Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, already at capacity. Wikipedia: Ercan Karakaş
Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, already at capacity. Wikipedia: Ercan Karakaş

Turkey has launched a tender to build in Istanbul what aims to be the world's largest airport at an estimated cost of over 7 billion euros ($11.3b), an official from the country's airports authority said.

"As of today, interested firms can start doing their math on the project and decide if they want to apply on May 3 when the tender closes," he told AFP on condition of anonymity as the project documents became available.

The project foresees the construction of a six-runway airport eventually capable of handling 150 million passengers per year, Transport Minister Binali Yildirim said.

That would far outpace Hartsfield-Jackson airport in the US city of Atlanta, which is currently the world's busiest with over 90 million passengers likely to have been served in 2012.

Gallery - The world's scariest runways

Plans are to have operating by 2016 facilities capable of handling some 100 million passengers per year at an expected cost of over 7 billion euros.

Turkish media reported that a number of local and foreign companies including Turkish TAV Airports, partnered with French airport operator Aeroports de Paris, and Dutch airport operator Schiphol Group were interested in bidding to build and operate the airport for 25 years.

The project is part of plans to make Istanbul a global hub initiated by the Islamic-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It follows Turkey's flag carrier Turkish Airlines reaching capacity at Istanbul's Ataturk International airport, which handled 45 million passengers last year.

Istanbul's second airport, Sabiha Gokcen International, registered 15 million passengers in 2012.

Turkish authorities say their combined capacity still falls short of meeting increased demand, especially for a hub of traffic between Asia and Europe.

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