Positive early retail signs as INA backs ‘soft opening’

By Luke Barras-hill |


Bosphorus-inspired marketplaces sit prominently in the retail architecture.

İGA Havalimani İşletmesi (İGA) says passengers have reacted favourably to the mammoth retail footprint at Istanbul New Airport (INA), as reports of further operational delays emerge.

The $10.3bn ($11.7bn) mega-hub, which spans 76.5 million square metres and can handle 200m passengers when fully operational, soft opened in October.

Unifree Duty Free, in which Gebr. Heinemann holds a 60.8% stake, holds the 25-year duty free contract to operate 53,000sq m of commercial space.

This is characterised by five distinct retail villages symbolising the heart of Turkey’s resplendent Bosphorus.


A İGA Spokesperson told TRBusiness: “Those stores which have already started operation have been received positively.

“In the commercial area it’s our priority to provide passenger comfort while creating a comfortable and convenient shopping experience. Our approach consists of five different concepts: Luxury (high-end fashion); Turkish Bazaar (local); Fashion Garden (trendy); Style Beach (urban) and family (community).

“In addition, it is very important for us that the whole area mirrors typical characteristics of Istanbul. When the area is completed you can see the rich social and cultural heritage of the city. This will be a unique experience for passengers. They can find thousands of options at Istanbul New Airport before or after their flights.”


Occupying 76.5 million square metres, INA has the capacity to handle 200m passengers annually when fully operational. Source: İGA/ Istanbul New Airport.

Such sentiments seem to dovetail with results from a recent *passenger satisfaction survey.

Among the highlights, 98% of international pax expressed a satisfaction with INA’s architectural design, 93% with the quality and comfort of the waiting areas, 88% with in-terminal transportation, 93% with security, and 89% with check-in services.

In fact, İGA insists a soft launch as a precursor to a full unveil was the correct move, with all the retail stores tipped to open in the very near future.


Passengers have reacted favourably to the expansive commercial spread at INA since its soft opening in October. Source: İGA/ Istanbul New Airport.

“Differing between a soft and hard opening has been an absolutely right management decision to make operations at Istanbul Airport smooth and successful,” the Spokesperson added.

“Real operations and simulated ones are not the same, so it is good that we allowed time to prepare and practice with real operations, because ORAT (Operational Readiness and Airport Transfer) is a complex process with a large number of factors.”


However, while the early signs look promising, delays to the full operational roster impacting the opportunity to capitalise on escalating pax levels are emerging.

Local reports surfacing in the past week – including from Turkish news agency Demirören Haber Ajansi – claim officials at Turkey’s General Directorate of State Airports Authority (DHMI) have shunted the relocation of Turkish Airlines’ (THY) operations from Istanbul Atatürk Airport to INA to March 2019.

İGA had not issued an official statement on the matter and did not immediately respond to a request for further comment at the time this report went to press.

While the operator previously neither confirmed nor denied the prospect of further delays when TRBusiness enquired earlier this month, it nonetheless stated that Turkish Airlines ‘would increase its flight routes step-by-step in the coming months’.


THY was due to transfer its operations from Istanbul Atatürk Airport to INA by the end of 2018, but this is now reportedly being delayed to March. 

Rumours of a delay to the ‘full’ opening of the airport, which expects to handle 90m in phase one, were circulating before it opened on 29 October.

İGA had announced a ‘big bang’ transition of its aeronautical services from Istanbul Atatürk to INA by the end of the year, with THY scheduled to transfer its equipment and facilities from the former airport, which was due to close at midnight on 31 October.

The flag carrier made its first passenger flight on 31 October.

This latest development – while frustrating to passengers and stakeholders – is perhaps unsurprising given the sheer scale of the entire INA project.

Currently, there are seven different flights departing daily from INA, including five to national destinations (Ankara, Antalya, İzmir, Adana and Trabzon) and two international (Baku/Azerbaijan and Northern Cyprus), with a route to Gaziantep understood to have begun last week.

Stay close to TRBusiness for further developments on this story…

For detailed insight on the Gebr. Heinemann/Unifree Duty Free commercial offer, see  the October issue of TRBusiness. Click here to subscribe.

*Survey using face-to-face interviews conducted by ERA Research & Consultancy from 29 November – 2 December on behalf of İGA Airport Operations among a total of 421 domestic and international pax

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