will be luxury coaches operated by İstanbul Otobüs A.Ş., but Havaist shuttles should be just as quick and almost as comfy. There are plans for a Metro connection, but this will not happen until next year in 2020. On the plus side, travellers will find car rental outlets in the arrival hall, and taxis are freely available.
It can't yet be said how the new Istanbul Airport will perform, but the full opening is nonetheless a major aviation event, and the design encapsulates the pride of modern Turkey. Since its official opening on April 5th 2019, the airport has reshaped the global landscape for travellers and airlines alike, and it marks a big improvement for visitors to Turkey's largest city.