Air carriers based in Turkey are transforming the industry, drawing attention to the strength of the Turkish civil aviation sector and the country's growing importance as a destination.

Liberalization in the air transport sector began in 1983, paving the way for the private sector's involvement in civil aviation. Early enthusiasm resulted in numerous bankruptcies until the Ministry of Transport changed its policy on market entry in the 1990s, allowing Turkish Airlines (THY) to maintain its monopoly over domestic flights. This changed in 2003, when the sector was re-liberalized, and in the first three years alone passenger numbers increased by 191%, mainly due to reduced ticket prices as a result of stronger competition. THY currently has a 28% domestic and 30% international market share for flights. The latest players to enter the market include Anadolujet and Borajet in 2008, and with ever-increasing passenger numbers seen across the sector, investments show no sign of stagnating.


THY, a member of the Star Alliance network, has continued to impress many with its superb growth figures over recent years, with the company posting a 26% rise in sales in 2009 over 2008. Its has 164 passenger aircraft in its fleet and the airline currently flies to 175 destinations worldwide. Presently, 22% of the company's stock is publicly owned, though the government is planning a further stock offering in 2011. Despite fluctuating oil prices, THY posted a net profit of $169 million for 3Q 2010. The number of passengers increased by 18% to 22 million, and as a result the passenger load factor increased by 3.4 percentage points from the previous year to 74.2%. The company is marketing aggressively, and recent sponsorships of the Barcelona and Manchester United football clubs have highlighted THY's desire to be seen as a major global carrier.


Turkish Airlines established Anadolujet in 2008, and operates the airline as a 100% subsidiary. It also established SunExpress in 1989 in a joint venture with Lufthansa. Anadolujet, based in Ankara, was founded as a low-cost branch of the Turkish national airline, has a fleet size of 23, and currently flies to 29 domestic and 12 international destinations. SunExpress, based in Antalya, operates scheduled and charter flights to and from destinations in Europe, and in 2010 carried 6.67 million passengers, up 19.3% on figures from 2009. In 2011 it aims to carry more than 8 million passengers and earn more than €600 million in income.


Istanbul based low-cost carriers Pegasus Airlines and Onur Air were founded in 1989 and 1992, and have fleet sizes of 32 and 30, respectively. Both have become significant players in the market, with Pegasus operating frequent flights to Europe and Asia, and Onur Air running extensive domestic flights, with summer operations carrying passengers between the south of Turkey and Europe. Pegasus also markets all IZair flights, and this Izmir-based airline has a fleet size of six and operates domestic and international scheduled and charter flights.


There are six further air carriers based in Turkey, including charter flight operators Freebird, Sky, and Saga Airlines, carrying passengers mainly to and from Europe. Corendon Airlines and Atlasjet run scheduled flights to many destinations in the region. Borajet, a relative newcomer, is a regional airline operating domestic services out of Istanbul's Sabiha Gökçen International Airport.