Turkish Airlines launched daily flights from Atlanta to Istanbul on Monday, bringing a new international carrier and route to the world's busiest airport.
Atlanta is the ninth U.S. destination for Turkish Airlines. Turkey's flag carrier is flying the new Atlanta-Istanbul route with Boeing 777-300ER jets.
The Turkish Airlines route has been two years in the making. A delegation from Atlanta including Mayor Kasim Reed's chief of staff Candace Byrd made a trip to Turkey in 2014, the same year the airport launched a $2 million incentive program to attract new international routes. The airline last year announced plans for the Atlanta-Istanbul flights.
Southwell called the route to Turkey "very strategic" for the development of Atlanta's economy, saying the flights also bring more connections to other parts of the world.
Meanwhile, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines last month said it was suspending its seasonal flights from New York to Istanbul, citing “increased security concerns in Turkey” including a State Department travel warning, and “weaker demand for air travel to this market.”