Turkish Airlines has once again broken barriers with an epic historical flight. With planes grounded and a lockdown still in place, Turkey’s celebrations of 101 years since the start of its War of Independence were set to be a somewhat muted affair. However, Turkish Airlines stepped up with a unique flight, patronized by a record-breaking nine million virtual passengers.
Meet the world’s most crowded online flight
In the current climate, an overcrowded flight is a big no-no, but for Turkish Airlines, getting nine million passengers on board a Boeing 737 was a huge cause for celebration. On the back of its fabulous drawing of the Turkish flag in the skies for National Sovereignty and Children’s Day on April 23rd, the airline operated a groundbreaking online flight on May 19th for the Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day in Turkey.
May 19th is an important day in Turkish history, as it was the day that kicked off the Turkish War of Independence 101 years ago. Specifically, it was the day that Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk arrived in the Black Sea province of Samsun from Istanbul, to organize the war which ultimately led to the formation of modern Turkey as it is today.
Today marks the 101st anniversary of Turkish National Movement that started with Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's landing in Samsun!
Thanks to millions who took the commemorative #HistoricJourney to Samsun with us today, carrying the spirit of unity.
Have a happy May 19th! pic.twitter.com/zGOMxUvDHP
— Turkish Airlines (@TurkishAirlines) May 19, 2020
Atatürk dedicated this day as the nation’s Youth and Sports Day. It has become a national holiday, usually filled with sporting and cultural events as well as official ceremonies across the country. With the COVID lockdown still in place, this year’s celebrations were somewhat muted, but Turkish Airlines was keen to celebrate anyhow.
As such, the airline organized what was possibly the most significant online flight in history.
Nine million passengers on a 737
Turkish Airlines offered tickets on its huge online flight for people throughout the nation and abroad. A staggering nine million passengers signed up for the flight, all seated in the appropriately numbered position of seat 19A.
The virtual passengers took to social media to proudly share their tickets for the flight.
— EsraUygunİssed (@uzmansurusegit1) May 19, 2020
The flight itself was numbered TK1919, marking the 101 years after Atatürk started the National Struggle. It was captained by 29-year-old Boeing 737 captain Selin Sevimli, the youngest captain pilot of Turkish Airlines.
Setting off from Istanbul Airport (IST), the Boeing 737 departed at 12:38 local for the one hour journey to Samsun. Millions followed the flight online, sharing their thoughts and virtual tickets with the world using the hashtags #TK1919 and #TarihiYolculuk.
A glorious landing
To finish the historic flight, the aircraft flew low over the Tobacco Pier and Bandırma Ferry. It landed at Samsun Airport to a water cannon salute.
— Just Aviation (@JusttAviation) May 19, 2020
Millî mücadelenin başlangıcının 101. yıl dönümünde 9.000.000’dan fazla temsili yolcusuyla Samsun Çarşamba Havalimanımıza iniş yapan @TK_TR'nin #TK1919 sefer sayılı IST-SZF uçağı geleneksel 'su takı' töreniyle karşılandı.#TarihiYolculuk 🇹🇷 pic.twitter.com/PwfhzK3QVP
— Hüseyin Keskin (@dhmihkeskin) May 19, 2020
Türk Hava Yolları'nın #19Mayıs Atatürk'ü Anma, Gençlik ve Spor Bayramı nedeniyle Gazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’ün Milli Mücadele’yi başlattığı Kurtuluş Şehri Samsun’umuza düzenlediği #TK1919 sefer sayılı #TarihiYolculuk ✈️ uçağını karşıladık. @TK_TR pic.twitter.com/QkpSxb0nzc
— Osman KAYMAK (@osmankaymk) May 19, 2020
After an hour and nine minutes in flight, the aircraft touched down at 13:47 local. The governor of Samsun, Osman Kaymak, presented a commemorative plaque to captain Sevimli and first officer Doğukan Demir at the airport.
Although Turkish does not expect to begin flights again until mid-June, the airline is clearly keen to keep the avgeek spirit alive. Did you get a ticket for the historical flight? Let us know in the comments.