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Erdogan Opens New Istanbul Airport, Planned to be World’s Largest

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened Istanbul’s new international airport, which his government says will eventually become the world’s largest, with great fanfare on Monday.

“I hope that Istanbul Airport will benefit our region and the world,” Erdogan said at the lavish opening ceremony featuring numerous world leaders. The inauguration is largely symbolic as the airport will not be fully open until the end of the year.

One of the president’s favoured mega-projects, Erdogan says the 10.5 billion euros ($12 billion) project will make Istanbul a global travel hub linking Europe, Asia and Africa and turn flag carrier Turkish Airlines into an aviation giant.

Herewith some facts and figures:


By year’s end, the new airport will be able to handle up to 90 million passengers annually, ranking it in the world’s top five. This will rise to 200 million passengers when all facilities are completed in 2028, by which time it could well be number one.

In 2017, that title was held by Atlanta airport in the U.S., with just under 104 million passengers, according to Airport Council International (ACI) figures. Next came Beijing on 95.7 million passengers, Dubai 88.2 million, Tokyo 85.4 million and Los Angeles 84.5 million.

In Europe, London-Heathrow ranked seventh globally with 78 million passengers last year. Paris-Charles de Gaulle came in 10th on 69.4 million, Amsterdam 11th with 68.5 million, Frankfurt 14th at 64.5 million and then Istanbul in 15th position with 64.1 million.

The A.C.I. said Turkish air traffic grew 10.9 percent last year, picking up pace in the first half of 2018 to 15.7 percent.

Construction, facilities

The airport is being built in the Arnavutkoy district on the European side of Istanbul.

It is the first completely new “greenfield” facility in Europe in nearly 20 years, the A.C.I. says.

When all four construction phases are complete in 2028, the airport will have six runways and two terminal buildings, covering an area of 76 square kilometres, according to operator I.G.A.

The last totally new airport in Europe was Athens which entered service in 2001, preceded by Munich in 1992.

Air traffic growth

The International Air Transport Association says global air traffic is growing at an annual rate of 3.5 percent.

That means 4.1 billion passengers will take to the air this year, doubling to 8.2 billion by 2037.

Industry body I.A.T.A. repeatedly warns that airports around the world will struggle to deal with this expansion, urging governments to make the necessary investment to keep up.

The new facility replaces Istanbul’s ageing Ataturk Airport and the launch took place on the 95th anniversary of modern Turkey’s founding by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

However the president, who has been accused by secularists of undermining Ataturk’s legacy, had indicated he would prefer not to have the new airport named after the founder.

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