Istanbul’s New Mega Airport Serves 16 Million People In 90 Days


Istanbul’s new mega-airport, Istanbul International Airport (IST), has already served 16 million people in the first 90 days that it has been open.

Istanbul’s new international airport at night. Photo: ltbaspotter via Flickr

The airport serves as the new hub for flag carrier Turkish Airlines, but still faces teething issues during the remainder of its construction process.

What are the details?

Istanbul International Airport has only been open for three months. It took over the mantle of the city’s main airport from Atatürk on the 6th April, but already it has served just under 16 million passengers (15.99 million to be exact, which you can imagine missing it by 10,000 people might frustrate some).

Istanbul International Airport is located 35 km from the city center. It took over the title of the main airport of the city from Atatürk in April. Photo: Wikimedia

This is pretty fantastic news for the airport, which was mired with controversies during its construction. Many doubted it would be ready in time for the busy European summer season.

For those statistic lovers, over the last three months the new airport has:

  • Transported 15.99 million passengers, specifically 11.95 million international passengers and four million domestic passengers.
  • 5.98 million of these passengers flew through the airport in June alone (including yours truly on a review flight of Turkish Airlines Boeing 777 economy class).
  • Handled 100,000 flights from many different carriers.

What future plans do they have for the rest of the year?

The best part of this news is that IST isn’t even fully finished yet.


The first of the planned upgrades by airport management group IGA, is to activate automatic passport stations at immigration points. This new system will use biometrics and facial recognition to quickly process new arrivals, and allow returning citizens speedy access through immigration.

The airport will eventually have a full capacity of 200 million passengers per year and will operate six runways around the clock by 2028. The airport will become a major hub for the region and massively facilitate travel between Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

Istanbul International Airport will ‘host 100 airlines and operate to 300 destinations‘ by 2030.


IGA is very proud of their progress so far and has been quick to notify media that the airport was nominated as one of the best new airports of the year award, organized by International Airport Review.

Inside the shopping area of Istanbul’s new airport. Photo: Wikimedia

Is the new airport that great?

But how does the airport actually compare on a global benchmark? Several of our writers have already had an experience with the airport, one such review of the airport’s lounges you can read here.

The airport has a gigantic ceiling and runs as one of the tallest airports in the world. Whilst this might give a feeling of being outdoors, it dwarfs the rest of the airport features and makes walking to gates feel imposing and intimidating. Additionally, on this reviewers spin through the various cogs of the new airport, there was a struggle to communicate with staff in English and the lack of WiFi for people without a phone number or roaming (as you might be if you were traveling internationally) was incredibly frustrating.

Turkish Airways
Turkish Airlines Boeing 777-300ER deloading with a stair car. Photo: Simple Flying

The airport is still very much under construction, with few gates for arriving planes (having to use a single stair car and buses to deload an entire Boeing 777-300ER in the heat is not a fun experience), not many food options, no seats and too much duty-free. But, the airport is in a great geographical location (apart from the fog problem) and will fuel the growth of Turkey’s aviation sector for years to come.

What do you think of the new airport?