Turkish Airlines is considering launching service to Los Angeles from its hub at Istanbul when the carrier starts receiving aircraft in October 2010 from its order for 12 Boeing 777-300ERs.
“We’re talking right now about Los Angeles, but we have not decided yet,” Dr. Temel Kotil, Turkish Airlines’ CEO, told www.AirlinesAndDestinations.com at this week’s ceremony for the induction of Continental Airlines into the Star Alliance.
Kotil says there is a large community of people “from our region” living in the Los Angeles area, potentially enough to persuade the airline to begin Istanbul-Los Angeles service with 777-300ERs when it starts receiving its new batch of the type.
Unlike the four 777-300ERs that Turkish Airlines has leased from India’s Jet Airways – the leases of which it extended for two years, four months ago, Kotil says – the 12 777-300ERs the airline has ordered will not be outfitted with first-class suites.
Instead, says Kotil, Turkish Airlines’ new 777-300ERs will each feature a new business-class seat that folds down into a fully lie-flat bed 190cm (75 inches) long. Each 777-300ER will be outfitted in three-class configuration, featuring 36 of the new lie-flat, business-class beds, as well as 46 premium-economy seats with 48-inch seat pitch and 206 economy-class seats.
The new 777-300ERs also will feature a slightly changed new livery, on which the airline is now working. However, Kotil says any changes to the current Turkish Airlines fleet paint scheme will be subtle, as the airline is extremely happy with the light-gray tulip motif painted on the otherwise all-white fuselages of its aircraft.
Kotil also says that, assuming government approval is forthcoming, Turkish Airlines will begin serving Washington Dulles International Airport next summer with Airbus A330-200s. The carrier also potentially might serve Miami, though it has no definite plan as yet to do so. “Miami is on the list” of destinations that Turkish Airlines is studying for future service, he says.
The airline is now using its leased Boeing 777-300ERs to serve New York (the type replaced the A330-200 on the route on September 28), Singapore and Hong Kong. It also has begun service to Sao Paulo and is now flying to Toronto three times a week.
While most other airlines have shrunk during the economic crisis of the past 18 months, Turkish Airlines has performed completely counter-cyclically. The airline’s traffic will be 25 per cent higher in 2009 than in 2008, says Kotil. “In Europe we fly to 64 cities, but there are a hundred we can fly to,” he says.
Turkish has managed to sustain this rapid growth rate and still report a profit. The carrier reported an operating profit of €73 million for the first half of 2009, just 9 per cent smaller than its €79 million operating profit for the first six months of 2008. For the first half of 2009, Turkish Airlines’ net profit was €48 million, 64 per cent down on the €131 million net surplus it achieved for the same period in 2008.
Kotil says that while the airline’s revenue per available seat kilometer dropped 16 per cent for the first nine months of the year, its unit cost also fell at a similar rate because of the airline’s rapid traffic increase, balancing out the unit revenue decline.
Growth will continue unrelentingly as Turkish Airlines continues to build its network to capture the route opportunities it sees for its Istanbul hub, which have grown following its entry into Star Alliance in April 2008. The carrier expects its traffic to grow by another 25 per cent in 2010, says Kotil. The airline expects its net profit will increase over the period.
Underlining Kotil’s forecast, Turkish Airlines firmed up options on October 30 for three Airbus A330-300s, adding to five it ordered in June along with two A330-200s. The airline already operates seven A330-200s and it has another 60 Airbus aircraft in its fleet, including nine A340-300s. Turkish also operates a large fleet of Boeing 737-800s and 737-400s.