'Great Move' begins to relocate Istanbul Airport

Passengers at Ataturk International Airport, in Istanbul, sit near the empty check-in counters, Friday, April 5, 2019, ahead of its closure. The relocation from Ataturk International Airport to Istanbul Airport on the Black Sea shores— dubbed the "Great Move"—began early Friday and is expected to end Saturday. Ataturk Airport, ranked 17th busiest in the world in 2018 according to preliminary statistics, will cease commercial operations at 02:00 am local Saturday (2300 GMT Friday.) (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
The Ataturk International Airport, in Istanbul, Friday, April 5, 2019. Turkey's main international airport in Istanbul is closing and relocating to its new home in a massive logistical operation. The relocation from Ataturk International Airport to Istanbul Airport on the Black Sea shores— dubbed the "Great Move"—began early Friday and is expected to end Saturday. The Istanbul Airport —one of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's mega projects— partially opened in October and will serve 90 million passengers annually. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Turkish Airlines airplane at Ataturk International Airport, in Istanbul, Friday, April 5, 2019, ahead of its closure. The relocation from Ataturk International Airport to Istanbul Airport on the Black Sea shores— dubbed the "Great Move"—began early Friday and is expected to end Saturday. Ataturk Airport, ranked 17th busiest in the world in 2018 according to preliminary statistics, will cease commercial operations at 02:00 am local Saturday (2300 GMT Friday.) (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Turkish Airlines airplanes at Ataturk International Airport, in Istanbul, Friday, April 5, 2019, ahead of its closure. The relocation from Ataturk International Airport to Istanbul Airport on the Black Sea shores— dubbed the "Great Move"—began early Friday and is expected to end Saturday. The Istanbul Airport — one of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's mega projects— partially opened in October and will serve 90 million passengers annually. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Turkish Airlines airplanes at Ataturk International Airport, in Istanbul, Friday, April 5, 2019, ahead of its closure. The relocation from Ataturk International Airport to Istanbul Airport on the Black Sea shores— dubbed the "Great Move"—began early Friday and is expected to end Saturday. Ataturk Airport, ranked 17th busiest in the world in 2018 according to preliminary statistics, will cease commercial operations at 02:00 am local Saturday (2300 GMT Friday.) (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Ground personnel of Ataturk International Airport, in Istanbul, pose for photos on Friday, April 5, 2019, ahead of its closure. The relocation from Ataturk International Airport to Istanbul Airport on the Black Sea shores— dubbed the "Great Move"—began early Friday and is expected to end Saturday. Ataturk Airport, ranked 17th busiest in the world in 2018 according to preliminary statistics, will cease commercial operations at 02:00 am local Saturday (2300 GMT Friday.) (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Security personnel of Ataturk International Airport, in Istanbul, stand in front of the empty check-in counters, Friday, April 5, 2019, ahead of its closure. The relocation from Ataturk International Airport to Istanbul Airport on the Black Sea shores— dubbed the "Great Move"—began early Friday and is expected to end Saturday. Ataturk Airport, ranked 17th busiest in the world in 2018 according to preliminary statistics, will cease commercial operations at 02:00 am local Saturday (2300 GMT Friday.) (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
With a poster of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, modern Turkey's founder, between flight information boards, people walk at Ataturk International Airport, in Istanbul, Friday, April 5, 2019, ahead of its closure. The relocation from Ataturk International Airport to Istanbul Airport on the Black Sea shores— dubbed the "Great Move"—began early Friday and is expected to end Saturday. The Istanbul Airport —one of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's mega projects— partially opened in October and will serve 90 million passengers annually. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

ISTANBUL — Turkey's main international airport in Istanbul is closing and moving to a new base in a massive logistical operation.

The relocation of Ataturk International Airport to Istanbul Airport on the Black Sea shores —dubbed the "Great Move"— began early Friday and is expected to end Saturday.

Bilal Eksi, CEO of flagship carrier Turkish Airlines, said 686 semi-trailer trucks and hundreds of other vehicles are moving equipment at night, and planes have started flying to the new airport.

The airline said on Twitter that the move was the largest in aviation history, with 10,000 pieces of equipment weighing 47,000 tons, covering an estimated size of 33 football fields.

The Istanbul Airport, one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's signature megaprojects, opened partially in October and will serve 90 million passengers annually. It seeks to be the world's biggest when fully expanded in 10 years to serve 200 million passengers each year.

Labor rights groups have said the rush to meet Erdogan's deadline led to workplace accidents and deaths, while environmentalists argued the airport and the infrastructure to serve it destroyed forests and wetlands.

Ataturk Airport, ranked the 17th busiest in the world in 2018, will cease commercial operations at 02:00 am local on Saturday (2300 GMT Friday).

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