The final ex WOW Air A330 is being sent to Turkish Airlines. TF-GAY, an A330-300 went back to its owner, ICBC Leasing, earlier this year. It is being reported in planespotters.net that the plane is due to go to Turkish Airlines. It will be registered as TC-LOL.
WOW Air sent two other A330-300s back to their lessor last November before the airline went bust. TF-GAY had been returned to ICBC Leasing by the time WOW Air ceased trading at the end of March. At the time of its bankruptcy, WOW Air was operating 10 A321 aircraft.
Only one aircraft is left at Reykjavik; a leased A321 registered as TF-GPA. This is due to go to Thomas Cook, a business with its own set of troubles.
Despite attempts at crowdfunding the airline back into existence, the departure of the leased aircraft suggests that WOW Air is dead and well and truly cremated. WOW Air CEO, Skuli Mogensen has made noises about trying to kick start another airline but given his track record at WOW, it seems unlikely to gain much traction.
Prior to operating under WOW Air colours, the A330-300 flew for Singapore Airlines for five years as 9V-STJ. Singapore Airlines has long operated A330s on regional routes through South East and South Asia. It currently retains 16 of the aircraft type.
The A330 is off to Turkish Airlines
The new lessor, Turkish Airlines, is a big operator of A330s. It has 66 in its fleet. Turkish Airlines has shot from relative obscurity in recent years to become a powerhouse airline in its region.
Several factors are driving Turkish Airlines’ growth, and provide some insight into why it is taking another A330.
The airline is listed on the Istanbul Stock Exchange but the Turkish Government retains a 49.12% interest. Turkish Airlines’ trajectory roughly parallels the rise of Turkey and the ambitions of the Turkish Government. A large and visible flagship airline is a powerful symbol of a country’s potency. Consider Singapore’s Singapore Airlines and Dubai’s Emirates as key examples.
While airline business models based around rapid fleet expansion and fast growth are fraught with peril, thus far Turkish Airlines is doing okay. It flew 75 million passengers in 2018 and reported a profit of USD$745 million.
Big aviation plans in Turkey
The Turkish Government has big ambitions for aviation in Turkey. The brand new airport in Istanbul has just opened. Initially it will be able to handle 90 million passengers a year – the same as Dubai. Once fully complete it will be the largest terminal in the world, able to handle 200 million passengers a year.
Cargo capacity will start at 2.5 million tonnes annually, upscaling to 5.5 million tonnes. It’s a big statement by a country that until recently was a relative minnow in the aviation sector.
That single ex WOW Air A330-300 is one small chess piece in a much bigger game plan for Turkish Airlines and the Turkish Government.