In the last week of October 2018, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, unveiled Istanbul’s new international airport, which his government claims to be the world’s largest. One of the President’s favoured mega-projects, this $12 billion project will make Istanbul a global travel hub linking Europe, Asia and Africa and turn flag carrier Turkish Airlines into an aviation giant. By the end of 2018, the new airport will be able to handle up to 90 million passengers annually, ranking it in the world’s top five. This will rise to 200 million passengers when all facilities are completed in 2028. By this time, it could well be number one. In 2017, that title was held by Atlanta airport in the US, with just under 104 million passengers.
The new airport at Istanbul is the first new “Greenfield” facility in Europe in nearly 20 years. When all four construction phases are complete in 2028, the airport will have six runways and two terminal buildings, covering an area of 76 sq km. The last totally new airport in Europe was Athens which entered service in 2001, preceded by Munich in 1992. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says global air traffic is growing at an annual rate of 3.5 per cent. That means 4.1 billion passengers will take to the air this year, doubling to 8.2 billion by 2037. IATA repeatedly warns that airports around the world will struggle to deal with this expansion, urging governments to make the necessary investments to keep up. The new facility replaces Istanbul’s ageing Ataturk Airport and the launch took place on the 95th anniversary of modern Turkey’s founding by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.