Istanbul's Sabiha Gökcen International Airport (ISG), a fully-owned subsidiary of Malaysia Airports, continues to grow with new investments. The airport's CEO, Ersel Göral, firmly denied allegations that Malaysians will leave Turkey, noting they have a very positive opinion of the country. "We have an operation period of more than 16 years. We foresee an investment of 250 million euros in this period," he said, underlining that Malaysia Airports certainly does not intend to leave Sabiha Gökçen Airport.
Commenting on the airport's ongoing sales process, Gürol said initially, shareholders wanted to sell 49 percent of the shares, adding when the value increases at this point, the ratio may exceed 50 percent. "Foreign investment funds as well as domestic companies are interested in us," he added. Previous reports suggested that Turkish Airlines (THY) and TAV Airports are interested in buying the minority share.
With regard to the effect of Istanbul Airport on their operations, Gürol noted that Istanbul Airport is truly a facility that Turkey is proud of. "We see it as a homeland project. Of course, we will compete due to the nature of our business. I think this investment will have a positive impact on us," Gürol continued. "Because we will be the only city airport. Naturally, our attraction will increase. In addition, we will be the preferred choice for airlines. As the new airport grows, we seek to see how we can keep pace with growth and support it in the process. Of course, there will be competition between us, but we are aware of our capacity. We know that we are not in that league or segment."
Also elaborating on their preparations to compete, Gürol said they are strengthening their infrastructure, adding that the second runway is still under construction. Highlighting the critical importance of this investment, he stated that they will complete the investment in late 2019. "We are going to raise our 40-hour flight capacity to 80. It is not enough to increase your runway capacity alone. In parallel, you need to increase your terminal capacity as well," he said.
Gürol pointed out that they are a strong company in domestic flights and that this year the number of domestic passengers will reach 21.5 million, suggesting with new investments they are also expecting a serious increase in the number of international passengers.
"Since international passengers are provided with duty-free service, the per capita income is much higher," he said. "Seventy percent of our international traffic
consists of European flights, while Middle Eastern passengers constitute the remaining 30 percent. A total of 54 airline companies are operational here. My dream is to fly to the United States and the Far East."
Stating that when the new runway opens, they intend to schedule long flights from Sabiha Gökçen, Gürol said they are in talks with many airlines to starts flights to North America and the Far East. "China and India are growing markets. With the second terminal, our capacity will increase to 65 million passengers per year. In other words, we will reach the capacity of Atatürk Airport," Göral said, informing that they are also in talks with the Defense Industries Presidency for the construction of a second terminal building.
"We plan to obtain the building permits for the second terminal in the first half of 2019. We aim to launch the process in the middle of the year. Our goal is to complete this investment in a year," he said. "We are going to demolish the old terminal, which is now idle, and replace it. The new building will serve our international passengers, while the current terminal will serve domestic passengers. We employ 22,000 people directly or 45,000 people indirectly. We aim to increase this number to 75,000 in 2023."