Turkish Airlines and Turkish Cargo Rise to the Top Amid Pandemic

M. İlker Aycı, Chairman of the Board and the Executive Committee of Turkish Airlines
M. İlker Aycı, Chairman of the Board and the Executive Committee of Turkish Airlines

Although the aviation industry took a hard hit in 2020 and suffered its heaviest losses to date, Turkish Airlines distinguished itself with relatively good business performance.

According to CAPA (Centre for Aviation, part of the Aviation Week Network) Turkish Airlines established itself as the busiest aircraft carrier in Europe during the pandemic, and one of the top five airlines in the world. This was achieved by a series of agile steps to maintain liquidity, keep costs at a manageable level and adapt to the “new normal”.

Turkish Airlines successfully ended the fiscal year 2020 with 6.7 billion USD revenue, which accounts for 50% of the preceding year’s level, with a net loss of only 836 million USD.

During these uncertain times, the airline was also able to maintain its robust route network. According to Eurocontrol, in April 2021 Turkish Airlines operated an average of 685 flights per day – almost double the number of the closest competitor in Europe, Lufthansa. In 2020, Turkish Airlines flew 28 million passengers, with an impressive load factor of 71%.

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Currently, the airline serves 179 international destinations with 16 inter-country and 58 intercontinental flights. The new Istanbul Airport also stayed on top: even with a 68% loss of traffic, it was still Europe’s most successful airport as of March 2021, with 616 departing and arriving flights.

This success is based on cost cutting activities, capex reduction and active capacity management. In fact, Turkish Airlines achieved such performance without relying on any governmental cash injections. Furthermore, agreements with Boeing and Airbus on fleet growth will further decrease the aircraft financing needs of Turkish Airlines by around 7 billion USD in the coming years.

“Our success as the best performing flag-carrier airline in Europe is not coincidental. Apart from the multiple measures we took, we owe this success to our dedicated staff. While other airlines faced layoffs, we did not part ways with any of our colleagues during this process. Instead everyone within Turkish Airlines accepted salary cuts from up to 50% depending on the role and responsibilities.

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“The exceptional sense of unity within our staff is what sets Turkish Airlines apart: together as a family, we decided that no member of the Turkish Airlines family would be left behind during this crisis,” says Turkish Airlines’ Chairman of the Board and the Executive Committee, M. İlker Aycı.

Turkish Airlines also turned the pandemic into an opportunity to increase its cargo operations, with 50 of its passenger aircrafts being reconfigured to increase its cargo fleet capacity.

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Turkish Cargo managed to become one of the top five air cargo companies in the world and the 6th largest cargo company. The company increased its market share in total global cargo revenue from 0.6% in 2009 to 4.7% in 2020. As of February 2021, one in 20 cargo flights around the world were handled by Turkish Cargo.

This allowed Turkish Cargo to deliver 50,000 tons of medical supplies, including more than 45 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, to destinations all over the world.

In addition, new technologies and innovative solutions have been developed. One example is SmartIST, one of the largest air cargo facilities in the world, which is scheduled to open this year.

Located at Istanbul Airport, the facility uses modern technology such as drones and automated robots to process and deliver goods even faster.

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