New consumer habits here to stay, says İGA

By Andrew Pentol |

Istanbul Airport new image

The new Istanbul Airport handled just 12.2 million passengers between January and March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Istanbul Airport operator İGA Havalimani İşletmesi (İGA) is expecting a gradual improvement in traffic and DF&TR sales in the remainder of 2020, following the implementation of new safety measures and new agreements and projects in the pipeline.

The new airport welcomed 64,082,722 million passengers between 6 April 2019 — when Istanbul Airport took over air traffic from Istanbul Atatürk — and 31 March 2020, but handled just 12.2 million passengers in the period January to March 2020 due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Speaking exclusively to TRBusiness in the second of a two-part interview, Kadri Samsunlu, CEO, İGA said: “Passenger traffic decreased significantly in May [compared to the same month last year — Ed] due to the pandemic and duty and travel retail has been hit hard.

“This pushed us to produce different solutions and work has begun to move our sales to digital platforms which will be operational as soon as possible.”

He added: “We aim to increase our market share with e-commerce and carry out cross-collaborations for Asian passengers.”


Reflecting on 2019 in which the new airport excelled in terms of passenger numbers and commercial revenue, Samsunlu commented: “This year, we obviously won’t register such high passenger numbers and commercial revenue will be lower than 2019.

“All flights stopped until the beginning of June due to Covid-19, which meant we could not operate. This has impacted trade revenue expectations. With flights gradually increasing in the second half of 2020, we expect an improvement in revenue rates.”

Istanbul Airport Terminal large

New safety measures have been implemented throughout the terminal at Istanbul Airport.

The implementation of new safety measures should also boost commercial revenue and ensure passengers feel comfortable and confident to purchase.

Those with flight tickets, along with working personnel are the only people allowed to enter the airport. Flexible working hours have been implemented during the pandemic, while operations are working with minimum field personnel.

“Occupational health and safety is a significant topic for İGA senior management,” explained Samsunlu: “Every measure is taken to protect the health and safety of our personnel in this process,” he added.

Different Personal Protective Equipment requirements (wearing of masks, gloves and face shields) have been established for different working groups. Requirements depend on the level of risk to which personnel may be exposed to while working at the airport.

Istanbul Airport Interior July 2020

The new airport welcomed 64,082,722 million passengers between 6 April 2019 and 31 March 2020.

In addition to hygiene and sanitation, training is provided to ensure staff can protect themselves and manage contact with passengers. “A psychological and educational support programme has been launched to provide moral support and motivate personnel, including those working at home.

“Personnel are transported to their working areas, with one eye on social distancing, while all company cars and service vehicles are disinfected regularly.

“Hand sanitisers are available on all service vehicles and occupancy rates are reduced by 50% for social distancing purposes.

“Parking lots are free for airport workers, who are screened by thermal cameras on entering the airport. Staff must undergo body temperature checks with contact-free thermometers in order to enter the terminal.”

The entire terminal has 100% fresh air, with polluted air removed via an exhaust system. All filters are disinfected frequently.


Another significant recent development, which should improve the passenger experience is the opening of a third independent runway on 14 June 2020.

Kadri Samsunlu IGA CEO newThe new runway reduces taxi times and decreases landing times by an average of seven minutes. Take-off times have decreased by an average of four minutes with domestic taxi times reduced by approximately 50%. Capacity for flight movements per hour will increase from 80 to 120 with a daily capacity of more than 2,800 flight movements.

Samsunlu (pictured left) said: “Together with the new runway, a new End-Round-Taxiway will be operational. This will reduce congestion, especially in times of heavy traffic.”

Istanbul is now operating three independent and two stand-by runways. It is only the second European airport to operate three independent parallel runways at the same time.

“The third independent runway is another step in Istanbul Airport’s grand vision of becoming the largest airport in the world with a total capacity of 200 million passengers per year.”

Passengers themselves are concerned about the impact of Covid-19 on health and economies.

“The way people spend their free time is changing due to the pandemic and related social distance measures. People’s intake values are shifting towards healthier, reliable and environmentally friendly products and experiences that support the communities they live and work in,” Samsunlu explained.

Evidence suggests the crisis will build communities rather than separate them. This is reflected in the type of applications (entertainment, news, health and education) being downloaded by consumers.

“People are embracing technology more than ever to support all aspects and consequences of isolation,” Samsunlu explained. “Companies around the world should increase their focus on digital and traditional tools to interact with consumers and improve experiences.

“During this period, people have prioritised necessities and online shopping has understandably gained huge relevance.

“People are used to spending longer periods at home and sales of toys, games, entertainment items, books, exercise tools and pet suppliers have increased dramatically.”


Consumer priorities have revolved around ‘the most basic needs’ during the pandemic, which has created demand for hygiene, cleaning and staple products (bread, milk, paper and sugar). Non-essential categories are declining.

“In times like this, our need for the basics takes precedence. It is unsurprising that personal heath and the health of friends and family are top priority, according to various surveys.

“Food, along with medical, financial and personal security are other major priorities.”

Istanbul Airport outside new July 2020

A third independent runway opened at Istanbul Airport on 14 June 2020.

Samsunlu who predicted digital sales will increase as customers distance themselves from physical retailing, said Covid-19 had definitely changed consumer behaviour. He also suggested some of these new habits will remain in the long-term.

In the current climate, people are also shopping more consciously and embracing digital commerce. “In the future, we will see an increase in virtual workforces as more people work from home. Consumers will continue to turn to delivery services for restaurants and groceries, but will spend more on disease and pandemic prevention, health, food and pharmaceutical related products.”

Increased media consumption — online video content in particular — is expected to remain strong after the pandemic. “Marketers will need to consider adapting the media mix in the future. It is unknown whether consumers will purchase more or less brands, but those brands which prioritise their goals will be well positioned to sustain consumer sales in the long-term,” he concluded.


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