Priority goes to long-haul flights to strengthen global hub in Istanbul, Turkish Airlines CEO Temel Kotil says


As Turkish Airlines celebrates its 20th anniversary of presence in the Thai market, the airline’s CEO, Dr. Temel Kotil, gave an insight of the future of the national Turkish carrier. And despite the crisis, Turkish Airlines continues to register a strong growth.

“We expect to carry this year 26.7 million passengers, up by 9 percent. We even believe that international passengers’ traffic will continue to grow stronger at 17 percent,” said Dr. Kotil.

The CEO of Turkey’s flag carrier said his airline already targets 40 million passengers by year 2012, which would represent another growth of 54 percent compared to 2008.

Are Turkish Airlines ambitions far too high? “We permanently have an eye on the future and we try to anticipate the development of our market. And we think that we have the strong potential of becoming a leading world carrier thanks to our global hub in Istanbul. The airport, where Turkish Airlines operates over 200,000 flights per year is now promoted as the ‘natural hub’ of the world.

“Istanbul has indeed an excellent positioning. We are just at the doorsteps of Europe where most cities can be reached in a time range of 3 to 4 hours. And we are also very close to the Middle East and Central Asia,” added Dr Kotil.

According to him, transfer traffic represented last year 6.9 percent of all passengers. It airline is hoping to reach this year for the first time over two million passengers, an estimated market share of 7.6 percent of all traffic.

Over the last five years, Turkish Airlines mainly concentrated its development into the short- to medium-haul market. “These markets can be served with smaller airplanes such as the Airbus A321 or the Boeing 737-700 or 800. Smaller machines are better to serve secondary cities in Europe and offer a cost advantage that even Gulf carriers cannot match,” explained the Turkish Airlines CEO.

He added, next focus will now be the strengthening of the long-haul network to strengthen the Istanbul hub. “We will receive 14 wide body aircraft such as the Airbus A330 and the Boeing 777 until late 2011. They will then serve long haul destinations,” said Dr. Kotil.

Asia will be one of the main beneficiary of Turkish Airlines expansion overseas. Dr. Kotil revealed: “We will mostly densify our current network of 17 destinations. But we also plan to open a few new routes. In September we will for example start five flights a week to Jakarta, and probably step up our capacity to Bangkok. In the longer term, we also target services to Vietnam and the Philippines.”

Are any clouds on the horizon of Turkish Airlines ? TK CEO confesses “minor” challenges: yields are expected to further decrease by 10 percent on average this year due to plummeting fares under the pressure of the worldwide recession.

In addition, Istanbul airport is suffering from increasing congestion, which is likely to derail its efficiency. “Declining yields are balanced by the strong growth in passengers. And regarding Istanbul, the government now has put as a priority the construction of a brand new airport. Hopefully it will be completed within five years time,” told an optimistic Dr. Kotil.