Turkey's latest travel addition made international headlines. Officials announced that the new Istanbul Airport would become the busiest in the world by 2021.
Project planners for the airport estimated it could handle 90 million passengers in the next two years. Planned expansions, however, could bring the total as high as 200 million people. That's double what the previous record holder -- the Atlanta airport in the US -- lists as its capacity.
Celebrating two historic moments on the same day
The Turkish airport officially opened earlier this week, but due to delays won't be fully operational until January 2019. It cost just over $11.7 billion to build.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened the airport on Monday as part of national Republic Day celebrations. Turkey celebrated its 95th year as a country, and officials felt the opening was symbolic and promising.
#İstanbulYeniHavalimanı’nın açılış töreni için herkes yerini aldı, heyecanla seremoninin başlamasını bekliyoruz. #BizBeraberOlunca#HayallerDönerGerçeğe ??— İGA (@igairport) October 29, 2018
Everyone ready for #İstanbulNewAirport’s grand opening, we are waiting start of the ceremony with excitement! ? ? pic.twitter.com/zUJN593Rp3
“With the operation of Istanbul Airport, European airspace will have to be restructured,” he said.
Erdogan also told media that he expected it to be used for a lot of intercontinental flights. He explained he wanted the airport to become a global transit center between Asia, Africa and Europe.
Travelers still wanting to use the Ataturk Airport in the near future don't need to worry. There are no plans to shut down the airport anytime soon. However, there are plans in place to transfer its international code -- IST -- as the Istanbul Airport begins growing in its capacity.
The construction of this airport wasn't without its concerns or controversy. During the build, 30 crew and developers died.
Just how big is the new Turkish airport?
In relation to other airports, the new Istanbul airport could out-perform the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport by as many as 96 million passengers each year. Beijing Capital International Airport would then be pushed to the third most popular airport at 94 million passengers. For further reference, London's Heathrow Airport transports just 76 million passengers each year; it's currently the fifth most traveled airport in the world.
The Turkish airport, however, has planned phases for expansion. As previously mentioned, the government expects the airport to meet 90 million passengers by 2021. With upgrades, officials think that number will grow to 150 million by 2023. It's expected to hit 200 million passenger capacity by 2028 if not sooner.
During the expansion, Ataturk airport will officially be closed to passenger traffic and exist as a private airfield, the BBC noted.