Turkey's new airport showcased ahead of elections

Turkey's new airport showcased ahead of elections
Turkish leader Erdogan unveiled Istanbul's new airport which is due to open in October, days ahead of the June 24 elections.
3 min read
22 June, 2018
The Turkish leader is in the final campaigning push [Getty]
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan touched down at Istanbul's new airport on Thursday, the first such landing by a passenger aircraft ahead of its official opening in October.

The landing came three days before the June 24 elections, with the president choosing to highlight the new facility as a show of his track record in building mega-projects.

Erdogan has repeatedly showcased his accomplishments at campaign rallies, promising to transform the country with new airports, roads, bridges and two tunnels underneath the Bosphorus in Istanbul.

Read also: It's make or break for Erdogan's AKP vs Turkey's opposition

"Today is a very, very meaningful day for us," said Erdogan after landing in his presidential jet from Gaziantep after hosting an election rally.

"God willing our airport will become our brand that goes beyond and our prestige."

The airport under construction is planned to be one of the world's biggest hubs, and its opening is scheduled for October 29.

Erdogan also hopes to create a Panama-style canal in Istanbul to take the pressure off the Bosphorus, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

The Turkish leader is in the final campaigning push, with analysts predicting that his ruling party could even lose.

Istanbul's existing main airport, named after modern Turkey's secular founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and one of the busiest in Europe, will be shut to commercial traffic once the new airport opens.

Erdogan has pledged to turn the current Ataturk Airport into a vast urban park bigger than Central Park in New York or Hyde Park in London.

The day the new airport opens "we will start the process of transforming Ataturk Airport into a park for the nation," he said.

Erdogan has previously indicated he would prefer not have the new airport named after Ataturk, however it is not yet clear what the new airport will be named. Supporters have argued that the airport should carry Erdogan's name. 

The new airport located on the Black Sea coast is 35 kilometres (22 miles) away from the city centre, raising concerns about transport access.

But authorities say a new metro line will be built to reach the airport from the city centre in just 25 minutes.

It will have six runways and Erdogan said it would initially have a capacity of 90 million passengers rising to 150 million by 2023.

There have been major concerns over reports of a high fatality rate at the airport's construction site, where some 35,000 people are working round-the-clock to finish it on time.

Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan said in April that over the course of construction 13 workers had died due to work-related accidents and 14 for reasons not related to work.