Welcoming Global Visitors via Istanbul Airport
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Welcoming Global Visitors via Istanbul Airport

Issue 1 - 2019
Welcoming Global Visitors via Istanbul Airport
Istanbul Airport will be a record breaking and trend setting airport as it soars to become the most critical global aviation hub. In an exclusive Aviation Turkey Magazine interview, Mr. H. Kadri Samsunlu / IGA Airport Chairman of the Executive Board & CEO Istanbul Airport discusses how the airport is a spot-on project, benefiting not only Turkey’s economy but also global aviation as a whole, enabling airlines to fly to more destinations worldwide. Upon completion of all phases, Istanbul Airport will be able to serve 200 million passengers annually. Currently, the airport hosts a yearly capacity of 90 million passengers. The new airport will be one of the greatest ‘hubs’ serving 300 destinations, 250 of them international.
Aviation Turkey: Dear Mr. Samsunlu, the opening ceremony of the Istanbul Airport took place on October 29, 2018. As of October 31, 2018, the Airport launched its services with the first flight between Istanbul – Ankara. This massive airport spans an area over 76.5 million square meters has provided employment opportunities to 16 thousand people upon its launch. Could you please share a bit with us about IGA’s future outlook?

H. Kadri Samsunlu: As you also mentioned, following a construction period that lasted 42 months , which could be regarded as a new record, Istanbul Airport occupies covers and area over 76.5 million square meters and was inaugurated on the 95th anniversary of our Republic on October 29, 2018 at a ceremony under the auspices of our President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The first flight departed from Istanbul to Ankara on October 31, 2018.

Istanbul Airport will contribute significantly to the Turkish economy in many respects. Developing the construction sector from the construction period towards the transition to the operation period, Istanbul Airport will contribute considerably to the economy and employment with the launch of the operation period. We inaugurated the first phase of our Airport in 2018, and our Airport will offer employment opportunities to 100 thousand people and provide a source of income to 1.5 million people indirectly. According to the “Istanbul Airport Economic Impact Analysis” report prepared by the independent think tanks and consultancy organizations, Istanbul Economy and Economy and Foreign Policy Research Center (EDAM) in 2016, the number of people either directly or indirectly employed by the Airport will reach 225 thousand people in 2025. When the direct, indirect, triggering and accelerating economic impact of the Istanbul Airport are combined under the Global Growth Scenario (Optimistic Scenario), it is projected that the impact of the activities connected with the Istanbul Airport will increase to 4.89% of the GDP in 2025.

We have a young and dynamic team with 5,580 people are currently employed within IGA. When we factor in all the brands, institutions and enterprises providing services, that figure exceeds tens of thousands within the Airport.

By employing the young talent that may be leading the global aviation industry at the world’s greatest airport, we aim to invest in their individual development while training the professionals of the aviation sector of the future. We have already launched our internship and training programs to this end. In 2018, 79 students completed their internships in various departments and at the end of the internship 18 of these students seized employment opportunities within our different departments, and we aim to accomplish services that will contribute to our goal of “operational excellence” with them.

We were awarded the “Best of Employment” award in 2018 and it was then, in a sense, an indicator of the importance we attach to the effective management of human resources and a demonstration of our accomplishments in this direction and this award made us proud. Currently we are currently very pleased with the creation of employment, added value to the economy and the investments that are being made in the younger generation.

Aviation Turkey: Istanbul Airport is located at the heart of global trade and aviation traffic, and it is geographically positioned at the intersection of Asia, Europe, Africa and Middle East. You aim to become one of the greatest global hubs. Could you please share the air transportation figures executed so far since April 6, 2019, the date when the Airport was fully launched after the great move? Did the figures achieved start to fulfil your expectations? What is your road map regarding the number of passengers forecasted for the year 2023?

H. Kadri Samsunlu: Turkey’s targets set forth for the year 2023 stand out as a reflection of a wide vision from the onset. As of the announcement of these goals, and as a result of all the steps taken under the leadership of our President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish economy is developing rapidly, giving confidence to foreign investors, extending and enriching its economic access from Latin America to Southeast Asia and Africa.

In order to support the export target of US$ 500 billion, Istanbul Airport will be the world’s new hub of aviation in passenger and cargo transportation with the added value it will create with a massive capacity and main terminal size of 1.4 million square meters. In light of all these developments and with the help of its ever-strengthening national economy, Turkey will easily reach its targets identified for the year 2023.

We aim to provide services to about 100 airlines within 5 years. In the duration of a day, the number of landing and takeoffs will reach 3,500 in the airport that will feature an aircraft capacity of 347 narrow – bodied aircraft and 266 wide – bodied aircraft when all phases have been completed. Since day one, with the first flight, which was conducted at 14:00 p.m. and including the transition operation to full capacity on April 6, 2019, over 8 million passengers flew through the Istanbul Airport by the end of May. I rely on the fact that these figures will increase further in the years ahead and we will achieve our target number of 90 million passengers, in a short period of time.

Aviation Turkey: With the opening of Istanbul Airport, international airline companies launched new lines and a total of 63 airline companies are now conducting flights to Istanbul Airport. What will be the number of airlines flying to Istanbul when all phases are completed and all runways are operational at Istanbul Airport?

H. Kadri Samsunlu: Our goal was already determined as we launched the Istanbul Airport project and we are working with all our strength in order to achieve this target. Istanbul Airport is the greatest proof of Turkey’s achievements in aviation. In terms of travel experiences, I have no doubt that we will soon be among the league of elite and few airports in terms of service volume by exceeding our current service capacity.

Presently, 2 runways and their alternates are in service at Istanbul Airport. Next year, we will be gearing up by opening the third runway. These developments indicate that Istanbul Airport will be Turkey’s door opening to the world…

We are collaborating with a very experienced team at Istanbul Airport and continuously evaluating our calculations. Our target is to exceed 100 million passengers at Istanbul Airport in 2023. Hopefully, we will achieve our target and enter the 100 m passengers per annum club. There are two airports in the world now that can reach the number of 100 million passengers on a yearly basis, the Atlanta and Beijing Airports. When all the phases are completed, Istanbul Airport will be able to serve 200 million passengers annually. Currently, the airport hosts a yearly capacity of 90 million passengers. The new airport will be one of the greatest ‘hubs’ with over 300 destinations, 250 of them international.

All international airline companies have launched services at Istanbul airport. 3 of these companies launched their initial operations in 2019 at Istanbul Airport. These airline companies are raising their travel service frequency every day, such as Ethiopian Airlines, Nouvelair and Indigo. In April, two new carriers launched their services at our airport as well. Moreover, Air Albania and Sichuan Airlines conducted their first flights at Istanbul Airport. Last year, 300-400 thousand Chinese tourists visited Turkey, there is a huge demand and we certainly have the infrastructure to fulfil such a demand. Istanbul Airport is a necessary and spot-on project and one of the indicators of this is the fact that airline companies that were not capable of opening slots are now able to fly to new destinations via our airport.

Aviation Turkey: IGA has realized remarkable implementation activities at Istanbul Airport, such as those related to air transportation security, ground support services, the environment and IT functions. Could you please inform us on these innovative industrial implementations and the particular areas of application? Additionally, please share your expectations regarding new implementations to be launched in the future?

H. Kadri Samsunlu: Istanbul Airport is one of the greatest infrastructure projects launched by Turkey during the recent period. When we examine all stages of this project, from the brainstorming stage to architecture, from the construction to the operational stage, we can witness the innovation and groundbreaking R&D achievements and the importance attached to these activities.

Since the beginning of the project IGA has been saying that Istanbul Airport will be a leading airport by becoming distinct at the point of travel experience. In addition to a classical understanding of operations, we will be serving with an operational and service approach that places priority on the travel experience. You can consider Istanbul Airport as an area where you can socialize 7/24 instead of merely a flight connection point within the days of your flights. Placing a spotlight on the overall travel experience at Istanbul Airport will be the fundamental difference that sets us apart from other airports. Vital elements such as technological features will stand out and I would like to highlight a few examples in this respect.

Tunnels were built in order to prevent apron traffic at Istanbul Airport. All ground services are executed via these tunnels instead of conducting transportation of technical vehicles at the apron. Additionally, in order to effectively meet the challenge of tracking an area of 76.5 million square meters, we implemented a system that gathers images captured via large cameras positioned at certain critical areas and built a virtual control tower operation inside a 300 square meter room. We are integrating the virtual control tower to the airport operation center. As the first such implementation in our country, this is quite critical.

Containing a rich collection of brands in the duty-free area, different from many shopping venues or airports, Istanbul Airport will offer an uninterrupted and excellent travel experience to passengers on 7/24 basis. With its distinct shopping and food & beverage options and activity areas, Istanbul Airport features the characteristics of being an interactive living space where passengers can arrive at least for a few hours prior to their flight and have fun with their families.

The airport is highly developed in terms of technology and we designed it to offer our passengers the highest level of comfort , raising the bar in their overall customer travel experience. Istanbul Airport is being equipped with a smart system, beacon, wireless internet, radio and new generation GSM infrastructure and LTE, sensor and speaking ‘objects’ for the convenience of the passengers. For instance, through the Istanbul Airport application, the transportation process from home to the airport can be easily optimized. We suggest that all our passengers download this application, which is based on data from the traffic in the cities which they will visit and they are able to plan all their experiences from the time they leave home until boarding of the plane, promoting effective time management and peace of mind for travelers.

The utilization of robots, artificial intelligence, face recognition or machines capable of processing, with other personal data, is available at the check-in or baggage claim points at Istanbul Airport as well. We are conducting efforts to enable robots and automated systems to welcome and facilitate the experience of our passengers. After a short while, robots will be welcoming our passengers.

Aviation Turkey: Upon the IATA approval given to the Fuel Supply Systems, IGA became the airport featuring the world’s greatest storage and hydrant systems. What are your assessments on this capability in terms of aviation safety, environmental impacts and operational facilities?

H. Kadri Samsunlu: Istanbul Airport is one of the few airports that has a tank space with a storage capacity of 300 thousand cubic meters, nearly a 105 km long pipeline, 512 aircraft supply points, 73 aircraft refueling vehicles and a seaport capable of conducting the refueling of two vessels with the capacity of 125,000 DWT and 50,000 DWT simultaneously. We are quite comfortable in an operational sense with the help of this system which is also approved by the IATA.

We continue to make our mark with our worldwide ‘firsts’ and ‘mosts’ at the Istanbul Airport. Additionally, one of these achievements has been made with our capacity in terms of fuel supply. Filters and equipment located in the standard aircraft refueling vehicles protect the aircraft from water, particles and excessive pressure, while the refueling vehicles at Istanbul Airport are capable of continuously controlling the water, particles and the pressure in addition to the execution of infiltration and pressure regulation. While maintaining environmental protection, we provide more qualified services to airline companies in operational terms. Such a system is advanced in terms of technology as well. We can automatically stop the fuel supply if there is a problem during infiltration. Due to the aforementioned systems, which are not utilized by even the most developed airports in the world, we provide the safest and most qualified method of fuel supply to the airlines at our airport.

Aviation Turkey: We know that Istanbul Airport attaches great importance to art. Many works of art transformed from waste are being displayed at the international lines as part of the exhibition of ‘Waste to Art’ and the revenues collected from these pieces were donated to charity organizations. Will your contribution to such social projects continue?

H. Kadri Samsunlu: One of the most critical and distinctive features of Istanbul Airport is art… We value art greatly and will continue to do so. In addition to the Waste to Art Project… We realized a total of 144 events in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism since the opening of the Istanbul Airport which we regard as Turkey’s doors opening to the world. From this perspective, we, as Istanbul Airport, continue to launch our artistic projects within an Istanbul oriented perspective.

Within the scope of these events, we hosted 80 different artists active in 6 different branches of art. We realized many artistic events such as Miniature Craft, Art of Paper Marbling, Calligraphy, Tile Art, Turkish Music and Classical Music at various points of our terminal. Currently, the Ara Güler Exhibition, Triumphal Statute Exhibition, Göbeklitepe Exhibition, Waste to Art Exhibition and Turkish Contemporary Art Exhibition that has been recently launched by the Turkish Airlines, are ongoing at Istanbul Airport.

As Istanbul Airport, we value art greatly as we believe that in our times, in addition to financial assets, the factors distinguishing institutions, in other words making them valuable is social sensitivity. And we are quite pleased with the support we provide in this sense specifically at Istanbul Airport.

Also, as a result of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the Europe Day, we hosted the exhibition of “Turkey from the perspective of European Union diplomats” which was composed of photographs taken in Turkey, with the participation of 18 ambassadors and diplomats from the European Union. This exhibition will be held at the airport until June 30th.

Aviation Turkey: You launched the ‘IGA PASS’ program to enable passengers to have comfortable and quality time at the airport prior to their flight, raising the bar of passenger experience to a higher level. Could you please inform us about the scope of this program?

H. Kadri Samsunlu: One of the most critical issues is the exclusive passenger program. At this point, we announced our new brand IGA PASS and services as IGA. While we were preparing full capacity operations, IGA also launched a new membership program to offer our passengers a privileged, comfortable and joyful travel experience. We refer to the exclusive passenger program as the IGA PASS and it is composed of three different services. As part of the membership program, Lounge, Buggy (Mini golf vehicle), Fast-Track, Priority Check-in, Parking, Valet and In-City Transfer services are provided. IGA Lounge is one of the most crucial service privileges of the IGA PASS program aiming to offer maximum comfort level and quality, contrary to the classical understanding of airport services. With this service, the IGA Lounge offers 24-hour services in a spacious 4,420 square meter area with a seating capacity of 584 people, an upscale atmosphere for passengers awaiting their flights at the airport.

Within the scope of this new membership program, extensive services were also taken into consideration for families with children. Children are able to play and watch cartoons while their parents are waiting in the Lounge. Parents will be able to monitor their children in the play-room via monitors in the Food and Beverage area. All details such as a children’s bathroom, a baby care unit and nursing room were taken into consideration at the IGA Lounge and the comfort of families with children were not missed. Furthermore, passengers will be able to preorder products that they wish to purchase via screens the IGA Lounge without the need to enter Duty Free shops as the products from the nearest Duty Free shop are displayed on the screen.

Containing details such as a billiard room, a game area and a cafe as well as showers, the IGA Lounge draws attention with its unique and extraordinary features. This area with televisions, special television chairs and private cinemas that will especially be a top choice of young passengers. Travelers will quickly get away from stressful worries and fatigue at Istanbul Airport and with welcomed details such as the dining hall, open buffet, relaxation area, billiards and game consoles, all details are designed to create a sense of holiday and comfort even when passengers are waiting at the airport.

Aviation Turkey: Despite the innovative implementations that you’ve mentioned, certain issues regarding operations at Istanbul Airport have also come up on the agenda. For instance, the number of active runways is currently two, and as it is mentioned, the aircraft taxi duration is quite lengthy as both of these runways were built on the west side of the terminal. Also, the third runway will be launched in a short period of time. Will the taxing duration decrease after the third runway is launched? Could you please share your comments on the latest status?

H. Kadri Samsunlu: We designed an airport that considers the comfort of passengers in every aspect and we have four active landing and take-off runways. Currently we are building our third runway and it will be completed within the first half of next year. Moreover, presently the taxi process varies from 9 to15 minutes both in domestic and international flights. It is now below the taxi durations experienced in the first weeks. This duration will decrease significantly with the launch of the third runway.

When all of these operational and traveler experience fine points are taken into consideration, Istanbul Airport is well on its way to becoming a record breaking and trend setting airport as it soars to become the most critical global aviation hub. We really believe in this and work adamantly toward this end

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