Istanbul’s New Airport Hit With Opening Delays


Back in August, I reported on the planned opening of the new Erdogan Airport. At the time, the powers that be were still toeing the line on the official opening date – namely in late October. The new airport Istanbul has planned is a big deal. It’s a game changer. But no one ever really expected it to be 100% completed on time. And so it has come to pass that there will be delays. But just how much of a delay are we looking at? Here’s what we know.

Turkish Airlines Airbus
Turkish Airlines will be based at the new airport. Photo: Airbus

This isn’t your average airport

First off – this is such an ambitious project; I’m surprised they haven’t had even more issues. The airport, the third for Istanbul will be the largest in Turkey and one day, possibly the world. It’s a hub connecting east and west, much as Istanbul does on the map. But Atatürk and Sabiha Gokcen airports both struggle with logistical problems, so Erdogan Airport, named after the very modest man himself, was full designed to solve this issue. It will be an airport easy to reach, on the right side of the Bosporus, from where you can fly to Bejing in one direction and London in the other. Naturally Turkish Airlines will be your preferred flag carrying airline.

As mentioned – when it’s fully finished, it’ll likely be the biggest airport in the world. We’re talking, 90 million passengers per year at it’s opening, ramp up to 200 million passengers a year in the next 10 years. It’ll have 2 runways in this first opening but a full 4 more runways are already planned. This means in 10 years it’ll be carrying twice as many passengers a year as Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta Airport.

Turkish A321neo
Photo: Airbus

But what about the New Istanbul Airport delays?

The official statement still gets away with opening the airport on time – in October. But realistically this is just a semantic work-around. Aircraft will fly from and to Erdogan Airport in October but initially it will only serve 20-30 flights per day.

There’s no single major reason why. And it’s quite typical for a project of this size to take much longer than planned. Tiny issues like a break in the supply chain can throw the entire project off by months. But obviously, completing on time is an achievement in itself and a point of pride. So the the airport was reluctant to admit to the delay right off the bat.

Will the Istanbul new airport delays affect me?

When Erdogan Airport is fully functional, Atatürk will close to passengers.Turkey won’t need the volume support and it makes no sense to run two major airports within 30 miles of each other. However, the ‘fully operational’ date push back does make it less clear where individual passenger planes will be flying to and from. This will mean both airports will need to be open at the same time until the larger is full operational. In turn, this will mean passengers will potentially need to be bused to the other Europe-side airport for connections.

Turkish Airlines Mexico
The national airline’s B787’s will fly from the new airport. Photo: Boeing

However, Turkish Airlines are aware of this problem and are trying to ensure most connecting flights will still be through Ataturk. The most important thing is – as it has always been – to avoid the Asian-side Sabiha Gokcen as if your life depends on it. If you’re flying in from Stuttgart to Atatürk, you’re not going to be flying out of Erdogan to Guangzhou. And if you are, Turkish will have to make sure you can reach that connection in time. However, if you see Sabiha Gokcen on only one half of the ticketed route, keep shopping if you can.But this was always the case.

Turkish Airlines A350
Turkish Airlines will fly the A350 from the airport. Photo: Airbus

When will the new Erdogan Airport be fully operational?

The plan is now for the airport to be fully operational by the end of December. However, as I said last time – we need to take this news with a pinch of salt. I suspect it could get pushed back again. So be patient.