Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport now 6th busiest in Europe; Turkish Airlines offers flights to almost 200 destinations

Although Turkish Airlines is the main contributor to Istanbul Atatürk Airport being Europe’s fastest-growing major airport, other airlines are also contributing to the growth. The home carrier’s Star Alliance partner United began operating from Newark on 1 July, becoming one of 58 airlines to serve Istanbul Atatürk this winter.

For some time now, Europe’s fastest growing major airport has been Istanbul Atatürk Airport, home of Turkish Airlines, Europe’s fastest-growing flag carrier. Last year, the airport handled 37.4 million passengers, ranking it eighth in Europe, and in the first eight months of 2012, it has already passed both Munich and Rome Fiumicino airports to take sixth place behind only the FLAP airports and Madrid.

Just ten years ago, the airport was handling just over 11 million passengers, but since then, growth has been rapid with double-digit growth in five of the last nine years, including 16% growth in 2011. Between 2002 and 2006, growth was fastest in the domestic market which tripled in size from under three million passengers to over nine million, while international traffic grew by a more modest 43%. However, in the last five years, the domestic market has grown by just under 50% while international traffic has almost doubled from 12 million passengers to almost 24 million.

Istanbul Atatürk Airport 2002-2011 Annual passengers (millions)

Source: DHMI

So far this year, the rapid rate of growth shows no sign of slowing down with total traffic up 21% in the first nine months of this year; domestic traffic is up 14% while international demand has grown by 24%. At this rate, the airport may even pass Madrid for fifth place in 2013.

Istanbul Atatürk airport seasonality Monthly passengers 2010-12

Source: DHMI

Turkish Airlines serves 189 destinations non-stop this winter

Turkish Airlines dominates the airport with three-quarters of all flights and departing seats. It has grown its international network massively in recent years and now serves more destinations non-stop from a single airport than any other carrier in Europe. Since the beginning of 2012, it has added flights to Aalborg (Denmark), Accra (Ghana), Bilbao (Spain), Bremen (Germany), Edinburgh (UK), Djibouti, Kigali (Rwanda), Kinshasa (Congo), Leipzig (Germany), Nakhichevan (Azerbaijan), Novosibirsk (Russia), Osh (Kyrgyzstan), Sharm El-Sheikh (Egypt), Taif (Saudi Arabia), and Yanbu (Saudi Arabia). The most recent new destination is Hurghada in Egypt, where three times weekly flights began last week.

Airline Flights% Seats% Routes (Domestic/International)
Turkish Airlines 75.0% 75.8% 189 (32/157)
Onur Air 4.6% 4.7% 12 (9/3)
Atlasjet 4.8% 4.7% 9 (4/5)
Lufthansa 1.4% 1.3% 3 (0/3)
Pegasus Airlines 1.1% 1.1% 1 (1/0)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 5 November 2012

Although Turkish carriers dominate traffic at the airport, other airlines have also launched flights in the last 12 months, notably Air France which has introduced flights from Marseille (last October) and Toulouse (3 April), and United Airlines which began daily flights from its Newark base on 1 July. Lufthansa, another Star Alliance member, launched flights from Berlin Tegel in June, although these were planned on the basis that they would be operating from the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport.

This winter a total of 58 airlines will be operating scheduled flights from Istanbul Atatürk Airport of which 33 serve the airport with at least daily flights.


  1. GPaisley says:

    I have flown Turkish three times now and have been very impressed every time. I only hope they are not growing too fast.
    IST is a surprisingly compact airport for the volume it handles. I hope that it can keep up with its growth. I don’t recall seeing much room to physically expand in their current location.

  2. Pyrrhat says:

    Yes, Ataturk will be unable to deal with current volumes of traffic growth very soon. Its passenger number will be around 44 million at the end of this year… But a third airport to Istanbul has been announced last week. it will be built in the nort of European side, close to Black Sea and have 100 million passenger capacity. Still it will take at least 3-4 years to complete such huge project and Ataturk will begin to struggle after 50 million passengers.

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