The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted a ban on flights in and out of Turkey imposed in the aftermath of a coup attempt that saw security checkpoints at the Istanbul airport overrun by protesters.
The U.S. flight regulator kept the ban in place until Monday afternoon at 1:45 p.m. despite the fact that service was restored relatively quickly at the Ataturk International Airport Saturday.
“Earlier today I had stated that we saw no reason for the ban as all precautions were in line with the norms. Following our recent report and dense meetings, FAA removed the ban as expected,” Turkish Airlines Chairman Ilker Ayci said in a statement Monday.
Turkish Airlines flights from Atlanta to Istanbul were canceled Saturday through Monday. The airline said in a statement that flights from 10 U.S. cities, including its service from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, would resume their normal schedules Tuesday.
The FAA ban was put in place during a tenuous security situation at the airport. In the early hours of the coup attempt, supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were shown by CNN and other media chanting as they walked past abandoned security checkpoints. Some were said to have gotten out onto the tarmac. The U.S. Embassy in Ankara said Saturday that gunshots were still being heard in the area around the airport.
According to Flight Aware, a flight to Istanbul from Atlanta took off at 11:38 p.m. Atlanta time Friday, about two hours after Mr. Erdogan had returned to Istanbul from vacation in the seaside town of Marmaris. He gave a speech at the airport in Istanbul declaring the government in control, evidence to most commentators that it had failed. By the time the Atlanta flight arrived Saturday afternoon, Mr. Erdogan’s government was firmly back in power and had started the process of purging military leaders and judges.
But Monday, reports emerged detailing how close of a call it really was for Mr. Erdogan. According to Reuters and other outlets, he narrowly evaded an attempt to kill or capture him at his hotel. At one point a Turkish fighter jet used in the uprising had his plane locked in its radar but didn’t fire.
Istanbul became connected with Atlanta through a nonstop Turkish Airlines flight in May. The future of the flight remains uncertain after last month’s terror attacks and this weekend’s turmoil. Nearly 300 people died in the tumult Friday night, including more than 100 coup participants, according to Turkey’s foreign ministry.
Tourism has plummeted in Turkey and looks set to slide further. The U.S. State Department, which had previously warned Americans of terror activity, updated its travel warning to explicitly urge Americans to reconsider their visits to the country in light of the coup attempt.
Some social media users reported long wait times and poor communication as they scrambled to change flights on “Europe’s best airline”, while others said they would continue with their travel plans to Turkey.
The airline said any tickets booked before July 15 for flights between July 15-20 would be rebooked or refunded at no cost.