Turkish Airlines is emerging from the pandemic as the champion of legacy airlines. Compared to its counterparts, it has had lower losses, no bailout, and has maintained an impressively robust network. In fact, it is still operating 603 flights per day, on average, and is adding in capacity at every opportunity.
More flights than any other legacy carrier
Of all the major legacy airlines, Turkish is excelling in its ability to maintain connectivity. Despite new variants of COVID causing chaos around the world, the carrier has worked to maintain vital connectivity for both passengers and cargo around the world.
In the week of February 18 – 24, Turkish Airlines was still flying 603 flights per day. Although that’s down 52% from its 2019 levels, it’s significantly more than any of its major competitors in Europe. Air France, for example, is flying just 359 flights per day, while British Airways is down to just 102.
#COVID19 Of the major long-haul/legacy carriers, @TurkishAirlines are doing best: 603 flights/day, 52% down on 2019, while @British_Airways have had to cut back 89% to just 102 flights/day@Transport_EU @ECACceac @IATA @A4Europe @CANSOEurope @ACI_EUROPE pic.twitter.com/7d0nXIhoYH
— Eamonn Brennan (@eurocontrolDG) February 25, 2021
While numerous airlines cut back on flights in recent weeks, Turkish has actually been adding capacity. Air France pulled back 2.4% in the week of February 22nd, while Ryanair cut 8.8% of its capacity. Turkish, in contrast, added 1.9% more flights per day compared with the week before.
Last week saw several airlines (eg @TurkishAirlines & @KLM) adding flights but others cutting further – @airfrance, @easyJet & @Ryanair; a slight net increase overall but still 65.6% down on 2019@Transport_EU @ECACceac @IATA @A4Europe @eraaorg @EBAAorg @ACI_EUROPE @CANSOEurope pic.twitter.com/CsSFRuF6kK
— Eamonn Brennan (@eurocontrolDG) March 1, 2021
No bailouts, no layoffs, and minimal losses
During the pandemic crisis of 2020, Turkish Airlines has achieved what most other airlines could not. It has maintained a robust network, avoided laying off staff, and hasn’t received a single cent in state support.
For the full year, January to December 2020, Turkish Airlines flew 28 million passengers, with an impressive load factor of 71%. Those passenger numbers were only superseded by a handful of other airlines, including Delta with 73 million, United with 58 million, Air France-KLM with 43 million, and Aeroflot with 30 million.
But those results begin to pale into insignificance when other metrics are taken into account. Apart from Aeroflot, no other airline maintained anything like the passenger load factor of Turkish Airlines. The closest was United with 60.2%; trailing at the bottom was seat-blocking advocate Delta Air Lines with just 55%.
Then we look at the bailouts. Air France-KLM snagged over $12 billion in aid for its 34 million passengers moved. US airline aid has been around $5 billion per airline. Even Aeroflot got over $100 million in aid. Turkish Airlines has had nothing.
Turkish Airlines, like the vast majority of carriers, reported a loss for 2020. Across the year, it posted a net loss of $836 million – a significant loss but an order of magnitude lower than many of its competitors. For example, Delta Air Lines ended the year with a loss of $13.4 billion and United with $7.1 billion.
Most impressive of all is the lack of layoffs at Turkish Airlines. To date, no employees have been dismissed from the carrier, and it has no plans to do so any time soon. That’s, again, in contrast to other big carriers who have released thousands of employees from their books.
Aggressively maintaining its network
Throughout the pandemic, Turkish Airlines has maintained a healthy commitment to flying both people and cargo. While aviation ground to a near-standstill in April, Turkish was one of the first and most aggressive to begin ramping up operations once more.
By the end of June, it was the most prolific airline in European skies, operating almost double the flights of its closest rival. In the second half of June, it added 14% more flights to take its total operations to over 400 flights per day. While others were trimming schedules and pulling back from routes, Turkish resumed flying to 204 destinations by October 2020.
As new variants of the COVID-19 virus began to emerge and borders began to slam shut once more, many airlines withdrew from their summer expansion. However, in Turkish Airlines’ earnings call in November, it reiterated its commitment to serving more than 200 destinations going forwards.
Despite having to suspend flights to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, and South Africa in December, Turkish has maintained a strong network. In January, it was flying to 208 global destinations, providing vital connectivity during these uncertain times.