Turkish Airlines Sets Start Date And Singapore Stop For First Australia Flights

Turkish Airlines 787
Credit: Thomas Arnoux/Abaca Press/Alamy

Turkish Airlines has firmed the schedule for its inaugural flights to Australia, putting an end to months of speculation over the carrier’s plans for the country.

The airline is set to commence its first service on March 15, operating three times per week between Istanbul and Melbourne via Singapore Changi Airport (SIN). Initial flights will utilize Boeing 787-9 aircraft, with plans to switch to Airbus A350-900 equipment starting March 31, as indicated by the airline’s booking system.

Earlier this month, Turkish Airlines confirmed Melbourne as its first Australian destination but withheld the start date and connection point. It had been widely expected that flights would operate via Singapore—the home of Star Alliance partner Singapore Airlines—but the carrier maintained it was considering other possible connecting gateways.

“We have realized our goal of reaching the continent of Australia, which we have been successfully working on for a while, with the confirmed flight date,” Turkish Airlines Chairman Ahmet Bolat says. “In the coming years, we plan to strengthen our presence in this beautiful country by increasing both the frequency of our flights and the number of our destinations.”

Flight times on the new route will vary over the coming months, the layover in Singapore will be about 1 hr. 30 min. in both directions. Turkish Airlines will be the only European airline to fly to Melbourne Airport (MEL) once service begins, with the Victoria state capital becoming the 346th point in its network.

MEL’s Chief of Aviation Jim Parashos says Turkish Airlines’ arrival will provide Australians with easy connections into Turkey and beyond. “Istanbul is the only city to straddle two continents and has always been an important trading post, but it is now also one of the most important transit hubs in the world,” he says. 

Parashos adds that Melbourne is home to Australia’s largest Turkish community, meaning VFR traffic will also be an important factor on this route.

In December, Australia’s government approved an increase in the number of weekly flights permitted from Turkey, rising from seven to 21. The total will expand 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.

Turkish Airlines intends to operate nonstop flights between Istanbul and Australia in the future. However, the realization of this plan is expected to be delayed until 2026 at the earliest due to the unavailability of the ideal aircraft needed for such long-haul routes. An aircraft that could fly directly would be the Airbus A350-1000 or the Boeing 777X.

The airline placed an order on Dec. 15 for 220 Airbus aircraft, which includes 15 A350-1000s alongside 50 A350-900s. It is understood that negotiations for a large order with Boeing—that could include the 777X—are at an advanced stage.

Preliminary data provided by Sabre Market Intelligence shows O&D traffic of 20,500 two-way passengers between Istanbul and Melbourne during the first 11 months of 2023. This is up from 12,500 travelers in the 2019 calendar year. Turkish Airlines is exploring a partnership with Australian domestic carrier Rex to ensure feed at both ends of the route.

David Casey

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