TBY talks to Bea Berke, General Manager Turkey at Lufthansa, Swiss & Austrian Airlines, on the growth of the air transport links between Turkey and Germany.

Bea Berke
Bea Berke began her career with Lufthansa in 1992. Before assuming her position in Turkey, she was Managing Director for Operations and Airport Services in the Greater China region for almost four years. She holds a degree in Business Administration from the Hessian Academy of Administration and Business in Frankfurt.

What is the importance of Turkey for Lufthansa as a global airline group?

Germany and Turkey have a long and solid relationship. It started in the 1950s with flights to Istanbul, which was the first Turkish destination for Lufthansa. That continued with flights to Ankara and Izmir, and now we also have flights to Antalya in summer as well. Turkey is currently the only country in Europe that has large GDP growth, and the airline business is growing as well. Lufthansa Group is a proud part of that. The country is very important for the Lufthansa Group—not just Lufthansa—because we also partnered with Swiss and Austrian airlines. We would like to increase our flights, frequencies, and even passenger figures in the coming years. In Turkey, we have many ongoing projects with the German and Turkish governments. The German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, came to Istanbul in 2012 to observe its strong connection with Germany.

How do Lufthansa's operations in Turkey fit into the global Lufthansa strategy?

Lufthansa Group, including Swiss International and Austrian Airlines, provide excellent connections via home hubs in Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, and Zurich. Our goal for the upcoming years is clear; we would like to increase our share in the Turkish market. The company's strategy is to continue to be Europe's number one airline with our premium services. Lufthansa has long-lasting experience of providing exclusive premium services, giving its customers the freedom of ultimate relaxation and peace of mind whether on board or on the ground. Worldwide, 60 state-of-the-art lounges with a total space of 38,000 sqm invite customers to relax and escape the busy atmosphere at airports. Furthermore, a vast number of on-board service initiatives featuring carefully selected wines and dishes created by top chefs, the widest first-class bed in the industry, as well as a state-of-the-art fully flat business class seats make Lufthansa one of the leading premium airlines. In 2012, we almost reached the 1 million passenger mark in Turkey. We launched summer flights from Istanbul to Berlin, which are not open in the winter yet, but we are hoping to open those in 2013 as well. We are also considering flights from Ankara to Berlin, but those have not been confirmed.

How would you characterize the advantages and disadvantages of Istanbul as an air-travel hub?

Istanbul's biggest advantage is its geographical location. It is quite close to the Far East, but it is not too far from North America. However, infrastructure in Istanbul is a problem. The traffic to the airports is really challenging. You might get stuck in a traffic jam that lasts half the length of the flight time to Frankfurt. This is a disadvantage for local travellers as well for cargo. Atatürk International Airport is quite an overcrowded airport, from the travel side as well as on the runway. Sabiha Gökçen is a more modern airport, but it is far away from the city center. There are two international airports in the city, but we just need one airport with modern facilities, strong infrastructure, and room for growth.

How does Lufthansa stay competitive in Turkey?

I quickly learned that Turkish people love to eat. Lufthansa is changing its food and beverage menu to include more local food as of January 1, 2013 in business class. We will do this for three months, then switch back and review feedback and make a decision from there. We are trying to make the food less Western and more Turkish, so we decided to work with a well-known Turkish chef. We always have a very famous chef working on our European and international flights. Lufthansa is always looking for other famous chefs, and it will be no different on our Turkey flights. The food and beverage menu is probably one of the most important things to change. It is very important that you have good, quality food to enjoy on your flight because the passengers remember it.