İzmir Airport, booming Turkey
Wilco Van Herpen
İzmir's airport has recently been reopened after being enlarged.At the moment, there is a big boom going on in Turkey. Actually this boom started years ago, but every day we witness new booming things; there is a booming subway line in Istanbul, construction of roads, shopping malls and apartments are booming and the construction of renewed airports has also been booming. Whenever I fly to another destination, I see a new airport being reopened or at the brink of opening. Nevşehir, Sivas and Ankara are some great examples.
One of the last airports to be opened after being enlarged is İzmir. About four weeks ago, İzmir Airport opened the new departure and arrival hall for domestic flights. Totally unprepared, I parked my car where I always park my car. I walk to the entrance of the arrival hall, go through the first checkpoint and head for Turkish Airlines (THY) at the check counter (this is at my left). I look around, but I cannot find the THY counter!
When I turn around, I see, it looks miles away, a little sign that reads “domestic flights.” All of a sudden I wake up; did they finish the new hall and open it, I wonder. I walk and walk and indeed, all of a sudden the, already huge hall, changes into an even bigger hall! Now I understand why the parking garage was empty and I could easily find a parking place almost next to the entrance. While I go from the old hall into the new one and look around I am in shock. Where the heck are the counters!? I notice an island in front of me and realize that this is the check-in counter of Pegasus, but there is no sight of THY. I stand still, look around and then, far, far away, I see the infamous red color that exudes “THY.” I am happy that I did not bring any luggage with me because it is quite a distance. I walk, I walk, I walk and it seems as if the counter is not getting any closer. What the heck is this? This airport is almost bigger than the Schiphol Airport.
I feel miniscule; my proportions shrink to that of an ant walking around in its colony. Everything here is big except the people. Talking about people, I hardly see anybody. What a huge contrast to the “old” airport. Before, it was as if every day was a high season day (and I am talking about December or January, the low season period) but now, in July, it is as if it is national population counting day (in the 15 years that I have lived in Turkey, two or three times mine eyes have borne witness to national population counting day. It was forbidden for everyone, even tourists, to go outside. During those days they tried to determine how many people there were actually living in Turkey). The couple of travelers I see here make the departure hall even bigger. This is not good for a person’s self-esteem.
There is no intimate feeling in this (and many other huge and new) airports. You get lost in the, for me still, strange mixture of glass (the sun, burning like crazy) and metal. A huge artwork kind of diabolo (of course, made of metal and glass) rises up in the middle of the hall. They used a couple of those diabolos to create a space for a coffee shop and a little figure, completely lost in space, drinks his coffee here. During the days of Communism or the time when Napoleon was ruling Europe, there was also such a habit of making things big, bigger, biggest. The idea was to give the people the feeling that they were nothing. People were there to serve the purpose, not the purpose of serving mankind.
Finally I make it to the check-in counter and again, I am surprised. No endless queues, no waiting… Within a couple of minutes, I find myself in front of the second check point and put my belongings in the tray. The machine swallows my bag and telephone and spits it out at the other end. In the meanwhile, I walk through the portal and it bleeps. Security tells me that I have to go again, but I am in shock. All I am wearing or carrying is my pants, t-shirt and sandals. The second time the portal remains silent and I give the guy a look suggestive of “I told you so…” The surprising thing for me is that although I walk around in an ultra-modern airport, they still use those antique portals to check if you are carrying any bombs, firearms or other life threatening things like water, a scissors or suntan lotion. Spending billions of dollars on the airport and then having to deal with this old-fashioned equipment surprises me.
Lack of humanity
Anyway, it looks as if it was a rush job. Everywhere I look, I see unfinished corridors where workers’ equipment is still piled up. There were no tiles on the walls and the biggest disappointment to me was the pedestrian walkway from the national arrival hall to the international arrival hall. If you make the mistake of going out and then realize that your car is parked at the other side, you have to walk over the street. Taxis blew their horn and one driver who did not see me almost hit me. This time I could not blame the driver; who expects a pedestrian here at the modern airport to walk on the street…
How much has Turkey changed; how the airports have changed. In 1994, I went with two friends to Turkey by car. We had bought an old Peugeot and upon arrival had to wait for a couple of days for a friend who could not come along with us. The idea was to fetch Harry from Atatürk Airport, so the day he arrived we drove to Atatürk Airport and parked the car in front of the main entrance… Yes, the airport was so small that you could park your car just over there. No stressed traffic policemen whistling neurotically on their football whistles. No endless queues of kilometers before the entrance to the airport (who are all risking a parking ticket because they park on the highway) but just going and parking in front of the entrance. It was a cute airport and things were relaxed. Of course it is not possible anymore for Turkey to have such a villager’s airport; Turkey grew up and became popular among businessmen and tourists. Together with it came the need for a better and bigger airport. Now they are working on a third airport and I agree that something has to be done for all the planes that go and come to Turkey, but I do not agree with the location of the new airport. Anyway, that is another story…
My problem is that, as a traveler, you feel and get lost in the humongous nature of those airports that do not give you any nice feelings whatsoever. I understand we need bigger airports, but make them more cozy and livable. They are so big that you can make an inside park. So make a nice airport with loads of plants, bushes and trees. It will calm people down, give a nice natural touch to the airport and be more decorative than installations of metal and glass.