TURKISH Airlines’ bid to launch its first services Down Under have hit a major snag, after the Federal Minister of Transport, Catherine King, said the airline failed to submit a formal request to apply for flights.
The alleged oversight will result in at least months of delays, King told the AFR, adding that Turkish Airlines was already entitled to operate a total of up to seven services per week to Australia under current bilateral arrangements, and that critical regulatory processes needed for any additional services will “take many months to complete”.
While some pundits had speculated that Qantas may have had a hand in the delay of Turkish Airlines approval – especially after the Aussie airline resisted moves from Qatar Airways to increase capacity to Australia – it is believed Qantas did not oppose the Turkish carrier’s plans.
On Friday, speaking to travelBulletin at a special launch event in Melbourne, Turkish Airlines Chairman Ahmet Bolat stated the airline was still evaluating both Sydney and Melbourne airports as potential bases, at the time indicating a final decision would be made soon.
“We are looking at a number of factors, including passenger demand, market potential, and operational feasibility, and we will make a decision about which airport to base our flights…in the
near future,” Bolat said.
He also said that Melbourne “seems to offer more advantages regarding the local Turkish population, the catchment area is big, and not so
many airlines are flying there”.
Turkish Airlines is aiming to fly three times a week initially, before moving to daily frequencies in the short-term and rolling out to other
Australian cities in the mid- to long-term, deploying a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on the routes, offering passengers 30 Business class seats and 270 in Economy.
Interestingly, Bolat also hinted that direct flights between Australia and Istanbul are also on the cards when longer-range jets become more readily available.
“After a certain period of time, we will get these planes and will start our direct flights,” he said, adding that TK is not in favour of being the “launch customer” of new generation aircraft, observing that launch customer airlines often cannot take full advantage of the aircraft due initial operational problems.
Last year, Turkish Airlines became the airline with the largest international seat capacity, and Istanbul became the busiest airport in Europe.
Offering an unrivalled flight network, a young and modern fleet, comfortable seats and delicious treats, the carrier earned the title of the ‘Best Airline in Europe’ from Skytrax – the eighth time with the Best Airline in Europe award, along with accolades for Best Business Class Catering, Best Economy Class Catering, Best Airline in Southern Europe and Best Economy Class Seat in Europe at the Skytrax World Airline Awards.