Turkish Airlines Cleared For Rapid Australia Expansion

Turkish Airlines jets
Credit: Joe Pries Aviation

Australia’s government has cleared the way for Turkish Airlines to quickly ramp up operations to the country once flights begin by approving a five-fold increase in the number of weekly frequencies allowed from Türkiye.

Turkish Airlines, which on Dec. 15 signed off on an order for 220 Airbus aircraft, has been given the green light to offer 21 flights per week to Australia with immediate effect, up from seven as was previously permitted. The total will increase to 28 per week from the start of the northern winter 2024-25 season and to 35 per week from winter 2025-26.

The frequencies cover service to Australia’s four largest international gateways—Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney—as well as the under-construction Western Sydney International Airport, which is scheduled to open in 2026. The approval also permits fifth-freedom traffic rights at two points in Asia or the Middle East between Istanbul and Australia.

The carrier expects to initially serve Australia via Singapore using Boeing 787-9 aircraft. However, future plans include daily nonstops to Melbourne and Sydney, with Brisbane and Perth also under consideration.

Turkish Airlines Chairman Ahmet Bolat told Aviation Week in June that the carrier was considering using A350-1000s or 777Xs to operate the nonstop flights. The new aircraft order with Airbus includes 15 A350-1000s alongside 50 A350-900s. Additionally, negotiations for a large order with Boeing— that could include the 777X—are also understood to be at an advanced stage.

Turkish Airlines has come close to operating one-stop flights to Australia in the past with proposals for flights to Sydney via Jakarta, Indonesia. However, none of the plans came to fruition. At present, the carrier’s passengers can therefore only reach Australia through codeshare agreements with partners like Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways.

Qantas Airways is currently the sole provider of nonstop flights between Australia and Europe, flying daily between Perth Airport and London Heathrow Airport using 787-9s. Additionally, the carrier offers a fifth-freedom service between Sydney and London Heathrow via Singapore Changi Airport aboard A380s, while British Airways flies the same route using 777-300ERs.

The Australian federal government’s decision to grant Turkish Airlines permission to operate up to 35 flights per week comes after it was embroiled in a bilateral air rights scandal earlier this year, when Qatar Airways’ bid to expand its operations to the country was rejected.

The Oneworld alliance member wanted to add 21 extra flights per week to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, in addition to the 28 weekly flights it currently offers. However, the request was blocked, with ministers citing a range of reasons including it being contrary to the national interest.

The decision resulted in a Senate inquiry, which recommended that the verdict should be reviewed. Qantas had opposed the application, claiming it would distort the market.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.