Istanbul’s snow-capped airport comes to life


Stranded passengers have complained of poor customer service, with some joining in a demanding chant “we need a hotel” – Copyright AFP BYAMBASUREN BYAMBA-OCHIR

Istanbul airport, the busiest in Europe, has “gradually” resumed normal operations after a blizzard closed it for a day, the director of Turkish Airlines said on Wednesday.

Istanbul Airport closed on Monday for the first time since taking over from former Ataturk Airport as Turkish Airlines’ global hub in 2019.

Furious passengers complained on Twitter about a lack of regular updates from Turkish travel officials and poor customer service, with some joining in a demanding chant “we need a hotel”.

The airport handled just a handful of flights on Tuesday, allowing mostly airborne transatlantic flights to land.

But officials said 131 domestic and international flights were due to take off and land by 1:00 p.m. (1000 GMT) on Wednesday, helping clear a massive backlog.

“Flights have gradually started to return to normal,” Turkish Airlines CEO Bilal Eksi said on Twitter.

Airport officials told AFP that only one of the airport’s three runways had been cleared of snow and de-icing work was continuing.

A blizzard that hit Istanbul last weekend paralyzed traffic and cut basic services in the city of 16 million, parts of which were blanketed in 85 centimeters (2.8 feet) of snow.

Officials have urged citizens not to use private cars unless essential. Universities were closed until Monday and buses were banned from entering or leaving the city until Wednesday morning.

But most of the attention has focused on Istanbul Airport, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once hailed as the “pride of our country and an example to the world”.

One of the megaprojects built under Erdogan’s two-decade rule, the gleaming glass and steel structure welcomed 37 million passengers last year, becoming Europe’s busiest for the second year in a row.

But opponents have criticized the airport’s location, which is near the Black Sea coast and 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the city center, making it exposed to fog and high winds.


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