October 28, 2018

Istanbul New Airport; needed or not?


Istanbul New Airport opens tomorrow. It will be the largest size & capacity airport in the world when all its phases are completed. Although it comes with discussion and criticism in every project of this caliber in history, it is certain that it gives rise to excitement and thrill. Its marathon run will start tomorrow to prove itself.

Increasing the capacity with an additional new mid-size airport at the different point of the city can also be a solution proposal by protecting existing airport. There are already examples such as London, Paris and Moscow. Unfortunately, this approach is not very comfortable for the passenger. Especially the fact that connected flights are at different airports increases the risk of missed flights. Not to mention the luggage transfer. The risk of losing and damaging the luggage by airline is increasing. If the passenger carries his luggage in a crowded city environment; then his satisfaction is decreasing.

Apart from that, all future civil aviation vision is based on direct (non-connection) flights. Particularly, long flights are attempted to be direct, while independent small airports would need to divide arriving and departing passengers unnecessarily.

While providing services with multiple airports, keeping the quality of the service is another problem. Some of the airports are new and modern, while others are old-fashioned and neglected. The more transfer passengers among the airports are increasing, dissatisfaction is increasing. When airlines are allocated to particular airports according to their price categories, service inequality arises more for passengers. The public transport costs that unite the airports are swelling. Transfer passengers with large baggage are added to the city's own daily public transport circulation. As the capacities are divided among multiple airports, high comfort and fast solutions becomes less and less feasible. For example, it is possible to operate the express train lines from the airport to the city center at frequent intervals of 10-15 minutes, only if the passenger density exceeding a certain threshold. Not enough passenger; no express lines.

Atatürk Airport is an airport trapped in the city as of now. The load of the passengers who come to the airport is also added to the daily public transportation load which is already crowded enough. When the Atatürk Airport passenger operation is completely stopped, this additional load will be withdrawn from a part of the city that creates the bottleneck. That's a big relief.

Additional to increased passenger capacity with new bridges, destinations, airlines (also means competition), it will also contribute to Turkey’s another need in the background; aircraft maintenance capacity. Turkey’s aircraft maintenance capacity was not developed in parallel with the increased total number of aircraft in recent years. The capacity to maintain large-body aircraft is insufficient. Almost every airline is forced to get services from a maintenance center outside of Turkey. This means a bleeding economy, especially for an import & export balance sensitive country like Turkey. It is not very reasonable to open an aircraft maintenance center as an independent company (airport) apart from a commercial airport because the runway, taxiways and all infrastructure investment must be of the same quality as a regular airport. If the current passenger capacity of an airport is exceeded, and there are insufficient maintenance centers, the most reasonable solution is to focus on a solution that combines these two needs.

The last but surely not the least issue is the future further growth. When relatively small and limited number passenger new airports are built in a location that is narrow and does not allow for expansion, the same expansion problem will sooner or later start. Therefore, it is a much more reasonable solution to create a free space for additional expansion that is expected to be added to the existing capacity.

When we put all these factors on the table, it becomes more and more obvious that a new airport on this scale is needed.