Istanbul's airport reopens, flights resume after coup attempt

A man waves a Turkish flag in front of Ataturk Airport during an attempted coup in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016.
A man waves a Turkish flag in front of Ataturk Airport during an attempted coup in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
Passengers stand in line in front of a closed check-in counter waiting for news about their Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul at the airport of Duesseldorf, Germany, July 16, 2016.
Passengers stand in line in front of a closed check-in counter waiting for news about their Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul at the airport of Duesseldorf, Germany, July 16, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

ISTANBUL (REUTERS) - Turkish Airlines resumed flights from Istanbul's international airport on Saturday (July 15) following a failed coup attempt while some foreign carriers cancelled weekend flights.

Forces loyal to Turkey's government fought on Saturday to crush the last remnants of a military coup attempt. Television images late Friday had shown tanks parked in front of the airport.

A spokesman for Turkish Airlines said flights had now returned to their normal schedule from Europe's third largest hub, though delays were to be expected.

Turkish budget carrier Pegasus said its flights were also experiencing minor delays.

The closure of Istanbul's Ataturk Airport late on Friday had caused the diversion of 35 airplanes and cancelled 32 flights, Turkish Airlines chairman Ilker Ayci told broadcaster CNN Turk.

British Airways said in a statement it was halting all flights to Turkey on Saturday and one on Sunday as a precaution. "The safety and security of our customers and crew are always our top priority and we would never operate a flight unless it was safe to do so." Over 2,500,000 British nationals visit Turkey every year according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

EasyJet said its advice from British authorities was to continue flying, although it was monitoring developments.

The attempted coup follows a series of bombings that hit Turkey this year, including a suicide attack in June that killed 45 people at Istanbul's main airport. They have weighed on international travel to the country.

The number of foreign visitors to Turkey fell by 28 percent in April, data showed on Friday, the biggest drop in 17 years.

The decline signals more pain for Turkey's economy, which is smarting from slowing exports and weak investment. Some economists have forecast that tourism revenue will drop by a quarter this year, costing around $8 billion.

German airline Lufthansa cancelled all its flights to Istanbul and Ankara on Saturday and pared back the number flights to holiday destinations Bodrum and Antalya.

TUI which owns the Thomson and First Choice holiday companies, said its flights to Dalaman, Antalya and Izmir were operating as normal.

Tour operator Thomas Cook said most German guests who had booked a holiday to Antalya or Bodrum had taken their flights on Saturday. It said flights from the UK were operating as normal but, given the circumstances, free cancellations or amendments were possible for customers due to fly to Turkey this weekend.

Russia also suspended passenger flights to the country on the orders of President Vladimir Putin, TASS news agency said.

Turkish and Russian officials had met this week to discuss the restarting of charter flights between the two countries and tourism security after relations soured following Turkey's downing of a Russian jet last year.

State airline EgyptAir also cancelled all flights on Saturday to Istanbul, the company said in a statement. The company, which has 14 flights to Istanbul per week, did not say when they were expected to resume.

All flights from Istanbul to Sofia for Saturday had been cancelled, according to Sofia airport's website.