In a time of unprecedented confusion and upheaval in the airline industry, Turkish Airlines seems to be doing some things right. The airline managed to wrap up the third quarter of 2021 with a net profit of $735 million despite the damaging effects of the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for cargo, which marks 28 percent of the total revenue, a 132 percent gain was recorded versus the same period in 2019.
At the helm of Turkish Airlines and helping the company navigate through these troubling times is Turkish Airlines Chairman M. İlker Ayci, who last week accepted the APEX (Airline Passenger Experience Association) FIVE STAR GLOBAL AIRLINE award in Los Angeles.
Chairman Ayci was also honored with the CEO Lifetime Achievement Award given by APEX, the first time such an achievement has been awarded to a European aviation leader.
“Turkish Airlines has advanced so incredibly under the leadership of Chairman M. Ilker Ayci,” said APEX CEO Dr. Joe Leader. “(The award) tops off a string of non-stop wins for Turkish Airlines. The airline’s advancements in health safety, service, and sustainability within one of the youngest fleets in the world underline the best of the best.”
The airline was also recognized during the 33rd Annual Best in Business Travel Awards, voted by readers of Business Traveler as the airline with the best corporate program, along with a number of other accolades.
During the third quarter of 2021 the global carrier reached 81 percent of its Q3 2019 passenger capacity, and carried a total of 16.5 million passengers. It maintained an enviable 82.4 percent load factor on domestic flights and 69.6 percent load factor on international flights.
The flag carrier strengthened its identity as a global airline with its wide flight network and strong frequencies, managing to successfully transfer its capacity from suspended routes to profitable ones. As of the end of September, the flag carrier showed a fleet of 372 aircraft, 243 narrow-body and 105 wide-body, along with 24 cargo aircraft.
The Turkish flag carrier managed to turn crisis into an opportunity by focusing on cargo transportation and making several passenger aircraft in its fleet available for Turkish Cargo. According to the August 2021 data, the global carrier became the fourth largest air cargo carrier in the world.
During a keynote interview at the APEX conference, the air company chairman emphasized that all was done without having to launch any layoff waves, nor take any government bailout assistance during the pandemic. “It’s a philosophy – the most important asset of an airline is the crew, is it’s dedicated staff. Our slogan is that together we’re stronger. Together we’re a family,” said Aycı.
He noted how important it was for the carrier to keep flying throughout the worst of pandemic. “If regulations allowed, it didn’t matter how many passengers there were, we would fly,” Aycı said. The policy bolstered consumer trust in the airline among existing and new passengers, and even in the sparsest of flights, planes kept to the schedule and service remained professional and consistent, Ayci said.
Moving forward, Ayci intimated a more concentrated focus for the carrier on its premium economy product – a segment, he says, that is ripe for growth.