By Kevin Rozario (London, United Kingdom)
Istanbul has been in the global limelight for the right and wrong reasons for a number of years. From vicious terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016, followed by an attempted coup also in 2016, and a continuing currency slide until last year, to the opening of the gleaming new Istanbul Grand Airport (IST) in October 2018.
Despite the problems, which also included a temporary Russian tourism boycott when one of its jets was shot down by Turkish forces in 2015, the country’s ambition to become a hub for global aviation, is being realised—with Istanbul at the heart of that goal. Given the city’s historical importance as a cultural and physical crossroads between Europe and Asia, the move is also symbolically significant.
In April 2019, Turkish Airlines’ and other traffic moved to the new 90 million passenger-capacity IST from the former hub of Atatürk Airport (new IATA code ISL) the latter now serving solely as a cargo gateway.
The switch-over has given a new impetus to Istanbul’s lesser-known other international airport – Sabiha Gökçen (SAW). The gateway has played second fiddle to Atatürk for years but the passenger shift to IST from ISL is seen by SAW as an opportunity.