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Turkish carrier aims for largest network

Turkish carrier aims for largest network

Temel Kotil takes Turkish Airlines' slogan 'Globally yours,' which features in all its ads worldwide, very seriously.

» Special Reports | Monday, January 9, 2012 • Air News Times
The 53-year-old moustached Turk, who has served as chief executive of his country's flag carrier for seven years, is determined to have the world's largest flight network.

This ambitious goal was set by 2023, to coincide with the centennial of the founding of the Republic of Turkey.

With his position seemingly open-ended and his past performance recognised, Mr Kotil still has years to help the airline attain this goal.

Today, with 152 international and 44 domestic routes, the airline, known as TK in industry code, connect a total of 196 cities to one another.

That kind of network made TK the world's eight largest airline in terms of network size and Europe's third largest.

The current network is about doubled from 2003 when it covered a total of 104 destinations, 76 of which were international and 28 domestic routes.

With its plan to add nine more cities in 2012 including Mogadishu in Somalia and Buenos Aires in Argentina, TK will elevate its ranking.

Over the next five years, the airline's network is targeted to increase to 250 as part of its aggressive growth plan which also emphasises the linkage between Asia and Europe.

The network growth is consistent with fleet expansion that will see the number of its aircraft raised to 197 by 2016 from 178 by the end of 2011, a far cry from 65 it was operating in 2003.

For 2011, the airline carried 32.9 million passengers, more than triple from 10.5 million, or a 213% hike, from its 2003 baseline year.

In an interview with the Bangkok Post in Bangkok, Mr Kotil said TK's ambition to be a global player is not confined to himself, but is rather a passion of the entire company.

"Any airline can be successful, provided their employees like what they're doing. Competing with other airlines can be a piece of cake, because not so many airlines work by heart, but I think we are one of them," he said.

The Turk executive attributed TK's success to the cost control, lower labour cost, utilisation of new aircraft _ its average fleet age is 6.31 years _ and contribution from its subsidiaries including those engaged in aircraft maintenance operations.

However, investment required for its expansion and high fuel costs have reduced its operating profit, from the historic peak of US$571 million in 2008 to $151 million estimated for the first nine months of 2011. Its operating profit in 2010 was $321 million.

In the Far East, where its has already covered 27 cities, TK intends to add more destinations to its network, including Manila and Kuala Lumpur next year, according to Mr Kotil.

As part of its strategic move to boost its profile in the region, TK on Dec 26 formalised a cooperative code-shares agreement with Thai Airways International (THAI) that results in THAI feeding passengers from its Australian and Far Eastern routes to TK's Bangkok-Istanbul flights at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport.

According to Mr Kotil, TK is pondering a third daily flight on its Bangkok-Istanbul service to meet rising demand as its existing flights have reached a high load factor of around 90% now.

"We're after a third flight, most likely next year," he noted.
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