Connecting in Istanbul This Fall Could Be a Problem

Sep 18, 2018

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Istanbul has long been scheduled to replace its current main airport, Atatürk Airport, with a new — aptly called Istanbul New Airport —on October 29. The transition between airports, both of which are planned to use the IATA airport code IST, was set to be a spectacle with all operations moving from one airport to the other within 48 hours. Picture aircraft tugs, maintenance vehicles, airport equipment and staff traveling 24 miles on public roads from one airport to the other. It was going to be such an event that TPG planned to send multiple people to cover the mass migration.

But, just over a month before the massive transition, a Turkish site reported that Turkish Airlines has decided to move just 20 to 30 of its 277 aircraft to New Airport on October 29. The New Airport will still open on October 29, but Turkish will continue to operate most of its flights through Atatürk Airport due to concerns the new airport might not be completely ready. Supposedly, only Turkish Airlines flights with no connection — a vague formulation — will be flown to or from New Airport until operations are fully transitioned sometime before the end of December.

This plan seems somewhat reasonable on the surface. But, I foresee several operating issues. TPG has reached out to Turkish Airlines for comment, but didn’t receive a response before publishing. In particular, I expect the following issues:

  • Both airports planned to use IATA airport code IST; what will the new, presumably temporary, IATA airport code be for New Airport?
  • What routes are non-connecting and hence will be operated from New Airport beginning October 29? Presumably all of Turkish Airlines’ flights could have connecting passengers, and many likely already have bookings from connecting passengers, so I have trouble seeing what flights could be operated from New Airport.
  • At what point will passengers be informed whether their flight will arrive into or depart out of Atatürk Airport or New Airport? The airports are 24 miles apart and some passengers will want to book hotels near the airport before or after their flights, so this information should be announced in advance.
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - AUGUST 08: An aerial view of the newly constructed Istanbul New Airport is seen as construction works are still ongoing to be ready for opening ceremony of the first complex on 29th October, in Istanbul, Turkey on August 08, 2018. (Photo by Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An aerial view of the new airport under construction taken in August 2018. (Photo by Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


I hope the transition to Istanbul New Airport goes well — but given the delays in construction and staggered transition of operations, I have my doubts. As such, barring any concrete information from Turkish Airlines regarding the transition, I’d recommend avoiding any connections in Istanbul until operations are fully transitioned to Istanbul’s New Airport. If you do decide to connect in Istanbul, be sure to book your flights with a credit card that offers good trip delay protections.

H/T: AirportHaber via One Mile At A Time

Featured image: An aerial view of Istanbul New Airport during construction work on August 8, 2018. (Photo by Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

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