Turkish transport minister Lutfi Elvan has pledged to study the feasibility of building more airports to ensure no Turkish citizen is more than 100km away from one, as the country strives to sustain the rapid growth of its aviation market.

Over the last decade, after deregulating a domestic airline sector beyond charter carriers and Turkish Airlines, the Turkish aviation market has achieved growth to rival that of the big Gulf hubs. The Turkish fleet has grown from 162 aircraft in 2003 to 441, passenger numbers have more than trebled from 25 million to 81 million, and aviation revenues have risen more than tenfold to over $20 billion annually.

"The impact we have seen in the [fast-growing] Turkish economy has also contributed to this increase in passengers," said Elvan at the Association of European Airlines' (AEA) Aviation Leadership Summit in Istanbul.

In a further sign of its ambition, Turkey has also begun work on a new Istanbul hub with capacity for 150 million passengers per annum. The city's traffic is currently split between the 60 million passengers handled at Ataturk airport and more than 20 million at Sabiha Gokcen, which has been favoured by low-cost carriers.

"Our goal is to complete the first stage of the process, handling 80 million passengers in October 2017," says Elvan. "The second stage will handle 120 million passengers and the third stage 150 million. That is our goal."

But in a country which has already doubled the number of its airports to 52 over the last decade, Elvan foresees further airport expansion. "We will set up new airports, not just in Istanbul, but where they are needed. We want any citizen to have an airport within 100km. If there isn't, we will set up a feasibility study for it.

"We want to increase the number of internal flights."

Much of the growth in the country has been driven by national carrier Turkish Airlines and fast-expanding leisure operator Pegasus. "Our policy makers really understand what is going on. That is why we are flourishing," says Turkish Airlines chief executive Temel Kotil.

Source: Cirium Dashboard