The first class
The first class

BELEK, ANTALYA, Turkey: Widening its horizons, Turkish Airlines, 'Europe's Best Airline' is continuously expanding its flight network in the Middle East region. Even as it strengthens its global footprint with its vast flight network, the airline offers international flights to destinations across the world from most cities in the Middle East, said Hasan Demir, Turkish Airlines General Manager, Abu Dhabi.

Turkish Airlines, Kuwait recently organized a FAM trip to Antalya for representatives from the media and travel industry in Kuwait offering the delegation a fist-hand experience on the flourishing tourism industry in the southern city of Turkey. The trip also provided the delegation an opportunity to familiarize with the growing hospitality industry in Turkey, its fabulous mix of great beaches and the traditional Turkish culture and lifestyle. The delegation was led by Turkish Airlines' Kuwait Regional Marketing supervisor Hani Hazem.

Talking to Kuwait Times in an interview on the sidelines of the Karnak International tourism conference at Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort, Antalya, Demir gave an overview of Turkish Airlines and its growing operations in the Gulf region.

"Middle East is an important market for Turkish Airlines. We have strengthened our capacity in the region from 10 percent in the first quarter of 2015 to 17.7 percent in the first three months of 2016. We will continue to expand in the region," he said.

Turkish Airlines has added more than 20 cities to its flight network in the last few years and it currently flies to 34 destinations in the Middle East region. It is scheduled to launch direct flight from Kuwait to Antalya, one of the fast-growing tourist destinations in Europe in southern part of Turkey, from July, he informed. Currently, Turkish Airlines operates daily direct flights from Kuwait to Istanbul.

Established as the 'State Airlines Administration' in 1933, Turkish Airlines commenced its first flight to the Middle East 65 years ago, in 1951. Having operated with 33 aircraft and 720 seating capacity between these years, Turkish Airlines started Hajj rounds to Saudi Arabia, its first destination in Gulf Cooperation Council in 1953 and provided a more comfortable trip for prospective Hajjis travelling between Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Broadening network

Established in 1933 with a fleet of five aircraft, the Star Alliance member Turkish Airlines is a 4-star airline today with a fleet of 324 passenger and cargo aircraft flying to over 289 destinations worldwide; 240 international and 49 domestic. According to a 2015 Skytrax survey, Turkish Airlines is named as 'Europe's Best Airline' for five and 'Best Airline in Southern Europe' for seven consecutive years. Having won in 2010 the world's 'Best Economy Catering Service,' in 2013 the world's 'Best Business Catering Service,' and in 2014 'Best Business Catering Service' awards, Turkish Airlines is awarded with the world's 'Best Business Class Lounge Dining' and 'Best Business Airline Lounge' prizes in the Skytrax survey.

Currently with seven US gateways, Turkish Airlines offers 63 flights per week, serving some 5,000 customers. In October 2015, Turkish Airlines added daily flights from Miami, and as of May 2016, daily flights began from Atlanta as well.

Success story

Turkish Airlines' slow but steady growth and evolution as a leading airline in Europe and the Middle East over a period of six decades is a success story. No wonder, the airlines' success has become a case study at Harvard Business School (HBS) which called "Turkish Airlines: Widen Your World." The study explores the airline's transformation from a regional actor to a global powerhouse in the international aviation industry and discusses its fast and profitable growth in the sector.

Adopting its current name in 1955, Turkish Airlines added Tbilisi to its flight network in 1965, a period right before the jets were included in the fleet, and continued its growth in the Middle East. With the addition of jet planes into the fleet, the airline company gained strength; it carried nearly three million passengers in 1978 and added Baghdad and Tehran to its flight network. In 1979, it commenced the Kuwait flights which lasted four years. Having a flying start in the 1980s, Turkish Airlines opened its Cairo service in 1980. The company commenced Istanbul-Dubai-Karachi flights on November 5, 1983, and Istanbul-Damascus flights in 1984.

1985 saw the start of flights beyond the Far East and the Atlantic as well as the First Class service. The First Class service was first offered on Jeddah and London flights. Importantly, B737s were included in the fleet in the beginning of 1990s. During the following decade, the company's capital volume increased by 100 percent, reaching two trillion Turkish liras. Right around this time, Turkish Airlines restarted its Kuwait flights and added Bahrain to its flight network.

"Although 2015 was a challenging year globally both economically and politically, Turkish Airlines made satisfactory successes. The airline carried 61.2 million passengers in total with 453,000 flights and a 78 percent seat occupancy rate," said Demir.

The number of the flight points rose to 284 from 261, while the number of the planes to 299 marking most important milestones of Turkish Airlines' development in the Middle East during the millennium.

Arabic language services

Turkish Airlines continues to offer Arabic in all its services to become closer to its guests. The company serves better its Middle Eastern guests with Arabic social media accounts, 24/7 call center service, Arabic interface in the inflight entertainment system, and Arabic-speaking passenger services at Atatürk Airport. Initiated by Turkish Airlines in May 2015, the Middle East call center operates 24/7 in seven countries. The call center personnel who are native Arabic speakers have answered nearly 44,000 calls so far.

In order to keep alive its brand equity that provides a serious advantage in terms of competition, Turkish Airlines invests in its quality of service, in-flight entertainment systems, comfortable seats, gourmet cuisine and its qualified human resources.

"We are in the forefront of the latest technological advances and innovations in the aviation industry and we have one of the youngest fleets. Currently we have a fleet strength of 324 aircraft both passenger and cargo," said Sertan Yuce, Turkish Airlines General Manager, Casablanca. The fleet consists of aircraft types: A340-300, A330, A321, A320, A319, B737-400, B737-800, B737-900 and B777 ER.

"As the airline expands its routes and number of aircraft, we continue training our employees which is important in insuring the safety of our passengers," said Yuce.

Turkish Airlines regards flight safety and service quality as two of the most indispensable necessities. The carrier currently holds a four-star ranking and consistently strives to secure a five-star ranking.

Understanding the responsibility of being a leading airline within the global aviation community, Turkish Airlines is determined to carry out its mission moving forward with its unparalleled service concept, superior quality, trustworthiness and reliability.

In addition to Europe, Turkish Airlines is also strategically expanding its network into Russia, Central Asia, Far East Asia, the Middle East, Africa and North and South America. As one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, Turkish Airlines holds a strategic position between the East and West.

By Sajeev K Peter