From the Cockpit
General Manager – Western & Southern India, Turkish Airlines
With as many as 109 countries in its network, European carrier Turkish Airlines is bullish on Indian market and focusing on new offerings for Indian travellers, says Mehmet Akay.
How have Turkish Airlines’ operations in India been?
Turkish Airlines started its Indian operations in 2003 from Delhi and in 2006 from Mumbai with three weekly flights. Since then, we have gained popularity. We have a long-term outlook towards India. We have been steadily strengthening our operational base here and are maintaining our international standards of on-ground and in-flight services.
How many Indian destinations do you serve? What are the expansion plans?
Turkish Airlines currently operates one daily flight to Istanbul from Delhi and Mumbai. Given the high demand and great potential of the country, we are looking at starting new destinations in India and also increasing our flight frequency in the near future depending on the bilateral agreements provision.
Internationally, we fly to 268 destinations covering 109 countries and that makes us large in terms of our reach. Overall India outbound traffic is growing significantly and we see that continuing. We are very bullish on our proposition for India. We are in a price sensitive market that is also seeing a noticeable increase in luxury travel at the same time. Indian traveller is more mature now and is extremely conscious of the product and services that are being offered across destinations. In a market with so much potential, we are open to expansions in all aspects of our product as well as services – we are poised to grow. Flying to more countries than any other airline in the world, we raised this number to 109 in April 2015. Turkish Airlines has one of the youngest fleets in the world operating 274 aircrafts.
How do you plan to woo discerning Indian travellers and get them on a Turkish Airlines flight?
India is a key market for us and we have high expectations from the market. This is one of the reasons that we have launched our brand new A330-300 and B777-300 fleet on the Indian routes. The new business class is equipped with in-flight entertainment system and comfortable flatbed seats that are offered to our guest to make their journey relaxed. We believe in giving an experience to our valuable passengers and to make it worthy we also offer them authentic tastes. From the first step into the aircraft until the last goodbye from our crew, we create memories to be cherished. Most of the aircrafts are equipped with digital AVOD (audio video on demand) IFE systems, enabling our passengers to watch films from across the world and other sources of entertainment such as music and games. As an addition to it, we also offer Wi-Fi connection and Live TV onboard in our B777 aircraft.
What is that makes Turkish Airlines popular with fliers from India?
Our hospitality, our services, our attention to detail and of course, the fact that we are the only airline that flies to more countries than any other airline, makes us extremely popular. The geographic location of our Istanbul hub is excellent for our transfer passengers to Europe, North America, Latin America, North and West Africa (and western parts of Central Africa). We can offer fliers the advantage of flying in to more than 100 European destinations within three hours from Istanbul and to 12 destinations in Americas, including Miami (to be Turkish Airlines is equipped with in-flight entertainment system launched on October 25). Our network is what makes the airline popular with fliers and not only from India. Additionally, we have a lot of alternatives from Turkish cuisine but you can also see other international cuisines in the menu. We offer Vegetarian and Jain meals for Indian flights.
What kind of profits does the Indian market give to the airline?
The Indian subcontinent is of utmost importance to us and the market is growing at a staggering rate. The Indian aviation industry has emerged as one of the top ones in the world with a massive movement not only in domestic but also in the international quarters. We hope to have better figures in 2015 since our network keeps growing steadily.
What packages you have worked out to entice Indian travellers?
We equally promote Turkish Airlines in B2B and B2C markets in India. We introduced a website specific to India for our passengers. In addition to this, Turkish Airlines has launched local social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.
Since our network in Europe reached to more than 100 destinations, we are working closely with several tourism boards to promote our product and network. ENIT has been a key partner for us in India. As of April 30, 2015, we launched Bari flights and our network in Italy reached 10 destinations (Milan, Rome, Venice, Bologna, Genoa, Turin, Naples, Pisa, Catania and Bari). In 2015, we will be operating 150 weekly flights between Istanbul and Italy. In 2014 we had more than 20,000 passengers to Italy. Italy became number one beyond our Indian operations (Delhi + Mumbai).
What are your additional plans for the year 2015?
With rising income levels, passenger air traffic is expected to increase considerably by 2020. According to the Economic Survey 2010-11, India will be one of the fastest growing civil aviation markets in the world by 2020 with a passenger load of 420 mn in the Indian airports as compared to 140 mn in 2010. We will keep focusing on promoting India across our network. With the high demand and great potential of growth in India, we are looking at starting new destinations and also increasing our flight frequency in the near future.