Turkey’s biggest airports all saw international traffic soar in 2018.

TURKEY. Passenger traffic at Turkey’s airports broke the 200 million barrier for the first time in 2018, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure.

The preliminary figure is 210.2 million, a sharp 8.6% increase. This is based on 56 state-owned airports mostly operated by DHMI, Turkey’s General Directorate of State Airports Authority. The largest airports were Istanbul Atatürk with 68 million passengers (up 6%), Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen with 34.1 million (up 9%), and Antalya at 31.6 million (up 22%).

The growth driver at the larger gateways was international traffic which saw an average increase of over 16%. At the three leading airports above, the growth rates were 10%, 13% and 30% respectively. The extra traffic offered a strong base for these airports’ commercial sales.

One of the factors in the rise has been a rebound in Russian leisure traffic to Turkish resorts after Russia lifted its ban on holiday charter flights to Turkey in 2016. The ban was a response to the shooting down of a Russian attack aircraft by the Turkish Air Force in 2015.

The chart shows passenger traffic at selected major airports in Turkey, 2017 versus 2018. Source: DHMI. (Click to enlarge)

In the first nine months of 2018, Turkish Airlines increased both passengers and cargo significantly, with sales revenue up by 20% to US$9.9 billion, compared to the same period in 2017. The carrier now operates flights to 49 domestic and 255 international destinations, with routes to Freetown, Samarkand, Krasnodar and Moroni opened last year.

Turkey has become the fourth-largest air transport power in Europe. With the official inauguration of Istanbul New Airport late last year – and yesterday’s second phase of retail openings – there is a positive outlook for the aviation market, with travel retail sales set to benefit.

DHMI is a government unit that directly operates 49 Turkish airports. The rest – including Istanbul New Airport – are operated as long-term concessions.