Istanbul SAW had a record 37 million passengers in 2023; its second runway has opened


Istanbul SAW has much to celebrate. It welcomed over 37 million passengers in the calendar year of 2023, its highest volume to date, making it among Europe’s busiest airports. It was the second year to have more international passengers than domestic. Even more significantly, its second runway has opened. This will prove utterly vital in its continued fast growth, with reports suggesting the airport may eventually have up to 85 million passengers. New terminal buildings are coming.

Istanbul SAW passengers 2006-2023

Nearly all capacity is by two airlines

Examining Cirium schedules information for Q1 2024 (January-March) shows that ULCC Pegasus has almost two-thirds of the available seats. It is more than twice the size of AnadoluJet, to be renamed AJet in March 2024. The pair account for 96% of SAW’s capacity in these three months.

Pegasus has 117 routes (85 international, 32 domestic) and AnadoluJet 71 (38 international, 33 domestic). Both carriers revolve, to differing degrees, on sixth freedom traffic over SAW. AnadoluJet started one new route last year: Belgrade on 1 December 2023 (4-weekly). In contrast, Pegasus introduced eight routes that remain served:

  • 18 January 2024: Zagreb (2-weekly)
  • 21 December 2023: Birmingham (2)
  • 19 December 2023: Dortmund (3)
  • 18 December 2023: Kutaisi (3)
  • 11 December 2023: Alexandria (4)
  • 19 June 2023: Kazan (4)
  • 2 June 2023: Amman (4)
  • 15 May 2023: Moscow VKO (14)

Top 10 Istanbul SAW airlines Q1 2024

Four new airlines since 2021

SAW gained Kazakhstan’s FlyArystan from Turkistan on 28 March 2021 (3-weekly); Air Arabia Abu Dhabi from its namesake city on 29 April 2022 (3-weekly); and British Airways from London LHR on 1 June 2023 (4-weekly). Strong performance means BA has already increased flights to daily.

Dublin Airport

The next airline to join the airport’s portfolio is Batik Air Malaysia, whose 4-weekly Kuala Lumpur operation will begin on 10 February 2024. At 8,340 kilometres, it will be SAW’s longest route and is over double the length of second-placed Karachi (3,920 kilometres). It appears that SAW has previously had charter flights with Malaysia Airlines.

British Airways SAW launch

129 destinations are served in Q1; Antalya leads

When all airlines are considered, SAW has non-stop flights to 129 destinations in Q1, including 37 in Turkey. Some 45 foreign countries are served, with more seat capacity deployed to Germany than anywhere else. Thanks to the recent addition of Dortmund, 10 airports are now served in Germany, distantly followed by six countries with four: Egypt, France, Italy, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and the UK.

Nearly all of SAW’s leading 10 destinations are domestic, which is not surprising given the strong local traffic and that they play a vital role in filling Pegasus and AnadoluJet’s international and other domestic services. Antalya, among Turkey’s most populous cities and a major tourist destination, is the most served market. In March, Pegasus operates 79-weekly and AnadoluJet 47-weekly.

Top 10 Istanbul SAW destinations Q1 2024

21 airports have been cut since 2019

Excluding Ukraine (which cannot be served now), airports that have closed and based on a minimum of 10 departing flights, Cirium shows that the following airports are no longer linked to SAW. In some cases, another airport is now served for the same city or metro area:

  • Dubai DWC (last served in 2022)
  • Gassim (2023)
  • Grozny (2022)
  • Kabul (2020)
  • Kahramanmaras (2022)
  • Kastamonu (2023)
  • Krasnodar (2022)
  • Kutahya (2022)
  • London LGW (2020)
  • Makhachkala (2022)
  • Milan MXP (2022)
  • Mineralnye Vody (2022)
  • Moscow DME (2023)
  • Moscow SVO (2022)
  • Münster Osnabrück (2019)
  • Plovdiv (2023)
  • Ras Al Khaimah (2020)
  • Rhodes (2023)
  • Sinop (2022)
  • Sulaimaniyah (2021)
  • Tunis (2019)

Aeroporti di Roma