Turkish Airlines inaugurated flights from its new Istanbul Airport by flying to Marrakech on 6 April, the first destination to be added from the airline’s new hub. This makes Marrakech Turkish’s 308th destination globally, as the airline seeks to expand its fleet and add new destinations from the higher capacity airport.
The airline is working on a new strategy to utilise opportunities brought by Istanbul airport, which will be the world’s biggest and is expected to serve 200 million passengers per year when it is fully completed by 2023. The airport has state-of-the-art equipment and is designed for passenger convenience, with self check-in kiosks and other amenities.
Over 90% of customers of Turkish Airlines between Kathmandu and Istanbul are transit passengers and the new airport is expected to make these transfers much smoother.
“The new airport was a must to accommodate Turkish Airlines’ growth plans, and we hope to give passengers to and from Nepal much more comfort and flexibility with better connectivity,” Turkish’s Nepal manager Abdullah Tuncer Kececi told Nepali Times.
At present, flights westward from Kathmandu have been affected by runway repair work, which closes the airport from 10PM till 8AM every day, as well as the closure of air routes across the India-Pakistan corridor.
On the weekend of 5 April, Turkish Airlines completed its ‘Great Move’ to Istanbul Airport from Atatürk Airport, which had been the airlines’ home for 86 years. The TK54 flight to Singapore carrying 319 passengers and 18 cabin crew members was the farewell flight from Atatürk Airport.
Regarding the move to Istanbul airport, Turkish Airlines Chairman of the Board and the Executive Committee, M. İlker Aycı, said, “Currently the biggest airport project of the world, this enormous facility will be the home of the resounding local and global growth of Turkish Airlines, with its state-of-the-art physical capabilities and capacity.”
The move to Istanbul Airport has been described as an important aviation milestone for Turkey, which has used its strategic location astride Europe and Asia as the ‘New Silk Route’ for better global connectivity. In addition, the new generation of longer-range aircraft like the Aribus 350 XWB and the Boeing 777 X, which can circle the world with just one stop, can use Istanbul as a hub.
One of the biggest projects in aviation history, the construction of Istanbul airport was initiated by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and was supported by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, IGA Consortium, and various business partners. Equipment weighing roughly 47,300 tons was carried to Istanbul Airport from Atatürk Airport. From aircraft-towing apparatus weighing 44 tons to extremely sensitive materials, over 10,000 pieces of equipment to be transferred, the equivalent of the freight carried by 5,000 trucking rigs.
Turkish Airlines already flies to 124 countries, which is more than any other airline, and maintains a fleet of 336 aircraft. After relocating to the new aviation hub, the airlines’ progress is set to accelerate, with an aim to maintain a fleet of 500 by 2023.
On the Kathmandu-Istanbul sector, Turkish is increasing its passenger capacity by 17% both ways this year. The airline is also offering city stopovers for transit passengers, and hopes that traffic to Istanbul will get a boost after the new airport is inaugurated.
Says Kececi: “We have increased capacity despite difficulties because we believe in working together with other companies to boost tourism ahead of Visit Nepal 2020.”