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Which Istanbul Airport is Better? An In-Depth Comparison for Travelers

Welcome to the crossroads of continents! Discover which Istanbul airport is better to elevate your travel experience and unlock the secrets of this mesmerizing city Traveling to Istanbul presents a common question for many: Which airport is better to use, Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gökçen? This article explores each airport’s features, recent developments, and how they cater to different traveler needs.

A Look at Istanbul Airport (IST)

The Rise of a New Hub

Istanbul Airport (IST), operational since April 2019, has rapidly grown, becoming a significant player in global aviation. In early 2023, it recorded a substantial increase in movements, indicating its bustling nature and high capacity​​.

Facilities and Accessibility

Discuss the modern amenities, lounges, shopping options, and transportation links of Istanbul Airport. Highlight its capacity to handle large volumes of passengers and flights efficiently..

Major Events and Future Prospects

The airport is gearing up for major events like the UEFA Champions League Final and the expected surge in summer travel, which showcases its capability to handle high-traffic situations​​.

Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW)

A Vital Player in Istanbul's Aviation Landscape

Sabiha Gökçen, the second-largest airport in Istanbul, has experienced a decrease in movements but remains a key airport, particularly with its recent 24.1% increase in passenger numbers in the first half of 2023​​​​.

Recent Developments and Expansion

The airport’s capacity has been expanding, with a new terminal and plans for a second runway to accommodate the increasing demand for low-fare flights and tourism growth​​.

Turkish Airlines Expanding its Network

Turkish Airlines has expanded its operations from Sabiha Gökçen, including the introduction of several international routes, highlighting the airport’s growing importance in regional travel​​.

Comparing IST and SAW

Location and Traveler Type

Istanbul Airport (IST) is located on the European side, ideal for those heading to popular tourist districts like Sultanahmet or Taksim. Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW), on the Asian side, suits travelers exploring areas like Kadıköy or the Princes’ Islands.

travelers exploring areas like Kadıköy or the Princes’ Islands. Air Traffic and Flight Options

IST, being one of the largest airports globally, offers a vast array of international flights. SAW, while smaller, is a hub for budget airlines and provides a mix of domestic and some international routes.

Services and Amenities

IST boasts extensive facilities including luxury lounges, a wide range of dining options, and diverse shopping outlets. SAW, though smaller, offers efficient services, eateries, and shops catering to essential traveler needs.

Connectivity and Transport

Discuss the accessibility of each airport, including public transport options like metro, bus, and taxi services, as well as road connectivity and average travel times to the city center.

Passenger Experience

Explore the overall passenger experience at both airports, considering aspects like check-in efficiency, security processes, waiting areas, and cleanliness.

Sustainability and Innovation

Highlight any sustainable practices and innovative technologies being implemented at each airport, such as energy-efficient systems, waste management, and digital advancements in passenger services.

Cost and Value

Analyze the cost-effectiveness of traveling via each airport, considering factors like flight prices, airport taxes, and additional expenses like transportation or dining at the airport.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, whether you choose the grandeur of Istanbul Airport or the practical charm of Sabiha Gökçen, each offers a unique gateway to the vibrant heart of Istanbul. Your choice reflects not just your destination but your travel style, be it the luxury of expansive facilities or the efficiency of a streamlined journey.

Whichever airport you land at, the spirit of Istanbul – a blend of history, culture, and modernity – begins to unfold the moment you step off the plane. So, pack your bags and get ready to immerse yourself in the captivating tale of two airports, each a prologue to your own unforgettable Istanbul adventure.


What is the difference between the two Istanbul airports?

Istanbul Airport (IST) and Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) differ mainly in location and size. IST is one of the world's largest airports, situated on the European side and serving as a major international hub. SAW, located on the Asian side, is smaller and often utilized by budget and domestic airlines​​.

Which airport is closer to the Istanbul city center?

Istanbul Airport is closer to Istanbul's city center, approximately 40 kilometers from the Sultanahmet district, whereas Sabiha Gökçen Airport is about 45 kilometers away​​.

What is the difference between Istanbul Airport and Ataturk Airport?

Istanbul Airport, opened in 2018, is the new main international airport for Istanbul, replacing Ataturk Airport, which ceased operations in 2019. Ataturk Airport's IATA code (IST) was transferred to Istanbul Airport following its closure​​.

Which Istanbul Airport does Turkish Airlines use?

Turkish Airlines operates from both airports. While its main hub and the majority of international flights are based at Istanbul Airport (IST), Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) primarily handles domestic flights and some international routes​​.

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