It has been 21 years since Turkish Airlines (TK) has been linking Bangkok to Istanbul. But it is only since last year that TK has been increasingly considered Bangkok as its “mini-hub” for southeast Asia.“ 2009 was a difficult year for Bangkok due to deteriorating economies around the world and also due to internal political problems in Thailand,” explained Adnan Aykac, Turkish Airlines general manager for Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, but it did not affect so much the airline’s growth to Thailand. Load factor on the Bangkok-Istanbul route was up by 6 points to 80 percent. “The potential of Bangkok as a gateway to Thailand and also southeast Asia remains unaffected, and this is where we capitalize our future growth in the region,” told M. Aykac.
Turkish Airlines currently serves Bangkok on a daily basis, but plans are well advanced to add more flights, most probably for the winter schedule 2010-11. “Depending on our current negotiation with Thai Airways International, it could be a second daily flight or three more frequencies per week. The additional flight could then be extended to another destination in southeast Asia,” added M. Aykac. The additional frequencies would be served with a brand-new Boeing B777 leased from Indian carrier, Jet Airways.
Discussions on a code-share agreement with Thai Airways are progressing slowly, but M. Aykac remains confident that a final decision could be reached before the start of the winter season. “Thai Airways does not fly to Istanbul, and a code share could then provide an opportunity for them to be present on the Turkish market. Meanwhile, we estimate that we could bring some 40,000 additional transfer passengers to Thai Airways on an annual basis, especially to Thai Airways’ regional and Australian network,” estimated M. Aykac.
In February, the Australian government signed its first air services agreement with Turkey to allow airlines to immediately start direct flights 5 times per week between the two countries. Until Turkish Airlines starts direct flights to Australia, a code-share agreement could be signed with Thai, a partner within Star Alliance.
Discussions seem to be well advanced with Vietnam authorities to let Turkish Airlines opening a direct flight to Ho Chi Minh City via Bangkok. “We would have the opportunity to also carry passengers between Bangkok and Saigon. We are also looking very seriously at Manila, which could eventually be served via Bangkok,” said Turkish Airlines’ general manager for Thailand. Turkish is also looking again to serve Kuala Lumpur in the near future.
Turkish Airlines continues to expand at high speed, turning Istanbul into Europe’s gateway to the east. “We are ideally positioned with Istanbul airport. We serve more than 60 destinations in Europe, including many secondary cities and over 35 cities in the Middle East and Asia, and we continue to grow year after year,” told M. Aykac. For 2010, Turkish Airlines looks to open new routes from Istanbul to Bologna, Sochi, and Dar Es Salaam via Entebbe, Accra via Lagos, Erbil (Iran), Dhaka, and Ho Chi Minh City.