Neha Singla March 2016
General Manager, Northern & Eastern India, Turkish Airlines Inc.
Turkish Airlines: Eyeing to Fly More in India
With a wide network of transiting flights, Turkish Airlines boasts of being the first choice among Indian travellers going anywhere in the world, wherein hospitality in terms of food and comfort comes handy.
What kind of reach Turkish Airlines has?
Turkish Airlines is the best airline in Europe for the last five years in terms of the number of countries we are operating in. Wherever you want to go in Europe, we have the best network. We are number one in the world with operations in 110 countries and 284 destinations. In Africa also we have the widest network. In India currently we are flying daily from New Delhi and Mumbai. We want to expand to more cities. Also, we have partnered with Star Alliance Member Air India. We have certain agreements with them for their domestic sector and for our Istanbul sectors.
How have been the operations in India for Turkish Airlines?
Indian operations are going very well and are quite stable. Since last year we are content with our profitability factor as well. That’s why we are trying to increase our frequencies, and we want to fly to more cities in India such as Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmadabad and Amritsar. If there is any other city suggested by the government, we are open to that as well. Any city where we can get the permission, we will fly.
What challenges you face in the country at the moment? Why you have not been able to expand so far?
We like challenges, they will make us better. For us our strategy in India as I said is to grow. My biggest challenge in this country is the permissions from the government. If I get the permissions then there’s nothing like that because I am very confident of my fleet, of my service, of my network – so we won’t have any problems and can thus expand faster. Actually for an airline India is a great country – it has the population, it has the business, it has the traffic, basically it has everything you need. And challenges are the same for any airline – competition, taxes etc. However, one might complain about a lot of things but we are very happy with what we have done so far.
What do you expect from the new civil aviation policy?
For us the most important aspect is the bilateral agreement between the countries. To be honest as an airline we want more freedom. So whenever and however, more freedom comes it’s good. We will always try to adhere to the requirements and fit in the best possible manner.
How do you plan to woo the Indian travellers who want to travel in the Turkish Airlines?
As Turkish people we are very proud of our hospitality. And of course the Indian food section is always there in the aircraft with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. We have a flying chef as well to take care of the special needs. Apart from this, India and Turkey have so much in common culturally. Indians travelling to Turkey, don’t feel like a foreigner, rather they feel a part of the country. The family structure is so similar and then there are thousands of common words in Turkish and Hindi languages.
Apart from Istanbul which all destinations you are trying to focus on?
For Indians when they come to Istanbul, they see that there’s so much. Istanbul is the centre of the world, it has three big empires. Apart from Istanbul, in southern Turkey, there are some really nice beaches. In eastern Turkey, there’s a historical touch. Usually when Indians come they love to go to Cappadocia – the place with flying balloons. If they want to swim, they go to the south, if they want to see forests and high mountains; they go to the northern Turkey. Turkey has so much to offer just like India. You can find everything here.
Which market segment you are more focussed on – MICE, FITs or families?
First of all, between Turkey and India as far as tourism is concerned, everything is there. MICE, families for leisure, corporate travels, everything. As Turkish Airlines, our concept is the network; we are carrying more transit passengers than just point to point. We are majorly connecting India through Europe and America.
What special itinerary Turkish Airlines have for the Indian passengers, something that would entice them to choose your airline?
Again, we have very good packages – we are working with agencies, tour operators, there’s so much that I can’t pin point only one. The best thing about Turkish Airlines is the network, when someone from India wants to go to somewhere in Europe or northern Africa or America or where ever, they will check the best possible connections. Turkish Airlines is trying to be the best option always in that context. That is our strength – a good quality travel, quick travel with best connections.
How has the business been in terms of numbers?
For us it’s good, the profitability factor is also good. The graph of Indian population travelling to Turkey is increasing by nearly 15 pc every year.
As an Indian traveller, what is that one thing one would pick Turkish Airlines over any other airline in the world?
One reason will be the quality that you get against what you pay.
Then there’s Turkish food and coffee. We have one of the best VIP Lounges in the world for business class travellers. Our on board food is always being rewarded. As I said we have been chosen as the best airlines in Europe for five consecutive years.
And then of course the comfort of travelling will be one major factor because whenever you go somewhere, you will check the connecting flights so that you can reach the destination as soon as possible and as comfortable as possible.
As far as prices are concerned it differs for every airline but yes we are very competitive and you will see the service you get when you are on board during the whole journey and then you can compare it with the price you have paid – that’s why people choose us.
Where do you see the competition?
The competition is always there. In Delhi Gulf carries are there, Lufthansa is there – all big airlines are there in the country. All of them are coming here, so the competition is actually quite tough in India. But we are not scared and we look forward to take up these challenges as that will make us better. And if you look at it, competition is always good for people. It will impact the prices and improve the quality – so better prices, better quality. That’s what we are saying that let us fly to more cities, let the competition be higher.
What’s in store for the year 2016?
This year we are actually changing our aircraft type in India. Since we are not able to increase our frequency, we are bringing in a new aircraft Boeing 777 – it will have more seats and will be the standard aircraft for Mumbai and Delhi. It’s going to come by the end of this month to Mumbai, and by the end of April to Delhi. Precisely, after May 2016, Delhi and Mumbai will have the same aircraft with 400 seats and fully fledged business class seats.
Do you have a premier economy?
We have premier economy in other sectors, but right now in India we don’t have the same. It’s not something that is very common yet, it depends on the strategic decision of the airline. Right now we are focusing on economy and business.
If we talk about branding, how do you connect with the Indian audiences?
We are one of the sponsors of the Hindi movie Shaandaar (2015). Some portions of the movie show a little bit of Turkish Airlines. Then there’s the new movie Batman vs. Superman. We do a lot of online branding as well. We are open to make more collaboration with the Indian film industry.
For us collaborating with sport events all around the world is another branding strategy. We are currently hosting Turkish Airlines World Golf Cup-Amateur Series. One leg of this tournament we have just wrapped up in Delhi and finalists from all the 61 countries will gather in Antalya for the grand finale. We are one of the main sponsors for UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Euro 2016, the European Football championship in summer. In the past also we did sponsorships with big football teams, football players, basket ball players. Another milestone is that we are sponsoring the European basket ball league and it is even named Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. So yes branding through sport events is one of the major aspects of our branding strategies.
When you fly from India, your cabin crew is mostly Turkish, so how do you deal with the language barrier?
We are planning on Indian languages, to get some cabin crew with Hindi proficiency but this is not something that is happening in short while. It’s not easy because in Turkey not many people know this language. But yes we try to keep up the standards, our cabin crew though mostly Turkish, know two-three languages and they are made well versed with Indian customs because having the biggest network, we cannot afford to not do so.
Recently government of India announced the Union Budget, is there any impact of the same on your airlines?
Those are government’s policies, which I am not going to comment on but yes I was checking the tourism side of it and there were a lot of positives. We are actually very open to support tourism in India. That’s why we are saying to the government to let us fly to more cities.
Any tie ups with tourism companies?
It is not just one, we have tie ups with a lot of tourism companies, for example, right now this year we have launched Miami in the US, we are doing something for Florida there. If there is something else also then we will collaborate. We have a lot of tie ups – Lantana in US, Bogota and Panama in South America and many more. Whenever there is something new, it gets the priority because we want to constantly widen our network wherever and whenever possible. Likewise for India as I mentioned above, we are open to fly to more cities but we need permissions.