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To Rome, IST or SAW?

We will be on the May, 2023 Istanbul tour, staying in the old city. We are also traveling in Italy before and after, so are arriving and leaving Europe out of Rome. Rome to/from Istanbul we can take Turkish Airlines into/out of IST or Pegasus into/out of SAW. Prices and schedules are very similar so no advantage to either on that count, and it would appear that they are similar distances from the old city sector. We will have already been in Rome for a few days, so we won't be battling jet lag and fatigue from the flight from US. I suspect we will take a cab rather than negotiate the bus system. Any strong opinions for either airport or airline?

Posted by
2267 posts

SAW is Istanbul's second airport, on the Asian side. It doesn't have much (any?) long haul service.

I'd rather fly Turkish than the LCC Pegasus. And you're saying on the IST side of the straight.

Posted by
733 posts

Turkish Airlines out of IST is what you want. If you are lucky, the new Metro line will be open all the way into the city by the time you arrive. It's supposed to open in April.

Sabiha Gokcen (SAW) is on the Asian side. As a previous poster mentioned, SAW is mostly for short haul flights.

Pegasus is a budget carrier. (I think that both airlines are owned by the Turkish government.) If the prices are similar, choosing Turkish is a no-brainer.

Traffic likely will be heavy getting into the city center either way, but IST is better equipped for transfers and taxis into the city. Also, you don't have to cross the Bosporus if you fly into IST. Many hotels offer private transfers for a fee. It's worth checking with your hotel in Istanbul.

Posted by
1505 posts

Having transited through both airports, it’s SAW Airport that is the smaller of the two with just 3 boarding gates compared with IST’s 41 boarding gates. At SAW, getting through security and customs is much quicker and you don’t have to walk great distances to do it. SAW also is closer to central Istanbul—30 minutes by taxi or shuttle. Last year SAW was the choice for “Digital Airport of the Year” in the Bluesky Awards. In 2019 SAW was named “Airport of the Year” in its category by CAPA, the Center for Aviation in the Pacific and Asia. IST was designed to be one of the largest airports in the world and last year it became the busiest airport in Europe. IST sees the second-largest number of international passengers in the world pass through its terminals. That may be a plus for some travelers. For others, it’s all you need to know to book your flights out of SAW Airport whenever that option is available.