Tolga Özbek / Istanbul, Aug 11 () - Airline companies’ operational costs have increased by 20 percent due to repeated delays at Istanbul’s Atatürk and Sabiha Gökçen airports amid ongoing construction work during the summer, according to sector representatives.
The construction work at the airports in Istanbul in the midst of the summer season has sparked outrage among passengers, they added. While a report by Turkish Airlines underlined the negative impacts of the construction work of the General Directorate of State Airports Authority (DHMİ) in a recent report, Pegasus and AtlasGlobal representatives also voiced rising passenger dissatisfaction and operational costs.
AtlasGlobal Airlines CEO Orhan Coşkun said the company’s operational costs have increased by 20 percent due to the inefficiencies in the airports’ capacities.
“We keep at least two airplanes in reserve at the airports to be able to make our flights on time. If any capacity rise is not achieved in both the airports, even 12 spare airplanes will not help. The sector will see further delays unless a new runway is built at the Sabiha Gökçen Airport. When flying 20 minutes extra while waiting for an available space at the airport to land, an airplane’s operational costs rise by 20 percent,” he said.
Sector representatives have complained about problems in planning.
“HEAŞ, the owner of the Sabiha Gökçen Airport, and DHMİ plan construction work and open tenders without taking the views of the airline companies. The existing capacities are used inefficiently. For instance, London’s Gatwick Airport has one runway as the Sabiha Gökçen Airport does. While the airplane capacity is 32 in an hour at the Sabiha Gökçen Airport, this is 50 at Gatwick,” said Pegasus Airlines CEO Sertaç Haybat.
Haybat added the number of spare airplanes will be four by 2016 and each spare airplane will cost the company $3 million.
Runways ‘closed for four hours’
Turkish Airlines recently requested a schedule from DHMİ to determine the possible impact the work may have on capacity. However Ankara said it was “doing what was necessary” after the application by Turkish Airlines, according to sources.
Internationally, other large airports in the world generally tend to announce construction projects one year in advance and request a reduced number of flights if necessary.
Because of maintenance work at Istanbul’s airports, the runways have often been closed for four hours at night, and sometimes as much as six hours. In these cases, back up airplanes cannot land in Sabiha Gökçen, and are coerced to land across the Marmara Sea to the south in Bursa.
According to recent data, the Atatürk and Sabiha Gökçen airports experienced the highest number of delays against other European countries in May 2015. Thus, the airports came to be known as the airports with the highest rate of delays stemming from a capacity problem.
Atatürk Airport officials announced the airport as the fifth largest in Europe in terms of daily flight traffic, and 14th in the world, leaving New York’s JFK five spots behind. On the other hand, the capacity numbers and the unsatisfactory service to passengers and companies have created a serious problem, against the advertisements of these “record high” numbers.
The report also called on officials to explain why the construction projects have been launched during the summer season in Turkey, while work was maintained without any problems in Russia in temperatures under -40 degrees Celsius and in England on days of heavy rain.