Turkey Airports Build: Tackling Demand

Turkish Airport BuildThis is part 2 in a 2-part series on Turkey airports build. In part 1, we looked at the current state of airports in Turkey. Istanbul's new airport is without any doubt more than a plan to solve Ataturk’s current saturation. The mega project ”won't only meet Turkey's needs, but also be a hub for all the traffic from west to east, east to west, from Africa to Europe”, Turkey’s transport minister said. Validated in 2013, the construction of the first phase should start this year and be achieved in 2016, to be able to handle 100 million passengers per year at that time.

Betting on Constant Growth

Is this figure huge? Maybe not. Ataturk is currently processing around 45 million passengers per year, and shows a growth that increased from 4% in 2007 - 2008 to 20% in 2011 - 2012. Doubling in size from 2012 to 2017 implies an annual growth of around 15% during the next five years. This doesn't seem unrealistic.

But still, can Turkey’s capital really manage to become the host of the busiest airport in the world, even before US aviation’s cornerstone Atlanta (90 million passengers in 2012), or the capital of the biggest country in the world (Beijing, 82 million passengers in 2012)? Why not, if large domestic demand is added to a Dubai-like model.

Turkey Competitors

Becoming a global hub are also Dubai and Doha’s ambitions. And even though Istanbul claims it has an advantage over those two, is such a fast growth rate possible to maintain for each competitor? Time will tell how the Istanbul-Doha-Dubai war - which actually looks like a Turkish Airlines - Qatar Airways - Emirates fight will turn. Those three profitable and very-well managed airlines are undoubtdly provided by their respective countries with very efficient infrastructures.

The competition could also come from the West, with major European airlines currently cutting costs. Turkish Airlines’ CEO is optimistic and stated that “these cities are not competitors and can work together to benefit the entire region”. His company had the fastest growth on international markets last year, before Emirates.

Four Phases Planned

Istanbul’s new airport is due to be fully completed in 2019, after four successive phases. At that time, it will be a 6-runway airport capable of handling 150 million passengers per year. Officials make a  strong bet on continuous growth: hosting 150 million passengers in 7 years means a year-to-year growth of around 19%!

Turkey Airports BuildRest of Turkey Gets Attention Also

Several airports are being built or extended in Turkey. OrduHakkari Yüksekova and Cukurova Regional Airport are three that are currently being built or extended. The former should serve 15 million passengers per year when it opens. But this capacity will quickly double, officials said. A couple of other projects are still to launch in other cities. Existing airports received improvements recently, 6 of them being provided with new terminals in 2013.

It is still important to see that Turkey already has a lot of -active- airports. Turkish airlines serves 41 distinct domestic airports. For comparison sake, Lufthansa serves 25 destinations in Germany, and Turkey’s main airlines serve around 55 different Turkish airports. Suprisingly, most routes are served with single-aisle jets, Boeings 737 or Airbuses A-320. Indeed, most carriers operate this type of jets, and only Borajet has regional jets in its fleet.

Air Traffic Management Not a Problem

Here is one more point where Turkey makes the exception. Despite a huge growth, in terms of passengers carried, but also in terms of number of flights, delays due to air traffic management are cut off. At Istanbul Ataturk, delays has been reduced by 80% between 2012 and 2013, and they are almost non existent today. Turkey is a member of Eurocontrol, and is actively cooperating with its European neighbors.

Turkey AirportsOpen Skies

Turkey has not yet reached an agreement with the European Commission about an open sky deal with the European Union. And even if it has, other open skies deals (with the US, etc), there are no forei gn airlines operating domestic flights in Turkey. Still, Turley could be part of the European open skies soon - probably in 2015. Many consequences are naturally expected - and figures could keep surging: competition and number of air transporters in the country will increase, and Turkish airlines will have opportunities abroad. Turkey is currently the highest generator of flights in the European airspace.

A Final Thought

Turkey is an emerging country, and consequently shares one common point with its fellows: it enjoys a growth of its air transport. But contrarily to many of those countries, where aviation is a mess, it seems that it is perfectly managed. From airlines, which are making profit and expanding quickly, to airports that are able to handle the growth pretty well, the performance is undeniably outstanding.

With such assets, Istanbul is on track to become a global hub and Turkish Airlines a global player, and this very soon.

References Air traffic rises in September Traffic continues to surge in Turkey CAPA analysis - Turkish Airlines: narrowing the Strategic Gulf CAPA analysis - Inside the world's biggest airport construction projects in 2013/14

Photos: Izmir, Istanbul and Ankara, courtesy of TAV Airports