After three false starts and a labour protest over harsh working conditions, Turkey will fully open a new airport in Istanbul this week that will give its fast-growing flagship airline a platform to challenge Gulf rivals for regional dominance.
Authorities plan to shift flights from the city’s Ataturk Airport, on the edge of the Sea of Marmara, to the new airport 30 km (20 miles) north on the Black Sea shores, in a mammoth 45-hour transfer operation starting on Friday.
The $8 billion airport is one of several infrastructure mega-projects championed by President Tayyip Erdogan and will initially be able to handle 90 million passengers a year, a number which Turkey hopes to more than double by 2027.
That would make it the biggest in the world, measured against current airport operations globally.
The airport is supposed to be fully operational on Sunday after authorities transport 10,000 pieces of equipment, from massive aircraft-towing vehicles to sensitive security sensors, across the city in a complex two-day operation, after which Ataturk Airport will close for passenger flights.
The move should support Turkey’s ambition to make Istanbul a global aviation hub and will offer Turkish Airlines a chance to grow beyond the restrictions of Ataturk airport’s limited size.