After the opening of the first phase of Istanbul Airport by the Republic of Turkey President H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on October 29, 2018, Turkish Airlines started operating flights from this giant hub which is its new home.
Before the actual moving operation, the airline transferred various units, which comprised nearly 26% of its physical assets and bore critical importance for its operations, to its new home and prepared the rest, in part, for the great move.
Time flew fast and the day for the Great Move arrived. The airline embarked on an operation with over 1,800 personnel with special training; hundreds of open or covered trucks, cranes, forklifts, containers, vehicles, and tools of all kinds. The vehicles had to carry more than 10,000 articles (as big as 33 football fields in size and nearly 50 thousand tons in weight) and they had to do it in a limited time of 45 hours.
“For most of us, moving to a new home is one of the most annoying and tiresome chores in the world. But it’s a great excitement to partake in, manage, or even witness such a giant move,” says a Turkish Airlines employee.
The Great Move began on Friday morning April 5, at 3 a.m. The busiest time of the operation was between 2 a.m. and 2 p.m. on April 6, during which Atatürk and Istanbul Airports were closed to all scheduled passenger flights.
This gigantic operation was planned in line with logistics engineering, the personnel responsible for the move was trained, and the materials were barcoded. From the 44-ton aircraft pushback tugs to the precision tools of various shapes and sizes, all the gear and and equipment of Turkish Airlines (about 5,000 trucks in volume) were loaded into vehicles and taken to their new home. The trucks in this operation covered a total of nearly 400,000 kilometers in distance, which equals 10 laps around the world.
At first, the operation was planned to last 45 hours, but things proceeded quicker on the field: 38% of the operation was completed in the first six hours of the operation, and about 70% in a 27-hour period. Overall, the moving operation was completed earlier than planned, around 10 a.m. on April 6.
The aircraft were also moving. 146 Turkish Airlines aircraft at Atatürk Airport made a short ferry flight to Istanbul Airport. Once joined by the aircraft returning from international flights, the national flag carrier landed 22 aircraft at Istanbul Airport, bringing the entire fleet to its new home.
The First Flight After the Great Move Was for Ankara
The first flight Turkish Airlines operated from its new home at Istanbul Airport was bound for the capital –not unlike its first domestic flight 86 years ago. Flight TK2154 took off at 2 p.m. from Istanbul Airport to Ankara Esenboğa Airport with 172 passengers and 8 flight personnel on an aircraft with the tail number “TC-JSY.”
Turkish Airlines Chairman of the Board and the Executive Committee M. İlker Aycı commented on the first flight after the moving operation and said, “We’re happy to truly begin a new era in which we will make great achievements as Turkish Airlines. We’re also happy to make a nostalgic start to this journey. As you may now, 86 years ago, we operated our first domestic flight to Ankara. Today, we’re embarking on a new adventure in our new home and operating our first flight to our capital once again. In the future, we will be celebrating many anniversaries in the years to come; as the entire Turkish Airlines family, we experience the pride of waving our red flag all around the world thanks to the opportunities provided to us by this spectacular ‘Monument of Victory’.”
Around the same time as the first domestic flight to Ankara, the first international flight was operated to Paris and the first return flight came back from Miami.
Saying Goodbye to Atatürk Airport
Having witnessed all milestones and progress since the foundation of Turkish Airlines, the veteran Atatürk Airport doubtlessly had an important place in the history, heart, and memory of the national flag carrier. When it was time to say goodbye, Turkish Airlines organized a farewell event for the home it was born to in 1933. Attended by 96 employees from all ranks and places, this farewell flight (with the number TK6940) flew for about 10 minutes and landed at Istanbul Airport, the new hub of aviation, with its loyal employees. A short film of the flight was produced and released on social media. The names of all current employees of Turkish Airlines, who have brought the airline to where it is today, were also included in this film.
The Last Commercial Flight from Atatürk Airport
The last passenger flight operated by Turkish Airlines from Atatürk Airport was the Istanbul-Singapore flight at 2 a.m. on the night of April 6.
Signifying an end to the global carrier’s successful journey at Atatürk Airport, this last flight garnered a lot of attention from the passengers. Carrying 319 passengers and 18 flight personnel, the aircraft with the tail number “TC-JJY” was sent off by Turkish Airlines Chairman of the Board and the Executive Committee M. İlker Aycı. He summarized the last commercial flight with somber words, “As we say goodbye to our home of 86 years, we’re seeing off our passengers on this scheduled flight to Singapore from this very special facility for the last time. You know the saying, ‘If these walls could talk’ -this is exactly how we feel about Atatürk Airport.”