Istanbul Airport to start full passenger operations on 3 March

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Istanbul Airport is to start full passenger operations on 3 March replacing the current Istanbul Atatürk Airport which will be closed for scheduled flights once it fully opens.

The €7.4 billion gateway was opened “softly” on 29 October last year by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and until now it has only been operated by Turkish Airlines who has phased in various routes.

IGA Airport Operations chief executive officer, Kadri Samsunlu said: “We are all ready for the occasion.” He added as a major hub at the intersection of Asia, Europe and the Middle East, it will “bring the world closer together”.

Samsunlu said: “With an initial capacity to serve 90 million people which will be expanded to 200 million once all phases are completed, Istanbul Airport will be the biggest airport in the world.” He added the challenge is to be “biggest and the best”.

Istanbul Airport can handle 90 million passengers per annum (mppa) and 4.5 million tonnes of cargo, but it will then be developed in phases with the aim of having capacity for 200mppa. Investment will continue and rise to €10.5 billion once all phases are completed.

In phase one, the airport will be spread over 41.5 million square metres, compared to capacity-stretched Ataturk which covers only 12 million square metres and handles 64mppa, but can take no more.

Istanbul Airport has one terminal and will operate two runways initially. The plan is to add a third runway in 16 months, taking the passenger capacity to 135mppa – double the capacity of Ataturk.

After other development phases take place it will eventually see another terminal added, with six runways possible and capacity for 150-200mppa sometime from 2026-28.

IGA has the concession to run the airport for 25 years when it will be handed back to the government. As part of the deal it will pay the Turkish government €1 billion a year.

The operator believes it will not take long for it to break the 100 million passengers a year mark, predicting within five years and the target is 200 million within 10 years of opening as Turkey is aiming to be ninth biggest country for passengers in 15 years.