Turkey opens world’s largest airport in Istanbul

The Istanbul New Airport will have the capacity up to 200 million passengers a year

Turkey has just made a giant step towards becoming one of the world’s most important hubs. After three years of construction and spending $7.2 billion, the country is opening the largest airport on the planet.

As Turkey is celebrating the 95th anniversary of becoming a republic, the country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan opens the Istanbul New Airport himself during a ceremony today.

However, despite its celebratory launch, the airport is still not fully operational. Only a few flights per day will be departing from the New Airport until the operation moves from Istanbul’s current main airport named after Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The Ataturk airport which now handles over 63 million passengers a year will be shut down by the end of the year.

world's largest airport
Pictures by IGA

In its first phase, Istanbul New Airport will use two runways and serve around 90 million people annually. But in ten years, six runways should be in use enabling the airport to handle 200 million passengers a year. The figure is almost twice as high as at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, currently the busiest airport in the world.  

world's largest airport“This airport is going to be the most important hub between Asia and Europe,” said Kadri Samsunlu, head of the IGA, the contractor and operator of the project.

The project has caught attention for its unique Turkish and Islamic design and a tulip shaped air traffic control tower won which gained the airport the 2016 International Architecture Award.

The construction of the airport has been marked by a controversy. As Erdogan insisted on opening the airport precisely on this day, the works had to be hurried which allegedly led to the death of many out of the 35,000 employees.

The head of a construction workers’ union, Nihat Demir, claimed that a rush to meet the president’s deadline had been a major cause of accidents and deaths among workers.

world's largest airportHe said that the pressure to finish had led to “carelessness, accidents and deaths”.

Reports of hundreds of dead workers were denied by Turkey’s Ministry of Labour. Yet in February, the ministry said that 27 workers had died at the site due to “health problems and traffic accidents”.

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