How Many Airports Are In Istanbul?

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Written By Sean & Louisa

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Wondering how many airports are in Istanbul? There is actually a total of three airports in Istanbul – Ataturk International Airport (ISL), Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW), and Istanbul International Airport (IST).

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 in 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 airport transfer in Istanbul:

  1. Airport Shuttle From Istanbul Airport (IST) or Sabiha Gocken International Airport (SAW) (Super affordable!)

Here are our recommended tours in Istanbul:

  1. Luxury Bosphorus Cruise At Sunset (A must-do In Istanbul)
  2. Whirling Dervishes Show (Unique experience!)
  3. Historical Turkish Bath Experience
  4. Istanbul Food And Culture Tour

Here are our recommended places to stay in Istanbul:

  1. Magnuara Palace Hotel (Gorgeous hotel in the historic centre!)
  2. Pera Palace Hotel
  3. Cheers Hostel (Budget hostel near the Blue Mosque!)

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). And recently in February 2022, all cargo flights and operations have also been rerouted to the new airport.

Ataturk International 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, demolishing has begun in May 2022. The plan is to turn the area into a park.

Ataturk International Airport

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.

As of 2019, the annual passenger going through Sabiha Gökçen Airport has already way surpassed that with over 35 million passengers.

Credit: WikiCommons
Saw Airport Istanbul

How To Get There?

Getting to SAW is quite straightforward. Though it is not (yet) connected by the metro, there are Havabus that takes you to the popular neighborhoods in Istanbul, such as Taksim and Kadikoy.

However, it should be worth noting that SAW is quite far from the historic centre, which is situated on the European side. It can take up 2 hours by bus and metro transfer to get there, and more if there is traffic.

Istanbul International Airport (IST)

Perhaps the most popular airport in Istanbul is the Istanbul International Airport (IST). It was completed in 2019, and since then has overtaken all functions of the old Ataturk Airport. 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 2025 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.

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.


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, and more!

Istanbul Airport Tulip Tower
Istanbul Airport

How to Get to There?

Istanbul Airport is very easy to get to. At the end of 2022, the Istanbul Airport will be accessible via the M11 Metro line. But before then, the airport is connected by the HavaIST shuttle buses and the IETT buses. Both of these buses take you directly to many parts of the city, including the historic centre.

There are three airports in Istanbul, but only two of them are currently in operation. 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.

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