One of the greatest infrastructure projects in the history of the Republic of Turkey, the Istanbul Airport was inaugurated by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on October 29, 2018.
The construction of the airport officially commenced on May 4, 2015. As expected, the first stage of the six-phase project was completed in 42 months, and the first flight already took place.
The winning bid for the 25-year lease of the airport was worth EUR 22 billion 152 million. Including the 18% value-added tax, the final figures reach EUR 26 billion 139 million. The winner of the tender was the Cengiz-MAPA-Limak-Kolin-Kalyon joint venture consortium which has since founded İGA, the Istanbul Grand Airport, with the purpose of constructing and operating the new airport.
The airport was built under the build-operate-transfer model with private sector resources. According to the report published by İGA, the airport is estimated to create direct and indirect employment opportunities for some 194 to 225 thousand persons by the year 2025.
It is also anticipated to contribute around 4.2 to 4.9 percent to Turkey’s national income. The total investment cost of the project is EUR 10.25 billion. Thus, the project will hold the title of being the greatest single-item project ever realized in the history of the Republic of Turkey.
Designed by industry-leading Pininfarina and AECOM, the Istanbul Airport’s 90-meter-tall air traffic control tower was inspired by the tulip, which bears great cultural significance for Turco-Islamic history and is regarded to be the symbol of Istanbul since the Ottoman period.
The airport is being built on an area of 76.5 million square meters in the north of Istanbul. It is expected to host more than 100 airlines and offer ﬂights to more than 300 destinations.
The auxiliary plants of the giant project will include 6 independent runways, parallel taxi roads, an apron with an area of 6.5 million square meters in total, a VIP lounge, cargo and general aviation terminals, a state guest house, outdoor and indoor parking lots, technical blocks and air traffic control towers, a fire station, power plants, and waste management facilities. The airport will also comprise hospitals, hotels, prayer rooms, museums, convention centers, and community facilities.
Being the world’s largest airport terminal under one roof, it will have the capacity to serve some 90 million passengers by the time of its opening. There will be 2 independent runways, a cargo warehouse, hangars, maintenance buildings, and several other facilities in service.
Gebr. Heinemann and Unifree, a collaboration between the world’s largest Duty-Free operators, will bring world-renowned brands and stores together with 90 million visitors in an area of 55,000 square meters.
Moreover, the Istanbul Airport construction project employs over 22,500 workers, 10% white-collar and 90% blue-collar, and it already is one of the largest construction sites in the world, operating a heavy machinery-equipment fleet exceeding 3,000 in numbers, 2000 of them being high capacity trucks, and the excavations amount to around 1.5 million cubic meters a day.
Regarded as a “monument of victory” by President Erdoğan, the opening of the airport had great coverage in the world press as well. The European and Russian media emphasized how Erdoğan has been trying to establish the Istanbul Airport as a global center in world’s air traffic, connecting Asia, Africa, and Europe.
On the other hand, with the airport’s opening, there have been comparisons made in both national and foreign press with other airport projects currently under construction. When its construction began in 2006, Berlin Brandenburg Airport was originally planned to open in 2011. After countless delays, it is currently anticipated to open in 2021. As the airport is not currently operational, it is estimated that each passing month costs EUR 17 million in financial losses. The magnitude of the delay has been a hot topic during the 2017 German federal elections as well. The Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel expressed her discontent over the never-ending construction period of the 2-runway Berlin Airport, emphasizing how mega projects across the globe were already completed. If the project could be completed on time, it would be the largest airport in Europe.
The geopolitical significance of the Istanbul Airport is another well-known fact. The project is estimated to rise into prominence over the alternatives, such as Frankfurt and Dubai International airports, as it will have the ability to host 200 million passengers upon completion. In this regard, the Istanbul Airport has the potential to redefine Turkey as one of the most significant transit centers in the world, integrating north, south, east and west together.
Turkish Airlines will move its operations to the mega project by the end of 2018, and the airport is expected to handle 2,000 aircrafts a day when that happens. The first flights already took place after the airport’s opening. Turkish Airlines realized its first domestic flights from the new airport, flying to Ankara on October 31, to Antalya on November 1, and to İzmir on November 2. The first overseas flights were made to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Azerbaijan, on November 1 and 8, respectively.