Istanbul Airport will become a mega hub for the global aviation industry and a locomotive for the sector in Turkey, while making significant contributions to its economy, according to İlker Aycı, chairman of the board of directors of Turkish Airlines (THY).
"Turkey will become one of the important centers of the global commercial aviation sector," Aycı told Anadolu Agency (AA).
The first phase of the airport opened on Oct. 29, the 95th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey, with a grand ceremony attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish ministers, officials and heads of state from around the world.
Commercial flights at the new airport started early November. The airport has the potential to welcome 90 million passengers annually and following the second phase of construction, expected to be completed in 2023, this number will rise to around 200 million.
Istanbul Airport, the third in the city, will replace Atatürk International Airport as the main flight hub in the country's most populated city.
The airport can serve 60 airways in the first phase and 150 airways eventually, Aycı said.
"Turkey was ranked 17th in the world in regards to the number of passengers. It will be ninth by 2032," he added.
He said the country's fleet of planes is expected to reach 700 with the introduction of the new airport.
THY carried over 36,000 passengers in its three domestic and two international flights via Istanbul Airport during the last month, he noted.
Aycı added that the airlines will soon start to operate all flights through Istanbul Airport. "The airport will not just contribute to passenger transportation, it will also make Istanbul the biggest cargo city in the world."
The airport has an annual capacity for 2.5 million tons of cargo and it will reach 5.5 million tons once completed, he added.
Aycı said that the airport will add TL 73 billion ($14 billion), around 4.9 percent of Turkey's current gross domestic product, to the economy.
The airport currently employs 36,000 people. But the number will reach 120,000 people in the coming months, and 225,000 people will work when all phases are completed. It will also provide employment for 1.5 million people indirectly.
The airport would operate flights to 350 destinations worldwide. Turkish Airlines will provide added services to its passengers such as its Business Class and Exclusive Lounge.
The flag carrier is looking to transform its subsidiary Turkish Cargo into one of the five best cargo companies in the world, Aycı said.
THY, founded in 1933, currently flies to over 300 destinations in more than 120 countries, holding the title of the airline that flies to the most number of countries in the world.
THY operates a total of 329 aircraft - 217 narrow-body, 92 wide-body and 20 cargo aircraft - and aims to raise this number to 475 by 2023.
The company carried nearly 58 million domestic and international passengers in the first nine months of 2018. The total number of passengers rose 12 percent year-on-year in the nine-month period.
Last year, the airline carried 68.6 million passengers with a 79.1 percent seat occupancy rate.