Istanbul’s other airport ....
As Turkey’s capital grows in regional importance so too does its aviation role and Sabiha Gökçen Airport’s existence is evidence of that
Readers might be familiar with Atatürk Airport when travelling to Istanbul, but mentioning the city’s other international airport, Sabiha Gökçen often draws a blank. Yet SG, on the Asian side of the city in Anatolia, handled more than 11 million passengers in 2010 and it has been growing in leaps and bounds in the past five years: in 2006 passengers totalled just 1.02 million.
This may pale by comparison to Atatürk’s more than 32 million passengers, but growth at SG is at a much greater pace. The airport was in fact built because Atatürk was reaching capacity but it now acts as an important gateway in its own right for travellers based in Anatolia or tourists looking to access Turkish Black Sea resorts such as Amasra or historical towns like Marmara Ereğlisi.
In 2009, a new international terminal was built at the airport pushing up its capacity and giving it a fresher look and feel with a host of new facilities among which were brand new shopping areas and much improved eateries. The terminal houses an 8,000 square metre food court, containing several cafés and restaurants and a 4,500 square metre duty free shopping area which is run by travel and tourism group Setur selling popular spirits, cigarettes, candies, and international perfume brands.
The giant area that Setur occupies in departures is one of the biggest single duty free stores in an airport anywhere in the world and has to be seen to be fully appreciated. It contains wine ‘cellars’, a very large section for fragrances and cosmetics plus a huge variety of prestige and luxury watch brands such as Omega and Montblanc.
With so much space, Setur was also able to open boutiques for luxury brands such as Ermenegildo Zegna and Salvatore Ferragamo at the end of 2010, with more additions a possibility when it’s time for a revamp. There are no prizes for expecting to find a Turkish Delight shop at the airport. It is operated by Zümrüt Kuyumculuk Elek and will no doubt be a required stop if you are planning on taking gifts home. Also in the vicinity is the Skymart tobacco shop run by Serhan Serdar Tektas and Sinasi Ayhan Adi which does a roaring trade given the still strong demand for smoking in Turkey.
There is arrivals shopping at SG which is popular with locals. Here a Mini Market sells newspapers, cigarettes, magazines, perfumes, personal care products and packaged food products and there is also a Unitel Technomarket store selling cellular phones and accessories, plus various electronic devices. These stores are mainly targeted at returning residents.
- Passenger numbers 2011: 12.7.
- Airlines: Just over 30 of which the biggest (by number of routes) are Pegasus, SunExpress, AnadoluJet (Turkish Airlines) and Sky Airlines.
- Worth knowing: The airport is named after the first female combat pilot in the world, who was one of the adopted children of Turkey’s first president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk after whom Istanbul’s main airport is named.