The great airspace race: Can Turkish Airlines continue to soar?

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Story highlights

  • Turkish Airlines expanding into Asia, Europe and Africa
  • New hub airport in Istanbul with first stage set to open in 2017
  • Aviation industry set to expand dramatically by 2030

Turkish Airlines has gone from strength to strength in recent years, adding new routes across Europe and Asia as well as expanding into Africa.

A new multi-billion dollar hub airport in the works in Istanbul means this impressive growth story will soon be given yet another boost.

But with many ambitious competitors also expanding across the Gulf and the Middle East, can the Turkish aviation vision continue to soar?

John Defterios spoke to the airline's CEO, Temel Kotil, to find out. Below is an edited version of their conversation.

John Defterios (JD): Why do you think there is so much growth coming out of Turkey?

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Temel Kotil (TK): The airline business is so big and economies are growing in East Asia, Africa and Europe which is feeding us so we are going to grow.

This is very simple.

JD: When do you get to the point when the market is too saturated as there are also many expanding hubs across the Middle East and particularly in the Gulf states?

TK: That's the beauty of the airline business. There are about 3.1 billion travelers and by 2030 that will be between seven or eight billion, so there are more coming.

We are growing at 18%. Our friends in the Gulf are growing at about 10% to 15%.

What is happening is that passengers are floating (between carriers). So you have the option to go from City X in Europe to City Y in Asia to go via Istanbul, via Dubai, via Abu Dhabi and so on.

Who will become the winner will be the airline who loves the passengers. We love the passengers. We are the best airline in Europe for the last two years. Hopefully we will continue that but who knows? We will work hard.

It's a big business and it's a big market. If we are good we can become the winner. (Having a) good brand, quality, prices, network, size; this matters.

JD: You're building major infrastructure in Istanbul with a third airport that has a $35 billion price tag. Some say this is grandiosity and that you don't really need an airport of that size. How do you counter these critics?

TK: No, we need it. From Istanbul we have to cover the whole of Europe. We have more than 100 destinations coming as a European carrier.

We (also) cover the whole of the Middle East, Africa, northern Africa, Central Africa all through Central Asia. This means Turkish Airlines becomes a nice feeder from Istanbul.

By 2023, depending upon ourselves will be... 120 million (passengers every year). Because of this... you can make a big investment in the airport.

(We can) combine these bigger airports with the passenger capabilities of the Turkish Airlines. History will change. The Asian carriers who are feeding the other hubs (just now) they will appear in Istanbul.

Today they want to fly to Istanbul but because of capacity concerns they are not coming. Turkey is a growing country.

The cost issue is not a problem because of the volume from Turkish Airlines is already put on the table already.

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