Turkish Untangled: Inside The Carrier’s New Vancouver Service

Turkish Airlines began its long-awaited Istanbul to Vancouver service on May 2nd, becoming the carrier’s third route to Canada. Vancouver uses the Boeing 787-9 and will probably focus on connections to/from India, Iran, Israel, Greece, and the UAE, among others.

Turkish Airlines inaugurated Istanbul to Vancouver on May 2nd, with this photo taken at the Canadian airport. Photo: Turkish Airlines.

Originally set to launch on June 9th, 2020, Turkish Airlines’ Vancouver route was understandably pushed back on several occasions. But it has now started, with the destination becoming the airline’s third in Canada – after Toronto and Montreal – and 13th across North America.

300-seat Boeing 787-9s serve Vancouver three-weekly. It has the following schedule (all times are local) and a 90-minute turn in Canada.

  • TK75: depart Istanbul at 14:10, arrive 15:55
  • TK76 depart Vancouver at 17:25, arrive back at 14:55 (the next day)

The initial round-trip was operated by TC-LLN, which was delivered in late 2020. It pushed back at 14:23 and arrived in Vancouver some 11 hours and eight minutes later. Returning, it left late at 18:49 and arrived home at 16:16.

At 5,973 miles, Istanbul to Vancouver is Turkish Airlines’ fourth-longest route to North America, after Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston. Image: RadarBox.com.

No Emirates, Etihad, or Qatar

Turkish Airlines’ new Vancouver service will largely be about one-stop connections over Istanbul, something the likes of Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways can’t offer due to not serving the airport.

This is because of stringent bilateral air service agreements between Canada and the UAE/Qatar that govern how many weekly flights can be operated. Emirates and Etihad therefore focus on Toronto, while it’s Montreal for Qatar Airways. Air Canada now serves Doha from Toronto, with this properly timed for connectivity over Doha just as Qatar Airways’ own services are.

While it still faces many other competitors, both via Asia and Europe, Turkish Airlines is serving Vancouver before others do. And while it’s a smaller market than Toronto, it’s of a similar size market to Montreal, a route it has operated since 2014.

Vancouver uses the B787-9, with 44 other destinations also seeing the aircraft this summer, including one-offs. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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What’s the opportunity?

Fewer than 20,000 round-trip passengers flew between Vancouver and all of Turkey in 2019, analyzing booking data reveals, with Istanbul naturally having the biggest chunk. The new non-stop will grow Istanbul’s point-to-point demand, but the volume is still low for a three-weekly service.

It’s a different picture when connections are considered, with a potential pool of up to 600,000 passengers. With effectively the same schedule as Montreal and Toronto, it’s straightforward to look at demand to/from Vancouver for the same transit origins and destinations (O&Ds). This reveals that the largest country markets for Turkish Airlines, in order of size, are as follows.

  1. India (very much the largest)
  2. Iran
  3. Israel
  4. Greece
  5. United Arab Emirates
  6. Turkey
  7. Pakistan
  8. Romania
  9. Ukraine
  10. Serbia
  11. Saudi Arabia
  12. Bangladesh
  13. Egypt
  14. Lebanon
  15. Jordan
India is the largest market Turkish Airline could serve from Vancouver, although the carrier has only Mumbai and Delhi in its network. In 2019, Cathay Pacific, China Eastern, China Southern, Air China, and China Airlines collectively had 72% of the Vancouver-India market. Photo: Getty Images.

Iran is interesting

According to Government of Canada information, Vancouver-Iran had over 45,000 passengers in 2019, helped by the roughly 50,000 Iranian Canadians living in the Greater Vancouver area. Fellow Star Alliance member Lufthansa captured most of this traffic via Frankfurt.

Turkish Airlines has a five-hour and 30-minute layout en route from Vancouver to Tehran. On the return, it’s under four hours. Image: Google Flights.

Tehran is one of five airports in Iran that Turkish Airlines serves this summer. Yet neither Turkish Airlines nor Lufthansa has a hugely appealing schedule to the Iranian capital. While Lufthansa necessitates a seven-hour-plus wait in Frankfurt en route to Canada, Turkish Airlines is not much better outbound from Vancouver.

Will you be using the new Vancouver to Istanbul service? Comment below!