Turkey Aims To Compete With Dubai As Global Transport Hub, 150 Million-Passenger Capacity Airport Under Construction

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Istanbul's new airport
A mock-up of Istanbul's newest aiport which will be ready in 2019.

Turkey has long been a land bridge for travelers journeying between East and West, and while the country remains a melting pot of religion and culture, its days as a key Silk Road hub are a distant memory. Now, however, Turkey's government is pushing a project that aims to once again make the country a top global travel hub. 

Turkey’s new airport, which will be based outside of Istanbul, is due for completion by 2019 and will be able to host more than 150 million passengers per year, according to a the General Directorate of State Airports Administration in Turkey. While the airport will not immediately see that kind of traffic, the signs are encouraging that the country may meet its goal of becoming a transport hub of choice for travelers going between the East and the West as well as those traveling to Africa.

Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport currently processes around 45 million passengers per year, according to the Airports Council International. It's growth rate has increased from 4 percent between 2007 and 2008 to 20 percent between 2011 and 2012, and that growth trajectory appears set to continue. Turkey's leaders want to see overall passenger traffic double by 2017, which will require 15 percent annual growth in 2014 through 2017. If they manage it, they will beat Beijing’s 82 million and be level with Atlanta’s 90 million, both 2013 figures.

Plans for the newest airport, which will have six runways, reflect limited capacity at Ataturk Airport. Officials have bet that the 150 million-passenger capacity of the new airport will be reached by 2026, which would require seven years of year-to-year growth around 19 percent each year, says a report by DC Design Technologies. 

On a whole, Turkey is quickly realizing its goal to become a global aviation hub based between the East and the West, similar to Doha, Qatar, in the Middle East. Turkey currently has seven airports that have either been extended or are in the process of being extended. Between those seven and other regional airports in Turkey, six received new terminals in 2013. 

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