Rabat - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has opened Turkey’s biggest airport, one he hopes will become the world’s biggest, outside Istanbul.
By Mohammed Hikal
Although it was launched Monday, until it becomes fully operational in January, “Istanbul Airport,” as it is called, will only serve a limited number of domestic flights and international flights to Azerbaijan and Cyprus, according to Turkish Airlines.
The airport is expected to eventually handle 90 million passengers each year.
The former transport minister, Ahmet Arslan, had previously claimed that the new airport would receive all flights coming into and out of Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport within 48 hours of its opening on Monday.
In 10 years, Turkey plans to expand Istanbul Airport to approximately 19,000 acres with six runways, serving 200 million travelers by 2029, which would make it the world’s busiest airport.
“With the operation of Istanbul Airport, European airspace will have to be restructured,” Erdogan said at the opening ceremony.
Until a metro starts operating in two years’ time, a network of buses and other public transport will help passengers move to and from the city.
“With this airport we aim to bring the world closer together with a major hub at the intersection of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East,” Kadri Samsunlu, head of the 5-company consortium Istanbul Grand Airport, told the Independent newspaper. “Our challenge is to be the biggest and the best.”
The airport has received a lot of criticism over poor working conditions and the rush to meet Erdogan’s deadlines. According to the Ministry of Labor, 27 construction workers have died since the launch of the project in 2015. Turkey has also detained hundreds of protesting workers.
“The airport has become a cemetery,” Nihat Demir, the head of a construction workers’ union, told the Associated Press. The Dev-Yapi-Is union calculated at least 37 construction deaths and “claimed more than 100 dead remain unidentified,” according to the Independent.
However, the minister of labor denied the allegations and said the deaths were due to health problems and traffic accidents.