Connecting at Istanbul New Airport: Useful information for transit passengers

As of 6th of April 2019, Istanbul has a new airport in operation. It is called Istanbul Airport (In Turkish: Istanbul Havalimani) and is located some 35 km north of the city center on the Black Sea coast in the European side of Istanbul. The old main International airport - Istanbul Ataturk Airport has been shut down for commercial operations. The IATA designator “IST” formerly used by Ataturk airport is transferred to the new airport.

Picture: Inside IST new terminal

All Turkish Airlines flights formerly operated from Ataturk airport has since been operated from the new airport. Istanbul airport is now the main hub of Turkish Airlines and the ambition of the Turkish Government is to turn it to the biggest airport in Europe. Even now, Istanbul airport is an important hub for passengers traveling from Europe to USA, Latin America, Africa, Middle East and Asia.

There is not yet enough accumulated passenger experience, but some useful information for connecting flight passengers exists already.

Istanbul airport is a huge, state-of-art facility that is only partially opened and still under development. Expect some inconvenience as a result of this and be prepared.

Minimum connection time

Istanbul airport is efficiently designed to accommodate transfers with a typical length of 1 hour, and all connecting flights sold by Turkish Airlines take into consideration the required minimum connection time.

Passengers who have already transited thru Istanbul new airport report very long walking distances and express concerns over the connecting times indicated on their tickets. The biggest concern is that because of the enormous size of the terminal (1.4 million square meters), your connecting gates may end up being a kilometer or more apart. The distance is to be covered essentially on foot with the only help of ground escalators. Some passenger report that at least 15 minutes are needed to get from the entrance of the transit zone to the farthest gate. On the positive side, the immigration and security checks are faster compared to Ataturk airport. Connecting flight passengers on many (if not all) flights have to pass thru security screening before being allowed into the transit zone. The process is organized efficiently, without this to cause delays. 

The enormous size of the new Istanbul airport causes the planes to taxi for too long (+-15 min) from the gate to the runway and vice-versa. Altough this operational time is normally accounted for in the flight schedules, it causes many connecting flight passengers to feel worried about missing their connecting flights. 


Istanbul new airport has all the amenities typical for major hub, designed to handle connecting flights traffic. Many passengers who have traveled via Istanbul in the month of April complain from the quality of services - poor Internet, expensive shops, repairs in progress & unfinished interior, untrained personnel, non-functioning information systems. To some extent this may be normal in the beginning until opertions are fine tuned to run smoothly. Patience and understanding is needed. 

Airport hotels

This is the first inconvenience you are about to encounter should you need accommodation for the night. Unlike Ataturk or Sabiha Gokcen airports, which are surrounded by tens of hotels, here you will face monopoly by Yotel. Yotel Istanbul airport has been especially designed to serve the need of connecting flight passengers, featuring the stunning 451 rooms, part of them available airside (without the need for the transit passengers to go thru immigration and enter Turkish territory). The price for a landslide access (city access) room starts at EUR 150 a night. You can check and book from here. The airside rooms, accessible from the transit area of the airport, you can book from this link. In the area around the airport (5-10 km) mainly the Arnavutkoy neighborhood, during the period 2020-2022 a number of new hotels have been opened, providing easy access and some of them even transfer services, for example Menalo hotel premium Istanbul airport Meshk airport hotel, Intercity airport hotel, Heaven premium airport hotel and others that can be booked from this link

It is expected that the number of hotels around the airport will increase in the future.

Getting to the city and to Sabiha Gokcen airport

At some point in the future there will be a metro line linking the airport with the city. Currently there is none. A dedicated bus transfer service "HavaIst" has been established, operated by luxury coaches. It links the airport with 19 locations across Istanbul including metro stations and the famous Taksim square. It is a relatively inexpensive service, the fares varying from EUR 2 - to EUR 5. It works with the integrated transport payment card " Istanbulkart”. You can by the Istanbulkart from the terminal for 6 TLY and load it using a credit card. 

Recently a metro has been opened that links Istanbul new airport to the Kaghitane neighborhood in Istanbul. The metro station in Kaghitane is at an intersection, from where you can get on a train, other city metro lines as well as buses. The neigborhood center is also a walking distance from the metro station. This is one of the fastest metro lines in the world, trains driving at over 120 km/h underground. From the Istanbul airport metro stop to the Kaghitane metro stop, where the trains terminate, it takes only 25 minutes. 

The below map will give you a rough idea of the location of the airport. It is located outside of the urban territory:

Picture: Location of Istanbul new airport

If you need to transit to Sabiha Gokcen airport, keep in mind that the distance is over 85 km. Both airports are located near the O-6 motorway, so in ideal conditions the minimum time needed by taxi is 1 hour. Istanbul is notorious with traffic jams, so you need to plan on double or better triple that time in case of peak hour transfers. You can as well travel by public transport, where you need to plan at least 3 hours travel time.

If you have already traveled via Istanbul new airport, feel free to share your own experience with readers by writing a review. 

Written by / May 2019 (Additions in 2023)