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Last flight leaves Ataturk for Singapore as Istanbul switches airports

Last flight leaves Ataturk for Singapore as Istanbul switches airports

A Turkish Airlines plane takes off in front of the control tower at Istanbul Airport on the first day after moving from Ataturk International airport on April 6, 2019 in Istanbul. (Photo: AFP/OZAN KOSE)

ISTANBUL: The last commercial passenger flight took off from Istanbul's Ataturk airport on Saturday (Apr 6) and convoys of trucks ferried thousands of tonnes of equipment across the city to a giant new airport which Turkey plans to make the biggest in the world.

The mammoth transfer between the two hubs, described by Turkish authorities as unprecedented in scale and speed, was already largely complete a little more than 24 hours after it began before dawn on Friday.

The new Istanbul Airport, costing some US$8 billion and one of several mega-projects championed by President Tayyip Erdogan, will initially be able to handle 90 million passengers a year, close to the world's largest existing airport capacity.

Passengers walk in the international departures hall of Istanbul Airport on the first day after moving from Ataturk International airport on April 6, 2019 in Istanbul. (Photo: AFP/OZAN KOSE)

Authorities plan to expand that capacity to expand to 200 million.

Overnight hundreds of trucks carried equipment such as aircraft-towing vehicles and security sensors from Ataturk, on the shores of the Sea of Marmara, 30km north to the new airport by the Black Sea.

Trucks transport equipment on the last day of flight operations of Ataturk International Airport late on Apr 5, 2019 in Istanbul. (Photo: AFP/OZAN KOSE)

By early Saturday more than 90 per cent of the move was complete, Turkish Airlines executive Yahya Ustun said.

Overnight, the final commercial passenger flight, Turkish Airlines TK54, took off from Ataturk for Singapore, a departure which Transport Minister Mehmet Turhan described as historic.

"I am glad to send you off as the last commercial passengers of Ataturk Airport," he said moments before the plane took off at 2.44am (2344 GMT). "Upon your return, you will land in Istanbul Airport, a monument of victory, the world's biggest airport."

Turkish flag and banners depicting first Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and ruling Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan are pictured at a terminal of the Istanbul's new airport prior to the official opening ceremony, in Istanbul, Turke. (Photo: REUTERS/Murad Sezer)

The new airport, which was formally opened nearly six months ago but which has been handling less than 20 flights a day, inaugurated its new chapter on Saturday afternoon with a domestic flight taking off for the capital Ankara.

Source: Reuters/gs

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