New Istanbul Airport is Fully OperationalIf you have a flight booked to or through Istanbul, you might want to double-check the airport you’ll be flying into. Istanbul’s brand new international airport, known simply as Istanbul Airport, became fully operational last weekend. It replaces Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, which was previously the main airport in the city. The new Istanbul Airport has also taken over the IATA airport code “IST” from Ataturk Airport, which is now closed to commercial passenger aircraft.

It is not yet known exactly what will happen to Ataturk Airport, but for the time being it is still being used by cargo airlines and general aviation traffic. Ataturk is now operating under the IATA code “ISL”. Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW), Istanbul’s other airport on the Asian side of the city, remains open with business as usual.

The official opening of the new airport was on 29 October 2018, to coincide with Turkey’s Republic Day. Its first commercial flight took off a couple of days later, but the airport maintained limited service during this initial period. At the time, the full changeover from Ataturk to Istanbul Airport was planned for the end of 2018. But this was postponed several times until it finally happened last Friday, the 5th of April.

The last commercial airline flight to take off from Ataturk Airport was TK54 to Singapore, shortly after 2am last Friday. After this, the massive move to Istanbul Airport began. Airport equipment was transported by road to the new airport, located around 40km away, while a procession of planes relocated by air.

The new airport is modern and architecturally beautiful, albeit very large.

Inside the Istanbul Airport terminal
Inside the Istanbul Airport terminal

As the main hub for Turkish Airlines, the airport is home to a Turkish Airlines Lounge that’s said to be even more impressive than the airline’s previous lounge at Ataturk Airport. That’s quite a feat, as the previous lounge was already one of the best airport lounges in the world. Popular features of the previous lounge, including a wide variety of Turkish food, a golf simulator, game machines and a roaming massage therapist remain. But the new lounge is larger and less prone to overcrowding during peak periods.

Istanbul Airport is located further away from the city centre than Ataturk Airport, which is also on the European side of the city. A metro line to the new airport will open in the future, but in the meantime taxis and shuttle buses are the only way to travel between the airport and the city.

If possible, avoid transferring planes between Istanbul (IST) and Sabiha Gökçen (SAW). The airports are located almost 80km apart and the trip between the two airports could take up to several hours.

This new airport will eventually become the largest in the world and is designed to compete with the “Big 3” Middle Eastern hubs of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha. Although Istanbul Airport is currently able to handle 90 million passengers per year, capacity will be more than doubled over time as construction continues.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: New Istanbul Airport


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]