Turkish Airlines Chairman Outlines Australia Strategy

Turkish Airlines Boeing 787-9
Credit: Trevisan Aviation Images/Alamy Stock Photo

ISTANBUL—Turkish Airlines is preparing to serve the Australian market, as it evaluates adding more destinations to its network.

Australasia is the sole continent to which Star Alliance member Turkish Airlines does not currently operate. This will change from December 2023, when a 3X-weekly Istanbul-Singapore-Melbourne service will be launched, operated by Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

“At the beginning, it [will not be] such an excellent service—only three times weekly and with a stop in Singapore,” Turkish Airlines Chairman Ahmet Bolat said on the sidelines of this year’s IATA annual general meeting (AGM) in Istanbul.

“Melbourne seems to offer ... more advantages regarding [the] local Turkish population—the catchment area is big, and not so many airlines are flying there,” he said.

Bolat said that fifth-freedom rights between Singapore and Melbourne are not necessary, “because there are so many flights from Singapore to Australia, there is no need,” noting that Turkish is “looking very much to attract tourists on our route.”

Given that Turkish expects to order new aircraft soon, such as the 777X or additional Airbus A350s, Bolat said that the airline hopes to eventually offer daily nonstop flights from Istanbul to Sydney—potentially five years down the line. Turkish is also eyeing a daily Istanbul-Melbourne service, he noted.

Looking ahead, Bolat said he is also considering flights to Brisbane and Perth, noting that “even now, I can fly to Perth with [our] current aircraft, but during [certain periods] of time, depending on the season and strong headwinds, it is not possible to operate [the route] nonstop.”

Under existing Australian traffic rights agreements, Turkish is allowed to operate just four weekly flights to Australia, but to any destination within the country.

On June 6, Turkish delayed by two months its announcement of an order for 600 aircraft. The carrier originally planned to reveal the order during the 2023 IATA AGM, but the need for a second round of voting in Turkey’s presidential election in May prompted the airline to hold off. The order is expected to include 400 narrowbodies, either the A320neo or 737 MAX-family aircraft.

It is also expected that the order will include about 200 widebodies—either the 787 or A350—and 25-30 777Xs or A350 variants beyond the baseline -900 that Turkish currently operates. The new-generation widebodies should enable Turkish Airlines to operate nonstop service to Australia year-round. The addition of Australia will bring the number of countries Turkish serves to 130.

Speaking about collaboration with other airlines, Bolat said he is hopeful that more North American carriers will operate to Istanbul, but noted that he “does not need” an Emirates-United Airlines-style partnership. “I want these carriers to come to fly to Istanbul—because there will be more demand, more interest in general to come to Istanbul,” Bolat added.

The flag-carrier is also seeking airlines from South Korea, China, Japan and Malaysia to operate into Istanbul, Bolat said, adding that he believes Asian travelers could support local Turkish tourism. “Of course we will provide connections via our hub as well, as we have the best infrastructure to do it,” Bolat said.

Kurt Hofmann

Kurt Hofmann has been writing on the airline industry for 25 years. He appears frequently on Austrian, Swiss and German television and broadcasting…