As flights resume at Istanbul airport, U.S. warns travelers away

Story highlights

  • Istanbul Ataturk Airport resumes operations
  • Airport was closed due to attempted coup in Turkey
  • Dozens of flights canceled and thousands of passengers stranded

(CNN)Normalcy is resuming in Istanbul following an attempted coup that saw tanks in the streets of Turkey's largest city.

As of early Sunday morning local time, regular operations have resumed at Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey's main transport hub, according to Turkish Airlines.
    In a statement, the airline said "with the unflinching will of the people, Turkey has [awoken] to a new day with a much stronger sense of democracy and freedom."
    The carrier said flight operations will resume as planned. Ataturk Airport's website showed the majority of flights were taking off and landing without delay, with a small number of cancellations.
    Atlasglobal, the airport's second largest carrier, said that "as of July 17th, our flights are fully operating according to the schedule."
    British Airways canceled all flights to and from Turkey on Saturday, and warned that flights on Sunday "may be subject to some delays."
    U.S. aircraft are currently banned from flying to Turkey by the Federal Aviation Administration. It is unclear when the ban will be lifted.
    Military vehicles enter Istanbul Ataturk Airport following an attempted coup attempt in Turkey.

    Airport closure

    The closure of Ataturk Airport late Friday caused the diversion of 35 airplanes and the cancellation of more than 30 Turkish Airlines flights, the carrier's chairman, Ilker Ayci, told CNN Turk.
    Ayci apologized to passengers for the inconvenience and promised that those affected would be able to change their flights "unconditionally."
    Thousands of passengers were stranded at the airport, the third-busiest in Europe, where there were reports of an explosion that caused the building to "shake."
    Speaking to China's CCTV, a stranded passenger said "we were really terrified," and said he heard sounds of explosions and jets outside the airport.
    "There were a whole lot of people running and screaming in the international departures," passenger Cem Kutlu told The New York Times, adding that the panic soon turned to boredom as the airport remained out of operation.
    Photos showed people sleeping on the floor and in corridors as monitors showed dozens of flights delayed or canceled.
    More than 40 British schoolchildren were stranded at the airport, Arthur Terry School said in a statement. The pupils, on a trip to South Africa, were "safe and well" and in contact with UK consular staff, the school said.
    Passengers stranded as Istanbul Ataturk Airport following an attempted coup attempt in Turkey.

    Safety warnings

    While flights have resumed, travel warnings largely remain in place.
    In a statement, the U.S. State Department suggested citizens "reconsider travel to Turkey at this time."
    It warned those that did visit the country to "stay away from large crowds, including at popular tourist destinations" and "exercise heightened vigilance and caution when visiting public access areas."
    The UK Foreign Office said "the situation in Turkey appears to be calming" but added that the security environment "remains potentially volatile."
    "In Ankara and Istanbul we advise you to avoid public places, in particular demonstrations, and remain vigilant," the Foreign Office said. "Take sensible precautions if you are in the vicinity of any military or security forces."
    Canada warned citizens to "avoid all travel" to Turkey at this time.