Turkish Airlines will not operate any commercial flights until May 28th. The Star Alliance carrier has been forced to extend its grounding, citing public health issues. This extended suspension is also indicative of the lack of major international travel demand, likely to continue to the end of May, or longer.
Extension of flight suspensions
On its website, the airline announced that it has suspended all flights, domestic and international, until May 28th. The reason for this is to “protect public health against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.” Previously, the airline planned on resuming international services on May 20th.
The situation in Turkey
Turkey itself is facing a major spike in the number of coronavirus cases. On April 28th, the country reported over 114,000 cases of the virus, with just under 3,000 deaths.
As of 28 April, 2020, 23:00, the current situation regarding #COVID19 in Turkey and around the world:
— Republic of Turkey Directorate of Communications (@Communications) April 28, 2020
Beyond the situation in Turkey, Turkish Airlines has one of the most extensive route networks in the world. As a result, the carrier has to face many different government restrictions when it comes to allowing flights and foreign passengers. In addition, even when government restrictions are lifted, there is no guarantee that passengers are planning on flocking back to Turkish Airlines as quickly as they stopped traveling.
Why did Turkish Airlines extend the suspension?
While Turkish Airlines has suspended flights through May 28th, it is likely that this suspension could be extended beyond the end of May. Another global carrier, Emirates, is expecting a July return to operations. However, US carriers are a little more optimistic, with the three major carriers resuming international flights starting from May. Although, even that may end up changing.
However, the situation at Turkish Airlines is not exactly the same as the big three US carriers. For one, the US airlines are likely resuming some international flights knowing there will be limited passenger travel but expecting to fill the hold with cargo adding some semblance of profitability. Turkish Airlines, however, has a dedicated fleet of cargo aircraft that can facilitate the movement of vital goods.
In addition to this, the Turkish domestic market is not as profitable or extensive as the United States market. While US carriers have significantly minimized their international flight schedule, domestically, they are still flying, and some flights are even going out full.
Taking all of this into account, it is likely that Turkish Airlines has extended this suspension in order to minimize losses. But, the fact that this announcement comes just a few days after the previous May 20th date, it also indicates that the airline did not see a good number of people traveling before the end of May. And, rather than fly out empty aircraft, it would be better to offer passengers refunds or else rebook them for later travel dates.
While the airline is not operating commercial flights before then, it is flying a robust schedule of repatriation flights.
Do you think Turkish Airlines will have to extend its flight suspensions? Let us know in the comments!