Turkish Airports Upward Performance in 2019
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Muhammed Yılmaz

Turkish Airports Upward Performance in 2019

Issue 3 - 2020
Turkish Airports Upward Performance in 2019

In 2019, globally 1,303 airlines conducted operations with 31,717 aircraft in their fleet between 3,759 airports, and approximately 4.5 billion people traveled by plane. The airports in Turkey hosted 209 million passengers, including transit passengers in 2019. Increasing fuel prices and the negative effect of instability and the upward trend in exchange rates had a direct impact on domestic flights and the number of passengers. In Turkey, the number of domestic passengers decreased by 11.3% compared to the previous year and was published as 100.1 million, while the number of international passengers increased by 11.4% and reached 108.7 million. Let’s have closer look at the highlights of the 2019 status reports of the airports in our country. Istanbul Airport opens its doors! 2019 will be remembered as the beginning of a new era in Turkish aviation. Istanbul Airport was tendered as the biggest project in the history of the Republic of Turkey on May 3, 2013, valued at € 22,152 billion. The construction activities were initiated on June 7, 2014 and it was launched with full capacity on April 6, 2019. On June 21, 2018, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made the first flight to the airport, which was built by IGA (Istanbul Grand Airport) which is a consortium of 5 companies. The airport will be operated by the this consortium throughout a 25-year period. The first phase of the airport was planned to be inaugurated on October 29, 2018, with two runways and a terminal with a capacity of 90 million passengers per year. The move to the airport, which was constructed under the shadow of many debates and discussions such as the name of the airport, its location, predominant wind directions in the region, its proximity to Bulgarian airspace, whether it is on the bird migration path, the environmental impact assessment report, the working conditions of the workers, was first postponed to December 31, 2018 and then it was announced that a gradual transition process would be followed as the flag carrier, Turkish Airlines started conducting several domestic and international flights from Istanbul Airport. Later, the date of the great move was revised to take place on March 3, then it was adjusted to April 6, 2019. Finally, the great move, which was referred to as “the big bang” and was scheduled to last 45 hours, was successfully completed in a shorter duration than expected (33 hours) and Istanbul Airport officially started its activities with the IST code. During the great move, where more than 1,800 employees were on task and took charge, nearly 47,300 tons of materials were transported from Atatürk Airport to Istanbul Airport. The trucks carrying these loads covered a total of 400 thousand kilometers during the impressive operation, in other words, the trucks traveled an equivalent of 10 times around the world during the great move. The last passenger flight from Ataturk Airport was made by Turkish Airlines on April 6 at 02:00 between Istanbul and Singapore and then Atatürk Airport, where the foundations of Turkish aviation were laid, and was closed to commercial passenger flights. The first flight after moving to Istanbul Airport was made between Istanbul and Ankara; just like it was with Atatürk Airport 86 years ago (it was called Yeşilköy Airport in those days). Onur Air was the first private airline that landed at Istanbul Airport and Oman Air was the first international airline. Etihad Airways’ Airbus A330, which made the Abu Dhabi-Düsseldorf flight, became the first aircraft to diverted to Istanbul Airport. 2020 forecast for Istanbul Airport After the launch at full capacity, Istanbul Airport continued operations under the shadow of various discussions such as long taxi times, the length of the walkways inside the terminal and the lack of the rail system from the city center. The airport ended the year 2019 with a total of 52.5 million passengers, 12.7 million of which were domestic passengers and 39.8 million international passengers. 73 airlines conducted flights in Istanbul Airport and the target was set to exceed 80 airlines in 2020. Kadri Samsunlu who CEO of IGA announced that the 3rd runway will be put into service on June 18, 2020 which will reduce the taxi times that passengers have complained about. In the last quarter of 2020, the Istanbul Airport metro is also planned to be put into service. Record growth at Sabiha Gökçen Airport and construction of the second runway Sabiha Gökçen Airport is located on the Anatolian side of Istanbul and has continued its growth throughout 2019. The foundations of the airport which were laid in 1998 and officially launched in 2001, a record increase in the number of passengers and flight traffic was achieved in 2019 especially thanks to Pegasus Airlines` upward growth trend in the aviation industry, in particular areas such as the steps taken for the development of the Turkish aviation industry, as well as meeting demands beyond expectations by providing services to regions in its hinterland. Sabiha Gökçen Airport wrapped up 2019 with a total number of 35.4 million passengers, 21.4 million of which were domestic and 14 million were international. These figures made Sabiha Gökçen Airport number one in Turkey in terms of the number of domestic passengers and number three in terms of the total number of passengers. However, 2020 did not start well for Sabiha Gökçen Airport. On January 7, the Boeing 737 of Pegasus Airlines flying from Sharjah skid off the runway and the airport was closed to all flights for about 24 hours. This was followed by an accident of the Boeing 737 belonging to Pegasus Airlines flying from Izmir on February 5 due to a runway excursion. Even though these two incidents bring up many discussions about the airport, the most prominent detail is that the second runway at the airport has not been completed yet. The sole runway, which was referred to as `fatigued ` by the Minister of Transport Cahit Turan following the accident which resulted in the interruption of all flights for hours, the non-stop daily flight operations continued due to devoted overhaul staff operations within limited time at night. The non-completion of the 2nd runway, which was tendered back in 2014 and was planned to be constructed in 2015, is a matter of debate. Moreover, the fact that Istanbul Airport was built from scratch during this period further increases question marks. The announcement made by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, “Due to the ongoing maintenance activities and traffic intensity, additional frequency/new flight permit applications other than domestic/international, scheduled/non-scheduled, periodic/individual flight permits to Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport will not be evaluated by our Directorate General at this stage.”, this statement seems to indicate that the 2020 performance of the airport is likely to fall slightly. On the other hand, we need to note that the Defense Industry Presidency shared a comment with the public at the 2019 press conference stating that the construction of the Sabiha Gökçen Airport’s 2nd Runway is expected to be completed and the construction of the new terminal building will be initiated in 2020. Another surprise decision for Sabiha Gökçen Airport in 2020 was from Turkish Airlines. The airline made the decision to transfer all domestic and international flights from/to Sabiha Gökçen Airport to Anadolu Jet which trade mark of Turkish Airlines. The most punctual airport with only one runway! Reaching 35 million passengers annually with a single runway, Sabiha Gökçen Airport also achieved a surprising achievement. In the Airport Punctuality Report issued by the UK based research company OAG, which tracks timely departure performance of operations at airports, Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport managed to reach the top of the list with its 83.42% on-time take-off performance rate in the airport category with an annual passenger number between 20 and 30 million. Minneapolis and Detroit airports from the U.S. followed Sabiha Gökçen Airport. Miami, Doha, Houston, Las Vegas, Tokyo Narita, Rome, Vienna, Boston, Sydney and Zurich airports took part in the top 20 list as well. It was considered to be a big surprise that the airport, which is the constantly criticized by passengers for flight delays was chosen as the “most punctual airport”. This is a noted success well because the airport manages flight traffic extraordinarily with a single runway. Antalya Airport continues growth Antalya Airport is one of the most-visited touristic cities in the world and has been increasing its number of passengers each year. The airport concluded 2019 with 7 million domestic and 28.6 million international passengers. With these figures, it reached the achievement of becoming Turkey`s 2nd largest airport in terms of both international flights and the total number of passengers. In parallel with the increase in the number of tourists visiting the city, the tender process for the expansion of the terminal and new additional investments related to increasing the airport’s capacity are going on. As a consequence of these positive advancements, the number of passengers at Antalya Airport is expected to increase in the upcoming period. Ankara Esenboğa Airport, which ranked 5th after Istanbul Airport, Sabiha Gökçen, Antalya and Atatürk Airports with 13.6 million passengers in terms of total number of passengers, suffered from a serious loss of 21% in domestic flights in 2019 and hosted only 11.4 million passengers. Even if it increased its international passengers by 1% to 2.3 million, it could not manage to avoid an 18% decrease in the total number of passengers compared to the previous year. Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport ranked just after Ankara Esenboğa Airport and hosted 12.4 million passengers in 2019. This airport also went through a considerable decline in the number of domestic passengers compared to 2018. Although the airport hosted only 9 million domestic passengers in 2019 with a 15% loss, it saw an increase in the number of international passengers by 22% reaching 3.3 million passengers. Dalaman and Milas Bodrum Airports were amongst the few airports that achieved an increase in the total number of passengers compared to the previous year. The airports, which suffered greatly from shrinkage in the domestic flight market in Turkish aviation, managed to balance this loss with an increase in the number of international passengers. While Dalaman Airport closed in 2019 with a total of 4.9 million passengers, 3.3 million of which were international flights, Milas Bodrum Airport achieved a yearend total number of 4.3 million passengers, 1.9 million of which were international passengers. How did our airports begin 2020? According to the aircraft, passenger and load statistics of the General Directorate of State Airports Authority for January 2020, domestic passenger traffic at airports with service across Turkey was recorded as 7,799,042, and international passenger traffic was 6,131,774. Thus, total passenger traffic including direct transit passengers in January was recorded as 13,952,310. Considering that the number of domestic passengers was 8,579,242 and international passengers was 5,469,813 during the same period of 2019, it is possible to forecast that the downward trend in the number of domestic passengers and the rise in international passengers will continue in 2020. It is also possible to make the same analysis regarding the number of passengers at Istanbul Airport. In January 2020, Istanbul Airport, which is our country’s most important gateway abroad, served a total of 5,276,260 passengers, 1,263,808 of which were domestic passengers and 4,012,452 were international passengers. When the number of passengers of Atatürk Airport and Istanbul Airport were considered together in the same period of 2019, the number of domestic passengers was recorded as 1.46 million and the number of international passengers was 3.75 million

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