I’ve had the pleasure and displeasure of transiting through the new Istanbul Airport. Originally scheduled to open in October 2018, operations were not fully transferred from Ataturk Airport to the new airport until the weekend of 5th April 2019. This resulted in flight cancellations, including my own outbound flight, to facilitate the 45 hour closure.
With a current capacity to handle 90 million passengers per year, the airport will be Europe’s busiest. When fully operational, Istanbul’s new airport is expected to serve 200 million passengers a year, becoming the world’s busiest by a significant margin. The IATA code of IST was transferred from Ataturk airport to the new airport.
Here’s my Istanbul Airport review. The airport has its good points and its room-for-improvement points but let’s start with an overview of the layout.
ISTANBUL AIRPORT – LAYOUT
It has one terminal with 5 piers jutting out from a central hall. The central hall contains most of the shops, restaurants and an information desk. The piers I used had individual facilities but only the central hall area contains the international connections security gates.
The terminal is 1.4 million square metres in size. In other words, it’s massive.
ISTANBUL AIRPORT – PROS
It really is a stunning-looking airport, inside and outside. The vaulted ceilings reflect the city’s extensive history while some shops are contained in wooden arched structures reminiscent of a Middle Eastern bazaar.
The vaulted ceilings are high, giving a comfortable sense of space. In fact, the piers are quite spacious with plenty of seats at the departure gates. The glass-walls of the piers give an extra sense of space and are a great source of natural light.
In the central hall, there is a comprehensive duty free selling a wide range of perfume, tobacco and alcohol brands among other items. Each pier I used also has a mini duty free shop but the stock is limited in these.
The signage in the airport is clear and large with blue as the chosen background. It’s ideal for those in a hurry through. A specific part of the floor, marked by green lines, are reserved for vehicle transport but as you can see from the below picture, nobody seemed to take any notice of this despite the oncoming buggy.
Like Ataturk Airport, the new airport retains the feeling of a world hub. It’s in such a multicultural environment that I’m at my most comfortable.
The airport is situated approximately 30 miles from Istanbul city centre on Turkey’s European Black Sea coast. An added bonus for passengers arriving from Europe is the descent over the gorgeous Black Sea coast.
ISTANBUL AIRPORT – CONS
Firstly, the airport is very big, and perhaps too big for some passengers. It takes a long time to walk from pier to pier and is not ideal for anyone other than the fit and lively wearing runners. I wonder if airlines have extended their minimum connection times to facilitate the airport’s sprawl.
From an advertising and revenue perspective the airport’s size is a disaster as passengers will spend their time in transit endeavouring to find their international departures gate rather than chilling out, spending money and looking at adverts.
Not only is the terminal large but the surrounding airfield is so big that it took our inbound international arrivals flight 20 minutes just to taxi to our terminal slot.
The WIFI wasn’t working during both transfers. I was told that there is a disagreement between the provider of the WIFI and the airport authorities. Can anyone confirm this?
Not all of the restaurants were open. Regarding hot food, we were limited to expensive fast-food outlets and a food court of traditional Turkish food where none of the signs and menus were translated into English. Not wanting to sound like a diva but English is the official language of international aviation. If Istanbul airport wants to be the world’s mega-hub then it’ll have to meet the linguistic needs of the international community.
There was no toilet paper or soap in some of the toilets. An electrical fault could have been the cause of the automatic soap dispensers’ lack of co-operation but there is no excuse for lack of toilet paper.
The busy central area contains most of the shops and restaurants including the domestic and international transfer security screening. The transfer security screening was almost as chaotic as the screening at the old Ataturk airport. If there are no plans to build another terminal this area will not cope with 200 million passengers transiting through it per year. A little more natural light in this area would also be welcome as would more seats for passengers awaiting their boarding gate calls.
A lot of the airport’s special features were not advertised. Apparently most seats at the airport have USB and socket outlets. There is also an Istanbul airport app which tracks your flight and finds airport locations such as shops and restaurants on the app map. Given that it’s a new airport, perhaps airlines should email this information in advance to passengers? Then again, with no WIFI working the app would have been useless. Besides, does anyone download an app specifically for an airport?
Finally, and the biggest problem to solve for local and visiting passengers, the metro to the airport from the city centre is not completed and is not scheduled to operate until 2020.
I’ve made a decision not to fly through the airport for a while to allow for these issues to be resolved and for facilities to be fully operational. There are more cons than pros in this Istanbul Airport review. But an airport’s primary concern is safety and thankfully there appears to be no issue in this respect.
Berlin’s new Brandenburg airport was scheduled to open in 2012 but only opened in October 2020. So a pat on the back is due to the Turkish authorities for building Europe’s largest airport with only a few months delay in the commencement of operations.
Have you travelled through the new Istanbul Airport? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them below.
For general information on flying, check out my Tips for First-Time Flyers post.