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Istanbul’s New Airport Prepares For Inauguration

Final preparations were underway Thursday at the new international airport in Istanbul, which the government claims will be the world’s biggest once it is completed, four days ahead of its inauguration by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The inauguration of the airport that still looks like a construction site is scheduled for Monday, the anniversary of modern Turkey’s founding by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

“We are going to have a soft opening on the 29th” of October, Kadri Samsunlu, director general of the Istanbul Grand Airport (IGA), told reporters.

That meant “only limited number of flights will be carried out from here by Turkish Airlines until the year end,” he said.

“At the end of December, there will be the hard opening or the ‘big bang opening’ which means that the entire business at the Ataturk airport will be transferred here,” he added.

The new airport, one of several mega projects under Erdogan’s rule, was initially scheduled to be fully open on Monday, but the date was delayed by several factors, including a builders’ strike.

Workers walked off the job in September to protest site-related deaths and poor conditions but Turkish authorities then launched a crackdown, arresting hundreds, according to labour unions.

Erdogan later announced that Ataturk Airport will not be closed immediately for redevelopment.

Samsunlu said the national flag-carrier Turkish Airlines and IGA decided to use a so-called soft opening to identify areas “where we need to work a bit more.”

Commenting on the workers’ situation, the official said: “We are fixing the problems that they raised. I am always open to peaceful demands.”

Around 35,000 people are employed on the project, including 3,000 engineers and administrative staff.

The Turkish government has often claimed the new airport, on the European side of Istanbul, will be “the biggest in the world.”

It is to initially handle up to 90 million passengers a year, and up to 150 million by 2023, officials say.

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