Istanbul, Turkey: 2023 Business Aviation Destination Guide
Istanbul is an increasingly popular and busy destination for business aircraft travel. If you are planning a trip to Istanbul, the following is an overview of what you need to know:
Istanbul Airport Options
Istanbul has three airports of entry (AOE), Istanbul Airport (LTFM), Ataturk Airport (LTBA), and Sabiha Gokcen (LTFJ). Even though Istanbul Airport (LTFM) is available for GA operations, Ataturk Airport (LTBA) and Sabiha Gokcen Airport (LTFJ) are the most popular destinations for private jet operations. LTBA is located near the city center of Istanbul and the city’s only airport dedicated exclusively to private jets.
Istanbul Airport (LTFM)
LTFM is approximately 23 miles (one hour by car) from the city center of Istanbul. Commercial airline traffic has been moved forward to LTFM. Aircraft taxi time to its parking spot takes approximately 15-20 minutes. There is an available GA area in the main terminal for private jets. However, airport management is still evaluating building a separate GAT terminal. LTFM is also available for technical and fuel stops in İstanbul.
Ataturk Airport (LTBA)
LTBA Airport is located (15-miles and an approximately 30-minute drive) to the city center of Istanbul. It has been dedicated to private jets only through the general aviation terminal. LTBA is a 24-hour Airport of Entry with 24-hour Customs, Immigrations, and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities for General Aviation (GA). Cargo operations are moved to LTFM. Technical and fuel stops, crew swaps, and night stops are available. Our Ataturk Airport Business Aviation Destination Guide has more details.
Sabiha Gokcen Airport (LTFJ)
LTFJ is located on the Anatolian side of Istanbul. It is a 24-hour Airport of Entry with 24-hour Customs, Immigrations, and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities for General Aviation (GA). Airport slots are required for all aircraft traveling to LTFJ, and they must be requested at least 48 hours in advance. Hangar space has limited availability. This airport, like LTBA, is very strict in terms of airport security. Technical and fuel stops at crew swap and night stops are available.
Trabzon Airport (LTCG)
LTCG, two hours away from Istanbul, is a 24-hour AOE and civilian. The runway is long, airside security is good, and parking for up to B737 and ACJ319 equipment is available. However, note that prior permission required (PPR) is needed for this location, and there’s not much in terms of infrastructure or VIP options. GAT is not available.
Most AOEs in Turkey mandate arrival/departure airport slots and obtaining slots can be arranged in 1 day. However, it’s important to note that aircraft registration into the Turkish CAA system process typically takes three business days. Turkey Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) operates an online slot system. You’ll need to go through your ground handler to coordinate slots. Operators and trip support providers usually cannot view available slots online or request slots directly. As a result, you will not get the slot times you are looking for 50 percent of the time at Istanbul’s airports, and available slots may not coordinate with your schedule. Generally, arrival/departure slots will not become available until 2-3 days before ops.
It is always best practice to begin the slot request process at least five days out, so you can monitor the situation and take advantage of any opportunities that may arise.
It can be challenging arranging parking at all airports in İstanbul, particularly for aircraft B737 and larger looking for extended parking (more than 24 hours). Since long-term parking is not available at LTFJ, operators must use hangars, which average in cost about 1,000-1,500€ per day depending on aircraft size. Note that when parking at either LTBA or LTFJ, power in/power out parking is not the norm. Therefore, you will often be towed, and it’s essential to confirm that a suitable tow bar is available for your particular aircraft model. LTBA is available for long-term parking and has more hangar options. LTFM airport is around seven percent more expensive than other airports in İstanbul. However, long-term parking is available.
GA operators traveling to Istanbul report good ground handling support and infrastructure at major AOEs. While ground support equipment (GSE) is usually more than adequate, it’s always best to confirm tow bar availability if you’re operating a less common type of GA equipment. Transportation of crew and passengers from the aircraft takes 20-25 minutes to GAT at LTFM. Operators consider the GAT at LTBA to be more comfortable, and crew and passengers can go through the security and immigration process within 5-10 minutes in the GAT terminal. Additionally, maintenance support for business jets have many available options at LTBA.
Regarding hotel recommendations, there are many options in Istanbul, with 4-5-star hotels, including major international chains and luxury places to choose from. There are ample options for hotel accommodations near LTBA due to its proximity to Istanbul. However, at LTFJ, the nearest hotel is 25 minutes away from the airport because of its location, which is far from the city center.
Pre-paid ground transport (with driver) is recommended when visiting Istanbul. Universal Aviation Turkey can offer the best transportation solutions. You can also use regular taxi services at all airports of Istanbul, where the fee from LTFM to the city center will be 40 USD per trip; LTBA to the city center like 25 USD; and LTFJ to the city center will be like 35 USD per trip. You can get a free quote for ground transportation through Universal-Drivania Chauffeurs.
Fuel availability is good at major airports in Istanbul. While customer credit cards, fuel cards, and cash are accepted, best practice is to carry a fuel release. Having a fuel release helps to avoid day of operation issues. No Istanbul airports (LTFM, LTBA, LTFJ) have AVGAS availability. However, Corlu Airport (LTBU) has AVGAS, an alternate 1.5-hour drive to Istanbul city center. One consideration for operators using LTFJ is that the GA ramp is located far from the international terminal where the fuel browsers are parked. This can cause delays.
Catering options and cuisine possibilities are generally good at major Istanbul AOEs. In-flight caterers are on-site at larger locations, and crew can bring catering orders from local hotels or restaurants with them. Advance notification of catering requests should be made 72 hours prior, with longer lead times for complex requests or specially sourced items. In Turkey, it’s possible to retain catering during tech stops and store sealed onboard catering at GATs during destination stops. It’s recommended that arrangements for such catering storage are made in advance. Due to the pandemic, cold storage is not available at any airport in Turkey. You can check the free Air Culinaire Worldwide Menu app to see catering options and menus available.
Private security can be arranged for the operators traveling to all airports in İstanbul for the duration of their stay. In addition, aircraft guards can be arranged for airside security purposes, but this must be organized and approved before the day of operation.
Due to LTBA airport policy, passengers should be escorted by customs and police officers until they are on board. GA customs and immigration are cleared within general aviation terminals (GATs) at AOEs that have these facilities. It’s usually a quick process, under 15-20 minutes, as most information will have been forwarded in advance. At AOEs without GATs, CIQ clearance is via the main terminal, but processing is usually quick. To expedite CIQ clearance, it’s crucial to keep your handler up to date on any schedule or crew/passengers revisions so that they can update their fillings with customs and immigration authorities. Also, ensure that your handler has multiple copies of your updated gen dec.
LTBA and LTFJ and LTFM airports are available for tech stops crew swap and night stops are allowed for all purposes. Depending on the route, also Izmir (LTBJ) and Trabzon (LTCG) can be considered an option for tech stops.
Peak season/high-traffic events
While traffic to Istanbul is mostly even across the year, it does get busier from mid-May to the end of September.
Choosing the right airport is vital for a successful mission in Istanbul. Traditionally, business aviation operators chose between Ataturk and Sabiha Gokcen, which each had its own advantages. However, recent changes in the last few years have made Ataturk (LTBA) the preferred option for business aviation. Universal Aviation Turkey’s Istanbul location is available 24/7 to assist. For more information on this location for missions to Istanbul or elsewhere in Turkey.