The count­down is on for Is­tan­bul’s new in­ter­na­tional air­port

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - CONTENTS - WORDS DAVID O’BYRNE

As any­one who’s flown into or through ei­ther of Is­tan­bul’s two in­ter­na­tional air­ports re­cently can tes­tify, the city is no longer a mar­ginal des­ti­na­tion on the fringe of Europe. Rather, it’s grown into a ma­jor des­ti­na­tion for both busi­ness trav­ellers and tourists, and an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant tran­sit hub on the route to East Asia.

No sur­prise then that both the city’s air­ports, Ataturk and Sabiha Gok­cen, are busy to the point of con­ges­tion. In­ter­na­tional air­lines are al­ready queu­ing for over­sub­scribed and in-de­mand slots be­fore be­ing able to com­mence flights.


While by no means the worst air­port to ar­rive or change planes at, Is­tan­bul’s main Ataturk air­port – one of the largest in Europe – has be­gun to creak a lit­tle at the seams.

The 20 mil­lion pas­sen­gers it was han­dling 15 years ago bal­looned to 64 mil­lion last year, with an ad­di­tional 31 mil­lion pass­ing through Sabiha Gok­cen, and fur­ther traf­fic growth is an­tic­i­pated.

How­ever, over­crowded wait­ing ar­eas and long queues at check-in and pass­port con­trol will soon be a thing of the past. The planned open­ing on Oc­to­ber 29 of a ma­jor new in­ter­na­tional air­port, for the time be­ing sim­ply called Is­tan­bul Yeni Haval­i­mani (“Is­tan­bul New Air­port”), is aimed at serv­ing both the city’s fast-grow­ing tourist traf­fic and also the an­tic­i­pated growth in tran­sit traf­fic.

Carved out of marsh­lands and derelict mine work­ings to the north­west of Is­tan­bul, with a to­tal area of more than 7,650 hectares, the new air­port prom­ises to be the largest by area in Europe, and one of the big­gest in the world (the only ones that sur­pass it are Den­ver In­ter­na­tional at 13,571 hectares, and King Fahd In­ter­na­tional in Saudi Ara­bia, which cov­ers a whop­ping 77,600 hectares). The main pas­sen­ger ter­mi­nal will be the largest in the world housed un­der one roof.

Once com­pleted, the new air­port will boast six run­ways – five run­ning north-south, and one east-west as a hedge against pos­si­ble in­clement weather. Plus there will be a sev­enth “emer­gency” run­way, de­signed to han­dle prob­lems that could oth­er­wise block the op­er­a­tional run­ways and cause de­lays.

With an even­tual ca­pac­ity to han­dle 200 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year, fly­ing to as many as 350 des­ti­na­tions, of­fi­cials claim the new air­port will spell an end to the take-off and land­ing de­lays that have been an all too fre­quent oc­cur­rence at Is­tan­bul’s two ex­ist­ing air­ports.

The ra­tio­nale for such an enor­mous fa­cil­ity is the on­go­ing change in the Euro­pean avi­a­tion mar­ket, with the main growth area be­ing long-haul flights aimed at both tourism and busi­ness mar­kets from north­ern Europe to the Far East. Turk­ish of­fi­cials in­sist Is­tan­bul is bet­ter po­si­tioned than ex­ist­ing hubs at Dubai and Doha to act as both re­fu­elling stop and tran­sit for on­ward con­nec­tions.

Full ca­pac­ity will only be reached over the com­ing decade through staged ex­pan­sion. The sec­ond phase of con­struc­tion will pro­ceed as de­mand in­creases.


The new ter­mi­nal and con­trol tower have al­ready won a slate of de­sign awards be­tween them.

With its sculpted ceil­ings, the cav­ernous ter­mi­nal in­te­rior is the work of UK-based Grimshaw Ar­chi­tects, and takes its in­spi­ra­tion from the domes of Is­tan­bul’s an­cient Byzan­tine churches and Ot­toman mosques.

Mean­while the uniquely styled con­trol tower was de­signed around the theme of the tulip, the his­toric sym­bol of Is­tan­bul. This was done jointly by Ital­ian de­sign stu­dio Pin­in­fa­rina and US en­gi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion gi­ant Ae­com.

The gi­ant ter­mi­nal will boast 600 es­ca­la­tors and mov­ing walk­ways, along with 77 board­ing gates and 143 pas­sen­ger board­ing bridges.

Ex­pan­sive lounges, seat­ing, cafés and shops are also ready for oc­cu­pa­tion.

The ter­mi­nal will boast no less than 566 check-in po­si­tions ar­ranged around 13 is­lands and 228 pass­port con­trol desks. This should en­sure rapid pas­sage through to the de­par­ture area.

De­par­tures will have 29,200 sqm of lounges, seat­ing for 20,000 peo­ple, 32,000 sqm of food and bev­er­age courts, and an­other 100,000 sqm of re­tail space. Those plan­ning longer vis­its have the op­tion of a 451-bed ho­tel. Also un­der con­struc­tion is 36,500 sqm of of­fice space.


If the sheer scope of the fa­cil­i­ties is daunt­ing, the de­sign­ers have in­cluded a num­ber of high-tech so­lu­tions aimed at sim­pli­fy­ing things.

Pas­sen­gers will be able to pre­order duty-free on­line, while flight mon­i­tors will al­low pas­sen­gers to pin­point the lo­ca­tion of their bag­gage in real time.

Sim­i­larly, a phone app will be avail­able to track the lo­ca­tion of ve­hi­cles parked in what will even­tu­ally be the world’s largest car park, which will be ca­pa­ble of hold­ing 40,000 ve­hi­cles, 18,000 in­doors and 22,000 out­doors (the ex­ist­ing world record size

for a car park is 20,000 in Ed­mon­ton, Canada). Valet­ing and main­te­nance ser­vices will be avail­able, along with re­fu­elling and charg­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

On the planned open­ing day of Oc­to­ber 29, two of the six run­ways and one half of the ter­mi­nal space will be op­er­a­tional, giv­ing the air­port an open­ing ca­pac­ity of up to 90 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year. This will al­low it to take over all of the traf­fic cur­rently han­dled by Ataturk, which will stop sched­uled pas­sen­ger flights. Cargo flights will for the time be­ing stay put at Ataturk.

But ex­pan­sion of fa­cil­i­ties is al­ready sched­uled with a third run­way slated to be com­pleted within 16 months of open­ing, and the three re­main­ing op­er­a­tional run­ways and the emer­gency run­way to be fin­ished after a fur­ther 27 months.

All ap­proach roads, drop-off points and park­ing are also sched­uled to be op­er­a­tional, al­though ac­cess by pub­lic trans­port will be lim­ited to ser­vice buses for the first year. An un­der-con­struc­tion metro link (called the M11) from Is­tan­bul’s cen­tral Gayret­tepe metro sta­tion will have only nine stops, 24-hour ser­vice and make the jour­ney end-to-end in around 25 min­utes – less than half the time of metro jour­neys from cen­tral Is­tan­bul to Ataturk.

More trans­port links are planned, with a ten­der al­ready held to ex­tend the Mar­maray metro line that links Is­tan­bul’s Euro­pean and Asian halves, and al­low con­nec­tions to the city’s sec­ond air­port Sabiha Gok­cen on the eastern side. Five ma­jor new roads will link the air­port to re­gional mo­tor­ways.

Prepa­ra­tions are also un­der way for de­vel­op­ment of a high-speed train link to run across the re­cently com­pleted third Bospho­rus bridge, called the Yavuz Sul­tan Se­lim Bridge. This will al­low di­rect rail con­nec­tions to the Turk­ish cap­i­tal Ankara and other ma­jor cities in Ana­to­lia.


With Ataturk air­port slated to re­main open only for cargo flights, all of its ex­ist­ing pas­sen­ger op­er­a­tions will be moved to the new air­port over a 48-hour pe­riod, with full op­er­a­tions to com­mence on open­ing day.

This 48-hour race, the cul­mi­na­tion of two years of in­ten­sive plan­ning, will in­volve the co­or­di­na­tion of air­port staff, air­lines, the Turk­ish po­lice, the mil­i­tary and Is­tan­bul city au­thor­i­ties, as well as a flotilla of pri­vate haulage com­pa­nies in what prom­ises to be the largest peace­time lo­gis­ti­cal oper­a­tion that Tur­key has ever seen.

Air­lines oper­at­ing at Ataturk will be moved one at a time, with each move sched­uled to al­low them to ser­vice flights de­part­ing from Ataturk one day, and to re­ceive the re­turn­ing flight at the new air­port the fol­low­ing day. The na­tional car­rier, Turk­ish Air­lines (THY), is to be the last to leave its his­toric base.

With so much ef­fort hav­ing gone into plan­ning, it seems that the one thing the plan­ners and politi­cians in Ankara have over­looked is the name of its new air­port.

To date of­fi­cials have de­clined to con­firm ru­mours that it will be named in hon­our of Turk­ish pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, say­ing only that the name won’t be an­nounced un­til open­ing day.

LEFT: Mak­ing fin­ish­ing touches to the run­wayRIGHT AND BE­LOW: View of the ter­mi­nal with board­ing gates; the ter­mi­nal roof has sun­light tun­nels

FROM TOP LEFT: Aerial view show­ing the Black Sea in the back­ground; con­trol tower con­struc­tion



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