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Turkish Airlines plans to expand in India with new flight routes

Having achieved all their targets set for 2012, Turkish Airlines is now moving into the new year with a very positive outlook for the Indian market. Mehmet Akay, General Manager, Western & Southern India, Turkish Airlines said, “We are investing money in India and that just proves how significant the market is to us. 2012 has been a very successful year for Turkish Airlines. We have achieved all our set targets for the year. Moving ahead, we would like to add new routes and new gateways in India to expand our footprint depending on the bilateral agreements provision.” According to him, there is a pressing need to increase frequency on Mumbai and Delhi routes as the demand is really high. “Currently, we operate 14 weekly flights - seven from Delhi and seven from Mumbai. We get a lot of leisure travellers on our airline from Delhi whereas Mumbai being the financial capital of India gives us a lot of business traffic.”

He further revealed that the airline wants to start new gateways from all Indian metros which include Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru in the South; as well as Kolkata, Amritsar and Ahmedabad. Currently flying to 295 destinations, Turkish Airlines plans to add Houston, Boston and San Francisco to their network and also grow their presence in Africa.

The carrier witnessed reasonably good load factor from India. “Our load factor from India in 2012 was around 85 per cent which is eight per cent higher than our network average of 77 per cent. We hope to have bigger numbers in 2013 as each new destination creates a multiplier effect,” he stated.

The carrier has recently ordered 30 more wide body aircrafts which are scheduled to be delivered by 2016. “With this, we will double our wide body capacity and by 2015 our fleet will be no less than 250 aircraft. We have also upgraded our aircraft type recently and we are now using our newest fleet member, the Airbus A330-300, for the first time in India in both Delhi and Mumbai,” he added.

Akay revealed that Turkish Airlines aims to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries. “80 per cent of our passengers from India are transit passengers, and likewise, being strategically located, Istanbul has also become a very popular transit hub. The bilateral relations between India and Turkey are growing and we hope to increase two way traffic between them. We are also promoting Turkey as a destination and thanks to the new visa norms. If people are holding valid UK, US or schengen visa then he/she is applicable for visa on arrival which makes it easier to travel to Turkey.”

At present, travel agencies are the biggest distribution channel for the airline. “We have signed long-term agreements with quite a few travel agents and tour operators. As a sign of appreciation to our distribution partners, we have also introduced special industry fares which can be used by the GDS and travel agency staff.”

Akay believes that working in India is a bit challenging. “India is a very competitive market and the aviation industry is under constant scrutiny. The biggest challenge I would say are the limitations with regards to bilateral. We have also noticed that Indian travellers book late and it is very difficult to accommodate increasing demands with gateway and frequency limitations.”

Revealing the marketing strategy for 2013, he said, “We will equally promote our brand in B2B and B2C markets. We have planned outdoor campaigns, print and broadcast ads. We will also aggressively promote our airline on social networking sites. In addition, we will be hosting FAM trips for the travel trade.”

Commenting on the new FDI policy, he added, “It is a very good opportunity for an international carrier to enter the Indian skies. Indian carriers are definitely going to gain from this. Currently, Turkish Airlines has no plans for the same but in the future, if our management sees a good opportunity, we will definitely not hesitate.”

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