Atatürk is now shut after 66 years, as all airlines shifted operations to the newer Istanbul Airport
All airlines at Istanbul Atatürk completed the transfer of operations to the new Istanbul Airport on 5–6 April, in what Istanbul Airport operator iGA described as “the biggest logistical operation in world aviation history”.
In 33 hours (12 fewer than originally anticipated), 686 trucks transported more than 10,000 pieces of equipment along the 45 km distance between the two airports. The process actually began some weeks before; in total, about 15,000 equipment items have been transferred.
Atatürk is now closed for commercial flights after 66 years, and all airlines are fully operational at the newer airport. The first phase of the Istanbul Airport officially opened in October 2018; once all four phases are completed, the airport will have an estimated annual passenger capacity of 200 million with flights to more than 300 destinations worldwide.
“The original plan was to begin with a ‘big bang’ [in October 2018], but in real life it’s quite risky – as much for the airport as for the airlines and the passengers,” noted Ismail Polat, iGA chief planning officer. “We decided that it would be smarter to do things more slowly. Now everyone feels more confident – not just us in iGA but all the stakeholders.”
The phased transition of services and equipment instead of a ‘big bang’ allowed hub carrier Turkish Airlines to bed in its operations, staff, and systems at the new airport. “On the site, it helped them to further develop their infrastructure but the transition period also helped us and them to understand the airport better,” Polat explained to Jane’s at PTE in London in late March.
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