EMRE ISMAILOGLU

Dubai 2020 | MOBILITY | INTERVIEW

While new trends continue to shape the travel industry, Turkish Airlines has decided to keep it simple by enhancing its brand of luxury and offering travelers a more rewarding experience.

Emre Ismailoglu

How would you evaluate 2019 for Turkish Airlines in Dubai?
Turkish Airlines experienced strong growth throughout 2019. Results demonstrated the continuity in momentum from 2018 and the positive demand environment for Turkish Airlines in the UAE. In terms of numbers, we served a total of 6.78 million passengers in the Middle East in 2019, up by 1.5% YoY. We also expanded our extensive flight network with the introduction of new routes including Sharjah, Marrakesh, Strasbourg, Port Harcourt, Luxor, Bali/Denpasar, Cancún, Rovaniemi, and most recently, Xi'an, our fourth destination in mainland China. While we've been growing our flight network, we have also been busy refining the pre-flight and on-board experience in Dubai and beyond. In 2019, we opened an art exhibition at the Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge at Istanbul Airport, upgraded the interiors of our 787-9 Dreamliner fleet, and introduced a brand-new uniform designed by Italian haute couturier Ettore Bilotta. We work to provide more opportunities for our passengers to travel between all our destinations, reflected in a 2.3% rise in seat capacity among our Middle Eastern flights in 2018. Overall, we carried a total of 74.3 million passengers globally in 2019.

What market trends and changes have you noticed in Dubai, and how do they impact the airline industry?
A prevalent trend throughout 2019 was the rise of personalization and experiential travel. Expectations around personalization are constantly growing. Most sectors with a digital presence are tailoring products and services to match consumer preferences and tastes. When it comes to impacting the airline industry, customers are looking for ways to personalize their travels, considering all elements that may add to their all-round experience, from booking to journey to the actual days spent at their destination of choice. They give attention to detail and consider everything from ease of booking, experiential suggestions, hotels, airlines, in-flight services, and lounge and airport experiences. At an experiential level, travelers want to travel better and connect with the cultural and human elements of a destination. In Dubai, this means appreciating the old souks, Emirati hospitality, and a myriad of cuisines. Another trend we are witnessing is the increase in micro-trips. More people are opting to take short or weekend trips, which can generate a lot of business for local economies. In Dubai, we have seen the rise of 'staycations' and regional-based travel. Travelers are opting for more curated travel itineraries and shorter timeframes, which has been made possible by more flight options and greater connectivity.

Which areas show the most potential?
By connecting Sharjah to the world, we have secured a new and untapped gateway into the country—one that takes advantage of the Emirate's growing international aviation and travel markets. This is backed by the fact that in 2019, Sharjah Airport handled a total of approximately 10.2 million passengers. We anticipate our recently launched route to Xi'an, China, to do well. We are also confident about the addition of our flights to Rovaniemi and Strasbourg, two destinations which were previously not easily reachable from the Middle East. As the fastest-growing air cargo brand in the world, Turkish Cargo is currently serving 126 countries and showing promising growth. In 2019, we achieved a 7.9% increase in tonnage in the Middle East.

What are your main goals and objectives for 2020?
Our main goal remains the same: enhancing our brand of luxury and offering travelers a more rewarding experience. The opening of the new Istanbul Airport, the introduction of the new destinations, and the addition of new aircraft Dreamliner B787 have provided the basis for an improved Turkish Airlines offering, and we will continue to build on that throughout 2020. We plan to increase our international and regional routes and strengthen our network. We have several exciting developments in the pipeline, including the launch of our A350 aircraft to Dubai and the addition of new destination such as Haneda, Newark, Malabo, and Osaka.