On Thursday 21st June an aircraft carrying Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, touched down at Istanbul New Airport, the first such landing by a passenger aircraft ahead of its official opening on 29th October 2018 as one of the world’s biggest airport hubs. The current city centre Ataturk Airport will then be turned into an urban park bigger than Central Park in New York or Hyde Park in London.
Hasan Mutlu, General Manager Ireland, and his 14-strong team hosted a breakfast for travel trade media in Turkish Airlines’ newly refurbished offices in Dublin Airport Terminal 1 to mark the occasion.
Istanbul New Airport, which is under construction and over 90% complete, has yet to be given an official name but will use the existing IST code. Prior to the 21st June landing, the navigational equipment of the 3,750 x 60 metre runway had been tested using a Cessna Citation XLS flight control aircraft.
Hasan told Irish Travel Trade News: “The city centre location of Ataturk Airport severely limits its expansion. Only 58 airlines currently serve Istanbul – a very small number for such an important city – but growth has been restricted by its size. We would hope the number will increase to over 100 after the New Airport becomes operational.
“The global economic centre of gravity, and hence also for air travel, has shifted eastwards in recent years from North America to Europe and is moving on towards Asia. Istanbul’s location as a major city on the border between Europe and Asia makes it a natural place for a major airport hub. When the first phase of Istanbul New Airport opens next October it will have a capacity for 90 million passengers a year, and when the fourth, final phase opens in 2023 this will have been increased to 200 million passengers.”
Earlier this month, Turkish Airlines announced that the airline had achieved the highest first five-month load factor in its history with 80.7%. As for the Dublin-Istanbul route, Hasan Mutlu told ITTN that this was now 85%. “This is a good load factor and whether we increase capacity on the route by adding frequencies or by introducing a wide-body aircraft will partly depend on aircraft availability, but I would expect this to happen in 2019 or 2020. Of course, we could also operate to more than one airport in Ireland.” (Belfast and/or Shannon have already been the subjects of speculation.)
Turkish Airlines currently operates to 301 destinations in 121 countries – although it is hard to keep up, such is the pace at which the airline introduces new destinations. Recent additions include Comoros, Gambia and Mexico, while the much anticipated route to Bali and onward to Melbourne and/or Sydney is currently forecast for 2019. “In 10 years time I expect we will be operating to some 400 destinations, including every major city in the world. We are scheduled to take delivery of 130 new aircraft over the next three to four years, including the new A350.” The airline currently has 333 aircraft and flies 281 international routes.
Biggest Ever ORAT
The move from Ataturk Airport to New Airport will be the biggest ORAT (Operational Readiness and Airport Transfer) in aviation history, and will involve 3,000 trucks transporting everything over two days.
Istanbul New Airport is located 39km from the city centre and a fast train service (similar to the Heathrow Express) will be introduced. The terminal will include two separate lounges, one for Business Class passengers and another for Miles&Smiles (and other Star Alliance frequent flyers).
When fully completed, the €15 billion airport will have six runways, one of which will be dedicated to domestic flights.