Istanbul Has More Passenger Destinations Than Any Other Airport

Istanbul Airport has 277 passenger destinations in May, more than any other airport worldwide.

Istanbul Airport has 277 passenger destinations in May, including both non-stop and one-stop and international and domestic, obviously mainly because of Turkish Airlines. Other airports come close, notably Frankfurt (275), Amsterdam (260), Paris CDG (248), and Dallas Fort Worth (242).

Located on the European side of Istanbul, the city’s main airport was the world’s second-busiest airport for international passengers last year. And unlike others in the top ten list, passenger traffic was down by ‘only’ a third on 2019.

277 destinations

Lonely Planet says Istanbul’s metro area is home to between 15 and 20 million people. Whatever the truth, it is enormous, and it is also one of the world’s most visited cities, with 15 million visitors in 2019. It drives considerable point-to-point (P2P) traffic.

Other destinations revolve around connections, helped by Turkey being a tourism powerhouse, the geographic position of Istanbul, and the strong use of Turkish Airlines’ narrowbodies.

The geographic position of Istanbul drives high narrowbody use. Turkish Airlines, in particular, serves many thinner destinations that wouldn’t otherwise be feasible, especially in Europe, Africa (including Mogadishu), and Central Asia. Flights also tend to be more frequent, helping to drive connectivity, competitiveness, and dominance.

According to the latest data from OAG, Istanbul Airport’s passenger network in May is broken down as follows:

  • Europe and the Caucasus: 97 destinations
  • Domestic: 45
  • Africa: 45
  • Asia (excluding the Middle East): 42
  • Middle East: 25
  • North America (including Mexico): 17 (including Seattle that starts on May 27th)
  • Central and South America and the Caribbean: 6

Network summary

Not surprisingly, there are more destinations in Europe and the Caucasus than anywhere else. That is despite no open skies agreement and the need for bilateral traffic rights.

Some 56 airports are served in Western Europe, with London Heathrow, Paris CDG, and Frankfurt having more flights than the others. A further 41 airports are served in Central and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, led by Baku, Moscow Vnukovo, and Bucharest.

Usually, this subregion would have more destinations, but there are currently no flights to Ukraine for an obvious reason. Six airports in Ukraine were served pre-war, including Mykolaiv, which temporarily replaced Kherson.

But it is Africa that perhaps stands out the most. This one continent has 45 passenger destinations in May, 16% of Istanbul’s total. However, because of lower numbers of flights, it has ‘just’ one in ten departures.

Later this summer, a new route to Juba, South Sudan, will begin while Durban will resume. Across the whole peak season, OAG shows that some 54 airports across Africa will have service from Istanbul Airport.

45 destinations are domestic

The leading position of Istanbul Airport is assisted by its strong domestic market. Indeed, if only international destinations are considered, Istanbul would have 232 destinations. An enormous number, but lower than Frankfurt (261) and Amsterdam (258).

While the simple number of domestic destinations is a lot, they tend to have high frequencies too, resulting in almost one-third (31%) of flights. That is despite the cessation of Onur Air and AtlasGlobal, with the domestic market now between only Turkish Airlines and Pegasus. Pegasus has just one route to Izmir.

Turkey is large geographically and often has slow overland travel despite relatively short distances. The longest route is to Hakkari (YKO on the map below), near Iran and Iraq, some 866 miles (1,394km) away. Istanbul is well suited to a comprehensive domestic network, both for P2P demand and connecting traffic.

Top ten destinations in May

In May, Istanbul Airport’s leading routes by departing flights are as follows. The significance of the domestic market is evident, with eight airports by this metric.However, if seats are considered instead, Tehran would rank first, with Dubai, Tel Aviv, and Amsterdam also in the list.

  • Izmir
  • Antalya
  • Ankara
  • Tehran Imam Khomeini
  • Adana
  • London Heathrow
  • Kayseri
  • Trabzon
  • Bodrum
  • Gaziantep


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