Istanbul Airport Wants Direct Flights To Australia

Istanbul Airport (IST) has now been operational for more than two years, having first opened in October 2018. Next month will mark the second anniversary of the final transfer of commercial flights from the city’s old Atatürk Airport (ISL). Reflecting on two years of being Istanbul’s primary commercial passenger hub, the airport is now eyeing direct services to Australia.

Turkish Airlines Boeing 787 Getty
Oceania is the only inhabited continent that Turkish Airlines does not fly to. Photo: Getty Images

Australian ambitions

Istanbul is well-positioned as a worldwide hub. From here, flag carrier Turkish Airlines serves destinations as far afield as Los Angeles and Singapore. Moving forward, Kadri Samsunlu, IGA Airport Operation’s CEO and GM, hopes to capture more of the Asia-Europe market.

According to, he wants to use the airport’s convenient location to “create a network where Chinese passengers traveling to Europe can use Istanbul Airport as a transfer point.” However, the airport’s ambitions extend further still. Indeed, it also wishes to add another continent to Turkish Airlines’ diverse repertoire in the form of Oceania. Samsunlu states,

It is a high priority for us to connect Istanbul Airport with Australia, and provide access for Australian travellers to 40+ Turkish destinations and 120+ European destinations via IST. This is the only continent that Turkish Airlines doesn’t fly to.”

Turkish Airlines B777
Turkish Airlines is known for serving more destinations non-stop from a single airport than any other carrier. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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Two years since the changeover

Although Istanbul Airport officially opened on October 29th, 2018, the city’s old Atatürk Airport continued to serve passenger flights for the first few months of its operations. During this transition period, Turkish Airlines was the only carrier to serve the new airport.

However, less than six months later, the time came to transfer Atatürk’s remaining passenger services to the new hub as well. This transfer was originally supposed to occur on December 31st, 2018, before being pushed back to March 1st, 2019.

However, just a week beforehand, it was pushed back once more to April 5th, 2019. The big move eventually took place over a 12-hour period on April 6th. During this time, as well as the transfer of flights and Atatürk’s IATA code, hundreds of trucks ferried equipment to the new airport along the O-7 motorway. Today, Atatürk only serves cargo flights.

Istanbul Airport
Istanbul Airport will have been the European part of the city’s sole passenger hub for two years in April.  Photo: Kulttuurinavigaattori via Wikimedia Commons

Growth in non-stop Europe-Australia flights

Istanbul is a fascinating city geographically, with different parts of it being on different continents. The Strait of Istanbul, otherwise known as the Bosphorus, is a waterway that divides the city between Europe and Asia.

In the case of Istanbul Airport and Atatürk, which it replaced, both the old and new hubs are situated on the city’s European side. Meanwhile, Sabiha Gökçen International (SAW) is situated on the Asian side of the famous geographical divide.

While direct flights from Istanbul to Australia would be a hugely exciting proposition, they would not be the first from Europe. Indeed, Qantas operated the first-ever non-stop Europe-Australia flight in March 2018, when it launched its London Heathrow-Perth service.

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Qantas’s London-Perth flights may provide a useful blueprint for carriers wanting to link Turkey to Australia. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

This proved hugely successful in its first year, achieving a load factor of 94%. As such, the Australian flag carrier is looking to develop similar non-stop services from London, New York, and Paris to Melbourne and Sydney under the name ‘Project Sunrise.’

CEO Alan Joyce recently confirmed that, despite the current struggles in the industry, Qantas is hoping to introduce these in 2024. Joyce believes that the lack of a stopover will continue to be a significant pull factor, hence the airline’s confidence in these flights. As such, one can understand why Istanbul Airport is also so keen to join the party.

What do you make of Istanbul Airport’s drive for direct flights to Australia? If such services were to be introduced, could you see yourself making use of them? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.