Miami is getting nonstop flights to another global hub later this year when Turkish Airlines kicks off service to and from Istanbul.
Daily flights between the two cities — the first direct service since September of 2001 — kick off Oct. 25.
Aviation officials in Miami-Dade hailed the announcement as the latest move in the airport’s efforts to grow its international reach. Executives had been publicizing their meetings to discuss the possibility of air service with Turkey’s consul general since mid-2014.
“It’s part of our strategy to go global and bring in as many carriers as we can from different parts of the world,” said Miami-Dade Aviation Director Emilio T. González. “We want to connect Miami to the world. We do it one airline at a time.”
Istanbul Ataturk Airport is ranked 13th in the world for total passenger traffic with 56.8 million passengers in 2014, according to Airports Council International. In February, Turkish Airlines said its route map included 264 destinations in 108 countries; that will increase to 273 destinations by the end of the year. It is part of the Star Alliance network that includes United Airlines.
“Their network out of Istanbul is beyond spectacular,” González said. He said the city, which straddles Europe and Asia, has strong links to Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
“We don’t have a direct flight to Israel, but they have very robust traffic from Tel Aviv to Istanbul,” González said. “Not only does it open us up to a global market, but there’s a niche market there in hopefully drawing Israeli passengers.”
Ozgur K. Altan, the Turkish consul general, said in an interview that the route has potential on both sides of the ocean: for business and leisure travelers heading to Istanbul as well as residents of Turkey interested in visiting Miami.
“In Turkey, there’s a lot of interest in Miami; obviously the weather is fantastic, it’s a hospitable town, people are buying homes here,” he said. “It’s going to be just great for everyone. We have been working on it for a very long time.”
Turkish Airlines first started flying the Miami-Istanbul route in June of 1999, but stopped the service in September of 2001. An airport spokesman said the airline had limited resources at the time, and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks forced air carriers all over the globe to cut back.
For the flights starting in October, the airline will use a Boeing 777-300ER with capacity for 337 passengers. Flights will arrive in Miami at 8:30 p.m. and leave for Istanbul at 10:30 p.m. daily.
William Talbert III, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the bureau has partnered with the airport over the last several years to pitch Miami as a new destination for Turkish Airlines, in part by offering marketing support to raise awareness of the service.
“Ninety-six percent of our visitors come by air,” Talbert said. “To continue to have the records we’ve seen, this expansion of air routes is key.”