It’s Finally Happening: Istanbul’s Airport Is Moving

Apr 5, 2019

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After much anticipation and a few delays, the move from Istanbul’s Ataturk airport to the city’s new mega airport is finally underway.

Turkish Airlines said that “The Great Move” had started as of 3am this morning, starting the massive undertaking of moving all of the carrier’s operations to the new airport.

It will take the airline nearly two days to complete, officially ending on April 6 at 11:59pm. Once finished, all commercial passenger operations will be based out of the new hub, now just called Istanbul Airport.

The final Turkish Airlines flight bound for Singapore will depart Ataturk Airport at 2am on Saturday and the first flight from Istanbul Airport will leave for Ankara at 2pm. During those 12 hours both airports will be closed for all passenger flights.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY APRIL 05: Turkish Airlines plane, took off from Ataturk Airport without passengers, is seen landing at new Istanbul Airport, on April 05, 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey. The big switch from Ataturk Airport to the new mega-Istanbul Airport started. Starting on April 5 at 3.00 a.m. local time (0000GMT), the initial moving operation will take a total of 45 hours. Istanbul Airport, the world's new hub", officially opened on October 29, 2018, the 95th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic. (Photo by Serhat Cagdas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Turkish Airlines 777 that took off from Ataturk Airport without passengers is seen landing at the new Istanbul Airport, on April 5 (Photo by Serhat Cagdas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

There was a soft launch for Istanbul Airport in October and a few domestic and regional flights have been operating from there while the official opening date kept getting pushed back.

The move is a massive venture, requiring transport of aircraft and equipment, enough to cover 33 soccer fields.

“We are conducting the biggest transportation operation in aviation history,” said Turkish Airlines Chairman of the Board and the Executive Committee, M. Ilker Ayci.

Bilal Eksi, CEO of Turkish Airlines, added that that the airline is using 686 semi trucks and 1,800 people to transport more than 10,000 pieces of equipment weighing 47,300 tons.

Istanbul Airport was using the IATA code ISL up until now, and will inherit the IST code from Ataturk. Ataturk will take the code ISL and will be used for charter, government and cargo flights.

Turkey has big plans for its new airport, which cost $8 billion to build. When it opens it will be one of the biggest in the world, measuring in at 1.47 million-square-meters and able to process about 90 million passengers a year. Over the next five to eight years it will add more terminals to the airport to serve up to 200 million passengers each year.

The inside of Istanbul Airport.
The inside of Istanbul Airport. Photo by Emily McNutt / The Points Guy.

It’s an emotional day for Turkish Airlines employees who will have to say bye to their longtime home of Ataturk airport, a base that saw the rise of Turkish to a large international airline.

Turkish was constricted at Ataturk and the bigger airport will allow the carrier to grow its fleet and operations. It plans on increasing its fleet from 338 aircraft to 476 over the next four years, Reuters reports.

Featured image by Arif Hudaverdi Yaman/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

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