Wednesday Jan 26, 2022
ISTANBUL: Europe’s busiest airport in Istanbul was “gradually” resuming normal operations after a blizzard shut it down for a day, the head of Turkish Airlines said on Wednesday.
Istanbul Airport closed on Monday for the first time since it took over from the old Ataturk Airport as the global hub of Turkish Airlines in 2019.
Fuming passengers complained on Twitter about a lack of regular updates from Turkish travel officials and poor customer service, with some joining a chant demanding “we need a hotel”.
The airport handled just a handful of flights on Tuesday, mostly allowing airborn transatlantic flights to land.
But officials said 131 domestic and international flights were due to take off and land by 1:00 pm (1000 GMT) Wednesday, helping clear a massive backlog.
“Flights have gradually begun returning to normal,” Turkish Airlines CEO Bilal Eksi said on Twitter.
Airport officials told AFP that only one of the airport’s three runways had been cleared of snow and that de-icing work continued.
A blizzard that reached Istanbul last weekend paralised traffic and shut down basic services in the city of 16 million, some parts of which were covered by 85 centimetres (2.8 feet) of snow.
Officials urged citizens not to use private cars unless essential. Universities were closed until Monday and buses were banned from entering or leaving the city until Wednesday morning.
But most of the attention focused on Istanbul Airport, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once hailed as the “pride of our country and example to the world”.
One of the mega-projects built under Erdogan’s two-decade rule, the gleaming glass-and-steel structure handled 37 million passengers last year, becoming Europe’s busiest for the second year running.
But opponents have criticised the airport’s location, which is near the Black Sea coast and 35 kilometres (22 miles) from the city centre, making it exposed to fog and strong winds.