New Istanbul airport to open on Oct 29 despite strike: Erdogan

An airplane carrying President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday landing at the new airport being built in Istanbul. Hundreds of workers there went on strike to protest against work-related deaths and poor conditions.
An airplane carrying President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday landing at the new airport being built in Istanbul. Hundreds of workers there went on strike to protest against work-related deaths and poor conditions.PHOTO REUTERS

ISTANBUL • The new international airport in Istanbul, one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's signature mega projects, will open as scheduled on Oct 29 despite a strike by builders, he has said.

"The opening date is Oct 29, tests have been carried out... The terminal building is ready, the runways are really beautiful," Mr Erdogan told journalists yesterday.

Hundreds of workers building what will be Istanbul's third airport went on strike recently to protest against work-related deaths and poor conditions. But the authorities launched a crackdown, arresting 500 people, unions said.

The problems stoked speculation that the airport opening could be pushed back to Dec 31 but Mr Erdogan rejected any talk of delay.

"There is no such thing," said Mr Erdogan, who visited the site on Saturday.

At the same time, he announced that Ataturk Airport, due to be replaced by the new facility, would not be closed immediately for redevelopment.

"Ataturk Airport is not going to halt activity all at once. There will be a transition period," he said.

The Turkish government has claimed the new airport, on the European side of Istanbul, will be "the biggest in the world". Initially, it will handle up to 90 million passengers a year, rising to 150 million by 2023, it says.

Some 35,000 people are employed on the project, including 3,000 engineers and administrative staff.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2018, with the headline 'New Istanbul airport to open on Oct 29 despite strike: Erdogan'. Print Edition | Subscribe