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A Turkish Airlines 787-9 at Paine Field (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

Turkish Airlines Becomes Leader of Europe’s Skies in June

According to the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL), Istanbul-based carrier Turkish Airlines became the airline with the most flights in Europe, completing 400 out of 8226 flights performed on June 17.

“It is the first time Turkish Airlines has had 400 flights since March 20 and an airline has had that number since March 24,” said Eamonn Brennan, Director General of EUROCONTROL.

The noteworthy rise in the number of scheduled flights enabled Turkish Airlines to rank first in Europe among its peers.

Turkish Airlines is followed by Norway’s regional airline Wideroe, Lufthansa, Air France, DHL Express, Scandinavian flag carrier SAS and low-cost giant WizzAir in terms of number of flights operated on a single day in Europe.

According to the EUROCONTROL Network Recovery Plan, European air traffic is expected to reach up to 13,000 flights by the end of June, getting gradually up to 15,500 flights by the end of July. This will represent an average for the last week of July 2020 of approximately 40% of the total traffic during the same period in 2019.

Turkish Airlines Ramps Up Flight Schedule

Meanwhile, Turkey’s national airline released its updated flight schedule on June 20. The airline plans to operate scheduled flights to 40 domestic and 123 international destinations, which corresponds to approximately 80% of its domestic and 40% of its international network. The airline has a flight network spanning 126 countries and 316 cities, making it the carrier that flies to the greatest number of countries non-stop from a single airport in the world.

Turkish Airlines also resumed its U.S. flights on Friday, which were suspended due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, with flights to Washington D.C. and Chicago. Turkey’s flag carrier will gradually strengthen its North American network by resuming flights to Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco in June and July. The airline plans to boost its routes further as the impacts of the ongoing pandemic fade away.

Turkey’s flag carrier will also reinstate flights to Toronto and Montreal in July and launch scheduled flights to Vancouver in August that will be the carrier’s 15th destination in North America, one of its primary areas of operation outside of Turkey’s immediate vicinity.

Within the scope of the normalization of operations, the airline company resumed domestic flights on June 1 and international flights on June 11 after approximately two and a half months. As of June 12, Turkey lifted restrictions on international and domestic flights.

In the months before the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, Turkish Airlines ranked first in Europe and fourth globally among airlines in terms of the percent increase in the number of passengers carried. But now looking forward, the airline aims to persuade people to travel with low fares in a bid to gradually reach its pre-pandemic levels. Turkish Airlines will even introduce a new service that will enable passengers who want the middle seat empty due to fear of getting infected to buy the middle seat in addition to their booked seat at the same or more affordable price.

“Ticket prices are 25% lower than what they actually should be. It is even possible to find tickets at more advantageous prices than the ones before the pandemic. We will try to keep the rates at this level as much as possible, but we don’t know how long we can resist,” said Ilker Ayci, CEO of the airline in an interview with an Istanbul-based media outlet on Thursday.

The Turkish carrier is one of the most optimistic companies expecting that the aviation industry will bounce back more powerful and rise from its ashes, predicting a speedy recovery that many airlines have been hesitant to rely on.

Last week, Istanbul Airport, the new main hub of Turkey’s national airline, opened its third independent runway, making it the second airport in Europe to operate three independent parallel runways enabling simultaneous landing and takeoffs. When construction is completed, the airport will have six runways. The company expects an inevitable consolidation in the aviation industry and believes that its new airport will be one of its strengths in the post-pandemic period.

Turkish CEO Ilker Ayci previously announced it would resist layoffs and protect its skilled labor until the end of 2021, when he expects the aviation industry to return to pre-pandemic operation levels. He repeated his statement regarding layoffs in the recent interview he made with Istanbul-based newspaper.

“We are doing our best to get through this process with zero layoff,” Ayci told the paper.

The airline believes that keeping its skilled workforce will benefit it in the long term. Turkish Airlines employs 5,432 pilots and 12,052 cabin crew, in addition to 46,482 personnel across all its business units and subsidiaries, making it one of the biggest employers among European airlines.

Bulent Imat
Bulent Imat
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