Duty free ‘ready to trade’ as Istanbul switch completes

By Luke Barras-hill |

IstanbulNew_mainAll the duty free zones at Istanbul’s new mega-hub airport were fully open and operational as of noon (local time) on Saturday (6 April), TRBusiness can confirm.

After consecutive delays, existing operations at Istanbul Atatürk Airport on Friday (03:00am) began shifting over to the $11.7bn airport located 35km north of Istanbul, with the process completed by 11:59pm on 6 April, according to operator İGA.

As reported, Unifree Duty Free revealed five stores covering 8,000sq m in January within the airport’s 53,000sq m commercial footprint, which houses a 36,000sq m central processor area including 18,000sq m of core duty free space. [Click here to see the renderings].


Source: Turkish Airlines/Twitter.


The majority of the shops were expected to open in March, but those plans were pushed back until this weekend.

This followed a previous directive from Turkey’s General Directorate of State Airports Authority (DHMI) that halted the full opening in December.

It was understood that part of the decision hinged on allowing flag carrier Turkish Airlines extra time to gradually phase in its flight operations at the new airport.

A soft-opening of the airport took place in October, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan opening one store.

Turkish Airlines will end its scheduled flights at Atatürk Airport on 6 April (02:00am).

All its flight operations planned from Atatürk will be conducted at the new airport from 6 April (14:00pm).

Flights at both airports will cease for a duration of 12 hours during the switchover.

TRBusiness reported positive early signs when the first retail openings took place in December, after Gebr. Heinemann had shared exclusive insight into its operations with partner Unifree Duty Free, in which it holds a 60.8% stake.


Five Bosphorus-inspired retail villages crown the gargantuan commercial area.

Aside the aforementioned 36,000sq m central processor zone, Unifree Duty Free will operate a further 11,000sq m of duty free space in arrivals and 7,000sq m of pier and transfer shops.

Five Bosphorus-influenced retail villages sit at the heart of the offer, supplemented by individual marketplaces. [For detailed insight on the retail spread, click here].

Istanbul’s new airport is being constructed in four phases and is expected to handle 90m passengers in phase one and 200m pax when it completes.

One hundred airlines will provide the base for a route network to more than 300 destinations.

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