Aviation: Why Turkish Airlines is dominating African airspace with 53 passenger destinations in the continent from Istanbul


European carrier, Turkish Airlines has shown consistency in its route network expansion in Africa dominating other mega carriers in the industry with 53 destinations and still counting.

The airline has the highest number of flight operations in three African countries with Cairo, Egypt topping its destinations with 21-weekly flights, serving 5 destinations in the country. This is followed by Algeria and Tunisia.

According to simpleflying.com, Turkish Airlines serves 53 passenger destinations across Africa from Istanbul Airport this year, up by one over 2019. It has more destinations in Africa than in Asia (41). Cairo is the leading route, and Egypt is the top country. Narrowbodies are utterly vital to its African effort, with over two-thirds of 2,000-mile-plus destinations flown by single-aisle aircraft.

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Africa has grown strongly for Turkish Airlines, with destinations increasing from 18 in 2011 to 53 this year. It is an important region for the airline, just as it is for Qatar Airways, which now serves 26 destinations.

Turkish Airlines is better suited geographically to carry traffic to and from Europe, which was its single largest passenger source in 2019. Heathrow to Lagos was the top market over Istanbul, booking data reveals, while Germany-Egypt was number-one at country level.

One-stops are crucial
One-stops and ‘triangular’ routings are very important to Turkish Airlines’ Africa operation. This is also the case for Ethiopian Airlines, which is Africa’s leading airline and twice the size of number-two. One-stops enable smaller cities to be served while increasing frequencies, connectivity, and therefore competitiveness and dominance. Strong use of narrowbodies is key too.

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Some 23 destinations outbound from Istanbul operate via somewhere this year. Malabo (SSG in the following map) is no exception. The capital of Equatorial Guinea, it is the airline’s newest destination in Africa. Added in early 2020, it routes via Port Harcourt (PHC) in Nigeria, before flying non-stop back to Istanbul.

Hugely about narrowbodies
Narrowbodies are utterly vital to Turkish’s Africa service, even for longer routings. Looking at destinations 2,000 miles away or more, single-aisle aircraft have approximately 10,671 two-way flights, or just over two-thirds of the total this year, data supplied by the carrier to OAG shows. Of these, the B737-900ER has almost four in ten, as shown below.

B737-900ER: an estimated 6,147 two-way flights
B737-800: 4,483
A330-300: 2,863
A330-200: 1,893
B777-300ER: 494
B737 MAX 8: 37
A321: four
B787-9: six

It has 15 B737-900ERs, according to ch-aviation.com, all active. They’re in a 151-seat configuration, with 16 business seats, along with 135 in economy. Its economy offering is six-abreast, with pitch between 30 and 31″.

Cairo is the top route
Cairo, some 783 miles from Istanbul, is Turkish Airlines’ number-one Africa destination by flights this year. The top few routes clearly show how important North Africa is for the airline. And, even more significantly, how important Egypt is.

Turkish Airlines serves five destinations in the country; four are in the top-ten list (Luxor isn’t). This helps to account for nearly three-times more flights than to the number-two country, Algeria.

Cairo: 2,142 two-way flights
Algiers: 1,140
Tunis: 1,140
Sharm El-Sheikh: 1,036
Hurghada: 1,014
Dakar (operates triangularly with Banjul or Nouakchott, depending on the day): 744
Khartoum: 730
Alexandria: 720
Djibouti (continues to Mogadishu): 704 each
Lagos: 691

Cairo is served 21-weekly by Turkish Airlines, all by A321s. This is the same offering it had in pre-pandemic 2019. When fellow Star Alliance airline, EgyptAir, is included, there are up to 38 weekly departures.

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