Exclusive interview with CEO and President of Turkish Airlines, Dr Temel Kotil

Exclusive interview with CEO and President of Turkish Airlines, Dr Temel Kotil


Founded in 1933 with 5 aircraft, Turkish Airlines has grown to achieve the world’s largest airline destination network of countries and cities. In an exclusive interview with The Corporate Traveller magazine, Dr Temel Kotil, President and CEO of Turkish airlines, shared some of the strategies that have contributed to carrier’s success.

Dr Kotil, what factors do you believe have contributed the success of Turkish Airlines?

First of all, Turkish Airlines benefits from the unique geographical position of our country, which makes it a natural bridge between the East and West.

As a global carrier, we work on a ‘hub and spoke’ system of collecting passengers from all over the world and redistributing them, via our Istanbul hub, through our entire network of flights. Our privileged geographical location means we can fly to a very large area using narrow body jets – and that is an exceptional advantage that no other airline has. Our international transfer passengers, carried between international points via our hub in Istanbul, exceeded 3 million during the first quarter of 2014. This is an increase of 26% compared to the same period in 2013. The planned construction of a third major airport in Istanbul, with an initial capacity of 90 million passengers annually, will enable us to further accentuate our dominant role on the share of international connecting air traffic.

Our culture is against waste and we are skilled in costcutting. Compared to European carriers our costs are already 30% lower and our operating costs will continue to fall further with economies of scale as we grow and continue to introduce new aircraft. Our strategy is based on costcutting while growing and producing.

Besides this, it is our determination to really be the best in our business, the magnitude of our objectives and our passion for our business and our passengers that have all been factors in our growth and success in comparison to other airlines. This is why we have been chosen as the winner of the ‘Best Airline Europe’ category for the last three consecu- tive years, in the Skytrax ‘Passengers Choice Awards’.

What does your partnership with Singapore Airlines bring to Turkish Airlines and its customers?

We appreciate our membership of Star Alliance and we place value on developing commercial co-operations within our alliance. Clearly the partnership with Singapore Airlines, a well-recognised member of Star Alliance, offers our customers more travel options and our combined extensive networks provide optimal connections.

With this co-operation, Turkish Airlines has the opportunity to transfer passengers from its global network throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America to the Asia Pacific region via Singapore. Reciprocally, Singapore Airlines can transfer its passengers from Asia Pacific to Turkish Airlines’ network via Istanbul. Singapore and Istanbul are both natural gateway hubs to their regions.

What are the key development regions for Turkish Airlines?

We consider that the Middle East has huge potential. The region is consistently improving in terms of trade and tourism, which means the number of transit and local passengers is continuing to increase. Turkey, and notably Istanbul, play a crucial role here. Any increase we make in the capacity supply will create its own demand for the cities in the region.

On a global scale, Istanbul is located in the heart of Eurasia, only 3 to 5 hours away from the whole of Europe, the Middle East and a significant part of Africa. We have observed that the global aviation market’s centre of gravity is still moving from the West to the East, getting closer to Istanbul. The African market will also gain more importance and we view this market as a still not totally ‘discovered’ aviation market.

As our airport is an intercontinental transfer point, along with the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa, the rest of the world also has crucial importance for us. This is proven by the fact that Turkish Airlines flies to more countries and to more international destinations than any other airline in the world.

One can say that we are targeting the ‘globe’, connecting the entire world via our hub in Istanbul to almost every point in Europe and crucial destinations in the Middle East, Africa, the Americas and Asia. This is underlined by our new ‘Widen Your World’ motto. Our network objectives include further increasing our coverage in the Americas and Asia, while commencing flights to Australia.

What is the evolution of your passenger traffic?

Referring to our most recent traffic figures, we carried over 5 million passengers during the first quarter of 2014. Considering that it was approximately 4 million during the same period in 2013, this corresponds to an increase of 28%.

How is Turkish Airlines attracting business passengers?

Corporate travellers have a key importance for our long term success and the number of our passengers travelling for business is growing considerably. For our corporate travellers we have a dedicated program called ‘Turkish Corporate Club’ (TTC) which helps them save on all business travel expenses. It offers a wide variety of cost-effective advantages for corporations looking to meet their needs quickly and easily. The main benefits of our program are discounted tickets and incentives for frequent travellers. Other advantages of the TCC card are continuing to earn miles with our frequent flyer programme, ‘Miles & Smiles’, and the ‘Customer Portal’ application. More details on the TCC programme can be found at http://tcc.turkishairlines. com/en.

We offer exceptional levels of service to all our passengers and strive always to achieve high customer satisfaction. In our business class cabins we recently introduced our ‘Sky Illusion’ sleeping collection, as well as totally new catering concepts in both business and economy. These are just some of our latest innovations for passengers to enjoy the best in Turkish hospitality. We also have a magnificent lounge in our hub in Istanbul Ataturk Airport. All of these privileges are signs that we care for our passengers.

Why is Brussels strategically important for Turkish Airlines?

It is clear that Brussels is the political heart of Europe, with its institutions such as the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament. The Association of European Airlines (AEA), of which I am proud to be the President, is also in Brussels. Moreover, Belgium’s position in Europe makes it significantly important for a variety of industries, including aviation. This political and economic dynamism brings a need for air travel and trans- port. Targeting Brussels is targeting Europe.

What, for you, makes Turkish Airlines stand out from other major airlines?

In one word, it is our love for our business and our passengers which makes us really stand out from other large airlines. We care about our customers and we always do our utmost to make them feel at home onboard. For us they our guests during their travel but we also see our passengers as our bosses. To answer fully this question, I advise you to fly with Turkish Airlines to really experience our difference!

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