By Gail Dubov
It is hard to argue with numbers. Data from the World Tourism Organization shows that global tourism declined over 4% last year.But Turkey managed to increase tourism by over 3%. And, in the first six months of 2011, the number of visitors coming to Istanbul increased 15%. But the most impressive numbers are for the country’s airline. While airlines around the world are suffering from the sluggish global economy, Turkish Airlines is showing growing profits. It was voted “Europe’s Best Airline” by Skytrax in 2011, and garnered awards for “Southern Europe’s Best Airline” and world’s “Best Premium Economy Class Airline Seat”. The survey, aviation’s “Oscars,” are based on passenger votes – and the fact is, 19 million passengers can’t be wrong. And awards keep coming. The “Market Leadership Award 2011” was presented by Air Transport World, the leading magazine covering the global airline industry. Placing 7th in the world’s “Best Airline” ranking, Turkish Airlines is on a roll, growing fast as a global gateway to Turkey and beyond. It’s all about location, location, location. Istanbul is in the perfect geographic spot for easy connections to destinations north, south, and east. Flying to over sixty countries, the airline has popular routes to 192 destinations, not only in the U.S. and Europe, but farther east and in Africa. It’s setting its sights on becoming a truly intercontinental hub airline, able to offer connections to all corners of the globe via Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport.
Part of the Star Alliance, Turkish Airlines has gained more strength than ever in the past few years. The airline served approximately 17 million people and made $2.2 billion in 2006. In 2009 their passenger total was up to just over 25 million with total revenue of $4 billion. The target for the end of 2011 is $8billion, with passengers totaling 35 million. The carrier plans to increase seat capacity by 16% and increase its fleet to 177 aircraft. Twenty Boeing 737-800’s and 15 Boeing 737-900ERs are on order, all featuring innovative Sky Interiors. The 900ER airplanes will have additional fuel tanks, increasing their range and scheduled for use on African routes. Four of the aircraft will be delivered and added to the airline’s fleet in late 2011 with delivery of the rest completed by 2015. These new aircraft are part of the Airlines’ ongoing fleet expansion and renewal, giving the carrier one of the most modern and technologically advanced fleets in the world.
Turkish Airlines Launches New Routes to Africa and Middle East
Mevlut Kayar, Turkish Airlines’ new general manager for Chicago and the Midwest, knows Nairobi better than Michigan Avenue. In 2009 he was appointed to Kenya as general manager to open that destination with flights from Istanbul to Nairobi. The airline started with three flights a week and in four months increased to five. “It was not easy to make business and start new flights in Kenya,” Kayar told Travel World News. But one year later, daily flights were started and Kenya is now one of Turkish Airlines best destinations in Africa. The airline has run FAM trips from Europe to Kenya and sponsored two documentary films about Kenya to publicize the destination. And it worked. Now, flights to Nairobi are completely booked during the holidays. The airline launched service to Entebbe, Uganda and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania last year, adding to a list of African destinations that includes Johannesburg, Tunis, Algiers, Casablanca, Khartoum, Addis Ababa, Lagos and Dakar. The airline now operates over 90 weekly flights to 17 destinations on the continent.
Flights to Dar es Salaam, three a week via Nairobi, will become four direct fights a week starting in December. “Potential is great for Turkish Airlines in Tanzania,” Kayar told Travel World News. With even more name recognition than Kenya, and Zanzibar an added attraction, Kayar believes the new direct flights from Istanbul will be just the beginning of a growing market to Tanzania. And for Americans connecting through Istanbul, a few nights of belly dancing and kebabs are a great way to begin – or end – a safari.
Turkish Airlines is becoming a serious contender for the wider Middle Eastern market. New routes have been announced to Mosul, Iraq, and Mitiga, Libya with four weekly flights operating to both destinations. The airline flies to Beirut and Cairo and Saudi and Gulf destinations.
It flies four times daily between Tel Aviv and Istanbul, one of their most popular routes. With Turkey located between the Middle East and European regions, travel time is approximately three hours. The airline has been focusing on the axis around this region where $14 billion worth of travel takes place.
U.S. Gateways: Istanbul, First Stop
Turkish Airlines has signed Kobe Bryant as brand promotion ambassador and Caroline Wozniacki (No.1 female tennis player in 2011) as the new face promoting Turkish Airlines Business and Comfort Class. With an aggressive marketing campaign and competitive fares in its gateways of New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago, Turkish Airlines is building greater U.S. awareness. Its new premium economy “Comfort Class,” configured between economy and business class, offers more legroom, wider seats and more onboard catering without the cost of a business class ticket. Comfort Class is available on the new fleet of Boeing 777s. The Chicago market now has fares as low as $505 to Istanbul in low season, with “Early Bird” pricing reducing fares booked three or four months in advance. Chicago has hot ticket prices to Amman, Beirut, Dubai, Cairo, Damascus and Tel Aviv for as low as $699. Flights to Istanbul from New York depart twice daily; Chicago flights depart once a day; Los Angeles flights depart five times a week but will begin daily service in 2012; Washington, D.C. flies six times a week to Istanbul. According to general manager Kayar, 65% of Americans traveling on Turkish Airlines head for Istanbul and 35% continue beyond to other destinations.
Miles&Smiles is the frequent-flier program of Turkish Airlines. The earned miles can be used for Turkish Airlines’ flights as well as flights on Lufthansa, including the entire Star Alliance Network.