Turkey earthquake: Can you still travel there and have airlines cancelled flights?

How flights and holidays to the country are affected by the situation

A Turkish Airlines plane at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport. Following Monday's earthquake, travellers flying to the country may face disruption. Reuters
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Turkey is reeling after the country was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on Monday morning, followed by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake and a series of aftershocks.

Follow the latest news on the earthquake in Turkey

The death toll has risen to more than 24,000 in Turkey and neighbouring Syria.

As rescue efforts continue in the country, travellers who had plans to visit Turkey may be confused about what to do.

The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office updated its guidance for UK travellers, advising tourists to “avoid the immediate vicinity” of the incident, which took place in the city of Gaziantep.

It also advised travellers in Turkey to follow the guidance of the relevant authorities.

“There have been several strong aftershocks. You should avoid the immediate vicinity and follow the advice of the local authorities,” reads the FCO's advice.

Which areas of Turkey are affected?

Ten Turkish provinces have been most affected by the situation. These are:

  • Adana
  • Adiyaman
  • Diyarbakir
  • Gaziantep
  • Hatay
  • Kahramanmaras
  • Kilis
  • Malatya
  • Osmaniye
  • Sanliurfa

Gaziantep in the country's south-eastern Anatolia region was the site of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake. One of the city's most famous landmarks — the ancient Gaziantep Castle — has been severely damaged.

In Malatya, a historic mosque and high-rise hotel collapsed, and in Diyarbakir — a city 300km from the epicentre — a shopping mall collapsed following the earthquake, reported The New York Times.

While south-eastern Turkey is well-known for its culinary tourism, it's not one of the country's main holiday destinations and lies hundreds of kilometres from more famous hotspots such as Istanbul and Antalya. February is also not peak tourism season for the region.

Popular holiday destinations in Turkey such as Cappadocia and the Aegean coast are unlikely to be heavily affected by the situation.

Do tourists need to be worried about aftershocks?

As tremors from the initial quake were felt as far away as Cyprus, Lebanon and Israel, more than 40 aftershocks were also reported.

Geological survey agencies said more could occur.

The UK foreign office has advised tourists to be aware of the risk of aftershocks in the coming days.

Have airlines cancelled flights to Turkey?

Most international airlines continue to operate flights to Turkey. Istanbul Airport — the country's main hub for international flights — is operating as normal.

Etihad Airways, Emirates and flydubai confirmed to The National that flights to Turkey from the UAE remain unaffected by the situation.

Turkish Airlines — the country’s national carrier — has cancelled a few operations including some flights to Samsun, Adiyaman and Siirt.

The airline is prioritising operations to help with search-and-rescue efforts.

In a statement shared with The National, the airline said it had “planned our operational priority to deliver the rescue teams and expert teams, aid materials, and necessary equipment to the region for now”.

Turkish Airlines's cargo planes across the country have been flying rescue and security forces, plus provisions to places where they are most needed.

Are airports in Turkey open?

Istanbul Airport is the main hub for most travellers arriving or departing Turkey. One of the world's largest air travel hubs, it remains open and operating as normal following the earthquakes.

Some domestic airports across Turkey suspended flights following the incident.

This includes Gaziantep Oguzeli International Airport, which has closed to all air traffic other than jets involved in search and rescue or medical efforts.

Severe runway damage at Hatay Airport — the hub for travellers heading to Antakya and Iskenderun — led to the suspension of commercial air traffic. However, airlines are once again able to use the air hub after it reopened following extensive works to repair the damage.

Adana Sakirpasa Airport in the southern province of Adana has also closed. Adana International Airport remains open.

Travellers who planned to fly to these destinations, or with connecting flights coming up via any of these airports should check with their airline for the most recent updates.

Tourism in Turkey

This year, Turkey is on track to be the fourth most-popular European destination for sun-seekers in summer.

Recent data from the World Travel & Tourism Council showed that flight bookings to Turkey for the year have already exceeded pre-pandemic levels, with travellers favouring destinations such as Istanbul and the beaches of Antalya, Bodrum and Dalaman.

Updated: May 12, 2023, 11:19 AM