A generation ago, aviation observers and frequent flyers watched the enormous growth and rise of Gulf carriers like Emirates. Now, history seems to be repeating itself, but the action has shifted further north, into Turkey. Turkish Airlines is one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world with a turbocharged rate of expansion. And it has just landed at Pointe-Noire in Congo, it’s 58th destination in Africa alone.
And it means Turkish Airlines is now flying into an incredible 125 countries.
It has been an incredible rise for an airline that just ten years ago flew 21.5 million passengers annually, using a fleet of 154 aircraft on approximately 4,000 flights per week. Those figures would still outdo many airlines in 2019, but if you fast forward ten years to the present day, Turkish has grown enormously.
Some facts and figures about Turkish Airlines
A comprehensive analysis of Turkish Airlines prepared by the World Tourism Organisationnotes that the airline now has 339 planes, maintains approximately 10,000 flights per week, and carries 72.5 million passengers annually.
Some other impressive statistics about Turkish Airlines from the same report include;
• Turkish Airlines has the 12th largest fleet in the world;
• In terms of passengers numbers, it is the world’s 11th largest airline;
• Combining its international and domestic destinations, in terms of total destinations, Turkish Airlines is ranked 4th in the world;
• Of any European airline, Turkish Airlines serves the most destinations; and
• Turkish Airlines flies to125 countries. That’s more than any other airline in the world.
It’s a pretty impressive growth trajectory and set of statistics for an airline that’s seemingly come from nowhere.
Even an aviation minnow can find a statistic to promote itself. For example, Vanuatu’s Air Vanuatu received a burst of publicity last month when it claimed it was renewing and replacing its entire jet fleet for four shiny new A220s. Sure, it’s true, but their jet fleet is exactly one jet.
World’s biggest airlines by countries served
So let’s have a look at the headline Turkish Airlines claim, that it flies to more countries than any other airline in the world. Johannes Blijdenstein in Green Claim prepared a report on this subject earlier this year. It’s interesting because some of the carriers most would think of as big global players don’t even make the top ten. Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Etihad and American are missing. Emirates comes in fifth. And there are some surprises, inlcluding some European carriers with an outsized footprint.
While the buzz these days is about current growth and the future of aviation centred on Asia, these figures suggest it is premature to start writing off the old legacy carriers out of Europe and North America. Their global footprint and branding remain huge.
There are still more places for Turkish Airlines to fly to
The gap in the Turkish Airlines network (and a gap for European carriers generally) is Australia and Oceania. Turkish doesn’t fly there, but it has recently stretched itself south-east by starting flights into Bali. In terms of further flying time that’s just a couple of bowls of nasi goreng from Australia.
But that hole in its route network could be plugged with unconfirmed rumours swirling about that Turkish Airlines is looking to buy HNA’s minority stake in Virgin Australia.
With new aircraft being delivered, including its swish new 787 Dreamliner, a brand new hub airport in Istanbul, and an appetite for expansion, we can expect Turkish Airlines to further bolster its sunny statistics and grow its lead over its competitors when it comes to the number of countries it serves.
by Andrew Curran