Colombo exceeds Turkish Airlines’ expectations

Tuesday, 27 August 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

With the centre of gravity of airline traffic moving to the south and the east, places like Istanbul, Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai will play a key role. Capitalising on this shift, Turkish Airlines has been growing rapidly – achieving 16% annual growth from 2003 to 2013. Turkish Airlines is more than geared to spread its wings across the world and is determined to break records each year, continuing to strengthen Turkey’s bonds with the world by opening new routes. Flying to more countries than any other airline in the world, Turkish Airlines is the fourth largest in terms of network size and the second airline flying to a maximum number of international destinations, while plans are in the pipeline to introduce around 15 new destinations in 2013/14. Right now Turkish Airlines flies to 103 countries and 239 destinations and what makes the airline successful is that none of the markets it is flying to are saturated. While it positions itself as the most cost-efficient airline, Turkish Airlines has won the ‘Best Airline in Europe’ award for three consecutive years, in addition to a host of other awards, including that of ‘Best Business Class Catering in the World’. In financial terms, the airline is 12th in terms of operating revenue in the world and in fifth position in terms of operating profit. Turkish Airlines was founded in 1933 and at the end of 2012, the total number of employees stood at 15, 857 while the airline carried 23 million international passengers in 2012. Following are excerpts of an interview with Turkish Airlines Inc. General Manager Sri Lanka Ozgur Suucak:   By Marianne David Q: Turkish Airlines started direct services to Colombo this year. How has the progress been so far and when do you intend to launch daily flights? A: We started flying to Sri Lanka on 1 February 2013 and at the moment we fly four times a week. Effective from 18 November it’s going to be daily flights. In the first four to five months, the load factors and operations have been good – better than our expectations. Q: How does the inclusion of Colombo fit into the airline’s expansion strategy in the South Asian/Asian region? A: Asia is going to shine in the world in terms of aviation and people are coming to Asia to experience better holidays when compared to European holidays styles. They find better options in Asia and Sri Lanka is one of them, as a new destination. There are heaps of possibilities in this new country and in this tourism world and therefore, after research, we decided to come to Colombo. Q: What is unique about Sri Lanka in terms of aviation and tourism and as a hub? A: Turkish Airlines is the first European carrier in Sri Lanka; that was the main reason we came to Sri Lanka. We are very strong in Europe, flying to over 90 destinations. Q: What should Sri Lanka work on in order to improve its attractiveness/success? A: In terms of cargo, we have been operating in Sri Lanka since 2002 and there was a base for Turkish Airlines in Sri Lanka in terms of cargo facilities. We added the passenger side in February. Day by day and month by month, we are recording growth and we don’t have any doubts about it. I think it’s going to be better in the future as well. Q: Could you outline the global plans for the airline? A: Last week I did a presentation on Turkish Airlines to a European group here on a familiarisation tour. In that presentation, I explained that there are more than 15 new destinations that we will be flying to in 2013-14. In Asia for example, we will be adding Kathmandu effective from 1 September and another destination will be Manila, Philippines. There are many new destinations in the States such as San Francisco and Boston and also in Canada, such as Montreal. We will continue to extend our wings around the world. Q: What do you see as trends and challenges in global aviation? A: Once we think of starting an operation in a country, we look at the ethnic markets around the world. For example, there are many Sri Lankan communities around the world and we are looking at those markets. The main point is our hub point, Istanbul, which is the best hub point in the world because of its geographical benefits. People can reach more than 35 destinations within three hours and more than 70 destinations within five hours from Istanbul. There is no other point like Istanbul in the world. We use that point to connect ethnic markets from A to B. Q: What are the challenges facing Turkish Airlines? A: In Europe, we hold four star. There is no other airline in Europe holding four star and our goal is five star. We’ve won the ‘Best Airline in Europe’ award but our goal is to be the best airline in the world. We have more than 100 brand new aircraft and it is a challenge to use those aircraft and load them. The main goal is five star in Europe and to be the best airline in the world.