By Daily Sabah
National flag carrier Turkish Airlines is set to order a total of 600 new aircraft in June, THY Chairperson Ahmet Bolat said Thursday, with deliveries to be spread over 10 years. Such an order, if confirmed, would be the largest in the industry’s history by a single airline, eclipsing a record order by Air India for 470 Airbus and Boeing planes in December.
The surprise announcement spells what marks the fourth mega-deal in a few months. From Air India to Ireland’s Ryanair and a new national airline in Saudi Arabia, a handful of carriers have placed firm or provisional orders for 700 jets.
Turkish Airlines’ fleet consisted of some 414 aircraft as of the end-April, a figure that will rise to 425 by the end of this year, Bolat said, adding that the fleet will increase to 810 planes by 2033. He suggested that the company would announce the orders during the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) annual summit, a gathering of some 280 airlines, which will be held in Istanbul on June 4-6.
“With one of the big manufacturers, we are almost finishing our discussions. We are going to order around 600 aircraft,” Bolat told journalists at a press meeting for the launch of the company’s renewed inflight dining concept. Bolat said the THY was very close to a deal with Boeing for part of the order but did not give further details.
Turkish Airlines could order the rest of the new aircraft from “the other manufacturer” at the next European air show in June, Bolat added, in an apparent reference to Airbus, Boeing’s European rival. The Paris Airshow takes place in the week of June 19.
Addressing the landmark elections slated for May 14, he said he expected the company’s top management to continue on after the vote so that Turkish Airlines can carry out its 10-year strategic growth plan, announced last month.
Analysts said Turkish Airlines’ announcement marked a strong statement of intent as carriers that survived the pandemic fight for market share without waiting for global supply chains to stabilize. Istanbul, where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan opened a new $12 billion (TL 235.56 billion) airport in 2018, is seen by many as a geographically efficient location to challenge major hubs in Dubai and Doha.
Bolat said the new order would consist of 200 long-haul jets and 400 smaller narrow bodies needed to feed such traffic. The airline’s fleet is roughly split between Airbus and Boeing. Ryanair placed an order for up to 300 narrow-body jets earlier this week and India’s IndiGo is reportedly in talks to buy around 500 jets. The THY has ambitious plans to attract more traffic to its Istanbul hub, competing with European and Gulf rivals.
“They are aspiring to build a mega-connector airline from everywhere in Europe to everywhere in Asia and Africa,” said Rob Morris, head of global consultancy at U.K.-based Ascend by Cirium. That would intensify a battle for connecting traffic between Istanbul’s hub and rival centers in Europe and the Middle East.
Record profit, new hirings
Turkish Airlines aims to lift the number of its passengers to 85 million this year, compared to about 82 million served in 2022, he noted.
“We quickly recovered from the effects of the pandemic. While other airlines stumbled, THY survived this crisis together with its employees in a simple way,” Bolat said. The carrier flew about 6.5 million passengers in April, an increase of 31% versus a year ago. In January-April, it managed to lift its number of passengers by 33.6% year-over-year to 23.6 million.
“In the next 10 years, we aim to carry 170 million passengers by growing by 7.4% with a more modest growth based on the past 20 years and to reach a giant fleet of 810 aircraft,” Bolat noted. The company in 2022 announced a profit of $2.7 billion, which Bolat said was a record in Europe’s aviation history. Turkish Airlines failed to announce profits only twice over the last two decades, namely after terrorist attacks in 2016 and during the pandemic in 2020.
“Apart from that, it has made a profit every year for 18 years and has grown by double digits every year. We have grown by an average of 12%. This is not a success that comes by chance,” Bolat said. Bolat emphasized that the carrier had a $5 billion contribution to the Turkish economy in 2003, a figure he said they seek to lift to $19 billion in 2023.
“If our strategy is implemented with 810 aircraft until 2033, our contribution to Türkiye will be $141 billion.”
Meanwhile, the company on Tuesday said it aims to add 10,000 new employees in 2023. The new additions, which also include its subsidiaries, will increase its total labor force to 85,000, up from the current 75,000. Turkish Airlines eventually aims to bring the number of its employees to 150,000 by 2033.