Turkish Airlines is a European airline with the highest number of originating destinations in the Middle East. What factors differentiate your airline from the Middle East carriers?
Due to the geostrategic position of Istanbul—a city that is within reach of major cities in Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa in just two to four hours—Turkish Airlines naturally gains a big advantage in respect to other carriers in the Middle East.
What are some of the opportunities and challenges you encounter in the Lebanese market?
The exemption of the visa regime between Turkey and Lebanon has boosted traffic between the two countries, but the instability in the region has affected the incoming traffic to Lebanon.
In 2014, the total number of passengers carried by Turkish Airlines increased by 13.3%, reaching 54.7 million passengers. What destinations have enjoyed the biggest popularity and how would you assess Beirut's performance?
Every year Turkish Airlines announces new destinations and ranks number one in terms of country destinations flown. For the past few years the Lebanese market enjoyed services provided to Sao Paulo, Los Angeles, and Montreal with Turkish Airlines. With three daily flights, Turkish Airlines' Beirut office provides its passengers with minimum connection time and a wide network choice that has reputation in the Lebanese market.
What strategies do you implement to stay competitive in the Lebanese market, and is Turkish Airlines undertaking any initiatives aimed at increasing the interest in Lebanon as a tourist destination?
Turkish Airlines conducts many advertisement campaigns in the Lebanese market to increase its brand awareness. Furthermore, Turkish Airlines organizes family trips to various destinations in Turkey and abroad for its agents and corporate customers in which they have the chance to explore new destinations for their customers. Unfortunately, due to the unstable situation in the region that is affecting Lebanon, the incoming traffic has decreased. However, as the situation improves, Turkish Airlines will take initiative in promoting Lebanon as a tourist destination.
Which new routes or regions is Turkish Airlines prioritizing as part of its expansion strategy?
Turkish Airlines is planning further growth in Africa in 2015 with at least six new destinations. Turkish Airlines already has the largest network in Africa among foreign carriers, overtaking Air France and Emirates, as it has added a staggering 25 African destinations over the last three years. By the end of 2015, Turkish Airlines will have at least 45 destinations in its African network across 30 countries. North Africa continues to account for most of its African capacity but Turkish Airlines also has established a large presence in East, Central, and West Africa. Turkish Airlines is able to enter relatively thin underserved African markets by offering a myriad of connections to Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Narrow-body aircraft have been the driver of the African expansion strategy as it has used 737-900ERs to open up destinations as far as seven hours from Istanbul.
What is your main focus for the year ahead as far as the Lebanese market is concerned?
For Lebanon's market we are seeking to enlarge all our flights with wider aircrafts to be able to provide extra capacity for our passengers and provide them with a unique service experience on our new wide-bodied aircrafts.