Air Transportation Infrastructure

During the first four months of 2014, Turkish airports handled a total of 43.9 million passengers. That is 17% more than same period last year. Istanbul Atatürk airport alone welcomed 17.2 million people, up 11% YoY. Combined passenger traffic with Sabiha Gökcen airport across the Bosphorus reached 23.8 million. Overall in 2014 total visitors and transits that use Turkish airports are expected to reach 167 million. By 2016 it will be 200 million.


The bright dots in the blue evening sky are incoming air traffic towards Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport- one landing per almost 2 minutes

These are serious numbers. Air traffic in Turkey has tripled in the last five years and growth does not seem abating despite regional conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, or local political troubles.

Here are some statistics:

  • Between 2006 and 2012 air traffic in Turkey grew 14% on average. The closest contender is India which grew 11%. Traffic in EU27 grew 6%, US was flat, Japan actually declined.
  • Istanbul increased its hub connectivity the most among competing hubs in Europe and the Middle East. Paris’ Charles de Gaulle, London’s Heathrow’s connectivity declined in 2012. Capacity expansions in the two existing airports and the new third airport (the world’s largest) will increase this even further
  • Turkish Airlines fly to the most destinations in the world. Its fleet is younger than its European rivals with more capacity expansion underway.
  • Its not only airlines, overall the Turkish state is pouring enormous resources into improving its transportation infrastructure. Between 2014 and 2013, 34% of  total Turkish investments will go into building new highways, high speed train networks, bridges, ports, and airports. A fast train connection between Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey’s two largest cities, is due opening this month.

Three major factors are in play to support increasing travel in Turkey. The first is the high share of tourism revenues- at 11% of GDP Turkey’s tourism revenues ranks among the top (Japan’s tourism revenues make up merely 2% of its GDP). The second factor is the seweet GDP spot. History shows that as countries hit US$ 11,000 per capita GDP,  traffic starts to accelerate. Turkey hit that  middle-income threshold in 2011. The third factor is the young demographics.

When you are in Istanbul it is impossible not to notice the vibe. The picture above is taken from the spacious balcony of one of Istanbul’s fashionable shopping malls, Aqua Florya. Notice the frequency of incoming air traffic. A seemingly endless stream of planes kept appearing in the horizon one after another, lined up to land at the city’s busy Ataturk Airport. At one point, I was able to fit four planes in one photo frame. That is approximately one landing in about two minutes.

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