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Page 21 Aviation Half page Interview

Page 21 Aviation Half page Interview Why we are opening more Nigerian routes – Turkish Airlines Turkish Airlines, which has been operating in Nigeria since…

Page 21 Aviation Half page Interview

Why we are opening more Nigerian routes – Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines, which has been operating in Nigeria since 2006, recently commenced daily flights from Abuja. In this interview, the airline’s Vice President, Marketing and Sales, Samil Karakas, speaks on plans to improve operations in Nigeria. Excerpts:

By Stella Iyaji

How many routes is Turkish Airlines covering in Nigeria?

We have three routes at the moment- Lagos, Abuja and Kano. But we have commenced talks for more routes. Talks to start flying the Port Harcourt route are underway and I am optimistic that we will begin soon. We have now increased our Abuja flights from five to seven and we also plan to commence double daily flights to Lagos. Once we achieve these, Nigerians will be connected through Istanbul to the rest of the world.

Across the world, not in Nigeria alone, our passengers are increasing. In 2015, we had about 61 million passengers and for 2016, we are expecting a minimum of 72 million passengers.

What would you say is responsible for the increase?

You see, some airlines like Emirates, Asian Airlines or Turkish Airlines are growing and having more share in the aviation business; whereas others are decreasing. The Turkish Airlines has 18.4 million passengers transiting only in Istanbul. As I told you earlier, Istanbul is a destination and 47 per cent of the passengers we carry are from other countries while and the other 53 per cent are transfer passengers; they don’t disembark here but continue to other destinations. We also have geographical advantage. We are the only country in the world that is on two continents; Asia and Europe, so we are able to traverse more places.

Recently, the president of Turkey paid a visit to Nigeria, and he came along with many businessmen. Is Turkish Airlines going to latch on that visitation to meet its projections, particularly towards Nigeria?

We are happy that our president met with your president and also happy that Nigeria and Turkey have a very good relationship. Although I was not part of the delegation, I followed it from here because it was very important for us and Turkish future as well.

At the moment, how would you rate Nigeria’s perception of Turkish Airlines, are you comfortable with the level of patronage?

I don’t think they are aware of what we have to offer. We are about ten years old in Nigeria and our competitors came here before us, so they have historical advantage. But we believe that in the future, with better products, prices, connectivity and more presence in the market, we will be better known in the Nigerian market.

Would you say the increasing rate of terrorism has affected the operations of Turkish Airlines?

Well, I won say it has affected it that much. It is true that when an incident occurs, there will be reduction in the number of passengers for a few days, but after that business continues as usual. I must also state here that despite the attacks, we are not revising our figures. We are not cutting our projected capacity for 2016. We are investing in it and we will not stop.

What has been your drive?

Our determination to succeed. From the beginning, we made a decision to succeed and so we work hard to achieve that. And we have some awards to show for it. For five years in a row, we have been chosen as the best airline in the world by Skycrest. There is no airline in Europe that is better than Turkish Airlines and we are not hesitating to say that we are the best.

We are the best airline in Europe and hopefully in the future, we will be able to show passengers in Africa that there is no better option. The government is also supporting Turkish Airlines to grow, though not financially. There is a stable country and government in Turkey which allows businesses to grow. The income per Turk grew from $3,000 to about $11,000 in ten years. As the economy of country improves, Turkish Airlines will also be growing.

What is the future for Turkish airline?

We are planning the biggest airport in the world. The first phase will be opened in 2018. The airport has four terminals and capacity for 150 million passengers as well. The airport will have six runways. Another 208 aircraft will be coming among others. Also, 12 new wide body and another 200 new narrow body aircraft will be coming in the future. The total number of our aircraft will increase to 442. In 2015, it was 299 and by the end of 2016, it will be 339 and by 2029, it will be 442. That is where the Turkish Airline sees its self in the future.

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