European aviation ground to a near standstill by mid-April, but over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen a significant ramping up of services. Leading the charge is Turkish Airlines, one of the most widely connected airlines on the planet. By the end of June, it was the most prolific airline in Europe, operating almost double the number of flights of its next nearest competitor.
Turkish bounces back from the pandemic
Before the pandemic, Turkish Airlines was renowned for its vast, expansive network. Flying to more countries than any other airline, the airline was adding new destinations at a blistering rate. With new planes on the horizon and new services in the pipeline, it seems that nothing could stop this ambitious flag carrier.
But nobody expected 2020 to turn out this way. The pandemic saw the Turkish Airlines route network shrinking rapidly. By the end of March, the airline flew to just four countries, a far cry from the 125+ that were operational pre-COVID. Apart from some rescue flights, Turkish barely flew in April at all.
But we’ve seen signs of recovery in Europe, and it seems Turkish has led the charge. Limited international flying began again on June 11th, with all the expected measures in place to keep passengers safe and well. US flights have been reinstated and expanded, and have put Turkish Airlines in a strong position.
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A leader in European airspace in June
The reinstatement of the Turkish Airlines network in Europe has been rapid. Already, the carrier has resumed flying to numerous destinations right across the continent from its hub at Istanbul airport. Figures from Eurocontrol highlight this dominance of the airline in European airspace.
#COVID19 The list of top operators is now looking more familiar with several adding a lot of flights ✈️ over the last two weeks @A4Europe @IATA @eraaorg @Transport_EU @ECACceac pic.twitter.com/IurJivdSE6
— Eamonn Brennan (@eurocontrolDG) June 30, 2020
In the two weeks from June 15th to June 29th, Turkish added 14% more flights to become the biggest operator in Europe. Its total traffic of 432 flights recorded in that timeframe was almost double that of its next nearest competitor, SAS.
Other airlines have been adding capacity at a rapid rate during that time period too. Low-cost legend Ryanair returned to flying in a big way, operating 330% more flights by the end of June than it had in mid-June. However, its total flights were still far below Turkish’s 400+.
Commenting on the development, Turkish Airlines’ Chairman of the Board and the Executive Committee, M. Ilker Ayci, told Simple Flying,
“It is our firm belief that once the world overcomes the crisis, air travel will bounce back stronger than ever and Turkish Airlines will be more than eager to welcome you aboard with our trademark hospitality as we connect continents, people and cultures. We fully adapted our customer touch points according to new normal standards.”
As more borders open up and the airline is able to push its services to even more destinations, we can expect to see it continue to lead on the road to recovery. Just this week, we’ve seen Turkish return to Italy, Bulgaria, and Northern Cyprus. We will continue to watch as it rebuilds its network and continues its expansion to become once again one of the best-connected airlines in the world.
Have you flown Turkish recently? Do you plan to? Let us know in the comments.