Wondering how many airports are in Istanbul? There are three airports in Istanbul, but only two active airports; Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) and Istanbul International Airport (IST), with the third Ataturk International Airport (ISL) in a current state of demolition.
However, most foreigners might only know of Istanbul International Airport (IST) and Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) because Ataturk Airport no longer has any commercial passenger flights.
Below we’ll talk about all of the three airports of Istanbul and what you need to know about them!
Planning a trip to Istanbul last-minute?
Make sure you book your tours, places to stay, and airport transfers ahead of time to ensure availability!
Here is our recommended private transfer to the airport in Istanbul:
- Airport Shuttle From Istanbul Airport (IST) or Sabiha Gocken International Airport (SAW) (Super affordable!)
Here are our recommended tours in Istanbul:
- Luxury Bosphorus Cruise At Sunset (A must-do In Istanbul)
- Whirling Dervishes Show (Unique experience!)
- Historical Turkish Bath Experience
- Istanbul Food And Culture Tour
Here are our recommended places to stay in Istanbul:
Ataturk International Airport (ISL)
Ataturk International Airport (ISL) is the oldest airport in Istanbul. It used to be one of the world’s busiest airports, serving over 60 million passengers at its peak.
Since April 2019, all passenger commercial flights have been rerouted to the new Istanbul International Airport (IST). More recently in February 2022, all cargo flights and operations have also been rerouted to the new airport.
Istanbul Ataturk Airport officially came to life in 1933 when today’s Turkish Airlines started operations with just two Curtiss Kingbird aircraft.
It flew to two destinations, Athens in Greece and Ankara, the capital of Turkey. Its discontinued use in 2019 marks 86 years of history of one of the most significant airports in the world.
With the airport completely defunct, work began to demolish Istanbul Atatürk Airport in May 2022 which caused widespread outrage, since oppositions were against spending millions of dollars to demolish a billion dollar airport. The plan is to eventually turn the area into a park.
Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW)
Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) opened in 2001 due to the overwhelming of passengers at Ataturk International Airport. Unlike ISL, SAW Airport is situated on the Asian side of Istanbul in Pendik, about 32 km (20 mi) southeast of the city centre.
Named after Sabiha Gökçen, the first female fighter pilot in the world, this airport is one of the two international airports in Istanbul.
Originally, the Sabiha Gökçen Airport was designed to hold 3 million international passengers and 0.5 domestic passengers per year.
However, it didn’t take long for the numbers to exceed that, and the government responded by upgrading the international terminal to hold 25 million passengers.
While Sabiha Gokcen International Airport is an international airport, it’s a common airport used for regional flights and is the main hub of airlines AnadoluJet and Pegasus Airlines.
As of 2022, the annual passenger going through Sabiha Gökçen Airport has already way surpassed that with over 30 million passengers.
Facilities at Sabiha Gokcen International Airport
Sabiha Gokcen International Airport offers a range of facilities for passengers.
The airport has several dining options, including cafes and restaurants, as well as a Plaza Premium Lounge for lounge card holders.
For those looking to indulge in some retail therapy while they wait for their flight will find a duty-free area with shops offering a variety of products.
Passengers who have a long layover will find Kepler Cabins, which are sleeper units where passengers can take a nap. There is also an airport hotel, and prayer rooms are available for those seeking a quiet space for religious observance.
Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the airport.
How To Get To Sabiha Gokcen International Airport ?
Getting to SAW is quite straightforward via public transportation.
Though it is not (yet) connected by the metro, there are Havabus that takes you to the popular neighborhoods in Istanbul, such as Taksim Square, Hagia Sophia, and Kadıköy.
However, it should be worth noting that SAW is quite far from the historic centre, which is situated on the European side of the city.
It can take up 2 hours journey time by bus and metro transfer to get there, and more if there is traffic.
You can also catch a high-speed train to Pendik Train Station, which is located 14km from Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen International Airport. From here you can catch a taxi to the main terminal building.
Istanbul International Airport (IST)
Perhaps the most popular airport in Istanbul is the Istanbul International Airport (IST), also sometimes referred to as Istanbul New Airport. It was completed in 2019, and since then has overtaken all functions of the old Ataturk Airport.
It’s the main airport in Istanbul and the one that most flights from overseas fly into. It’s also a major transit hub and the seventh busiest airport in the world, seeing 64,289,107 passengers in 2022.
It is located on the European side of Istanbul in an area known as Arnavutköy, approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the historic center.
Istanbul Airport is one of the most impressive and biggest airports of all time. Not only has been constantly rated as one of the best airports in the world, but it was the busiest airport in Europe in 2021 with 37 million passengers.
According to the airport, it aims to be the biggest airport in the world by 2028 with a capability to serve 200 million passengers per year.
The entire area of 76.5 million square meters, which is a little bit bigger than the city of Leicester in the UK. There are five concourses in the airport – A, B, D, F, and G.
Concourses A, B, D, and F only serve international flights while concourse G only serves domestic flights.
Istanbul International Airport, although currently in use, is still being expanded. It’s expected to have four terminals, six runways, eight control towers, 165 passenger boarding bridges, and three technical buildings when it’s finished (expected 2028).
Its control tower is in the shape of a Tulip, which is the national flower of Turkey!
Turkish Airlines’ main operating headquarters is in IST Airport, and also connects with other major international airlines such as Emirates and British Airways.
Facilities at IST Airport
Istanbul International Airport is known for its many outstanding features, the first of which is its high ceilings and modern amenities.
Walking through the airport gives off the feeling that you are walking through a five-star hotel.
The airport also has plenty of sleeping capsules where visitors can rent and get some peaceful sleep. Throughout the airport, you’ll find plenty of seating areas and plugs for your electronics.
Though there is WiFi in the airport, it requires phone confirmation by sending you a text message. We’ve never been able to receive this text message with an international number.
There are also WiFi kiosks throughout the airport where you can scan your passport and get one hour of free WiFi.
This is a futuristic airport, so you can find all the luxurious amenities such as lounges, duty-free shops, cafes, and more!
How to Get to Istanbul International Airport?
Istanbul Airport is very easy to get to from the city center. At the end of 2022, the Istanbul Airport became accessible via the M11 Metro line.
To get to the airport via the metro, you should take the metro Şişli-Mecidiyeköyis Station, and from here you can change onto the M11 line that takes you all the way to the airport.
Another great option is taking the Havaist Line (bus) from Sultanahmet IST 1S to the airport. The airport is connected by the Havaist shuttle buses and the IETT buses.
Both of these buses take you directly from the airport to many parts of the city, including the historic centre.
📚Related Reading: How to Get to The Asian Side from Istanbul Airport
FAQs About Airports in Istanbul Turkey
How many airports in Istanbul?
Although there are officially three airports in Istanbul, only two of them are currently in operation; Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) and Istanbul International Airport (IST)
What is the Istanbul Airport code?
The airport code for Istanbul International Airport is IST, and sometimes referred to as LTFM, whereas Sabiha Gokcen International Airport’s code SAW.
What happened to Istanbul Atatürk Airport?
Demolition of Istanbul Atatürk Airport began in May 2022, and there has been no completion date announced for this.
So there you have it, now you know what are the 3 airports in Istanbul, how to get to them, and what they are used for.
Though the legacy of the Ataturk Airport will never be forgotten, it is sad to see such a historic place go.
In the meantime, visitors can enjoy a more modern way of flying through the new Istanbul International Airport and the Sabiha Gokcen International Airport.