Istanbul Airport, set to be among the biggest and busiest in the world, opened its doors on Monday, inaugurated by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, marking at the same time the 95th anniversary of Republic Day.
Initially, the 11.7 billion dollar airport, complete with an impressive tulip-shaped control tower, will handle domestic flights as well as routes to northern Cyprus and Azerbaijan. The new airport will gradually take over all flights going through the Ataturk facility and is expected to be fully operational by January.
Set to offer passengers the latest in airport technology, including artificial intelligence, Istanbul Airport is designed to handle up to 200 million passengers a year.
“With the operation of Istanbul Airport, European air space will have to be restructured,” Erdogan said during the inauguration ceremony on Monday, adding that the airport will expand over the next decade to be completed by 2028.
“We consider Istanbul Airport an investment not for our country alone, but for the region and for the whole world,” Erdogan said, adding that it was a perfect example in terms of architecture, construction, functionality and financing.
In the meantime, criticism has been ample concerning the working conditions and safety standards at the airport with Turkey’s labor ministry verifying earlier this year that 27 workers had died since the start of construction work in 2015. At the same time, hundreds of protesting workers – among the 36,000 said to be working there – were detained by the police last month.
Once the new facility is fully operation, Ataturk Airport will be used for aviation fairs, with Erdogan adding that the government plans to construct a park in the unused sections.