GENERAL MANAGER OF THE TURKISH AIRLINES OFFICE IN BAKU, SEYFULLAH ILYAS, TELLS AZERI OBSERVER IN AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW ABOUT THE ADVANTAGES OF THE NEW ISTANBUL AIRPORT, AND THE PROSPECTS WHICH IT OPENS FOR THE AIR COMPANY; EXPANSION OF THE FLIGHT NETWORK IN AZERBAIJAN AND BEYOND; AND ATTRACTIVE OFFERS FOR TRANSIT PASSENGERS. HE EXPLAINS HOW TURKISH AIRLINES CONTRIBUTES TO TOURISM DEVELOPMENT IN AZERBAIJAN AND SPEAKS ON COOPERATION WITH AZERBAIJANI TOURISM BODIES.
BY EMIL AKHUNDOV
AZERI OBSERVER STAFF WRITER
Question: Turkish Airlines has recently moved from Istanbul Ataturk Airport to the new Istanbul Airport. Could you tell our readers about the advantages of this new airport? What prospects does it open for the company?
Answer: Let me first start with the Ataturk Airport, which has witnessed our airline’s growth and development. We have had many good memories there. Turkish Airlines has seen steady growth over the last 20-25 years with Ataturk Airport as our home. However, the expansion of Istanbul as a transit hub, as well as the increase in local traffic has exceeded the operational capacity of this airfield. Thus, a new airport was built and put into operation on April 6, 2019. The relocation has gone smoothly. Over the course of 12 hours, we transported all of the equipment and devices from the old airport to the new airfield. Currently, our flights are carried out entirely from the new Istanbul Airport. The new airport is a project that will contribute to primarily increasing the service quality of Turkish Airlines. The capacity of the new Istanbul Airport is larger than the Ataturk Airport in terms of passport and ticket checking points, passenger boarding bridges, and other services. We have been conducting some of our flights from Baku to the new Istanbul Airport since November 2018. On these flights, our customers from Azerbaijan had the chance to discover the new airport, and we mainly received positive feedback from them. At the new Istanbul Airport, Turkish Airlines is welcoming its guests at its new Business Class Lounges and Miles & Smiles Lounges offering exclusive treats and some of the world’s famous Turkish and international cuisine.
Q.: Turkish Airlines carries passengers to more countries than any other airline in the world. Does the company plan to expand its route map further?
A.: Turkish Airlines currently flies to more than 300 destinations in 124 countries. Due to the geographic location of Istanbul, we are able to reach 50-60 countries within a five-hour flight. In the market, this provides us an enormous advantage as a reliable transit passenger carrier.
Q.: How have passenger numbers from and to Azerbaijan evolved over the years?
A.: Turkish Airlines has been developing in Azerbaijan. The number of our passengers in Azerbaijan increased by 15 percent compared to 2016 and grew by 23 percent in 2018 from what it was in 2017. We have recorded fantastic results in the first three months of 2019, and we hope to keep the same growing trend this year too. We think that our efforts will yield good results in 2019 as well.
Q.: What business plan does Turkish Airlines have in Azerbaijan in the short and mid-term? Does the company plan to start any new routes from our country?
A.: We have already introduced a few innovations in 2019 for Azerbaijan. Our Antalya flights kicked off starting March 31st, and we now carry out three flights per week. It will increase to a daily flight beginning on June 1st. As you know, Antalya is one of the leading travel destinations for Azerbaijanis. We hope that these flights contribute to both the growth of our market share and brand recognition in Azerbaijan. Besides, Turkey and Azerbaijan maintain a high-level of cultural and economic relations. Understanding this, we started flying from Baku to Ankara on April 22nd. We conduct four flights per day to Baku from the new Istanbul Airport. Additionally, our flights to the Sabiha Gokcen International Airport at the Anatolian side of Istanbul continue. We carry out flights to the cities of Ganja and Nakhchivan in Azerbaijan as well.
At the same time, relations and collaborations of our company in Azerbaijan are rapidly rising. We are establishing new collaborations and building on what we have already managed to achieve. Our latest project with Pasha Bank testifies to our growing cooperation network in Azerbaijan. This joint project of Turkish Airlines and Pasha Bank “Pasha Bank Miles and Smiles Card” will allow cardholders to collect miles while making payments. After gaining a sufficient number of miles, they will be able to exchange the miles for rewards like Turkish Airlines flight tickets.
Q.: Azerbaijan considers tourism as one of the main pillars of economic diversification. How does Turkish Airlines contribute to the development of this sphere in our country?
A.: Tourism in Azerbaijan has grown dramatically over the last years. Thanks to various global events, be it international sports competitions or international conferences, Azerbaijan has become a country of interest among the international community. As an airline that connects Azerbaijan to 124 countries around the world and an integral factor in the good relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey, we attach great importance to Azerbaijan’s tourism development. We have been cooperating with tourism authorities like the State Tourism Agency and Azerbaijan Tourism Board, and have welcomed international media outlets and influencers to Azerbaijan to boost the country’s worldwide recognition. Turkish Airlines contributes to Azerbaijan’s touristic recognition in America and European countries.
Q.: Turkish Airlines has a lot of interesting and attractive offers for transit passengers. Could you give us details about them?
A.: Istanbul is the key transit hub for Turkish Airlines. From the perspective of Azerbaijan, we can say that citizens of this country can get to many destinations in Europe while enjoying highly competitive connection times. A passenger that leaves Azerbaijan at 4:00 am can reach a destination in Europe by 9-10 am. This is one of the excellent advantages of being a transit connection hub. Since Istanbul is such a transit hub, our company now offers a city tour in Istanbul, Touristanbul, for those who have a six or more hour layover at the airport. On this tour, our passengers discover the many wonderful facets of Istanbul by visiting museums and the beautiful landscapes of the city.