Tourists making their way through a crowded airport dived for cover as tanks rolled onto the runway, gunfire rang out and fighter jets roared low over the tarmac during an attempted coup.
Flights heading for Turkey turned back as Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey’s biggest airport – and the target of a terrorist attack just three weeks ago – closed completely on Friday night following the Turkish military’s announcement of a coup. Australian travellers heading to Turkey were left stranded as airlines cancelled flights.
Turkish troops loyal to the president crushed the attempted coup and order has now been restored, but it is a rough time for tourism to Turkey. The airport is now open again but there are major delays.
A British tourist described how bullets were fired at the window of the airport’s transit lounge, triggering “mad panic”. Another tourist said that “shots were fired, people were running in every direction and exits were blocked”.
Passengers heading to Istanbul on a Qantas flight from Melbourne on Saturday morning were told their connecting flight to Istanbul had been cancelled, the Age reported.
Airlines around the world put out notices of flight cancellations while they waited for the situation to resolve. Some flights on the way to Istanbul turned back to point of origin.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued the following update at 8pm yesterday (Sunday):
The attempted coup in Turkey has failed and the situation is normalising. Localised military activity continues. You should continue to avoid unnecessary travel, large gatherings and demonstrations.
Ataturk and Sabiha Gokcen international airports in Istanbul, and Esenboga airport in Ankara, have resumed operations although delays are likely. Airports are very crowded. You should contact your airline or travel agent for information about your travel arrangements, including connecting flights.
We recommend you confirm your travel arrangements before travelling to the airport. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Turkey overall and to reconsider their need to travel to Istanbul and Ankara. Higher levels apply in some, other parts of Turkey.
Written by Peter Needham