Turkish Airlines Could Beat Pre-Pandemic Traffic This Summer

Turkish Airlines is bullish about its prospects over the next year or two, eyeing a return to 2019 passenger numbers and load factors in the upcoming summer flying season. By next year, it hopes to exceed them.

Turkish Airlines expects to match 2019 passenger numbers and load factors this upcoming northern summer. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying

Turkish Airlines tracking to match 2019 numbers this year

The Istanbul-based airline has confirmed carrying 44.8 million passengers last year with an average load factor of 67.9%. Over the course of 2021, Turkish Airlines aircraft pushed back 326,000 times (for an average of 893 daily departures).

That’s not as strong as the 2019 numbers when 74.3 million people took to the skies on Turkish Airlines, but the airline’s Chairman says the numbers are tracking in the right direction.

“Turkish Airlines was one of the carriers that performed best during the high season last year. We may have a better performance this year compared to 2019,” Chairman Ilker Ayci told Reuters this week. “However, it won’t be until 2023 that we catch up to 2019 full-year figures.”

Turkish Airlines boasts being the best-connected airline in the world, flying to more countries than any other airline. Last year, the airline carried 24.64 million passengers on international flights and 20.14 million passengers on domestic sectors.

A Turkish Airlines Boeing 777-300ER touches down in San Francisco. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying

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Big network expansion at Turkish Airlines under Ilker Ayci’s watch

At the end of 2021, Turkish Airlines was flying to 328 destinations in 128 countries. Ilker Ayci has overseen a significant expansion at the airline. He became the Turkish Airlines chairman in 2014 and since then has increased the number of destinations the airline flies to by 69 airports and 20 additional countries.

Contributing to the airline’s anticipated strong performance this upcoming summer is a 76% increase in the number of Turkish Airlines flights heading to the United States compared to 2019 figures.

This summer, Turkish Airlines will operate 132 weekly flights into the US (an average of 19 flights a day) that will service 11 destinations. Many of those destinations will see double daily flights. In addition to its existing 11 airports in the US, Turkish Airlines has said flights to Denver, Seattle, and Detroit are also on the horizon.

Ilker Ayci told Reuters he expects Turkish Airlines to release a stronger bottom line in its 2021 financials compared with 2019. However, he did not give further information. Mr Ayci had previously confirmed the airline exceeded comparable 2019 profit figures over the first nine months of last year.

Turkish Airlines Chairman Ilker Ayci. Photo: Turkish Airlines

A future Turkish Airlines lean towards Airbus

The Turkish Airlines chairman has watched the number of planes in the Turkish Airlines fleet grow from 261 aircraft in 2014 to 372 today. But there are also signals the airline is calibrating its expansion. Turkish Airlines has 23 Airbus A350-900 long-haul planes on order but recently cut that order by three planes.

According to airline database ch-aviation.com, Turkish Airlines has 249 narrowbodies and 123 widebody aircraft in its fleet. Turkish Airlines uses both Boeing and Airbus planes, currently flying 184 Airbus planes and 188 Boeing jets.

However, a look at Turkish Airlines’ upcoming aircraft deliveries suggests a future lean towards Airbus. The airline is expecting 57 Airbus A321-200NX and 20 Airbus A350-900 jets, a total of 77 planes. In comparison, only 11 aircraft are due from Boeing – a sole Boeing 737-8 and ten Boeing 787-nine Dreamliners.