New Istanbul Airport (ISL)

Istanbul’s new mega-airport, named—creatively—Istanbul Airport (ISL), was inaugurated on Republic Day, October 29th, 2018.

At its inauguration, the airport’s first phase was not yet complete, so a limited number of flights (five daily) were scheduled. The transfer of all operations from Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport (IST) is now scheduled for early March 2019 and, while I hope this happens, I have my doubts.

Massive projects such as this often produce unintended and unforseen consequences that can be accommodated over time—but time is necessary.

Recent heavy rains flooded parts of the airport, leaving shuttle buses and other equipment under water. Fog may be a problem because of the airport’s low elevation (60 meters above sea level). And the amount and composition of the immense amount of landfill used may not be optimal for the location, leading to the developement of sinkholes.

I have no doubt that the new airport will eventually come to full operation and facilitate Istanbul’s rising position as a major world air transport hub. But if you are flying to Istanbul during 2019, you should assure you know which airport your flights will use.

When the new Istanbul Airport takes over from the older Atatürk Airport, the new will assume the IATA code IST from the old airport.

Airport construction will not be completely finished for years. The new terminal facility, all under one roof, has an initial capacity of 90 million travelers annually. When construction is complete (estimated for 2028), capacity is planned to be 150 million passengers—more than the 100 million passengers currently served by Paris‘s three airports.

Istanbul Grand Airport (ISL)
Architects’ rendering of the terminal building.

Ground Transport

The new airport is 50 km (31 miles) northwest of Sultanahmet, the heart of historic Istanbula trip of more than an hour bycar/taxi at present.

Airport Buses

İstanbul Otobüs A. Ş., a company associated with the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, operates an airport bus service named Havaİst serving the new Istanbul Airport.

The bus service is currently scheduled to serve the limited number of flights using the airport. Frequency of service will be increased as flights to the new airport increase.

The trip to/from Taksim Square takes 70 minutes and costs TL18; to/from Yenikapı, 75 minutes and TL18; to/from the Esenler Bus Terminal, 70 minutes and TL16. However, according to the company’s website, payment of fares is currently only possible with an IstanbulKartMore…

Private Transfer

More comfortable and reliable than a taxi, and not much more expensive, a good private transfer service is recommended for any traveler, and especially for couples with several pieces of luggage each, or any traveling party of three or more. (Read about Istanbul taxis here.)

Efendi Travel, a partner, operates a time-tested transfer service with high value-for-money. The fare for up to four passengers between Istanbul Airport and the city center is 45 euros single/one-way, 81 euros return/round-trip. Note that this is the fare for the entire vehicle, not per-passenger. (The ride in a taxi should cost about 35 euros—if the driver takes the shortest route….) More…

Efendi Travel also provides transfer services between Sabiha Gökçen Airport and the city center, and between cruise ship ports and main attractions, as well as all other travel agency services such as tickets, hotels, car rental/hire and tours. More…

Uber & Lyft

App-ride services Uber and Lyft have had a difficult time entering the Istanbul transportation market because of resistance (sometimes violent) from Istanbul taxi drivers.

I have not found either service to be operating to or from the new Istanbul Airport (ISL). When I tried to arrange an Uber ride from the new airport to the city center, the Uber website offered me…a traditional Istanbul taxi instead of an Uber car.


Two new Metro lines are being built to connect the airport to the city center: one from Gayrettepe (map), scheduled for completion in 2020; and one from Halkalı, Istanbul’s new western train station.


Yotel advertises a new hotel right in the airport terminal, with access from both the general and secure (“airside”) areas of the terminal. More…


—by Tom Brosnahan

Atatürk Airport, Istanbul

Sabiha Gökçen Airport

Airport Ground Transport

Flights to & in Turkey

Istanbul Transportation

Transport in Turkey

Top 10 Turkish Travel Mistakes

Paris Girls Secret Society, the new novel by Tom Brosnahan

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