Aviation consultant Robert Mann said the carrier's growth is unsurprising.

"Istanbul is a logistically important airport with all that's going on in the Middle East, and Turkish is an airline that has taken on high western standards. They have made the transition from a developing-world operation," Mann said.

While several Middle East airlines led by Emirates are also expanding in the U.S. and offer worldwide connections from their hubs, Mann noted, "If you are going to India and points beyond, or if you don't fancy landing somewhere in the Middle East, Istanbul is attractive."

A problem, Kotil said, is that Ataturk is getting cramped. Traffic grew 17% in 2011 to 37.4 million passengers, ranking 30th in the world, and comparable to Miami International, which ranks 26th with 38.3 million passengers. Planning is underway for a new Istanbul airport. "We need a bigger airport," Kotil said. "Without one, we are not able to sustain our growth."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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