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The newly opened Istanbul Airport.

Turkey opens massive new airport

In a speech at the opening of Istanbul’s $11.7bn airport, the Turkish president said it would one day be the world’s busiest.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has opened Istanbul’s massive new airport, and he expects it to become the world’s busiest.

The grand opening took place on October 29, which was also the 95th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic.

More than 5,000 guests, including ten foreign leaders, crammed into the terminal to celebrate in the inaugural ceremony where Erdogan declared, “This airport, the largest in the world, shall be known as Istanbul Airport.”

He hailed the role that Istanbul had already gained as one of the world’s leading transfer hubs, and how the airport would go on to contribute 4.9% of Turkey’s gross national income.

Handling up to 90 million passengers a year, capacity will steadily rise to 200 million if demand justifies it, the president said.

Built to replace the city’s overcrowded Ataturk Airport, the $11.7 billion facility will initially see only limited commercial flights. Ataturk will eventually close to commercial flights once all operations move away.

The biggest customer carrier, Turkish Airlines, will shift all of its flights to the new hub over the coming months, with the first destinations – Ankara and northern Cyprus’ Ercan – launching today. Tomorrow, Turkish will add Antalya and Izmir and, on November 8, Baku.

The new airport’s main terminal has an area of 1,300,000sqm and capacity for 88 aircraft. There will be a total of four terminals by the time the airport is fully completed in 2028. Launching with two runways, by 2028 another four will be added.

Turkish Airlines, which posted strong first-half results this year, had previously said it would move all of its flights to the airport by December 31, but construction has been dogged by delays and criticism of poor working conditions and safety standards, the news agency Reuters reports.

Turkey’s ministry of labour admitted in February that 27 workers had died since construction began in 2015. Just last month, police detained hundreds of protesting workers.

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