İstanbul’s snowed-in airport gradually resuming normal operations

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İstanbul Airport, Europe’s busiest, was gradually resuming normal operations after a blizzard shut it down for a day, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the head of Turkish Airlines on Wednesday.

İstanbul Airport closed on Monday for the first time since it replaced the old Atatürk 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 chanting, “We need a hotel.”

The airport handled just a handful of flights on Tuesday, mostly allowing 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 Ekşi 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 continued.

A blizzard that reached İstanbul last weekend paralyzed traffic and shut down basic services in the city of 16 million, some parts of which were covered by 85 centimeters (2.8 feet) of snow.

Officials urged residents not to use private cars unless necessary. Universities were closed until Monday and buses were prohibited from entering or leaving the city until Wednesday morning.

But most of the attention focused on İstanbul Airport, which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once hailed as the “pride of our country and an example to the world.”

One of the mega-projects built under Erdoğan’s two-decade rule, the gleaming glass-and-steel structure handled 37 million passengers last year, making it Europe’s busiest for the second year running.

But opponents have criticized the airport’s location, which is near the Black Sea coast and 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the city center, exposing to fog and strong winds.

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