Low-cost flights to Istanbul

Gemma Bowes
The Observer, Sunday 30 July 2006

Istanbul is set to be the next big weekend break destination with the launch of the first Easyjet flights there on Tuesday.

The city will be the airline's third destination outside the European Union - flights to Marrakesh, and Split and Rijeka in Croatia were launched this summer.

The move is part of a growing trend for low-cost airlines to expand their networks outside the EU. Thomsonfly is to add Marrakesh to its ti****ble in November, and last week Ryanair announced it would also fly to Marrakesh and Fez, plus the Croatian town of Pula in October.

Samantha Day, Easyjet's public relations manager, said: 'Historically, low-cost airlines have only expanded in the EU because it's a lot simpler, as the countries share the same regulations and legislation.

But people are getting more adventurous and the potential of places like Istanbul make the added complications worth it.'

The Easyjet flights from Luton cost from £61 return on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays until September, when they will become daily. 'It's the only city that embraces two continents so is very attractive as a city break, and will also act as a gateway to a coast which is very popular for holidaymakers and second-home owners,' said Day.

Aside from the historical sites such as the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, and the bellydancing, bazaars and kebabs, the Turkish tourist board is keen to promote Istanbul's modern cultural scene. It now has its own Time Out guide, a new Ritz Carlton hotel, and nightclubs, bars and designer clothes shops to rival any western city.

Jamie Dunford Wood, managing director of Travel Intelligence, which offers high-end hotels around the world, said: 'Boutique hotels first established themselves in Istanbul in 2003. Today, the most chic is the 18-room Sumahan on the Water. It is one step ahead of the game by being in a peaceful location on the shores of the Bosporus slightly away from the city centre.'