With airports in Istanbul having faced excessive delays and cancellations the week of April 9-15 due to a storm that struck the city, possible solutions to inadequate air services have been hotly debated.
Currently, there are two airports: İstanbul Atatürk Airport, on the European side of the city, and Sabiha Gökçen International Airport on the Asian side. Both are quite large; in 2011 the former had more than 37 million passengers, while the latter had over 13,688,000 passengers. However, these two airports are insufficient to meet growing domestic and international passenger demands.
Only two weeks ago İstanbul Atatürk Airport ranked first in the number of flight delays and second in flight cancellations in Europe, according to data from FlightStats, a provider of worldwide flight on-time performance information to the global travel and transportation industries.
According to data from the US-based company, which recently published an analysis of flight delays and cancellations, İstanbul Atatürk Airport earned the distinction of the airport with the most flight delays in all of Europe last week. In total, 2,948 international and domestic flights were delayed (1,437 arrivals and 1,511 departures). The airport also ranked second in flight cancellations with 180 cancellations two weeks ago.
Turkish Airlines (THY), the national flag carrier of Turkey, had the most delayed flights two weeks ago with a total of 2,301.
THY Chairman Hamdi Topçu has attributed this situation to the lack of capacity at the airport.
Topçu said that Atatürk Airport doesn’t have the capacity to meet growing demand, adding that İstanbul needs a third airport as soon as possible.
Turkish Airline Pilots Association (TALPA) President Gürcan Mantı told Sunday’s Zaman that he agrees with Topçu and that the blame should not be put on airlines or airport companies. “Winds is a problem at every airport. And the only problem that can be solved here is the inadequacy of airports in İstanbul. Companies do their best; they schedule as many flights as possible. But when there is a southwest wind, they have to delay or cancel flights. They have no other option other than this in order to ensure passenger safety.”
As for the solutions to inadequate air services in İstanbul, Mantı underlined the necessity for a third airport in İstanbul and a fourth runway at İstanbul Atatürk Airport, where there are currently only three. “İstanbul is Turkey’s most densely populated and economically active city. A fourth runway that is parallel to the other three should be built at the airport to ease air traffic in the city. It is city planners and the municipality’s job now to figure out how and where it should be built. But for a more permanent solution, İstanbul definitely needs a third airport,” Mantı said and added that the government is already working on the practicality of these projects.
At the beginning of the year Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım said a tender for the construction of a third airport in İstanbul would be held in 2012. Noting that delays were becoming more frequent at Atatürk Airport, he added: “Building a new runway is not the solution. The cost of the planned parallel runway is TL 5 billion.”
A few days after Yıldırım’s statements, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan backed the plan for a new airport, saying the government planned to build a new airport capable of handling 100 million people a year in Turkey’s largest city.
Silivri, a western district of İstanbul, has been selected as the site of the new airport, which will be much larger than Atatürk Airport.