The reports said the planned conversion of Atatürk Airport into a conference center is part of İstanbul's bid to become an international hub for conventions. However, responding to questions from reporters following a meeting over the weekend, Yıldırım disputed the reports and said, “Atatürk Airport will not be closed down but will continue operations at reduced capacity.”
Atatürk Airport has started to fall short of meeting the increasing demands of millions of passengers who frequently transit İstanbul. In 2011, Atatürk Airport saw more than 37 million passengers, compared to 13 million for the city's second-largest airport, Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, which is located on the Anatolian side.
The planned new airport is expected to be built in the northern part of İstanbul on the European side near the Black Sea. With an initial capacity of 60 million passengers a year, the new airport will cost about TL 10 billion ($5.6 billion).