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From Regional Player to Global Powerhouse: Turkish Airlines’ Remarkable Journey

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Turkish Airlines commemorates its 90th anniversary as it achieves a new milestone of serving the highest number of countries globally. The airline’s remarkable journey from a regional player to a global powerhouse is reflected in its expansive network and record-breaking achievements.

A Historic Legacy: 90 Years of Türkiye’s Flag Carrier

Established in 1933 as the State Airlines Administration, Turkish Airlines celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2023. Led by Fesa Evrensev, Türkiye’s first aviator and chief executive, the airline started with a modest team of 30 employees, a fleet of five aircraft, and only 28 seats. It took flight on its first international route between Ankara, Istanbul, and Athens in 1947. Today, Turkish Airlines proudly carries the Turkish flag to 344 destinations across 129 countries and five continents, with an impressive staff of 82,000 and a young fleet of 418 aircraft.

Transformative Growth and Global Recognition

Over the years, Turkish Airlines has experienced significant expansion, earning the title of Türkiye’s most valuable brand for six consecutive years. Recognized by international institutions as the “Best Airline in Europe,” a “Top-10 International Airline,” and a “Five Star Global Airline,” the carrier has become a key player in Türkiye’s growth.

Setting Records and Rising to Prominence

Turkish Airlines has made a habit of breaking records. In May 2023, the airline achieved its highest performance in history by serving 7.4 million passengers. With the youngest and most modern fleet in Europe, the airline’s high-tech, fuel-efficient, and environmentally conscious aircraft offer exceptional comfort. These qualities, along with its extensive flight network, comfortable seats, and delightful amenities, led to Turkish Airlines being named the Best Airline in Europe in 2022. The airline has further elevated its profile through world-renowned sponsorships and collaborations with global icons such as Kobe Bryant, Lionel Messi, and Morgan Freeman.

Navigating Challenges and Ensuring Profitability

Despite the significant impact of the pandemic on air travel in 2021, Turkish Airlines managed to achieve a net profit of $959 million, a significant improvement from the $836 million net loss incurred in 2020. Notably, the company’s cargo operations played a crucial role in sustaining the industry throughout the pandemic. Turkish Cargo ranked fifth among global air cargo carriers, with cargo revenues more than doubling in 2022 compared to 2019.

Acknowledgment and Transformation: A Harvard Business School Case Study

Harvard Business School has recognized Turkish Airlines’ impressive achievements and transformation. The case study titled “Turkish Airlines: Widen Your World” delves into the airline’s journey from a regional contender to a dominant global player in the international aviation industry.

Türkiye’s Appeal as an Ideal Destination

Türkiye’s growing appeal as a tourist destination has positioned Turkish Airlines as a formidable competitor to renowned airlines in the region, including Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways. Istanbul’s strategic location, bridging Europe and Asia, has also contributed to its competitive edge. The country’s substantial domestic market during the summer tourist season significantly bolsters the remarkable profit margins achieved by Turkish Airlines and other industry players like Pegasus.

Expanding Hubs and Breaking Records

Turkish Airlines has actively developed the new Istanbul Airport and the now-inoperative Istanbul Atatürk Airport, establishing them as prominent regional hubs. Recently, Istanbul Airport set a world air traffic record with 1,594 take-offs and landings, largely attributed to the UEFA Champions League final and additional scheduled and charter flights.

Ambitious Goals and Future Developments

Turkish Airlines has set ambitious goals to become the second-largest airline globally in terms of international capacity. Their vision includes carrying 171 million passengers by 2033, a significant increase from the 10 million transported in 2003. The airline also aims to expand its fleet to 813 aircraft and serve 400 destinations, while employing 150,000 staff members. These ambitious objectives are poised to contribute significantly to Türkiye’s future developments.

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