Istanbul airport chief executive Selahattin Bilgen is calling for greater industry co-operation to achieve more efficiency gains, as it continues participating in a programme aimed at introducing independent triple-runway operations at the airport.

”I’ve been trying to say co-operation is more important than competition in our sector,” he tells FlightGlobal, during an interview in London on 24 June.

Istanbul airport exterior 2

Source: IGA

IGA is part of a cross-stakeholder project exploring the implementation of independent triple-runway operations at Istanbul airport

Bilgen, the airport’s former finance chief who took the helm of IGA Istanbul Airport in September last year, was speaking ahead of ACI Europe’s annual general meeting – which starts on 2 July in Istanbul. ”As a new board member of ACI Europe, I would be personally trying to support and push this idea further. It is more important to focus on this part than the competition between parties,” he says.

”As long as you are able to provide supply, filling the demand won’t be an issue. That’s why enhancing the efficiency and co-operation between the stakeholders is important in ACI, and also between IATA and ACI and Eurocontrol.

“We really need to be more open to collaboration and co-operation, and there I personally believe ACI can have a facilitator role. I am talking about more data-sharing, more collaboration, more system integration – not only the airports, but the airlines and other stakeholders.”

In one example of co-operation, IGA is already working on an initiative with Turkey’s air traffic control provider State Airports Administration (DHMI), together with Eurocontrol and Turkish Airlines, to explore the potential to introduce independent triple-runway operations at the hub airport.

Earlier this year, DHMI controllers worked with Eurocontrol’s Innovation Hub team to simulate triple-runway operations at Istanbul airport, testing new procedures for simultaneous and independent landings and take-offs on three runways, paving the way for efficient use of all five runways.

”It is hard to give a deadline for it as because it requires many parties’ input and is the first of its kind, you have to go over all safety issues, all scenarios, so that’s hard to tell,” says Bilgen, asked when such operations could be introduced.

“The good thing is, we have now achieved the first phase of the project, which is the general design and scenario determination. That shows the project is progressing. It’s good to see a milestone achieved, but most probably it will continue next year and maybe we can target the end of next year. Even that would be a challenging target, but we are used to having challenging targets.”

Bilgen says it is also running other projects which show how increased data sharing can deliver efficiencies. 

“I really believe the sector can grow much faster than expected as long as we are able to deal with the challenges coming from efficiencies, coming from regulatory restrictions, and coming from sustainability issues.

”There are huge efficiencies which have huge monetary value, but also have huge impact on customer experience. And in a sector which is fully integrated, all business processes are linked to each other, we should be really open to work more closely,” he says.

”We should do more things than forming committees and working groups. We have to make them more operational.”