Turkey’s airports handle 130 million passengers; up 85% since 2007 as booming Turkish Airlines and Pegasus grow networks

Turkey’s Transport Minister, Binali Yildirim, announces “the largest airport in the world”.

January 23 2013: Turkey’s Transport Minister, Binali Yildirim, announces “the largest airport in the world”. The 150 million passenger, $10 billion, six runway airport will become operational as early as 2017. Given how quick the Turkish market is growing this first phase could be full by 2018!

Turkey’s airports handled 130 million passengers in 2012, up 10.7% on 2011, and up a staggering 85% in just five years. As a result, Turkey is now Europe’s sixth biggest aviation market in terms of airport passenger numbers, after Europe’s ‘big 5’ of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. However, at the current rate of growth, Turkey is likely to overtake both France and Italy by the end of 2015. While overall growth was just under 11%, the country’s main airport, Istanbul Atatürk, reported growth of just over 20% last year, handling 45 million passengers, helped by an apparently never-ending raft of new routes from national carrier Turkish Airlines (most of which were leaked by anna.aero in December). This meant Istanbul Atatürk was Europe’s sixth busiest airport in 2012 and is on track to move past Madrid into fifth place in 2013 – little wonder that the Turkish government has decided to avoid a London Heathrow style crunch and build a new $10 billion, six-runway facility opening in 2017.

Istanbul’s second airport at Sabiha Gökçen, also reported double-digit growth, as Pegasus Airlines, the country’s leading LCC continued to expand its route network.

Chart: Top 12 Turkish airports 2012 - Passenger numbers in millions (versus 2011)

Source: DHMI

By the end of this June, Turkish Airlines is on course to have started well over 30 new routes in a 12-month period from Istanbul Atatürk to various destinations, as summarised in the following table:

Launch date Destination Country WF* (aircraft type)
2 July 2012 Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia)** Mongolia 3 (A320)
4 July Abidjan (ABJ) Cote D’Ivoire 4 (B739ER)
9 July Aalborg (AAL) [return via Billund] Denmark 3 (A319)
9 July Billund (BLL) [outbound via Aalborg] Denmark 3 (A319)
26 July Edinburgh (EDI) UK 4 (A319)
18 July Osh (OSS) Kyrgyzstan 3 (A319)
31 July Gyandzha (KVD) [outbound via Nakhichevan] Azerbaijan 3 (A319)
2 August Nakhichevan (NAJ) [return via Gyandzha] Azerbaijan 3 (A319)
27 August Kinshasa (FIH) DR Congo 4 (B739ER)
2 September Sebha (SEB) Libya 3 (A320)
4 September Djibouti (JIB) Djibouti 2 (A320)
16 September Nouakchott (NKC) [return via Dakar] Mauritania 3 (B738)
2 October Aden (ADE) [outbound via Sana’a] Yemen 3 (A319)
9 October Sharm El-Sheikh (SSH) Egypt 4 (eqv)
17 October Hurghada (HRG) Egypt 3 (A319)
24 November Male (MLE) Maldives 5 (A332)
25 November Kutahya (KZR) Turkey 4 (B738)
4 December Mombasa (MBA) [outbound via Kilimanjaro] Kenya 5 (B739ER)
4 December Kilimanjaro (JRO) [return via Mombasa] Tanzania 5 (B739ER)
15 December Ouagadougou (OUA) [via Niamey] Burkina Faso 3 (B739ER)
19 December Isfahan (IFN) Iran 2 (B738)
26 December Kermanshah (KSH) Iran 2 (B738)
31 January 2013 Libreville (LBV) [outbound via Douala] Gabon 3 (B739ER)
1 February Colombo (CMB) [via Male] Sri Lanka 5 (A330)
1 April Houston (IAH) USA 4 (B773ER)
3 April Aqaba (AQB) Jordan 3 (B73G)
25 April Kuala Lumpur (KUL) Malaysia 4 (A343)
2 May Friedrichshafen (FDH) Germany 4 (A320)
21 May Santiago de Compostela (SCQ) Spain 3 (A319)
25 May Malta (MLA) Malta 3 (eqv)
28 May Salzburg (SZG) Austria 4 (B738)
4 June Marseille (MRS) France 4 (B738)
7 June Constanta (CND) Romania 3 (A319)
11 June Tallinn (TLL) [return via Vilnius] Estonia 3 (A319)
11 June Vilnius (VNO) [outbound via Tallinn) Lithuania 3 (A319)
25 June Luxembourg (LUX) Luxembourg 4 (eqv)
Source: anna.aero new route database
* Weekly frequency when launched
** With technical stop in Bishkek

As a result, the only airline in the world that offers more non-stop destinations from a single airport is Delta at Atlanta, and at the current rate Turkish Airlines is on track to overtake Delta some time before the end of 2013. Another 27 potential new routes aside from those above have already been mooted by anna.aero for launch in 2013.

Turkish success story

If you want to share in the Turkish success story you need to come along and meet Dr Temel Kotil, President and CEO Turkish Airlines (left), star speaker at the World Congress of Airports Council International. This year’s event is co-staged by ACI EUROPE and hosted by TAV Airports (operator of Istanbul Atatürk Airport) at the Istanbul Congress Centre, 10-12 June 2013.

Turkish Airlines going after Pegasus?

As if starting all these routes from Istanbul’s main airport were not enough, Turkish Airlines is also launching eight new routes from Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen during the summer. Three of these (Amsterdam, Tbilisi, Vienna) will be competing directly with Pegasus, while three others (London Gatwick, Milan Malpensa, Paris CDG) serve airports in the same city that Pegasus also serves, leaving only the new services to Baku and Kuwait as non-contested markets.

However, Pegasus is also starting a plethora of its own new routes, and since the beginning of October has added Batumi (Georgia), Belgrade (Serbia), Dubai (UAE) and Lviv (Ukraine) to its network with Sarajevo (Bosnia & Herzegovina) flights starting on 28 February, followed by Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) in late March.


  1. Gene Marck says:

    I think you have a typo in the article about 30 new routes by Turkish Airlines. FDH….you list as being in the country of Turkey. Last time I checked…it was in Germany.

    I enjoy your coverage of the new routes…seriously!

    Gene Marck
    Vista World Travel
    San Antonio TX

  2. perplexed says:

    Ataturk keeps growing at the same pace, again in January passenger growth hit 20%. That could mean Ataturk will overtake both Schiphol and Madrid by the end of 2013, if its capacity permits constant growth. I doubt that, however, its already overloaded. It will be nightmare after 50 million.

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