Ataturk Airport in Istanbul stopped accepting commercial passenger flights in April 2019. All such flights have now been transferred to Istanbul’s new airport, along with the IST airport call sign.
Read on for more information on the new airport, why it was built, and where it’s located – as well as discovering a charming fact about its striking control tower.
Istanbul is now home to three airports, meaning you may be confused as to which Istanbul airport you should fly into. Here’s the run-down.
The old Ataturk airport is now cargo-only
Until recently, most commercial passenger flights to Istanbul landed at Ataturk International airport, with a few other airlines using the city’s second airport, Sabiha Gökçen International, as a hub.
It was becoming clear however, that the significant growth in passenger numbers, increased air traffic congestion, a ban by airport authorities on extra charter or cargo flights, and no space for an additional runway, had all combined to create an undeniable need for a new fit-for-purpose airport.
The new airport is just called ‘Istanbul Airport’
The new Istanbul Airport opened in October 2018 and is located in Arnavutköy, on the European side of the city, which is 50 kilometers (about 30 miles) from Sultanahmet, the old city. It may not have the most imaginative name, but it’s absolutely vast: it occupies an area larger than Manhattan and is eventually expected to serve 200 million passengers a year.
The new airport uses Ataturk Airport’s call sign: IST
In April 2019, all scheduled commercial passenger flights were transferred from Ataturk International to the new Istanbul Airport, along with the airport code of IST. Ataturk continues to handle cargo flights.
You might sometimes fly into Istanbul’s second airport
Istanbul’s second airport, Sabiha Gökçen International, located on the Asian side of the city, continues to operate, handling scheduled and charter passenger flights, along with some cargo flights. You might fly in here if you’re on a chartered airline and are going elsewhere in Turkey.
The new Istanbul Airport is the largest airport terminal in the world
The new Istanbul Airport currently has four runways in operation, with one terminal handling both domestic and international flights – it’s currently the world’s largest terminal building under a single roof. By its completion in 2027, Istanbul Airport is expected to have eight runways and four terminal buildings, along with a host of facilities, including convention centers, hotels, and a medical center.
The new Istanbul Airport has a beautiful control tower
The shape of the control tower at Istanbul Airport is inspired by the tulip, the national flower of Turkey.
Transport from the new airport is not great – yet
Coaches from Istanbul Airport
In addition, current transport options for travel between Istanbul Airport and the city are limited. Two bus companies, HAVAIST and IETT, run services between the airport and the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, with the journey time varying from half an hour to an hour and a half, depending on where you’re going.
Taxis from Istanbul Airport
A taxi ride from Istanbul Airport into the city will take about an hour. However we recommend the amazing Welcome Pickups service which guarantees an English-speaking driver who will wait for your flight, allows you to pay online, and saves you any concerns about being ripped off! Book a Welcome Pickup here >
The Metro hasn’t arrived… but it will!
A new metro line connecting Istanbul Airport and the city is scheduled to open in 2021 and will allow passengers to travel from the airport to Şişli, on the European side of Istanbul, from where they can connect to areas such as Taksim and Sultanahmet.
One day there will be a high-speed train connecting Istanbul Airport to Istanbul city
There are also future plans to have a high-speed train link between Istanbul city and the new Istanbul Airport, which will be known as the Northern Marmara Highway. The rail link will also enable passengers to travel quickly from the European side of Istanbul to the Asian side, in addition to providing a connection between Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gökçen Airport, currently connected by the HAVAIST bus service.
The airport is modern, clean, and vast – but its construction was not without controversy. Dogged by allegations of harsh working conditions and poor health and safety standards, some media reports say hundreds of workers were killed while working on the project, with hush money paid to their families. Construction bosses were also accused of rushing the completion of the project when heavy rains left part of the airport flooded shortly after opening and an aircraft hit a transmission pole while taxiing.