Why You Might Want to Avoid Istanbul and Turkish Airlines This Autumn

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Regular readers know that I frequently fly with Turkish Airlines. This is mainly due to an incredible travel hack I enjoyed in 2017. But I also am quite fond of the on-board service and the business class lounge at Istanbul Ataturk Airport.

If you have ever transited Istanbul Ataturk Airport, you’ll know that it can be… well… packed! It’s also located in an industrial / commercial / residential area, with no room to expand. As a result, the Turkish government has been building a new airport in Istanbul.

What could go wrong, right? Many readers will remember the painful experience of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 opening and many Germans are still waiting for the new Berlin airport to be completed, several years late and billions over budget.

So the cynic in me was rather surprised to see this report in the Turkish press.

  • On 29 October, 2018, Istanbul New Airport will have its official opening ceremony.
  • Foreign airlines will not fly to Istanbul on 30-31 October
  • Turkish Airlines will ground all of its planes for the first 18 hours of 30 October
  • After that, Turkish Airlines flights will depart from the old airport, and land into the new airport – I have no idea how you are supposed to take a connecting flight if your short-haul flight lands into one airport but your long-haul flight is departing from the other one
  • Over that weekend, most, if not all, airport vehicles will be driven from the old to the new airport. Istanbul traffic can be bad… but this should be quite a sight!
  • From 1 November, practically all flights – both foreign and Turkish airlines – will arrive to and depart from the new airport
Map courtesy of Wikipedia

And even if the new airport opens without a hitch and the transition goes perfectly…

  • Is the Istanbul metro extension going to be ready on time?
  • Where are the airport hotels? Are they going to be open and ready?

I certainly wish them well and I have no doubt that the Turkish government will throw nearly unlimited resources at ensuring a successful transition. But as a foreigner with a choice of airlines, you might want to think very carefully about booking an itinerary that will connect in Istanbul. And, if you need to visit Istanbul in late October / early November, you might want to fly into Istanbul’s second airport – Sabiha Gokcen on the Asian side – and let others be the guinea pigs for the new airport…


    • Joe Deeney says

      Haha – it really does seem to be called ‘Istanbul New Airport’, for now anyway, yeah. I’m sure Erdogan has already got some ‘enhancements’ to that in mind for the near future…

      I still can’t really work out whether this is a serious plan or an elaborate joke :). Either way, can’t fault the ambition I suppose?

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