Turkey's new Istanbul airport to be world's largest

Turkey's new Istanbul airport to be world's largest

The airport is being built in the Arnavutkoy district on the European side of Istanbul. (AFP File Photo)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday unveiled Istanbul's new international airport, which his government claims to be the world's largest.

One of the president's favoured mega-projects, Erdogan says the 10.5 billion euros ($12 billion) project will make Istanbul a global travel hub linking Europe, Asia and Africa and turn flag carrier Turkish Airlines into an aviation giant.

Herewith some facts and figures:

By year's end, the new airport will be able to handle up to 90 million passengers annually, ranking it in the world's top five. This will rise to 200 million passengers when all facilities are completed in 2028, by which time it could well be number one.

In 2017, that title was held by Atlanta airport in the US, with just under 104 million passengers, according to Airport Council International (ACI) figures. Next came Beijing on 95.7 million passengers, Dubai 88.2 million, Tokyo 85.4 million and Los Angeles 84.5 million.

In Europe, London-Heathrow ranked seventh globally with 78 million passengers last year. Paris-Charles de Gaulle came in 10th on 69.4 million, Amsterdam 11th with 68.5 million, Frankfurt 14th at 64.5 million and then Istanbul in 15th position with 64.1 million.

The ACI said Turkish air traffic grew 10.9% last year, picking up the pace in the first half of 2018 to 15.7%.

The airport is being built in the Arnavutkoy district on the European side of Istanbul.

It is the first completely new "greenfield" facility in Europe in nearly 20 years, the ACI says.

When all four construction phases are complete in 2028, the airport will have six runways and two terminal buildings, covering an area of 76 square kilometres, according to operator IGA.

The last totally new airport in Europe was Athens which entered service in 2001, preceded by Munich in 1992.

The International Air Transport Association says global air traffic is growing at an annual rate of 3.5%.

That means 4.1 billion passengers will take to the air this year, doubling to 8.2 billion by 2037.

Industry body IATA repeatedly warns that airports around the world will struggle to deal with this expansion, urging governments to make the necessary investment to keep up.

Erdogan is expected to reveal the airport's new name at a lavish ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1300 GMT Monday.

The new facility replaces Istanbul's ageing Ataturk Airport and the launch takes place on the 95th anniversary of modern Turkey's founding by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

However, the president, who has been accused by secularists of undermining Ataturk's legacy, has indicated he would prefer not to have the new airport named after the founder.

Many observers predict Erdogan, who often references the Ottoman Empire, will instead name it after an Ottoman-era sultan such as Abdulhamid II. Some supporters have even argued it should carry Erdogan's name.