The transfer of operations from IST to ISL will begin on April 5 at 3:00 am local time and will continue until April 7 at midnight, according to Hurriyet Daily News. During the transfer period, both airports will be operating with a reduced capacity – 35 arrivals and 35 departures per hour – and will only be available for base carriers’ flights. Upon completion of the transfer, IST is slated for closure but will remain available to flights permitted by the Turkish General Directorate of State Airports (DHMI).
Delays to the transfer of airport operations could be due to several reasons. First, the director general of the Turkish Airports Authority (DHMI), Funda Ocak, who has been overseeing the ISL project, retired from her position on Feb. 13, likely due to political pressure and economic problems caused by rising costs of opening the airport, according to La Quotidienne. Following this retirement, local authorities expressed concern that the opening of the airport may not go smoothly, which may have contributed to the decision in delaying the transfer of operations to after local elections on March 31.
Funding for construction of the airport has also been an issue. Money for the project was originally intended to be covered by a consortium of construction firms – including Cengiz, Limak, Kalyon, Kolin and Mapa – but then required additional funds, covered by Turkish public funds and the private banks. Turkish Airlines’ Airport Real Estate Investment and Operation subsidary has also expressed interest acquiring a stake in the airport since August last year. According to Ahval, the subsidiary is now preparing to take over between 40 to 60 percent of the shares, which would make the airline into a majority partner in ISL.
Turkish Cargo, the subsidiary of Turkish Airlines, has been heavily invested in the new airport as it seeks to bolster its operations, and is constructing a “SmartIST” cargo hub at the airport terminal. The subsidiary’s SmartIST hub is launching with 2 million tonnes of capacity that will increase to 4 million tonnes once the construction of facilities is finished. Although the cargo carrier recently marked the beginning of its move to the airport on Feb. 4, transfer of its operations are not yet complete.
Despite delays to the transfer of carriers and beginning of operations, ISL will be an airport to watch, given its massive cargo facilities, central location for global e-commerce and inheritance of cargo volumes from IST.