President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inaugurates with great fanfare Monday, October 29 in Istanbul a new airport intended to become “the largest in the world”. The infrastructure will ultimately have to accommodate up to 200 million passengers per year.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inaugurates with great fanfare Monday, October 29 in Istanbul a new airport destined to become “the largest in the world” and a showcase of mega-infrastructure projects that have transformed Turkey since coming to power. Mr. Erdogan will cut the ribbon of the new airport at a ceremony scheduled to start at 1:00 p.m. GMT and attended by foreign leaders such as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, an ally of the Head of State Turkish.
The new infrastructure, which will replace the Atatürk International Airport which has reached saturation point, will initially have a capacity of 90 million passengers per year.
President Erdogan has closely followed the construction of this airport on the European side of Istanbul, near the Black Sea, which has been marked by delays and by a workers’ strike calling for the improvement of their working conditions. This project is part of the Turkish President’s desire to make the former capital of the Ottoman Empire a world crossroads between three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa.
Mr Erdogan is due to announce the name of the new airport on Monday. Many observers expect the Turkish president, nostalgic for the Ottoman Empire, to name him after a sultan. The inauguration on Monday will however be symbolic above all and will coincide with the 95th anniversary of the Turkish Republic.
The construction, which was carried out at full speed, was indeed delayed and the new airport will not be operating at full speed until December 29. Until then, only five daily flights will be operated there and Atatürk Airport will remain open.
This two-month transition will make it possible to test the airport and “identify areas for improvement,” explained Kadri Samsunlu, CEO of IGA, the future operator of the airport, during a visit organized for the press. foreign Thursday.
Objective: 200 million passengers
That day, the airport still looked like a construction site with dump trucks bustling along a runway while workers dismantled scaffolding. When the four phases of construction and expansion are completed, around 2028, this airport will have six runways and two terminals spread over a gigantic 76 square kilometer site, according to the IGA.
The new airport will then, according to the IGA, be able to accommodate up to 200 million passengers per year. This is almost double the American airport in Atlanta, which currently occupies the first place with 103.9 million. The building, worth 10.5 billion euros, has a futuristic face with many glass openings, curved lines and state-of-the-art equipment. A major challenge will be the transfer of equipment from Atatürk airport to the new site in a delicate operation at the end of December which will last 45 hours.
Turkish Airlines, the flagship of the Turkish economy, which will provide the first commercial flight from the new airport to Ankara on Wednesday, intends to take advantage of the size of the new airport to expand its offer. “Next year, we will add 40 aircraft to our fleet. By 2023, we will carry 120 million passengers per year ”, explains an executive of the company who requested anonymity.
This airport is part, with the third bridge over the Bosphorus and the tunnel under the same strait inaugurated in 2016, of the major infrastructure projects ardently defended by Mr. Erdogan who wants to transform Turkey in time for the centenary of the Republic, into 2023. But at what cost? The construction of the airport was indeed accompanied by controversies, particularly concerning its impact on the environment.
Criticism arose last month of the roughly 34,000 workers working hard to meet deadlines. Several hundred of them were arrested after demonstrating to demand improvements in their conditions and to denounce delays in the payment of wages. Most have been released, but around 20 are still imprisoned. According to the IGA, 30 workers have died on the site since the start of the work. A figure largely underestimated according to unions.
Finally, the presence scheduled for Monday at the inauguration of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court, risks making people cringe.