HIGH FLYER

Turkey 2011 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Temel Kotil, CEO of Turkish Airlines, on the company's exceptional growth, promotional activities, and competitive advantages.

Temel Kotil
BIOGRAPHY
Temel Kotil founded and managed the Aviation and Advanced Composite Laboratories of Istanbul Technical University, served as Chair and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering, and was head of the Research Planning and Coordination Department in the Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul. He started his career with Turkish Airlines in 2003, as the Deputy General Manager at Turkish Technic, Inc. He became the CEO of Turkish Airlines in 2005. He has served on the Board of Governors of IATA since 2006 and on the Board of Directors of the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) since 2010.

In 2011 Skytrax named THY the best airline in Europe. To what do you attribute this success?

The most important sources of Turkish Airlines' growth and success are the development of new products and improving service quality. Nonetheless, the flight safety that Turkish Airlines provides is the most basic principal. Atatürk Airport is the hub for Turkish Airlines, just as Istanbul itself is considered a natural hub in the world due to its advantageous location. Transit passengers travelling through Istanbul have been another important factor that has allowed us to increase our company's value in recent years.

In recent years you have increased your global visibility through major sports sponsorships and brand promotion ambassadors. How do you gauge the success of THY's promotional activities?

Sports sponsorship allows us to reach a target audience in an effective and economic way. Sports personalities can reach more people than pop-star icons can reach, due to their positive images and ability to have concrete success. For example, Barcelona—one of the teams we sponsor—plays about 50 matches a year in La Liga and the Champions League. In each match the team's performance is closely watched by millions over 90 minutes, during which we have rotating advertising panels. This is obviously very visible and we are getting incredibly positive feedback. In addition, being associated with the world's most valuable players positively contributes to brand image.

How has membership in the Star Alliance impacted THY?

It is very positive that we are a member of an alliance with such high-quality carriers. Upon joining, we experienced an immediate increase in passengers, especially business passengers. There are three aspects to being successful in aviation: being well-priced, offering quality, and being a brand. The biggest contribution of Star Alliance was in terms of increasing our brand value.

How do you assess the liberalization of the Turkish aviation market since 2004?

The market in Turkey has seen incredible growth over the last 10 years. Especially between the years 2002 and 2008, the number of domestic and the international passengers increased rapidly, which is in contrast to the Turkish aviation market before 2002. The number of domestic passengers increased 25.2% between 2002 and 2008. In the same period the number of international passengers increased 8.5% in the aviation market in Turkey.

How important are technical services and flight training services to THY's business model?

Investing in the technical units of our company has always been an important part of our growth path. This is particularly advantageous in Turkey, where there is a strong and capable technical workforce. As seen in other examples around the world, we have transformed large functional units into independent organizations, and our technical units have been re-organized as an independent public limited company. This has allowed us to increase efficiency, keep up with sectoral developments, and provide high-quality maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services for more customer aircraft. We also provide training services through our Department of Flight Training and Standards and our Department of Training. We are strongly aware that the quality of the training and technical services that Turkish Airlines provide are very important and reflect well on our company.

How would you rank THY's fleet compared to its competitors?

Turkish Airlines' fleet currently contains 169 airplanes comprising five cargo planes and 164 passenger planes. Furthermore, 14 airplanes are used for educational purposes. With an average age of six years, Turkish Airlines has the youngest fleet in Europe. In accordance with our fleet regeneration and renewal plans, we are targeting 200 planes by 2012.

What is your outlook for 2011 in terms of passenger numbers?

Turkish Airlines carried 10 million passengers in 2001. In 2010 this number became 30 million. This rapid increase reflects the strength of the company. Turkish Airlines' aim is to reach 35 million passengers in 2011.

Turkey is aiming for 50 million tourists and $50 billion in tourism revenue by 2023, the 100th anniversary of the Republic. What steps need to be taken, by both the public and private sectors, to make this achievable?

Turkey's tourism revenues rose above $25 billion in 2010. This increase will continue as it's expected more than 30 million tourists will arrive by the end of 2011. Considering this growth, the Turkish tourism sector should be able to achieve 50 million foreign tourists by 2023. As Turkish Airlines, we believe that the only way for the public and the private sectors to achieve this success is to provide excellent service.