5/28/2012

Turkish Airlines in growth push

Financial Times - The chief executive of Turkish Airlines has set out a goal of building the biggest network of destinations in an interview given to the Financial Times.

“Very soon we will become the largest network in the world,” Temel Kotil, Turkish Airlines’ chief executive since 2005, said. “The purpose is very clear: like the Silk Road, we are linking everywhere to Istanbul.”

The company says it flies to more locations from a single airport than any other carrier in Europe and is talking to Warsaw about buying a big stake in LOT, Poland’s national airline. Turkish Airlines began flights to Kigali, Rwanda this month, to add to destinations such as Mogadishu, Somalia and Misrata, Libya. From its base at Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport, the group flies to almost 200 destinations. The size of the fleet has gone from 100 aircraft in 2006 to 153 in 2010, with a figure of 190 targeted for the end of this year. The airline has sponsorship deals with Barcelona and Manchester United.

The expansion drive of the 49 percent state-owned carrier fits with Turkey’s ambitions as a rising power on the world stage, with growing interest in the Middle East, Central Asia, the Balkans and Africa.

For the January-April period, THY’s business class and international transit passengers grew by 51 percent and 41 percent respectively compared with the same period a year before.

“This is huge growth,” Kotil says. “This means that we are very heartily growing, although there is a big crisis in Europe, which is our major market.”

He adds that the figures are a testimony to two things. One is Istanbul’s “perfect” location – three to four hours’ flight to most of Europe, the source of some 40 percent of all international travel. The other is the extent to which the company has been built almost from scratch since 2003, the year he joined, and how it continued to grab market share even as other carriers cut back in 2008-2009.

“This was a small, 10 million passenger airline, with USD 1.7billion [in revenues],” he says. “This year we will hopefully have 38 million passengers and USD 7.8 billion.”
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