Many travelers have noticed that Istanbul's largest airport, Ataturk, has been experiencing increasing delays in departures. bne has twice flown out of the airport in the past month: both flights were about an hour late in taking off due to heavy traffic on the runway. During the third week of April Ataturk airport received the questionable honor of being called the number one airport in Europe in terms of flight delays and second in cancellations. The ranking was based on a data provided by FlightStats, a website, which offers worldwide flight on-time performance information to the global travel and transportation industries.
On Wednesday Turkey's Minister of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Binali Yildirim was questioned about the delays at a press conference in Leipzig, Germany on the sidelines of the International Transport Forum (ITF). Yildirim said that the government was working on the issue. The delays were taking place due to increasing numbers of flights from and to the airport, he added.
In the past nine years, there has been around 8m flights annually at the Ataturk International Airport. This figure jumped to 38m in 2011. The airport size has stayed the same while the number of flights have increased by five fold. No one should expect things to continue as in the past at the Ataturk Airport, the minister highlighted. "We have taken a decision to construct a third airport in Istanbul. Once the third airport goes into service, things will get better," Yildirim reassured the reporters.
Yildirim is not the only one who seems to think that a third airport would be the best solution for the traffic problem. THY Chairman Hamdi Topcu said in an interview on Haberturk TV last Monday that Istanbul needs a third airport, apart from Ataturk International Airport and Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen International Airport, as soon as possible.
According to Topcu, Ataturk International Airport doesn't have the capacity to meet growing demand. The capacity can be increased by taking over the operation of a nearby military airport and moving the military functions to another location in the city, he said. "By doing this the capacity of the airport can be increased because more runways will be provided at the airport," Topcu added.
THY lost around $110m in 2011 due to delayed or canceled flights resulting from capacity problems at the airport, that forced them to compensate passengers for hotel rooms and meals, said Topcu. "Who would cover that loss?" he asked.
Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas announced in 2010 that the city planned to construct another airport in the Silivri or Kemerburgaz districts. Things are finally moving forward and on the last week of April Yildirim announced that the government is planning to hold a tender this year for the construction of a third airport for Istanbul.