Power cut at new airport hours after Erdogan's opening ceremony
by Nikolaos Stelgias
The new Ercan airport in northern Cyprus lost power hours after its opening ceremony on Thursday, causing flight delays and leaving passengers stranded in the terminal.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to the northern half of Cyprus on Thursday to attend events marking the 49th anniversary of the 1974 war and the opening of the new airport. Just hours after the official opening ceremony and the start of flights, the new Ercan airport was without electricity.
An insufficient power supply reportedly caused the blackout, and it took several hours for the electricity to be restored. In the meantime, passengers were forced to wait in the heat and humidity, and some flights were diverted to other airports.
The Cyprus Turkish Electricity Authority Employees' Union (EL-SEN) said the new airport had been "rushed into operation" before the necessary electricity infrastructure had been completed, posing a "danger" to both employees and passengers.
"Such disregard for human life in the name of political grandstanding is unacceptable," the union underlined.
The Yeniduzen newspaper reported that in addition to the power problems, there were also problems with check-in, immigration, and access to the control tower. The newspaper said passengers had significant delays on the first day of operations.
Cem Kapisiz, president of the air traffic controllers' union, said there was no electricity in some parts of the airport and no telephone connection to the outside. The new terminal building and the control tower are communicated via GSM (mobile phone).
"By opening the new terminal without completing the shortcomings, they have gone backward compared to the old terminal," Kapisiz said.
Mustafa Sofi, director of the Civil Aviation Directorate, admitted that parts of the airport had not been completed: "One part has no electricity, the other has no running water.
The incident has raised concerns about the safety and reliability of the new airport and is likely further to damage the reputation of Northern Cyprus' tourism industry.
Tymbou-Ercan Airport, a historic airport
The main civil airport in Northern Cyprus is Tymbou Airport, also known as Ercan Airport. It is located near the settlement of Tymbou, about 13 kilometers (8.1 miles) east of Nicosia.
During their colonial rule of the island, the British built the airport as a military airbase during the Second World War. It was abandoned after Cyprus gained independence. After the 1974 war and the de facto division of the island, it was taken over by the Turkish army and currently serves as the primary civilian airport in northern Cyprus.
Ercan Airport is still not recognized as a valid international airport by the Republic of Cyprus, the island's officially recognized government.
Ercan Airport served over 2 million passengers in 2022. This was over ten percent more than the previous year. The airport is expected to expand further in the coming years as tourism to northern Cyprus grows.
The brand-new Ercan Airport was built by a Turkish company with close ties to the country's conservative government. The opening ceremony of the new airport has been postponed due to disagreements between the Turkish company and the Turkish Cypriot government.