Turkish Airlines soaring high under new skies

April 7, 2012

Kotil showing off three awards won by Turkish Airlines

When a Turkish Airlines flight landed in early March in Somalia’s volatile capital for the first time in more than 20 years, the world watched with amazement, admiration and, in some cases, envy.

Turkish Airlines’ maiden flight to war-torn Mogadishu was the first from outside east Africa since Somalia’s ominous slide into lawlessness and armed conflicts.

But for the Turks, the commitment flight to Somalia was the sign of their country’s consolidation of its influential geopolitical power.

For the airline and its robust plans to press ahead with an ambitious expansion, it is a new success story at a time when many international carriers are having a hard time surviving and a reflection of its drive to boost its profile in Africa.

Dr Temel Kotil, Turkish Airlines chief executive officer, said. “We are especially concentrating on Africa, with the introduction of our new B737-900 fleet that will more reasonably align our capacity with the demand while still providing a superior service offer to African points.”

Despite an array of challenges related to weakening economies and high fuel costs, Kotil remains optimistic that Turkish Airlines which flies to 191 cities – 151 international and 40 local destinations and carried 32.6 million in 2011 — will soar higher and take more people in 2012.

“We are targeting a growth of 17 per cent overall, but with 20 per cent growth in international passengers,” Kotil said.

Gulf News: How confident are you about dealing with the stagnation plaguing some markets? What are your plans?

The industry as a whole does face a number of challenges, with weakening economies and uncertainty with regard to the cost of fuel.

Turkish Airlines, like all of our peers, needs to be mindful of a difficult business environment. But the economic downturn is already in its fourth year and Turkish Airlines has actually fared much better than many of its competitors over the period, with continued growth and sold performance. We plan to continue to grow and to invest in our product which has been widely recognised across the globe. If the global outlook worsens, we will make appropriate changes but in general, we continue to see our situation as positive.


What is your anticipated percentage of overall growth? What are the main areas where you anticipate growth?

In 2012, we anticipate a growth of 17 per cent overall. Much of that will come from increased levels of service on existing routes. With the beginning of our 2012 summer timetable, we have announced increased frequencies on many routes, allowing for better connectivity and more seats. We are especially concentrating on Africa, with the introduction of our new B737-900 fleet that will more reasonably align our capacity with the demand while still providing a superior service offer to African points. There is also a considerable increase in our North American services, with New York now being served three times each day.


How big is your fleet? What are your plans to expand it?

Our fleet currently consists of 179 (passenger and cargo) aircraft, also there are planes being used for training purposes. We will continue to take delivery of the aircraft that have been ordered, especially the B737s already mentioned. Again, our short term goal is to consolidate our position across our current network and the modern fleet we have is well-suited to our current needs.


How many flights a day does Turkish Airlines have? How many destinations? What are the targets for 2012?

Turkish Airlines currently offers up to 700 flights per day to international and domestic destinations. Turkish Airlines currently flies to 191 cities around the world, comprising 40 domestic and 151 international destinations.


How many passengers did Turkish Airlines fly in 2011? What are your projections for 2012?

In 2011, Turkish Airlines carried 32.6 million passengers. This year we are aiming for 38 million passengers. We are targeting a growth of 17 per cent overall, but with 20 per cent growth in international passengers.


What advantages does Turkish Airlines have over its competitors?

Turkish Airlines has a number of advantages that have fuelled its growth and expansion. The geographic position of Turkey makes it an ideal connecting point for passengers. Our network links hundreds of city pairs with a single connection.

Additionally, Turkey is a growing economic power that generates considerable origin and destination traffic, unlike some other hubs that have small populations and rely to a much greater degree on connecting passengers. Finally, Turkey is home to some of the world’s greatest treasures and draws visitors from across the globe, as it has for centuries.


How interested are you in partnering with Czech Airlines?

We do not have any Board resolution regarding this subject.


How far have you progressed in your talks to acquire LOT Polish Airlines?

We have a Board resolution to evaluate the possible opportunities, if any. The evaluation is still in progress.


How do you assess the decision to add a fourth runway to Istanbul’s Ataturk airport?

The General Directorate of State Airports Authority is the company that is in charge of all airport issues. The recent statements by this institution show that there is no decision taken by the company regarding the fourth runway at Istanbul Ataturk airport; however they clarify that a third airport will be built in Istanbul.


How successful is the new campaign of discounted air fare to eight capital cities and centres in the Middle East? How is your partnership with the Arab world and Gulf region?

Turkish Airlines has strong connections with its neighbours and is interested in building those relationships in the years to come. Our special offers to points in the region are one way in which we hope to strengthen those bonds.


What does winning ‘Best in-flight food’ In February mean to you? What is your level of investment in food to create more passenger loyalty?

At Turkish Airlines we are proud to bring our culinary traditions to the world in cooperation with our catering partner Turkish DC&CO. Providing award-winning catering on our flights is consistent with our goal to make travel with Turkish Airlines a unique and memorable experience. The best advertising is that provided by our customers as they tell others of their satisfaction with our service.

Our excellent on-board meal service is just one more way in which we build our reputation on passenger loyalty, so it is an excellent investment in our future.



Profile: Temel Kotil

Kotil, 53, graduated from the Aeronautical Engineering Department at Istanbul Technical University (ITU) in 1983. He received his doctoral degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1991. After founding and managing the Aviation and Advanced Composite Laboratories of ITU, he also served as chairman and associate dean of the Faculty of Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering.

Kotil served as the Head of the Research Planning and Coordination Department in the Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul.

Back in the US for a second time in 2001, he was guest professor in the University of Illinois, and was Research Engineer in Advanced Innovative Technologies, in Troy, New York, between 2002 and 2003.

Kotil started his career with Turkish Airlines in 2003, as Deputy General Manager in Turkish Technic and became the CEO of Turkish Airlines in 2005. He has been on the Board of Governors of the International Air Transport Association since 2006 and on the Board of Directors of AEA since 2010.

Kotil has authored many articles and publications in aeronautical science journals, and papers in seminars and conferences. He is married and has four children.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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