Phase one of Istanbul’s new airport had its soft opening today.

Once the final phase is completed, it is also expected to become the world’s busiest airport with up to 200 million passengers passing through per year.

To mark the 95th anniversary of Turkey becoming a republic, the first phase of Istanbul’s new airport had its grand opening on October 29, 2018, 22 miles north of the city center. While the project will be completed in four phases, the airport’s soft opening on Monday includes two operational runways and 15 million square feet of terminal space. In December, a third runway will open to complete phase one.

Once completed in 2028, the 29.5 square-mile yet-to-be officially named 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 104 million passengers passing through its terminals in 2017. Atatürk International Airport, Istanbul’s current flight hub, had 64 million passengers in 2017, but the aging airport is overloaded, which is why the new airport is being built.

Initially, all flights were expected to transfer over to the new airport from Atatürk Airport on opening day. However, a limited number of regional flights from Turkish Airlines will begin to arrive at the new aiport this week and the full move won’t happen until the end of December. After it closes, 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.

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A 451-room Yotel with pod-like rooms both before and after security is slated to be the hotel located in the main terminal when it opens later in 2018. This will be Yotel’s fifth airport hotel, with properties already in operation at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports, Amsterdam Schiphol, and Charles de Gaulle in Paris.

While the new airport—which is expected to cost almost $12 billion—it is not without controversies, especially in light of its 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.

This article originally appeared online in July 2018; it was updated on October 29, 2018, to include current information.


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