Istanbul’s Massive New Airport Will Eventually Be Bigger Than Manhattan

Now that Atatürk International Airport is officially closed, Istanbul Airport is fully operational.

Istanbul’s Massive New Airport Will Eventually Be Bigger Than Manhattan

The new Istanbul Airport’s air traffic control tower is shaped like a tulip, one of the traditional symbols of Istanbul.

Courtesy of iGA

Atatürk International Airport, Turkey’s main airport in Istanbul, officially closed on April 6 after moving its entire operations to the new Istanbul Airport, 22 miles north of the city center. It took 686 semitrailer trucks and hundreds of other vehicles to move the country’s flagship carrier, Turkish Airlines, overnight from the old airport to the new one.

The first phase of Istanbul’s new airport opened on October 29, 2018. While the project will be completed in four phases, the airport’s soft opening in October included two operational runways and 15 million square feet of terminal space. It can currently handle 90 million passengers a year.

Once completed in 2027, the 29.5 square-mile airport will be larger than the island of Manhattan. With six runways, it will be able to accommodate up to 200 million travelers per year, making it the busiest airport in the world. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport currently holds that title with 107 million passengers passing through its terminals in 2018. The aging Atatürk International Airport had more than 68 million passengers in 2018, but was overloaded, which is why the new airport was built.

We’re all so proud! We’re in our new home with our massive fleet of 337 aircraft. https://t.co/a1FA0LyezO#TurkishAirlines #IstanbulAirport @igairport pic.twitter.com/E6fY1F8Rm4 — Turkish Airlines (@TurkishAirlines) April 9, 2019

Initially, all flights were expected to transfer over to the new airport from Atatürk Airport in October. However, after a limited number of regional flights from Turkish Airlines began to arrive at the new aiport last year, the full move wasn’t complete until now. Atatürk Airport will eventually be converted into a public park that will be called the “People’s Garden,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told the Hurriyet Daily News.

The new airport’s terminal was built to reflect the style of Istanbul’s domed mosques and baths, while the air traffic control tower’s shape is inspired by a tulip, one of the traditional symbols of Istanbul.

#YOTEL and #YOTELAIR are opening their doors at the brand-new Istanbul Airport today! Head to our website and read all about it - https://t.co/gEi7mmAv6U pic.twitter.com/oc0SAZpOlI — YOTEL (@YotelHQ) April 5, 2019


As of early April, the 451 pod-like rooms at the Yotel are now open at the new Istanbul Airport. This is Yotel’s fifth airport hotel and its first hybrid property that offers rooms both before and after security.

The new airport—which is expected to cost almost $12 billion—is not without controversies, especially in light of Turkey’s recently weakened economy. The New York Times reports that not only have villagers been “shoved off” their land to make room for the airport but also many of the construction companies that have received public money to build the airport have close ties to President Erdoğan.

The Associated Press contributed reporting. This article originally appeared online in July 2018; it was updated on April 11, 2019, to include current information.


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Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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