By Muhammed Ali Gurtas and Tuba Sahin
ANKARA (AA) – Istanbul Airport, the “world's new hub,” officially opened on Monday, the 95th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic.
Speaking at the massive new airport’s inauguration ceremony, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it would be a model to the world in terms of its architecture, construction, operation, and financing.
"We see Istanbul Airport as an investment not only in our country but also in our region and the world," said Erdogan.
Erdogan said once all its stages are completed, Istanbul Airport will serve 150 million passengers annually.
"If needed, the annual capacity can be raised to 200 million," he added.
Erdogan noted that the airport will continue to grow over the next decade, until all phases are completed by 2028.
Turkish airports nationwide welcomed nearly 164 million people between this January and September, with over 31 percent of air passengers using Istanbul Ataturk Airport, up to now Turkey’s busiest airport.
– $11.6B total investment
After the country’s national flag carrier, Turkish Airlines, shifts to the new airport — Istanbul Airport — by year's-end, Ataturk Airport will transition to other uses, such as training activities, aviation fairs, and civil use.
"Ataturk Airport will maintain its status as an airport but it will be closed to commercial flights," Erdogan said.
The new airport represents a €10.3 billion ($11.6 billion) investment in all its phases, said Erdogan, adding that it will provide nearly €22.2 billion ($25.3 billion) in revenue to the government.
"There is no Treasury guarantee or similar commitment in the financing of Istanbul Airport," Erdogan said.
The €6 billion ($7.2 billion) first stage, which was built in nearly three years through a public-private partnership model, is one of a series of mega-projects planned for Turkey’s 2023 centennial.
On Monday, two runways — stretching 3,750 and 4,100 meters long — went into service as a part of the first phase, including three separate airstrips.
At full capacity — with the completion of all four phases with six runways — Istanbul Airport is set to become a global aviation hub by hosting more than 100 airlines and flights to over 300 destinations around the world.