Company Insight

Istanbul’s City Airport - Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW) - Remains Upbeat Against Backdrop of COVID-19

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Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (IATA Code: SAW) is Istanbul’s emerging city airport. Touted as one of Europe’s fastest growing pre-COVID-19, its growth was supported by new airlines, new international routes and frequency increases of existing airlines. In 2019, SAW hosted 35.5 million passengers driven by a 21% growth in international traffic and this had led to the airport being hailed as Centre of Aviation’s (CAPA) ‘Large Airport of the Year’ at their Global Aviation Awards for Excellence. Despite the pandemic, it remains one of Europe’s busiest. In the recent release of Airports Council International (ACI) Europe traffic report, SAW was the best performing airport in terms of traffic recovery especially in domestic travel. It was also a ‘Highly Commended Airport’ at the 16th ACI Europe Awards 2020.

Similar to other airports around the world, the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic beginning early this year brought about a set of unprecedented challenges – temporary airport closures had led to a severe contraction in air traffic movements. Nevertheless, SAW is living up to its reputation of resiliency and quick rebound just as it did in many other past instances where its prospects seemed dimmed by events such as global economic downturn, natural disasters, military coup attempts etc.

Active measures taken in response to Covid 19.

Navigating through these past experiences has given SAW an advantage in manouvering through the current crisis. As one of the worlds’ busiest single runway, single terminal operation, SAW is seizing upon this window of opportunity resulting from a lull in air travel to optimize its facilities such as carrying out a full rehabilitation and refurbishment of the runway and apron facilities. The temporary closure had also allowed for the speeding up of the construction and completion of additional check-in islands at the terminal.

In taking this step, SAW is also aligned with its parent company – Malaysia Airports – who is facing a similar situation in Malaysia. The Group is intent on ensuring full readiness of its airport facilities and services once global borders fully re-open and travel picks up again. SAW is viewed as a valuable investment to its parent company especially with stronger ties developing between the two countries. Since July this year, several senior personnel at the Group level have also joined the SAW team in Turkey to ensure that the Group can fully leverage from the strengths of both entities.

Among other aspects, airport safety is among the Group’s top priority at all its airports. The SAW management immediately established several communication platforms internally and externally to ensure a constant series of updates on measures undertaken to enhance safety of all airport users.  The main objective was to assure the public that SAW is living up to its brand promise of ‘WE CARE’ that was launched during the pandemic.

Safety measures undertaken by the airport recently received validation from the authorities where both SAW terminal and the Airport Hotel was certified as safe by the Civil Aviation Authority and Ministry of Culture and Tourism. These certifications are also among ongoing efforts on the airport’s part to restore the public’s confidence in air-travel during this pandemic and beyond.

Contactless processing in SAW.

Apart from investments made in standard airport safety measures such as regular disinfection, and implementation of social distancing markers, hand-held scanners, as well as screen guard protectors at check-in and information counters, SAW has also accelerated its technological investments to provide passengers with contactless processing systems.

Despite the challenges faced in 2020, SAW remains upbeat on its future post-COVID-19, as air travel will always be in high demand especially from business travellers. COVID-19 may have changed the landscape of the industry, but the industry-wide robust response, measures taken, coupled with resilient demand and improved confidence for travel as well as recent success rate of vaccines, lends hope that the worst may be behind us and spells a better future of the industry.

Contact details

Sabiha Gökçen International Airport

Tel.: +90 216 588 80 00