What role does Ukraine play in the Turkish Airlines regional strategy for Eastern Europe and the CIS?
As a country with one of the largest territories and biggest populations in Europe, coupled with its rich natural resources, Ukraine plays a very important role in the Turkish Airlines strategy for Eastern Europe and the CIS. Historically, Ukraine and Turkey have always enjoyed very strong trade and economic relations. Ukrainians are well-educated and intelligent people; they like travelling for both business and pleasure. With our network of flights to 111 countries and 283 destinations worldwide, including new services to San Francisco and Miami inaugurated in 2015, Turkish Airlines is the biggest airline in the world in terms of destinations. This year, for the fifth time in a row, Turkish Airlines was recognized as ‘Best Airline in Europe’. Our fleet is the youngest in Europe. In this context, Turkish Airlines can meet the expectations of Ukrainian passengers and international passengers seeking to travel to Ukraine. We believe in Ukraine’s bright future and plan to continue expanding our services in Ukraine.
How have the past two years of political instability in Ukraine affected your expectations for the Ukrainian market?
On one hand, we have had to stop our s ervices to Simferopil and Donetsk as a result of the situation in Ukraine. On the other hand, last year we also launched a new service with flights connecting Kherson to Istanbul. The results of this new route show that despite the challenging climate, the decision to expand was the right one. The Kherson route proved immediately popular. Within a short space of time, we expanded the service to include daily flights. Our expansion continues. On 28 December, we will begin a new service to Zaporizhzhia. We have also upgraded the type of aircraft employed on our Kyiv services in order to increase seating capacity. Times of crisis can be times of opportunity. We have demonstrated that this is true in the context of today’s Ukraine, given the positive results we have managed to achieve thanks to the steps we have taken over the past two years.
Based on your experience of air travel industries in emerging economies, which segments of the Ukrainian air travel market do you expect to register the most growth in the coming few years?
The Ukrainian air travel market has very big potential. We believe that the number of passengers of scheduled flights will continue to grow. Turkish Airlines aims to contribute to this growth by offering passengers excellent levels of service and access to our global network at reasonable prices. Passengers are increasingly opting for scheduled flights over charter flights when going on vacation. Meanwhile, more and more passengers plan their trips online. We are seeing strong grow in online ticket sales. We anticipate that scheduled flights and online travel agencies will register the most growth.
Turkish Airlines has a particularly strong regional presence in Kyiv and Odesa. Which other regions of Ukraine do you regard as the most interesting for further expansion?
Turkish Airlines is not only represented in Kyiv and Odesa. We are also represented in Dnipropetrovsk, Lviv, Kherson and will soon have a presence in Zaporizhzhia. We are the biggest foreign carrier in Ukraine in terms of passengers and destinations. Unfortunately, we cannot agree that we have a sufficiently strong presence in Kyiv and Odesa, although we are interested in expanding this presence. We currently fly to Kyiv 16 times a week and to Odesa 11 times a week, but this volume of flights is not sufficient to meet Ukrainian market demand. For the last three years, we have regularly informed our Ukrainian partners of our desire to boost the Turkish Airlines presence in Kyiv and Odesa, but for the moment, the number of flights to these key destinations remains unchanged. We are still hopeful that in the near future we will have the opportunity to increase our flight frequencies.
Turkish Airlines is positioned as a premium carrier at a time when many airlines are moving towards no-frills services. How do you intend to maintain a balance between competitive pricing and quality service?
The exceptional geographical position of Istanbul enables us to reduce our costs considerably while maintaining our award-winning services. As the CEO of Turkish Airlines, I have to stress that we never compromise on the quality of the product we offer. Thanks to Turkish DO&CO company jointly owned with DO&CO, we are able to offer top class catering blended with traditional Turkish hospitality.
Do you anticipate introducing any additional flight services in response to the recently introduced mutual bans on direct air traffic between Russia and Ukraine?
Turkish Airlines has been interested in increasing its Ukraine services for a long time, regardless of recent geopolitical developments in the region. As long as we receive the relevant permits, we are ready to increase flights to Kyiv, Odesa, Dnipropetrovsk and Lviv while also launching services to new Ukrainian destinations. Our motto is ‘Widen Your World’. We hope to give Ukrainian passengers the opportunity to do just that.